Sunday, 11 January 2009

The Vesuvius Club

As you would expect from a member of the League of Gentlemen and one of the writers for the new series of Dr Who, this is an opulent romp. Lucifer Box is an Edwardian painter and spy whose office is based in a gentleman's lavatory underneath the Royal Academy of Art. Lucifer is an interesting, self-obsessed character, the opening chapters are peppered with asides about his pretty mouth and fine white hands. He's also very very naughty, with 'a girl with a name and the body of a goddess ... There'd been a balcony, starlight, whispered words and then something very cheeky in the rhododendrons' as well as with anyone else who takes his fancy. He lives at 9 Downing Street (someone has to and its "awfully handy for town"). The prose is superb, darkly funny and surreal and this is an entertaining read.

Saturday, 10 January 2009

All Books Read in 2008

1. The Lost Luggage Porter by Andrew Martin
2. Murder at Deviation Junction by Andrew Martin
3. Suite Fran├žoise by Irene Nemirovsky
4. The Careful Use of Compliments by Alexander McCall Smith
5. Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones
6. The Year of Living Magically by Joan Didion
7. Agatha Christie: The Biography of Agatha Christie by Laura Thompson
8. I, Lucifer by Glen Duncan
9. Silent as the Grave by Deanna Raybourn
10. The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie
11. Silk by Alessandro Baricco
12. The Secret Adversary by Agatha Christie
13. The Owl Service by Alan Garner
14. The Murder on the Links by Agatha Christie
15. These Old Shades by Georgette Heyer
16. Silent in the Sanctuary by Deanna Raybourn
17. The Man in The Brown Suit by Agatha Christie
18. Deadlock by Sara Paretsky
19. Poirot Investigates by Agatha Christie
20. The Secret of Chimneys by Agatha Christie
21. The Last Kabbalist of Lisbon by Richard Zimler
22. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie
23. Regency Buck by Georgette Heyer
24. Frederica by Georgette Heyer
25. The Big Four by Agatha Christie
26. The Mystery of the Blue Train by Agatha Christie
27. A Case of Two Cities by Qiu Xialong
28. The Seven Dials Mystery by Agatha Christie
29. Partners in Crime by Agatha Christie
30. Miracles of Life by J G Ballard
31. The Underdog by Agatha Christie
32. Blood Price by Tanya Huff
33. Blood Trail by Tanya Huff
34. Blood Lines by Tanya Huff
35. Blood Pact by Tanya Huff
36. Small Favour by Jim Butcher
37. A is for Alibi by Sue Grafton
38. The Mysterious Mr Quinn by Agatha Christie
39. The Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie
40. The Suspicions of Mr Whicher or The Murder at Road Hill House by Kate Summerscale
41. Blood Debt by Tanya Huff
42. Red Mandarin Dress by Qiu Xialong
43. The Sittaford Mystery by Agatha Christie
44. B is for Burglar by Sue Grafton
45. C is for Corpse by Sue Grafton
46. Peril at End House by Agatha Christie
47. The Thirteen Problems by Agatha Christie
48. Lord Edgware Dies by Agatha Christie
49. The Helene Hanff Omnibus: Underfoot in Showbusiness by Helene Hanff
50. The Helene Hanff Omnibus: 84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff
51. The Helene Hanff Omnibus: The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street by Helene Hanff
52. The Helene Hanff Omnibus: Apple of My Eye by Helene Hanff
53. The Helene Hanff Omnibus: Q's Legacy by Helene Hanff
54. D is for Deadbeat by Sue Grafton
55. Smoke and Mirrors by Tanya Huff
56. Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
57. The Listerdale Mystery by Agatha Christie
58. E is for Evidence by Sue Grafton
59. Why Didn't They Ask Evans by Agatha Christie
60. The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton
61. Parker Pyne Investigates by Agatha Christie
62. Trading Tatiana by Debi Alper
63. Three Act Tragedy by Agatha Christie
64. Death in the Clouds by Agatha Christie
65. Labyrinth by Kate Mosse
66. ABC Murders by Agatha Christie
67. Fearless Fourteen by Janet Evanovich
68. The Search for Sana by Richard Zimler
69. The Hound of Death by Agatha Christie
70. Murder in Mesopotamia by Agatha Christie
71. Sepulchre by Kate Mosse
72. F is For Fugitive by Sue Grafton
73. Long Way Round by Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman
74. Cards on the Table by Agatha Christie
75. Murder in the Mews by Agatha Christie
76. Dumb Witness by Agatha Christie
77. Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie
78. Appointment with Death by Agatha Christie
79. Maisie Dobbs An Incomplete Revenge by Jacqueline Winspear
80. Batting on the Bospherus by Angus Bell
81. G is for Gumshoe by Sue Grafton
82. Hercule Poirot's Christmas by Agatha Christie
83. Murder is Easy by Agatha Christie
84. And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
85. The Regatta Mystery and other stories by Agatha Christie
86. Sad Cypress by Agatha Christie
87. One, Two, Buckle My Shoe by Agatha Christie
88. Evil Under the Sun by Agatha Christie
