sjhstrangetales

JULY 2018 BOOKS ROUND-UP

Posted on: July 30, 2018

I suspect this may be the last one I do like this.  I think I will go back to doing individual reviews, for those occasions when I have really enjoyed a book.   July has been a bit of an unsatisfying month on the reading/books front.  I seem to have started loads, and barely finished any.  I get the impression I am not alone in this.  I honestly don’t know if this is down to the quality of the books, or that Life and the state of the world in general has not been conducive to concentration.  I have struggled at times to think of positive things to say, and I would always much rather write a positive review than a negative one.  Well anyway, here goes:

A Year And A Day of Every Day Witchcraft by Deborah Blake

A fascinating guide to the witch’s year, with something for you to focus on (if you choose) for each day.  I haven’t done all of them by any means, but it has propelled me into trying things I’ve not done before, such as reciting a Lord Byron poem on my YouTube channel!   I’ve come across a few of these sort of books, and this is by far one of the better ones.  Helped enormously by the fact that the author seems a very practical person, and has a down-to-earth sense of humour.

Inside The Royal Marriage by Lady Colin Campbell

I’d read two previous books by Lady CC, one about the Queen Mother (which was enjoyably packed with every scurrilous rumour and bit of gossip going), and another about Princess Diana.   With this one I was hoping to get a more balanced view of the relationship between The Queen and Prince Philip, than some of the saccharine nonsense we usually get.  Unfortunately, I’d forgotten what a crashing snob Lady CC is, and this book seemed hamstrung from the start by her insistence on banging on about Who Was Related To Who, and Who Was King Of Over There, and Who Was King Of Somewhere Else.   When we did finally get to the royal pair, it didn’t really seem to tell us anything that hasn’t already been told a zillion times before.   I don’t actually think there is anything else to be told, but that won’t stop the books coming out, telling the same old anecdotes over and over again.

The Undead: The First 7 Days by R R Hayward

I’m always pleased to come across some British apocalyptic fiction.  The market does seem to be heavily dominated by the Americans these days, and all too often the authors use their stories to try and rant on at us about how wonderful guns are.   The Undead: The First 7 Days is the first in a series, and runs at several hundred pages.  I enjoyed the first half of it very much.  I liked the central Everyman character, Howie, who is catapulted from a dreary night job at Tesco’s, to survivalist hero when the zombie apocalypse breaks out.  Also the book covers some locations I know, such as Salisbury Plain, so that was enjoyable too.   Where I began to get seriously fed up was with the strong military overtones that gradually took over.  I know nothing about the author, but I suspect he has a military background.  Nothing wrong with that of course, but when you’re a civvie like me, you can be left a bit cold by the squaddie humour, hearty team banter, and hero-worship stuff.   I was more interested in Howie when he was fighting for survival all by himself, than when he suddenly seemed to morph into a recruiting advert for the British Army.  You Too Can Be A Hero, my son!  From Tesco’s night worker to (gulp!) LEADER OF MEN!!  Yeah yeah, he’ll be delivering boxes of Milk Tray next, you mark my words [one for the oldies there].

Gateway To The Gods by George Mitrovic

Mitrovic is an intriguing character.  Quite enigmatic, I can’t make him out.  He has written a series of books, all documenting Unexplained phenomena around the world, usually from 1800 to 1977 (I’m not sure why ’77 is always the cut-off year for him, but it seems to be).  This one covers the entire gamut of phenomena, and there are some fascinating cases to be found, although some of it can be a bit repetitive.  You can end up feeling swamped by fish falls and water monsters at times.   His enthusiasm for the subject is infectious, but I really do wish he’d put an interactive contents section in.  With a book this size, (and it is HUGE), you want to be able to access individual years, and also not to have to wade through dozens of pages of preamble first.   If he’d put a proper contents page in, then I would fully recommend this as a good reference-point if you’re curious about anything Unexplained.   If you liked Charles Fort’s books, you should enjoy this.

1888: A Jack The Ripper Novel by Charlie Revelle-Smith

I had previously read Charlie Revelle-Smith’s fictionalised account of the Berkeley Square horror, and thought it was highly original.  1888 is one of the better fictionalised accounts of the Whitechapel Murders out there.  He has a real feel for the Victorian era, you can almost see the cobblestones, the opium dens, and the Gladstone bags.   Well worth having a read, particularly as we’ll soon be approaching Ripper Time (late summer/early autumn).

The Watchers by Neil Spring

I’ve been fascinated by the Broad Haven Triangle mystery for many years now, so I was curious to see what it would look like in fiction form.  I read about half of it.  It was OK.  The author did fine with the 1977 details, and there are some interesting touches, but otherwise … meh.  I’ve read criticism of Spring’s work before, that he can often feel more like he’s writing a screenplay than a novel, and this is what this one felt like at times.  Characterisation and Atmosphere seemed to be sacrificed to “and now let’s bring on more CGI” sort of thing.   Also, it all felt a bit silly really, and as if it was more of a children’s book.  Perhaps it is, I don’t know.

Through Sand And Snow by Charlie Walker

Charlie Walker set off to cycle round the world, but unfortunately his love life kept getting in the way.  He made it across Europe and the whole of Asia (no mean feat), but after falling catastrophically in love with a German girl, his adventure got thrown seriously off the rails.   There is a lot about this to enjoy.  I like cycling books, but they can be a bit of a mixed bag.  I get fed up with the Endurance lot, who are out to break records.  They might as well just rent a stationary bike down their local gym, and clock up the miles that way.  Fortunately Charlie isn’t one of those, but I did get fed up with his romantic adventures.   I hope he resumes his journey one day.  Doing the whole of Africa would be fascinating.

Sawdust Sisterhood: How Circus Empowered Women by Steve Ward

I’ve only just begun reading this, but I like the feel of it already.   Apparently it’s the 250th anniversary of the first circus to be established here in Blighty, and the author takes a look at some of the female colourful characters who earned their living under the Big Top over the years.  Circuses have fascinated me ever since I was taken to see my first one when I was a mere tot, and I was dazzled by the glamorous women performing acrobatic stunts on the ropes.   I’m looking forward to reading the rest of this.

Apocalypse Library by Iain Rob Wright

A good value compendium of Iain Rob Wright’s apocalyptic stories.  I haven’t read all of them yet.  I did enjoy the follow-up to Sea Sick, which I reviewed in June’s Round-Up.   It focuses around the survivors of the zombie plague retreating to a hill-top theme park.  There were some very memorable scenes in this, and he satisfies one point of curiosity for me … what does it feel like to transform into a zombie.  So a thumbs-up for that one.  The third in the trilogy didn’t hold my attention as well, even though the survivors this time were based on a seaside pier, and curiously, I’ve often thought that would be a good place to be in such an outbreak!

A brief mention in despatches too to The Lives And Loves of Daisy and Violet Hilton: A True Story of Conjoined Twins by Dean Jensen, and The Grizzly Maze: Timothy Treadwell’s Fatal Obsession With Alaskan Bears by Nick Jans.  I’ve only made a start on these, but they are interesting subjects.

Happy reading.

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