Mike Finn
Reading progress update: I've read 28%.
Hounds of Autumn - Heather Blackwood

This is turning into a pleasant cozy mystery with mechanical automata and Victorian value rolled in. 


There's still the odd stumble that gets being English wrong. An Englishwoman would no more describe tea as 'hot tea'' than a Canadian would describe hockey as 'ice hockey'.

You would never serve Battenburg at a funeral. You would serve sherry for the women and whiskey for the men. 


But there's enough here to serve as a good distraction from the woes of the world and that will do for today.


Off Topic Post: all the comfort I can offer - a poem by Mary Elizabeth Frye

I woke this morning to a beautiful sunny day, hearing birdsong rise unchallenged by traffic noise, seeing the sky over the valley my city nestles in free from pollution and I felt... unreal.


How can it look like this? How can it be so serene? What am I supposed to do with this Lockdown gift of peaceful beauty when I know that today, in the UK, a thousand people will die from COVID-19 and my government is so incompetent and uncaring that they haven't provided the medical staff caring for the sick and the dying with basic protective gear?


If I were Jewish, I would say Mourner's Kaddish today. If I was still Catholic, I would say the Prayer For The Dead. I am an atheist, so neither of these traditions is mine to call on.


Yet, I find myself looking for comfort, for something to say to mark the passing of the dead, so I offer this poem, by Mary Elizabeth Frye. Hers are the words I'd wish to have read at my own funeral. I find them beautiful and brave. They give all the comfort I can honestly offer.




Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there, I do not sleep.

I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints on snow,
I am the sun on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn’s rain.

When you awaken in the morning’s hush,
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circling flight.
I am the stars that shine at night.

Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there, I did not die.
Comfort Read Crime Books that might make good Forget The Pandemic Buddy Reads
Madam Tulip - David Ahern The Case of the Missing Servant - Tarquin Hall Dead Men Don't Ski - Patricia Moyes The Talented Mr. Ripley -  Patricia Highsmith

I'm happy with the suggestions already made but if you're looking for others, we could try one of these (I haven't read any of them)

Reading progress update: I've read 11%.
The Southern Book Club's Guide to Slaying Vampires: A Novel - Grady Hendrix, Bahni Turpin

I pre-ordered this from audible after reading Char's review and updates. It arrived yesterday and I couldn't resist trying a sample today.


Wow. I'm not sure what this is but I know I like it. 


As the author says in his introduction, this is moms against vampires and it's not a fair fight.


It's a great mix of humour, nostalgia, a true crime book club and lots of blood.


After Patricia has been in the book club with four other moms for some months, reading true crime and crime mysteries, she says she's learned two things:


  1. All the women are in this together
  2. If her husband ever takes out life insurance on her, she's in big trouble.
3.5 Stars
"Hide Away - Rachel Marin #1" by Jason Pinter -an entertaining thriller
Hide Away - Jason Pinter

If you're in the mood for an "I wanna finish this in one day cos I have to know what happens" thriller, with a mom-turned-vigilante-after-a-trauma as the heroine, working with or sometimes around a pair of talented detectives (a divorced older white male with a tragic past and an addiction to "Lord Of The Rings" and a younger black female with a new wife and her children from a previous marriage), who are hunting down the people who killed the former mayor of a small American city, then "Hide Away" will give you everything you need.


I consumed "Hide Away" in a few sittings in one day and was always keen to get back to it. It's an entertaining read, with a plot that I enjoyed seeing unravelled, enough action to keep it interesting, and a clever use of flashbacks and past secrets that kept the tension high and the pace fast. There is violence but none of it is gratuitous. The emotional punches in the book aren't subtle but they work. The dialogue is well done and the prose never gets in the way.


I was cheering for the heroine by the end and I liked the way the whole thing worked out. It gave me some surprised but it didn't cheat and it seemed mostly plausible. If this was TV, the show would be an instant hit.


This is the first in a new series. It was published in March 2020, so I guess it will be awhile before the next book comes out but when it does, I'll be waiting for it.

Reading progress update: I've read 8%. » Everything’s smaller in England.
Hounds of Autumn - Heather Blackwood

I’m reading a steampunk novel, set in Dartmoor, for Snakes and Ladders. I chose it because it has the word Autumn in the title.


