This is a rundown of the books I've read recently that I don't want to do a full review of. Starting with, Queens of the Abyss: Lost Stories From the Women of the Weird, edited by Mike Ashley.
This is precisely what it says on the tin, vintage weird stories written by women. One might be forgiven for thinking that it was only men who wrote these kinds of stories that went into magazines or collections but in fact women contributed too. Authors in this anthology include Edith Nesbit, Mary E. Braddon, Frances Hodgson Burnett, Majorie Bowen, Marie Belloc Lowndes and more. As with all collections there were stand-out stories. I liked The Revelation by Mary E. Braddon which recounts the story of a chap in India who keeps seeing visions of an old school chum and goes back to England to find out what's going on. He visits the man's wife who tells him his friend is abroad for his health and not seeing anyone... Christmas in the Fog by Frances Hodgson Burnett starts with a very foggy London and the narrator tells how this fog tends to dissipate a few miles outside the city but this time it did not. It follows the traveller to Liverpool and envelopes that city too. A very eerie, atmospheric tale. The Antimacassar by Greye La Spina is set in Philadelphia and concerns a young woman working in a department store whose friend and colleague has gone missing after going to stay on a farm for her holidays. The young woman goes off to the farm to look into matters. *Very* good, this one. White Lady by Sophie Wenzel Ellis was *so* wierd dealing as it did with experiments on exotic flowers on a Carribean island. I also liked Candlelight by Lady Eleanor Smith, a story about a dinner party where everyone is in love with someone who is not their actual partner. They discover a young gypsy girl in the garden and persuade her to tell their fortunes... All in all this is a strong collection of stories, none of them less than very readable and, of course, beautifully written.
Next, I read Killers of a Certain Age by Deanna Raybourn.
So, there's a hidden network of assassins who call themselves The Museum. It was all men until Billie, Helen, Natalie and Mary Alice were recruited when they were young women and formed a sort of cell. It was found that the four of them working together could often be more effective in certain areas than men. Fast forward forty years and the four are in their sixties and retiring. Off they go on a celebratory cruise, all expenses paid. Fantastic. Until they realise that someone from The Museum is aboard ship in disguise and come to the conclusion that they're marked women: someone wants them all dead. They go on the run. Not knowing who they can trust is their biggest problem but aging bodies don't help either. On the plus side, 'killers of a certain age' have learnt a lot in forty years and underestimating them would be a real mistake. I liked this without actually loving it. It was a fun, if slightly unlikely, romp which took me on a mad jaunt to various countries. I imagined Helen Mirren leading this disparate, motley bunch of four oap assassins, one of their partners, and a computer nerd. I didn't find characterisation to be that strong, the women blended a bit too much into one person sort of thing, not much to tell them apart. But it was fine and I did actually enjoy it.
Lastly, I read Soul Music by Terry Pratchett.
I was in the mood for something by Terry Pratchett and this is one of the few books of his I haven't read. 'Death' is having a bit of a mid-life crisis wondering 'What it's all about?' and is it all worth it? He disappears and it's down to his grand-daughter, Susan, a teenager, to reluctantly take over for a while. She'll have to deal with the fallout from the new 'Music with Rocks in' phenomenom. A new pop group has emmerged... a troll, a dwarf, and a boy with a harp from the valleys are attracting some unfortunate attention because their new music is strangely addictive and alive somehow. This was not my favourite outing with Terry Pratchett's writing, it was slightly confusing somehow. 'But' it was still a great deal of fun with his usual trademark humour and way with words:
' Trolls disliked druids too. Any sapient species which spends a lot of time in a stationary, rock-like pose objects to any other species which drags it sixty miles on rollers and buries it up to its knees in a circle. It tends to feel it has cause for disgruntlement.'
So, my two current books are these:
Horse by Geraldine Brooks is a three-timeline story concerning a racehorse from the 1850s. I have no interest whatsoever in horse racing but this is a well written and engaging tale which I like an awful lot.
And I've also just started this:
Death in August by Marco Vichi which I reserved from the library after reading about it on a blog I think. Possibly Margot's? It's set in 1960's Florence anyway, and I think I'm going to like it.
So that's me up to date with my reading and blogging. I hope you're all well and enjoying your May reading.