Sunday 27 July 2014

A few sundry titles

I'm way behind with reviews so this is another of my catch-up posts with three brief reviews of books I've recently read.

First up, The Dead in their Vaulted Arches by Alan Bradley.

Very hard to know what to say about this book without spoilers as there's a plot twist near the beginning that I wasn't expecting and the whole book is about that! Hmm... I think I shall just say that this is book 6 of Alan Bradley's delightful 'Flavia De Luce' series. Flavia is, as usual, having trouble with her sisters, is ignored by her father and some, previously unknown, Cornish De Luces come to stay and are heavily involved in the storyline. Flavia as always uses her chemistry skills to solve various problems, although not always successfully. The ending opens up a whole new chapter for Flavia and I do hope Alan Bradley intends to publish more books and tell us about her progress. More than that I shall not say... just that as always I really enjoyed this latest installment in the life of the inimitable Flavia De Luce. Wonderful series.

Next, Helliconia Summer by Brian W. Aldiss. This is my book 27 for Bev's Mount TBR challenge.

It's now summer on the planet of Helliconia. Helliconia has two suns which means it has one normal year, a bit longer than ours, but the climate is overwhelmingly affected by the year produced by the larger sun which lasts 1,800 years. It means each season is about four to five hundred years long and summer and winter in particular are punishing and often lead to mass extinctions. Helliconia Spring dealt with the surving populations coming out of winter into spring, Helliconia Summer is set during the prolonged heat of the summer. A lot of the action takes place in the kingdom of Borlien where King JandolAnganol is divorcing his queen in order to marry the young daughter of a neighbouring king, with the aim of forging an alliance. He has many problems on all of his borders and problems of intrigue within his court. Meanwhile the planet is being watched from a space-station originating from Earth, has been for hundreds of years in fact. On the station young Billy Xiao Pin has won a lottery, his prize... he gets to go down to the planet of Hellicomia to experience real life for a few months until a virus, deadly to non-Helliconians, kills him. How will his few months on the planet affect its inhabitants?

This middle instalment of the Helliconia trilogy was good in parts and in others dragged a little. I found the court intrigue sections slightly tedious after a bit as I'm not a great one for that kind of thing. I did however enjoy the travels of SartorilIrvrash to the northern country of Sibornal and all the various adventures he had. Billy Xiao Pin was also an interesting character and a clash of cultures is always interesting to read about. The science stuff was interesting - the astronomy of the system and the biology and habits of the animals on the planet - more like that would have been nice. A lot of things are hinted at but not always explained properly. All in all, not quite as good as Helliconia Spring, a bit long-winded (570 pages), but not at all a bad read

Last, A Shilling for Candles by Josephine Tey. This is my book 16 for Bev's Vintage Mystery Bingo challenge, covering the category 'A book that's been made into a movie'. (It was the basis of Hitchcock's 1937 film, Young and Innocent.) It's also my book 10 for Peggy's Read Scotland 2014 challenge.

A young female film star, Christine Clay, is found dead on a beach in Kent. She'd been staying secretly in a nearby cottage with a young man she'd just met, Robert Tisdall. At first, Inspector Alan Grant thinks it's suicide or an accident but a button twisted in the woman's hair makes him change his mind. Tisdall disappears and thus becomes Grant's number one suspect, but that's not to say there are not plenty of others. Christine's husband for one, a songwriter she was supposedly having an affair with, for another. Grant finds many people are involved, the actress's friends include colleagues who might be jealous and a strange astrologer. He also finds unexpected help from the Chief Constable's daughter, Erica Burgoyne. It's a strange case and there are many twists and turns before Grant eventually solves the mystery.

This is the second book in Josephine Tey's Inspector Alan Grant series. I really enjoyed the first one, The Man in the Queue, and this one was just as good. Alan Grant is an interesting detective - I like the fact that he's neither an alcoholic nor divorced - and the cast of characters are varied and different. I particularly liked Erica Burgoyne. Clearly the author knew a lot about the entertainment world as both books so far have that kind of background. All the twists and turns in the plot definitely kept my interest and the revelation of the culprit was a complete surprise and that doesn't happen very often. Enjoyed this one and look forward to reading the other books I own by Josephine Tey.



GeraniumCat said...

Nice reading! Haven't read that Flavia one yet, and I'm looking forward to it.
I seem to remember feeling, like you, that Helliconia Summer dragged a bit but, reading your review, realise that I can't remember anything else about it.
And the Tey is another I haven't read - the last of them, I think, as I read them all out of order. I do like Alan Grant very much, and I simply adored The Singing Sands. You have that to look forward to, lucky you!

DesLily said...

I really need that last Flavia book!I've enjoyed all the series but for whatever reason have come to such a screaching hault with my ability to read that I haven't been buying any books! But that is one of two books I really want. Since I only read the one autobiography of Eleanor Roosevelt this month I picked a book I've read before to help me along and I should finish this one before the end of the month so I will have 2 books . (rereading the Thirteenth Tale!)

Never heard of the Tey books.. but wouldn't mind affording the other two Peter May books of The Lewis Man and the Chessmen..but their prices are staying quite high. Did you read The Lewis Man? I can't remember...

BooksPlease said...

I haven't read any of these, but Tey is on my list of authors to look out for since I read The Daughter of Time, which I thought was fantastic.

I'm well behind with writing reviews too - just posted about two books and still have another three to write about. It's that time of year when there is just so much to do and something has to give way. I hope you've recovered from your recent fall??

Val said...

I love Tey , I'm glad you are enjoying them too!

Cath said...

Geranium Cat: The Flavia is excellent, as are all the books in that series of course.

I see The Singing Sands is the last of the six... I'll get to it eventually.

Pat: I think you'll love this new Flavia De Luce... like all of them it's huge fun.

Nope, haven't read The Lewis Man, but have got it on my Kindle. I have read The Black House though, brilliant book.

Margaret: Lots of people have just read The Daughter of Time and all seem to have thought it was excellent.

I'm finding it hard to keep up with my own reading. Can't quite understand how I'm reading so quickly this year.

Yes, almost fully recovered now, thank you. Still having some problems with neck and shoulders for which I'm still on painkillers, but doing much better than I was.

Val: I had no idea Josephine Tey was such a good writer!

Peggy Ann said...

Cath, I believe Bradley intends to do 10 books in the Flavia series! My favorite series! I read this Tey book too and enjoyed it. Counts for Read Scotland! I think you just decided my next book for me, another Tey!

Cath said...

Peggy: Thanks so much for reminding me that the Tey book also covers Read Scotland. I just hadn't thought of that. Have added it to my post. Ten books read now. I may have to up my goal!

Oh good... thanks for the info on the Flavia books, I'm so pleased to hear that.

TracyK said...

Your review of the Tey book makes me want to reread all of them, and it would be the third time. They are so good. And seeing Peggy's comment reminds me it would count for Scotland.

Cath said...

Tracy: Wow, I'm impressed that you've read all of the Tey books twice! That's some going. Yes, she was Scottish.

TracyK said...

Well, I have had quite a few years to read them all in. And mysteries have always been my primary reading.

Cath said...

Tracy: Ah right. Mysteries are probably my main reading now but only over the last few years.