89. N or M by Agatha Christie
90. The Body in the Library by Agatha Christie
91. Five Little Pigs by Agatha Christie
92. The Moving Finger by Agatha Christie
93. From Dead to Worse by Charlaine Harris
94. Towards Zero by Agatha Christie
95. Death Comes As the End by Agatha Christie
96. Sparkling Cyanide by Agatha Christie
97. The Hollow by Agatha Christie
98. The Labours of Hercules by Agatha Christie
99. Taken At the Flood by Agatha Christie
100. Witness for the Prosecution by Agatha Christie
101. Crooked House by Agatha Christie
102. A Murder is Announced by Agatha Christie
103. Winchester from Prehistory to the Present by Tom Beaumont James
104. The Ivy Chronicles by Karen Quinn
105. The Miracle at Speedy Motors by Alexander McCall Smith
106. Artemis Fowl and the Time Paradox by Eoin Colfer
107. The Mousetrap and other Plays by Agatha Christie
108. Twilight by Stephanie Meyer
109. Devil Bones by Kathy Reichs
110. They Came to Baghdad by Agatha Christie
111. Mrs McGinty's Dead by Agatha Christie
112. Underground London by Stephen Smith
113. Hunting Midnight by Richard Zimler
114. They Do It With Mirrors by Agatha Christie
115. H is for Homicide by Sue Grafton
116. Nation by Terry Pratchett
117. After the Funeral by Agatha Christie
118. A Pocket Full of Rye by Agatha Christie
119. Destination Unknown by Agatha Christie
120. The Rose Labyrinth by Titanie Hardie
121. Hickory Dickory Dock by Agatha Christie
122. Dead Man's Folly by Agatha Christie
123. 4:50 from Paddington by Agatha Christie
124. Ordeal by Innocence by Agatha Christie
125. Cat Among the Pigeons by Agatha Christie
126. The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding by Agatha Christie
127. The Pale Horse by Agatha Christie
128. The Mirror Crack'd from side to side by Agatha Christie
129. The Clocks by Agatha Christie
130. The Gnostic Gospels by Elaine Pagels
131. A Caribbean Mystery by Agatha Christie
132. At Bertram's Hotel by Agatha Christie
133. Third Girl by Agatha Christie
134. Endless Night by Agatha Christie
135. By the Pricking of My Thumbs by Agatha Christie
136. Hallowe'en Party by Agatha Christie
137. Passenger to Frankfurt by Agatha Christie
138. Nemesis by Agatha Christie
139. Elephants Can Remember by Agatha Christie
140. Postern of Fate by Agatha Christie
141. Poirot's Early Cases by Agatha Christie
142. Curtain: Poirot's Last Case by Agatha Christie
143. Sleeping Murder by Agatha Christie
144. Miss Marple's Final Cases by Agatha Christie
145. Letter from New York by Helene Hanff
146. To Dream of The Dead by Phil Rickman
147. A River Runs through It by Norman MacLean
148. Address Unknown by Kressman Taylor
149. Once Upon A Time in the North by Philip Pullman
150. The Weirdstone of Brisingham by Alan Garner
151. The Amazing Mr Blunden aka The Ghosts by Antonia Barber
152. Tom's Midnight Garden by Phillipa Pearce
153. New Moon by Stephanie Meyer
154. The Wildest Dream: Mallory - His Life and Conflicting Passions by Peter Gillman
155. The King and Mrs. Simpson: The True Story of the Commoner Who Captured the Heart of a King by Erin Frances Shulz
156. The Mystery of Mallory and Irvine by Tom Hozel and Audrey Salked
157. The Ghosts of Everest: The Authorised Story of the Search for Mallory and Irvine by Jochen Hemmleb, Larry Johnson and Eric Simonsen
158. The End of Mr. Y by Scarlett Thomas
159. Detectives on Everest: The 2001 Mallory and Irvine Research Expedition by Jochen Hemmleb and Eric Simonsen
160. The Haunted Tea Cosy by Edward Gorey
161. The Headless Bust by Edward Gorey
162. The Luck of Troy by Roger Lanclyn Green
163. Saturday by Ian McEwan
164. Sorbonne Confidential by Laurel Zukerman
165. Agatha Raison and a Spoonful of Poison by M C Beaton
166. Eclipse by Stephanie Meyer
167. Breaking Dawn by Stephanie Meyer
168. Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer
169. A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket
170. A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Reptile Room by Lemony Snicket
171. A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Wide Window by Lemony Snicket
172. A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Miserable Mill by Lemony Snicket
173. A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Austere Academy by Lemony Snicket
174. A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Ersatz Elevator by Lemony Snicket
175. A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Vile Village by Lemony Snicket
176. A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Hostile Hospital by Lemony Snicket
177. A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Carnivorous Carnival by Lemony Snicket
178. The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy
179. Casino Royale by Ian Fleming
180. Stray by Rachel Vincent
181. Absent Light by Eve Isherwood
182. The Songs of the Kings by Barry Unsworth
183. How to Lose Friends and Alienate People by Toby Young

