Holiday Reads – Fuerteventura 2016

I haven’t added anything new to my blog for the last week, as I’ve been on a (much needed) holiday in Fuerteventura.  It’s amazing how much better a bit of sunshine makes you feel!  And it gave me plenty of time to read and to make a bit of a dint in my TBR pile.

My holiday reading is almost solely done from my Kindle – I love the convenience of having multiple books at my fingertips without having to sacrifice luggage space.  And I find that I always deviate from my planned reading list once I’m out there – something that’s not an option with physical books.

So, here’s what I read over the last week:

The Boy with the Porcelain Blade by Den Patrick

The first book in the Erebus Sequence introduces us to the darkly gothic Kingdom of Landfall, and its corrupt capital Demesne.  Lucien de Fontein is one of the mysterious “orfano” – strangely disfigured individuals whose origins are unknown, but are, by the King’s orders, taken into the castle and one of the four main families to be educated and trained, although they never fully accepted into the society.  This is a compelling story, with wonderfully complex and original characters and an exciting storyline.

The Poison Artist by Jonathan Moore

Dr Caleb Maddox is a toxicologist who is studying pain and the body’s chemical reaction to it.  He has recently fallen out with his girlfriend, and seeks solace in the bars of San Francisco, where he comes across the beautiful, enigmatic Emmeline.  The police are investigating a series of disappearances, and Maddox becomes tangled up in the investigation as he helps the medical examiner on the case (an old friend) with the post mortems, but also as he was in the bar where one of the men was last seen.  This is a dark, twisting novel that has a hint of 1940s noir about it.  A suspenseful, intriguing read.

Mr Mercedes by Stephen King

Recently retired Detective Bill Hodges is still haunted by the cases that went unsolved – particularly the notorious “Mercedes Killer” who ran down a number of people queuing at a job fair.  So when Mr Mercedes contacts him, he jumps at the second chance to hunt down the killer.  I find King’s novels to be a bit hit and miss – some I’ve really enjoyed, others less so.  This was an easy read, but I struggled with the one-dimensional characters and found this to be a fairly basic and predictable police procedural.

The Sisters Brothers by Patrick DeWitt

1850s America, and the infamous Charlie and Eli Sisters (guns for hire) are tracking their elusive target through Oregon and into California.  Along the way, Eli – the younger of the two – gives into his conscience, and begins to question their chosen lifestyle, wondering at the possibility of a less violent way of life.  Short listed for the 2011 Booker Prize, this is a wonderful, darkly amusing tale told from the perspective of a unique character.

The Boy Who Wept Blood by Den Patrick

The second book in the Erebus Sequence returns the reader to Landfall some 10 years or so after the events in The Boy with the Porcelain Blade.  I enjoyed the shift of perspective in this novel, as Dino – Lucien’s protégé – steps to the fore as our main protagonist.  I think that this novel is a little better than the first – the world building has largely been taken care of, and so there is more focus on plot and character.  Dark and complex, this is another excellent tale, and I can’t wait to see how this trilogy ends!

The White Voyage by John Christopher

A simple sea voyage from Ireland to Amsterdam carrying an assorted cast of passengers should be straightforward, until they hit a storm which damages the ship and drags them off course.  Eventually, they hit the Arctic circle, and must travel overland or starve.  I found this novel to be a huge disappointment.  I loved Christopher’s The Death of Grass, but couldn’t get into this at all.  I didn’t care about the fate of the characters, and found it to be quite a slog, despite it being a short novel.

SS-GB by Len Deighton

November 1941, 9 months after Britain has surrendered to Germany.  Churchill has been executed, and the King is being held prisoner in the Tower of London.  Against the backdrop of a land in turmoil as it struggles with its new masters, Detective Inspector Douglas Archer is sent to investigate a murder.  But this turns out to be more than a routine investigation, and Archer finds himself in the middle of something much bigger.  A well thought out “what if” scenario and a thrilling tale of espionage centred on a man who’s just trying to do his job.

Flight from Deathrow by Harry Hill

This book isn’t actually mine.  My other half (who isn’t much of a reader) has been wanting me to read this for ages because it’s hilariously funny.  And it is funny – it’s been a while since I’ve laughed so much at a book.  But, there’s not really much of a plot, and I couldn’t really tell you what happens in it – it’s more a collection of amusing anecdotes, some of which are loosely connected and get a little out of hand.  But it is funny.

The First Bad Man by Miranda July

I had high expectations for this novel, having seen it on many “top x novels of 2015” type lists.  This turned out to be a HUGE mistake.  A neurotic 40-something woman who wants nothing so much as a child (however reluctant she is to admit that to herself) finds her life turned upside down when she agrees to let the daughter of her bosses stay with her.  This is an unusual novel with (intentionally) disagreeable characters that I just couldn’t get into.

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