My family have developed a lovely Christmas Eve tradition in the last few years. Participating members pop their names into a hat and draw one in retuMy family have developed a lovely Christmas Eve tradition in the last few years. Participating members pop their names into a hat and draw one in return (ala Secret Santa). You then buy a book for your recipient to open on Christmas Eve, and receive one in return. Cue a lovely evening curled up in pyjamas and dressing gown, lost in the beauty of a brand new book.
This year my name was picked out by my brother, who had the delightful idea of combining my love of crime fiction with my love of Christmas. And there was a lot to love in this book. Most of the stories really set the scene for Christmas - family gatherings around blazing fires, turkey, tinsel and trimmings, and games galore.
A few towards the end of the collection are peculiarly light on the Christmas theme (surely in the pantheon of crime fiction there exist ten stories fully emeshed in the festivities?) but this didn't detract from my enjoyment. For the most part the stories are set in Ye Olde Genteel times, which made the very modern inclusion of Val McDermid and Ian Rankin stand out, but as these are two of my favourite authors then I'm hardly complaining.
I'd definitely recommend this as a lovely Christmas gift for any crime fiction fan....more
I've been noticing these Ladybirds for Grown-Ups books all over the place lately, and was secretly hoping I'd receive one (or a Five on Brexit Island!I've been noticing these Ladybirds for Grown-Ups books all over the place lately, and was secretly hoping I'd receive one (or a Five on Brexit Island!) for Christmas. So imagine my delight when I tore open the paper to discover The Cat.
Never a truer word on the feline condition has been written. Cats are selfish, self-centered, semi-homicidal tiny maniacs, and I want to cuddle them all. Of course mine love me to pieces, but the cats featured in this enlightening tome are surely more reflective of the species.
Genuinely, the authors do a fantastic job of merging Ye Olde Ladybird pictures with humorous, chuckle-out-loud text. I finished it inside five minutes, but I'm sure everyone present on Christmas day enjoyed giving it a read. I'd definitely gift others in the series in future....more
Inside the Magic is such a fun book. I bought it as a Christmas present, but had to have a cheeky read before wrapping it. It’s really everything a goInside the Magic is such a fun book. I bought it as a Christmas present, but had to have a cheeky read before wrapping it. It’s really everything a good companion book should be – informative and beautifully designed, with plenty of immersion in both the fictional world and production.
It’s not perfect, of course. At a scant 144 pages, it was never going to be a hugely in-depth exploration of the film. But let’s be honest, I could have read entire essays – if not novels – about the characterisation, development and extensive backstories of Newt, Tina, Queenie, Jacob and co. The strangest aspect is the fact it seems to be geared towards fans that haven’t seen the film yet. There’s a lot of coyness - especially around Graves – when a more direct approach would have raised lots of interesting avenues for discussion.
My favourite section is a lovely double-page-spread on the characters’ wands. It’s so interesting to see all the thought that went into the choices from design, to wood type, to required usage. It’s that attention to miniscule detail that has always added to the rich, magical world of the Potter film franchise, and Inside the Magic proves that the team are invested as ever. I’d love to read something more in-depth on the writing and development process, but I’m sure Fantastic Beasts will be inspiring spin-off material for years to come....more
This book is an absolute joy. If I could, I'd lay down and roll around in it, then wrap it around me like a blanket. I received the paperback as a ChrThis book is an absolute joy. If I could, I'd lay down and roll around in it, then wrap it around me like a blanket. I received the paperback as a Christmas present many moons ago - I'd peg myself around 13-15 at the time, so we're talking at least thirteen years ago. I remember being a bit skeptical upon reading the blurb, not entirely sure why my mum had thought I'd enjoy this. And then I remember the rest of Christmas day slipping away in the background, a low-level distraction as I romped through the streets of Oxford with the inimitable Lyra.
I'm older now, and Pullman's masterful interweaving of academia and religion don't leave me quite so baffled. Don't get me wrong, I whole-heartedly loved these books - I'm just not sure I absolutely understood them. Perhaps that's why His Dark Materials has been the only series on my favourites shelf I've never re-read - until now, that is. It's taken me a long time to return, but almost the moment I began listening to the audiobook, that feeling of long-remembered joy descended on me again. I was only fifteen minutes in - not even a whole chapter - when I began begging a fantasy loving friend to add this to her audio list.
There's a description mid-way through in which Lyra begins to master her alethiometer - she likens her understanding of it to letting her mind sink down and relax into the meaning. That's how coming back to this book felt - like slowly descending back into a place I never fully left, rediscovering old friends and remembering old adventures. The ten hours slipped by as though no time had passed at all. The narration itself is wonderful, and the cast all do a superb job. I've moved straight on to The Subtle Knife, and could happily wander in this world forever.