Thursday, 1 January 2009

First Book of 2009

This is the third book in the Brenda and Effie series and is no less bonkers than the other two. Something is up in Whitby - Mr Danby is hosting an all night radio phone-in show which seems to be keeping most of the locals up all night and Mrs Claus is hosting a convention for British ex-super heroes, Harry the Cat and Mrs Midnight are two of those in attendance, but something is coming and its not just romance for Brenda, whether she likes it or not. As usual Brenda, Effie and their sidekick Robert are determined to get to the bottom of the various goings on, and their investigations lead Brenda into danger and Effie, Robert and Sheila Manchu have to go very deep in their attempts to save their friend. Lots of fun.

Reading Review of the Year

My reading statistics for 2008.

183 books read in total, which averages around 3.5 books a week.

I've read books written by authors whose surnames start with every letter of the alphabet from Debi Alper to Richard Zimler.

Favourite books of the year were (in reading order):

Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky
The Year of Living Magically by Joan Didion
Miracles of Life by J.G. Ballard
Lord Edgware Dies by Agatha Christie
Underfoot in Showbusiness by Helene Hanff
84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff
The Duchess of Bloomsbury by Helene Hanff
Apple of My Eye by Helene Hanff
Q's Legacy by Helene Hanff
Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
Five Little Pigs by Agatha Christie
Letter from New York by Helene Hanff
To Dream of the Dead by Phil Rickman
The Weirdstone of Brisingham by Alan Garner
Tom's Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce

Many of these, the Agatha Christies, some of the Helene Hanffs and of course the Alan Garner and Philippa Pearce were re-reads, but I was pleased to note that time had not diminished the power of the writing and the narrative. If you like life/travel writing do read Helene Hanff, she is an exuberant companion and you won't be bored!

