Thursday 14 December 2023

A quick catch-up

As always, this time of year proves to be pretty busy so I thought I'd do a very quick catch-up on what I've read so far in December.

First-up, A Closed and Common Orbit is book two in Becky Chamber's 'Wayfarer's' science fiction series. If you haven't read book one and are inclined to, probably best not to read any more of this review because there are *spoilers*.

So, at the end of book one the AI that runs systems on the space-ship 'Wayfarer' is transferred into a human 'kit'. It's so realistic that you can't tell she's not human. She becomes 'Sidra' and this is the story of how she moves to another planet with 'Pepper' and how she settles into day to day life. Pepper was at one time Jane23 and in this book we have a dual time-line, learning who Jane 23 was and what happened to her as a child and teenager. For me, it was Jane's story that grabbed me. The situation on her home planet was somewhat shocking but I loved her story and what saved her. I'm not a great fan of the AI sub-genre of science-fiction but this book proves that I should stop saying, 'I don't like' and just try different kinds of books that I'm not sure if I'll enjoy. Because nearly every time I do that I end up with a pleasant surprise. An excellent read and I already have book three for 2024.


Next, Who Killed the Curate, a vintage crime yarn by Joan Coggin.

A whirlwind romance sees Lady Lupin Lorimer married to a vicar, Andrew Hastings. She's staggered that what she thinks will be a quiet existence in rural Sussex is anything but and she's expected to be on this committee and that and even run the girl guides! Being young and more than a bit silly this is quite a challenge. When her husband's curate is found dead on Christmas Eve there's even more of a challenge as the police try to find out who poisoned him. Lupin, along with two society friends and Andrew's MI5 nephew, decide to help the police find the culprit. But there are so many suspects, due to the curate's secret life, that this proves to be an almost impossible task. This is probably one of the funniest books I've read all year due to the author's very amusing turn of phrase in her writing. I honestly laughed a lot. Unfortunately, I did feel she overdid Lupin's ditziness... to the point where she was borderline too annoying to want to read about. Toned down a bit this would have got 5 stars from me because of the humour and good characterisation as regards the supporting cast... although it was a bit hard keeping track of who was who. Plus, 40% in is a tiny bit of a long wait for a dead body... But a good, fun, Christmas murder mystery. 

Also just finished:

Home Cooked by TV presenter, Kate Humble, is a delightful book of seasonal recipes and ruminations about the changing seasons in the UK. She collected the recipes from friends and family and they all get credited, even a neighbour, 12 year old Freddie, who is apparently an expert on ice-cream making. Loved this and will definitely be trying a few of the recipes.

I seem to be currently reading four books. Not sure how but these are they:


Haunters at the Hearth, edited by Tanya Kirk, is a book of Christmas weird stories published by the British Library. I'm about three quarters of the way through and so far it's rather good.

Sherlock Holmes and the Christmas Demon by James Lovegrove is a book I read about HERE on Lark's blog. Only just started it really but again it's good.

Vesper Flights is a book of nature writing essays, concentrating on birds, by Helen MacDonald. Really superb and beautifully written.

This is Nature Tales for Winter Nights, edited by Nancy Campbell. It's a delightful compendium of exerts from books, by all kinds of authors, that are connected in some manner to Winter. This I'll probably let float over into 2024 as I'm in no hurry to gobble up its gorgeousness.

Well, I hope you're not too crazy busy in the run up to Christmas and that you're finding time to read good books. 


DesLily said...

Hi Sis... I see you are reading as fast as ever ! At least you always seem to choose books that you like!

Cath said...

Hi Sis, nice to see you here. Yeah, I'm getting better at choosing books I'm sure to like but it doesn't always work. LOL!

Kay said...

Cath, glad to hear that your reading is going well. I think the 'Curate' book sounds fun. Might try to see if my library has it. Take care and happy holidays!

Yvonne @ Fiction Books Reviews said...

As ever, you have managed to select a very eclectic range of genres to read as the mood takes you, although how you manage to read four books at the same time is beyond me - I have trouble concentrating on just one book at a time - although fair to say a couple of yours are easy enough to dip in and out of. 'Vesper Flights' and 'Nature Tales For Winter Nights' are probably books I wouldn't buy for myself, but if anyone gave them to me as a gift, I would definitely dip in and out of them, and I love the cover of 'Nature Tales...'

I must admit that I haven't ventured to read any of the new take on the Sherlock Holmes stories, but having checked out James Lovegrove's selection on FF, I am sorely tempted to try one or two of them - who knows, one day!

'Who Killed The Curate' also sounds like a good little murder/mystery and given that there were only ever four books in the Lady Lupin series, these might be another possible selection for my wish list.

I am back in a run of psychological thrillers and murder mysteries right now and enjoying them all so far. In fact I have even gone so far as to read books 1 and 2 from the same series, back to back, which is almost unheard of for me!!

I hope your Christmas preparations are coming along to plan :)

Kathy's Corner said...

Hi Cath, Thanks for the Christmas recommendations. And what you said about wierd Christmas stories intrigued me and I have gotten a copy of the Haunted book from kindle unlimited. The Christmas story about the curate I may pass on but that book cover is beautiful. It really puts one in a holiday mood. I hope you and your family have a great Christmas and Hapoy New Year.

Sam said...

Looks like you are well on the way to a really fun month of reading, Cath...and four going at once right now. Nice.

I haven't read a whole lot of the AI sub-genre of SciFi either, but what I've read has mostly been kind of gloomy. This one sounds more interesting than most; I especially like that the characters are more fully developed than is always the case.

You made me laugh in your review of "Who Killed the Curate" with your statement that "40% in is a tiny bit of a long wait for a dead body." Spoken like a true bloodthirsty mystery fan. :-)

Margot Kinberg said...

