Tuesday 23 May 2023

I have been reading...

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.


Kay said...

Cath, I've got KILLERS OF A CERTAIN AGE and have yet to read it. I loved the idea of Helen Mirren leading the group and I actually hope that a movie or TV adaptation will be made. You'd have to think who might play the others. These senior-sleuth books are quite a popular theme these days.

Margot Kinberg said...

I hope you'll enjoy Death in August, Cath. I thought it had a really strong sense of place and local culture. There's wit in it, too. The Antimacassar sounds really interesting, too. I lived most of my adult life in Philadelphia until moving west, and consider it 'home.'

Yvonne @ Fiction Books Reviews said...

I have read a couple of 'senior sleuth' stories and I am still not quite sure where I sit with them and whether they actually work for me or not. Sometimes I am in the mood for simply reading for the fun of it, without having to think too deeply, so at those times they work quite well.

I have never read Marco Vichi and the series does sound really good, but I am just wondering whether I will be able to catch up with six episodes?? Oh what the heck - the series in total is heading for my wish list and I look forward to seeing what you think of your introduction to Inspector Bordelli - Enjoy! :)

My reading has all but dried up over the past week or so as D has taken some holidays so that we can begin putting our garden back together after the subsidence issues we have had. It has resembled the Somme for the past couple of years!! :)

Lark said...

That collection of short stories sounds interesting...and fun with so many different women writers in it. And I have Killers of A Certain Age on my TBR list. Only now I'm wishing they would make a movie of it with Helen Mirren. I would totally go see that movie! :D

Cath said...

Kay: I actually do think a movie of this book would be very watchable! And Helen Mirren would 'have' to be in it. LOL! Not sure who else though. Yes, all of a sudden senior sleuths are everywhere, not a new thing (Miss Marple, Miss Silver etc.) but there's been a resurgence of interest.

Cath said...

Margot: I'm enjoying Death in August so far, the beginning is almost a bit gothicky. I didn't realise you had lived so long in Pennsylvania. We haven't been to Philadelphia but we have been to Pittsburgh several times so the Pennsylvania Dutch farmhouse was quite familiar. Good story.

Cath said...

Yvonne: I don't mind the odd senior sleuth story but do not want more than that. Plus I prefer a Miss Marple sort of story to this really.

I will report back on Death in August. So far it's good and the 'empty Florence in a very hot summer' setting is excellent.

Good luck with putting the garden back together. At least it appears that it's going to be dry for a while so no working in mud.

Cath said...

Lark: It was nice to read some weird stories by modern classic female authors. The writing was very good too. I would go and see the movie of Killers of a Certain Age, it a nice tour round Europe so it would be a lot of fun!

TracyK said...

I just now got a copy of Queens of the Abyss on the Kindle for Glen, and I may try some of the stories too.

I saw that you were reading Soul Music (on Goodreads). I love that title. I need to read more by Terry Pratchett. I have read one Death book, Mort, and have another, Reaper Man, with a great skeleton on the cover. I will keep an eye out for Soul Music.

I have a copy of Killers of a Certain Age and am looking forward to reading it.

Cath said...

Tracy: Queens of the Abyss was definitely one of the better of these weird story collections. They vary a lot depending on who's editing. I hope Glen enjoys it!

Yes, the Death books always have great pics of Death on the cover in one guise or another. He is such a funny character. A few of my favourite TPs you might like: 'all' of the Sam Vimes, those are fantasy crime and excellent, Witches Abroad, Carpe Jugulum, Weird Sisters, Unseen Achademicals, Monstrous Regiment (I think this book should be read in schools), The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents. Lots of potential fun there!

TracyK said...

Cath, I did notice that there were other nice skeleton covers for Reaper Man beyond the one I have, and I may try to locate that one and purchase it.

I started reading Killers of a Certain Age yesterday. I wasn't sure I would be able to locate it so easily but luckily I did. I am close to halfway through and I am liking it as much as I anticipated I would. I am glad your post reminded me to read it now, before I get started on my 20 books list.

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

Hello Cath - glad to see you've been reading. I read Killers of a Certain Age but was actually disappointed in that one...maybe bad timing. How have you been?I'm sure I've missed plenty on your blog these last months but, I can see again - Thank Goodness . I finally did a blog post with an update and some summer picks; have a good summer.https://bibliophilebythesea.blogspot.com/2023/05/its-been-while-bit-of-life-and-books.html

Cath said...

Tracy: I hope you're getting on ok with Killers of a Certain Age. I'll be interested to hear what you thought come the end of the month.

Cath said...

Diane: I think Killers of a Certain Age is by no means perfect, there were definitely a few issues. It was excellent to see your update on your blog and I'm so pleased things are starting to improve for you.