It promises to be fun « airships and mechanicals and mysterious goings on on the Moor and married women being very much in the power of their husbands. Our heroine is an inventor of mechanicals and has a botanist husband who indulges her umwomanly fascination with automata.


So, I was cruising along through the normal steampunk world»building when a body is found in a bog on the Moor and I was reminded of how hard it is to imagine England when you’re not from here, The author wrote that it was a miracle that the body had been found at all,,,


´,,,in the thousands of miles of bogs and marshes’


By English standards, that’s an impossibly large number.


Dartmoor National Park is 368 square miles. Yellowstone National Park is almost ten times that size at 3,468 square miles. If you’re used to US National Parks, Dartmoor must seem like something you’d miss if you blinked, but then, the whole of England is 50,337 square mile, so about the size of Alabama.


Even so, if you’re going to set a book in Dartmoor, even a steampunk alternative history Dartmoor, it wouldn’t hurt to look up its size.

2020 Snakes & Ladders - Dice Roll 3

I finished "Hide Away" in a day, it's that kind of book, you have to keep turning the pages, so I got to roll the dice again. This time I hit a ladder, made a lot of progress and ended up having to buy a book with Autumn on the cover.


Reading progress update: I've read 45%.- here's a policeman after my own heart...
Hide Away - Jason Pinter

...Serrano, the detective, is checking out the bookshelves in a suspect's (Wickersham's) apartment:


In fact, Serrano was reasonably sure that Wickersham had simply printed out the Modern Library Top 100 and ordered a copy of each title. This wasn’t a bookshelf owned by someone who liked to read but someone who wanted people to think he liked to read. To Serrano, there were few greater sins. Maybe homicide. But that was debatable.


Morning Lockdown walk

Yesterday slid past me as if I wasn't there. I couldn't muster the energy to walk and my short trip by car to the supermarket just made me want to come home and lock the door. I could see myself sliding into an "I don't know what day it is and I don't care" state.


I refuse to accept that.


So, this morning, I got up early and went for a walk in the bright morning sunshine.


Here's what I saw.


Eighty-two years ago this month, the street I was walking along took a stray bomb during the Baedeker Raids.  The space to the right of the house in this picture is where the bomb hit. It was converted into a garden.



When this road was almost at the edge of the city, builders would buy a plot and then put up whatever they thought would sell, so just along from the Georgian townhouse in the picture above you get a much more modest set of Georgian rowhouses. I like the nice cheerful colours.



At the end of the road, I headed down the hill towards the parts of Bath Jane Austen spent time in.  It has some grand architecture but I still have a soft spot for the quirky bits, like this little extension that I saw along the way. It seems to me it was added with impertinence and optimism to the grander buildings.  


One of the big set-pieces of Georgian architecture in Bath is The Circus. It's a set of townhouses, built in a circle by John Wood between 1754 and 1768 (Yes, I had to look that up). The buildings are impressive but my favourite thing about The Circus is the huge London Plane trees at its centre. They weren't part of Woods' design. He'd created an open plaza. They were put in by the residents around 1800 or so and I think they made the whole place more human.



The road you can see across The Circus leads to The Royal Crescent. 


This was, and still is, the poshest address in Bath. If you look closely, you'll see a line to the right of the trees that crosses in front of the Crescent. This is one of the Hahas that comes up in novels like "Mansfield Park". It's a three-foot drop, built into the slope to keep sheep off the lawn.


When I moved to Bath, way back in the 1980s, our first apartment was in the rowhouses you can see behind the Crescent. They were built as a windbreak for the Crescent. When we moved into them they were just being rescued from decades of having been cheap bedsits for students.


So, that was my walk this morning. I feel much better for having taken it. It's also nice to have a place to share it. It makes me look more closely at the things that I've seen so many times that I'm in danger of taking them for granted.

Reading progress update: I've read 24%.- a good distraction in a time of pandemic
Hide Away - Jason Pinter

This is very stylised. Characters are clearly labelled. The pace is fast. An only partially revealed traumatic past looms over everything. The pace is fast. The angle of approach - single mom of two is more informed and much more dangerous than anyone would expect - is novel.