As much as I love Battlestar Galactica (and I do, I really do), The Official Companion isn't necessarily something I would have purchased for myself.As much as I love Battlestar Galactica (and I do, I really do), The Official Companion isn't necessarily something I would have purchased for myself. I'm currently working my way through the podcasts which accompany each episode, and those things are so rich and packed with detail that I didn't really expect there to be much in here that I didn't know. And yet David Bassom unearthed plenty of extra details that made this a very enjoyable read. The level of access he had to the cast and crew really shows (as much as I enjoyed the Inside HBO's Game of Thrones books, it was obvious that the author had only had fleeting access to the cast and had to rely a lot more on costume designers etc for padding). The only section I found a little dry was the production/visual effects chapter towards the end, but the rest of the book more than made up for that. Apart from a few pages of pictures, the whole thing is black and white, but I understand that a new, glossier version has been printed which encompasses the first and second seasons, and I'll definitely be trying to get my hands on that (and the other season companions) in future. This is definitely a must-read for fans....more
I bought this for my eight-year-old brother for Christmas, and decided to read it before wrapping it. It's cute! Well, as cute as any book aimed at liI bought this for my eight-year-old brother for Christmas, and decided to read it before wrapping it. It's cute! Well, as cute as any book aimed at little boys can be. It was pretty amusing, I liked the line art, and overall it was a nice way to spend an hour. The main character is a bit of a jerk at times, but I used to love books about ~how unfaaaair~ grown-ups were, and happy-clappy 'let's all be friends!' endings felt super patronising, so I'm sure I'd have dug this as a kid. I just hope Charlie likes it!...more
My granddad gave me this, and I read a fair chunk of it at his house that afternoon. It just didn't draw me in enough to want to finish it off later,My granddad gave me this, and I read a fair chunk of it at his house that afternoon. It just didn't draw me in enough to want to finish it off later, but that's not to say I won't try again in future....more
This was an interesting little collection, given to me by my grandad. I have some fond, vivid memories of visiting my grandparents as a kid, and sneakThis was an interesting little collection, given to me by my grandad. I have some fond, vivid memories of visiting my grandparents as a kid, and sneaking off to read from the upstairs closet - Roald Dahl, Stephen King, stuff that scared me stiff in the best sort of way, while my grandad turned a blind eye approvingly. So, I had fairly high expectations when he gave me Roald Dahl's Book of Ghost Stories, and I think the compendium largely met them. It's hard to be sure, because more than a decade on, I'm just not as easy to scare any more. But there were some good, well-written stories amongst the bunch.
The introduction by Dahl is bizarre and seems largely out of place. He uses it as a platform to meander on about how women are unsuccessful at pretty much everything, except for writing ghost stories. Er, okay then. Tone badly set, the first story, "W.S." is a bit of a loser, and a dull note to open on. Every twist and turn is laboriously sign-posted paragraphs in advance, and it left me feeling nonplussed. Rosemary Timperley's "Harry" is much more like it - a sharp and sudden reminder of how sinister ghosts can be. It helps that the stakes are naturally raised by placing a child in mortal peril, and I think this would have made a better opening tale.
"The Corner Shop" by Cynthia Asquith is quite atmospheric, though it doesn't really pull off its attempt at shocking through misdirection. E.F. Benson's "In The Tube" didn't do much for me at all - too much lengthy exposition, not enough fright. "Christmas Meeting", a second piece by Timperley, raises the bar, though I was disappointed at its bitesize length. I may have to search out some of her more substantial writing in future. "Elias and the Draug" by Jonas Lie is easily the worst in the collection. Dahl says in the introduction that it loses something in translation, and that definitely holds true. It's a bizarre tale completely devoid of emotion - a man loses his entire family during a vicious storm and just keeps on sailing. As you do.
A.M. Burrage's "Playmates" was something of an improvement, though I found it quite ponderous, and it doesn't even really try to be scary. It's followed by "Ringing the Changes" by Robert Aickman, which is absolutely terrifying in the build-up. The eventual "reveal" of the dead is a bit of an anti-climax, but up to that point, it's very well executed. Mary Treadgold's "The Telephone" has an interesting idea at its centre - a man who, upon dialling his old telephone number, can converse with his deceased wife. Told from the point of view of his current wife, however, the degree of detachment detracts from, rather than enhances the potentially chilling premise. "The Ghost of a Hand" by J. Sheridan Le Fanu is another dreadful one. It's apparently a snippet pulled from a longer story, and as far as I'm concerned, should have stayed there. The absolute lack of context translated into an absolute lack of caring. Burrage's second entry, "The Sweeper" has the same haunting atmosphere as "Playmates", but was more out-and-out scary in its execution, and definitely one that I enjoyed.
"Afterward" by Edith Wharton was probably my favourite of the whole collection. I felt for the protagonist, and the ghost was just so evil - none of the namby pamby Caspers of some of the other tales here. Richard Middleton's "On the Brighton Road" left very little impression on me. The closing story, "Marion Crawford's "The Upper Berth" was serviceable, but I think "Afterward" would have been a better note to close on.
It's one I enjoyed overall, uneven as the quality was in places. Lie and Le Fanu I wouldn't touch again, but Timperley, Burrage, Wharton and Aickman are by far the best of the bunch, and I'd be happy to read more by any of them in future. ...more
Pray for Silence sees Police Chief Kate Burkholder attempt to solve a gruesome home invasion, which leaves an entire Amish family dead.
I enjoyed thisPray for Silence sees Police Chief Kate Burkholder attempt to solve a gruesome home invasion, which leaves an entire Amish family dead.
I enjoyed this book more than I expected to. It was a Christmas gift from my brother, and while I was touched that he remembered I love crime fiction, he managed to buy me the second in the series when I have no knowledge of the first. That was a little frustrating at times, because the first book is often alluded to, but in very incomplete detail. The plot itself has quite a few holes, which gives the impression of slap-dash policing, and the beginning flounders around a lot with no clear direction.
That said, I found the first person narrative quite engaging, and though grisly, the opening pages with the discovery of the crime were told in such vivid detail that for a while I couldn't put it down. It made for quite an enjoyable read overall, and I think that I'll give the first book a read too....more