It's funny you should mention waiting a while for the murder in Who Killed the Curate?, Cath. I ran into that in the second novel I wrote. The body doesn't show up until a bit later in the book, and now (the book was written several years ago), I really understand your point. Crime fiction fans want to be drawn into the story right away, I think. I know what you mean, too, about reading Book One of Becky Chambers' series first. I've found with the sci-fi books I've read (not that I'm sophisticated!) that it helps a lot to read the series in order, as the author often builds a world in Book One, and there are story arcs.

Cath said...

Kay: Thank you! The curate book is a bit obscure but you may well be lucky with your online library catalogue - Texas is a big state!

Cath said...

Yvonne: Yes, that's part of my problem... so much easier for folk who only read one genre... people like us who like a lot of different genres end up wanting to read everything! Yes, that Winter nature book does have a beautiful cover.

James Lovegrove writes some interesting weird fiction. I've read another one of his (of course I can't remember the title) but it was not bad. He's not as good as ACD of course but it's quite fun and readable.

Yes, only four in the Lady Lupin book series, quite doable. I shall definitely look for more.

Glad to hear you're enjoying your psychological thrillers... they must be good if you've read two in a series back to back! Not many authors I could do that with.

Christmas preps going ok thanks. Six bods on Christmas Day and nine on Boxing day, so getting a lot done beforehand. Hope yours are going well too.

Cath said...

Kathy: I do hope you enjoy the Haunted collection. I've not quite finished it but it has some good stories and even those that are average are very well written.

I agree about the cover of the curate book, it really is stunning.

Merry Christmas to you too!

Cath said...

Sam: Yes, I seem to be getting more read this month than I thought I would. Partly due to the fact that I'm not reading anything too demanding and also that I'm being more relaxed about it than previous years.

I agree about AI books being gloomy, which is why it's not really my thing. But the Becky Chambers was not gloomy, it was interesting, so it gets the thumbs up from me.

Glad I made you laugh. We murder addicts need our fix a little bit sooner than nearly half way in but it's fine. The scene was set very well and I liked the book.

Cath said...

Margot: It's fine with the murder not happening until a little way in but as a personal preference I prefer the main action a bit sooner. I know that the plot sometimes writes itself though and the author often has very little say! LOL!

You make an interesting point about starting with book 1 of a sci-fi series. In fact you could read A Closed and Common Orbit (book 2) as a standalone quite easily. But you would miss knowing where Sidra came from and the various nuances of what happened. I believe book 3 is different characters again but there is a connection to the crew of the ship in book 1. Definitely best to read them in order in my opinion.

Lark@LarkWrites said...

I read Becky Chambers' first novel and enjoyed it, but haven't continued on in the series. And I hope you enjoy Sherlock Holmes & The Christmas Demon. I thought it was very entertaining and fun. But then I really like Holmes and Watson. :D

TracyK said...

Looks like some good reading. And a good bit of it.

I am looking forward to reading A Closed and Common Orbit in 2024. I plan to read Who Killed the Curate? when I finish Winter Solstice by Rosamunde Pilcher (although plans can always change).

I am still reading Vesper Flights. I read a few essays today while we waited for the smog check on our car to be completed. Glen is reading Sunless Solstice (Strange Christmas Tales....) which you read earlier this year?

Cath said...

Lark: I like Holmes and Watson too. One of these I will rewatch my boxed set of the Jeremy Brett TV version of the series... my absolute favourite. :-)

Cath said...

Tracy: I don't think you'll be disappointed by A Closed and Common Orbit. I wasn't sure I would like it when I found out it was an AI story (in more ways than one as it turns out) but of course I was mistaken. It was excellent.

Looking forward to your thoughts on Winter Solstice if you have time. I want to read more by RP next year. Perhaps I might even get to The Shell Seekers. LOL!

I hope you enjoy Who Killed the Curate, it's very quirky.

I'm still reading Vesper Flights too, I may even not finish it before 2024, we'll see. It's worth taking your time over I think.

Well... I thought I had read Sunless Solstice but when I checked, I haven't, it's sat on the shelf waiting to be read for this month. Whether I will get to it is another matter. I hope Glen is enjoying it!

Vallypee said...

That's quite a collection, Cath. I have so many books on my tbr list I can't even think of adding more to them, but I'll just recommend one here to you in case you haven't read it. I've just finished Andrew Cotter's Olive, Mabel and Me and absolutely loved it. It had me weeping with laughter, which was just what I needed. Definitely one to cheer the soul.

CLM said...

Yes, I have read a few of those Lady Lupin books and wish she were a bit less loopy. The author is also known for several amusing girls' school stories under the name Joanna Lloyd, if I recall correctly.

Fanda Classiclit said...

I've seen many positive reviews of Who Killed the Curate, and would love to read it this Christmas, but unfortunately I still can't find a digital copy. So, maybe next Christmas.
Vesper Flights sounds a lovely nature book, will look for a copy right away!

Harvee said...

I always find time for books, even good ones, smile. Have a good holiday.

Cath said...

Val: Thank you so much for the recommendation, I'll look that one up. I'm still thinking about Along the Enchanted Way that you recced to me ages ago and that I read in October. 'Such' a gorgeous book which will definitely make my top 5 non-fiction books for this year.

Cath said...

Constance: Yes, I had a look for the girls' school books but couldn't see any that are available. I will probably read on in the Lupin series though.

Cath said...

Fanda: It's a shame you can't find a digi version of Who Killed the Curate? Vesper flights is delightful, just what I need at this time of year. Relaxing but informative.

Cath said...

Harvee: Yes, me too, even if it's not as much as usual.

thecuecard said...

The run-up to Christmas is very busy. I'm curious to read Vesper Flights ... seems to have a lot of tidbits on all sorts of wildlife and animals.