Most of all though, I just want to keep turning the pages fast enough to find out more about what's going on. 


I was looking for a distraction and this is doing it for me.

Reading progress update: I've read 12%.
Hide Away - Jason Pinter

Thé writing is functional rather than fancy but it works. The most important thing is that it’s a thriller that I just started tonight and I’ve already delayed sleep and read two more chapters than I intended, I’m looking forward to reading more tomorrow 

Lockdown Snakes & Ladders - 2nd dice roll

I decided to use the buddy read book for my last roll of Snakes and Ladders, an author with a last name starting with H. 


So here's the result of my second dice roll.


Not a lot of progress but I hope the book is good. It's about a woman vigilante in a small town so no escapism or wish fulfilment there, honest.

Reading progress update: I've read 100%. How wrong I was about Georgette Heyer
No Wind of Blame (Inspector Hemingway Mystery #1) - Georgette Heyer

I hadn’t expected something as playful as this. It’s mildly subversive in its way, pushing a little at the conventions of the genre. Vicky is a female Loki, a little goddess of mischief and chaos, The Prince is so over the top that he works. Emmy is a trouper in every sense. 


I think this would make a great stage play. It’s one step away from farce, the characters are larger than life and there are some fine set pieces.


And, good grief, I’m now a Georgette Hayer fan. My teenage self would never have predicted that.

0 Stars
"The Little Drummer Girl" by John le Carré - abandoned at 33%
The Little Drummer Girl - John le Carré, Michael Jayston

"The Little Drummer Girl" is the third book that I've abandoned in my "20 for 20 Reading Challenge" to read twenty books that are more than twenty hours long.

I've really enjoyed the Le Carré books that I've read so far, all of which post-date "The Little Drummer Girl". This book didn't work for me. I listened to the first six and a half hours of the book and found myself increasingly reluctant to return to it, so I've pressed the life's-too-short button and abandoned it,


The book is well written and well-narrated. It has some very powerful scenes in it. The characters are well-drawn and the places are well-described. My problem started with the pace, which is slow and evolved into the characters, none of whom I care about.


After six and a half hours we've finally reached the point where our young British actress has been successfully recruited to work with the Israelis to help them (somehow) take down a Palestinian terrorist cell. I know every detail of the process used to recruit her and it seems to me to be as credible as it is frightening. Reading it was like watching a craftsman build a brick wall with a complex pattern embedded in it or watching a wrangler tame a wild horse. It's fascinating in its own way but you have to care about the craftsman or the horse. I found I didn't care for either.


So I'll never know what Charlie's mission was or whether she succeeded in it or how many people died along the way. I'm OK with that.


I'll be back for other Le Carré books but I'm saying good-bye to this one.

Reading progress update: I've read 89%. - Hemingway is a breath of fresh air and Vicky is much smarter than she presents herself as being
No Wind of Blame (Inspector Hemingway Mystery #1) - Georgette Heyer

I can see that I was set up to think well of Hemmingway by having the local Police Officer be such a dullard but I do enjoy his oblique approach to life.


I'm even starting to like Vicky Yes, she lives her life as if it were a Live Action Role Playing game but she is aware she's doing it.  She's beginning to seem more connected to real life than Mary.


I loved this exchange between the two of them where Vicky calls out Mary:


‘You know, Vicky,’ said Mary, ‘I’m absolutely horrified by the way you talk about your mother! It’s positively indecent.’
‘Dearest pet, the way I talk truly isn’t as indecent as the way you think,’ Vicky replied. ‘Because you’ve got the most degrading suspicions, and you disapprove of the poor sweet so much that you daren’t put it into words. I don’t disapprove of her at all; in fact, she has my vote.’





Reading progress update: I've read 71%. I hadn't expected this to be so funny
No Wind of Blame (Inspector Hemingway Mystery #1) - Georgette Heyer

I like Hemingway -good head on his shoulders and able to adapt quickly BUT the star is definitely Vicki. What a part that would be to play in a TV version of this.


I'm stopping now. I'll finish this in the morning.

currently reading

Progress: 28%
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Progress: 26/246pages