But there is one book that has stood head and shoulders above the others, and as I actually read it in December 2007 shouldn't really be mentioned in a reading review of 2008, but its the book that has stayed with me since I first read it, when I blogged about it back then I headed up the blog with 'You Must Read this Book' and I still feel the same about this over twelve months. I've read other books in the Zarco series as well as Search for Sana and they are each superb and compelling reads, but haven't haunted me in the way that this one has. Read it.

Going from the sublime to the ridiculous, my worst book of the year was The King and Mrs. Simpson: The True Story of the Commoner Who Captured the Heart of a King by Erin Frances Shulz. This was a book that came to me through the excellent Library Thing Early Reviewers programme and was fortunately very short, but oh dear. I've just realised that I was extremely generous when I rated this book on Library Thing and doubled my rating as this book sadly only managed to be ranked at 2 points out of 10 on my system. I've just looked at it again to see if I was too hard, as the book is intended as a 'snapshot of history' and to attract readers who wouldn't normally pick up a history book, which is not me, but sadly I was right. As I wrote in my Library Thing review, 'this is sadly not a book I can recommend to newcomers to the story, as the inaccuracies combined with the simplistic prose make what should be an epic and engaging read, flat and uninspiring.'

Oh yes, and if you are considering joining Library Thing Early Reviewers, do, unlike other review programmes (cough cough Amazon) they don't penalise you for bad reviews and I can confirm that as I snagged another Early Review copy after posting this review.

Happy New Year

I didn't mean to be away for so long, but the last couple of months have been a bit strange.

Firstly, like so many, I've staggered from one cough and cold to another - probably not helped by travelling on the tube where on every journey someone seems to kindly cough or sneeze in my face - which left me wiped out.

Secondly my laptop threw all its toys out of its pram by keeping on shutting itself down, usually when I was in the middle of typing an email which it would send to some random person in my address book. After investigation a virus was ruled out and it was decided that I'd just bought a lemon. So eventually I bit the bullet and bought a bright new shiny laptop from the lovely people at John Lewis.

It hasn't all been bad news though, the company Christmas do was at the London Hippodrome seeing La Clique . I'd expected to only make it through the first half because I wasn't feeling so great, but lasted throughout the entire performance. David O'Mer and the English Gents were probably our, all female table, top recommendations ('The Man in the Bath' was one person's request for our office Secret Santa, but as we had a £6 limit per person so even if we'd pooled our resources it was never going to happen - you need look at the website to really understand this!) and I have a soft spot for Mario Queen of the Circus - did you know Freddie Mercury was really writing about ... juggling! All the performances were fabulous, although Ursula Martinez's strip divided our audience - especially as she later proved she has singing and comedic talents without taking her clothes off.

I also sat through the 165 minutes of this. Its had some mixed reviews, which are not unfair, but I have seen it described as a turkey which is unfair - I don't think Baz Luhrmann is capable of making a bad movie, but this one is just a little too busy and overlong and he should have concentrated on one of his story arcs, rather than trying to deal with two complex stories in depth - oh yes and there was a complete Thomas Hardy moment, well as Thomas Hardy as you can get in the outback! But it is overlong and the narrative drags in places, but its a lot better than a lot of the stuff out there at the moment.

Oh yes and while we are on the subject of movies, I also had the requisite Bond moment. I loved Quantum of Solace and thought it pitched perfectly the emotional depth and tone for a direct sequel to Casino Royale. I've also just started to read the Bond books in order of publication - I read some of them when I was at school years ago, and have to say that Daniel Craig may be blond, but he seems to be the actor whose got the closest to Bond, well in my humble opinion!

Oh yes and finally, but not least, congratulations to Sir Terry Pratchett for his much deserved knighthood, the man is a genius and not afraid to stand up for what he believes in from humanism to Alzheimer's research and if you haven't read any of his books, why not?