Stevie Carroll (stevie_carroll) wrote,
Stevie Carroll

Books Read

I had this post almost lined up before Firefox crashed, and then I realised that I had no saved draft or back-up. Ah, well, onwards...

British Flash
Published by UK MAT Publishing

Enjoy this entertaining collection of flash fiction stories, each one a short but sweet expression of what it means to be queer in Britain, past and present. All these stories reflect the iconic sights and national character of the British Isles: a taste of our idiosyncrasies and eccentricities, but also an unashamed representation of the love, loyalty and laughter of our people.

Follow the British way of life from historic villages to modern cities, from the countryside to the sea, through history and with a fantasy twist, in gardens, shops, campus and the familiar, much-loved local pub.

The stories cover universal themes of romance, desire, remembrance and reconciliation. The authors range from multi-published to up-and-coming, and they all share a passion for their characters, whether through great drama, erotic excitement, humour—or a combination of all three!

Stories of 1,000 words or so are tricky, but all these succeeded in being proper stories rather than just scenes. My three favourites were 'Commission and Omission' by Charlie Cochrane, 'Like a Girl' by JL Merrow, and 'Sunshine Superman' by Elin Gregory which is more a reflection of my taste in stories than any indication that there were stories in this anthology that I didn't like. Two of the stories are mine, but that's not why I'm advising everyone to download it. It's free, and you might find new-to-you authors that you want to investigate further.

The Crossing Places: A Case for Ruth Galloway
by Elly Griffiths
Published by Quercus Publishing Plc
Print book
ISBN 9781847249586

Dr Ruth Galloway is in her late 30s. When she's not digging up bones or other ancient objects, she lectures at a university in Norfolk. She lives, alone but happily so, in a bleak, marshy area called Saltmarsh overlooking the sea and Norfolk's vast skies with her cats and Radio 4 for company. She's a salty character - quirky. When a child's bones are found in the marshes, near a dig that Ruth and her former boyfriend Peter worked on ten years before, Ruth is called upon to date them. They turn out to be bronze-age bones and DCI Harry Nelson, who called on Ruth for help, is disappointed. He had hoped they would be the bones of a child called Lucy who's been missing, presumed dead, for ten years. He has been getting letters about her ever since - odd letters with references to ritual and sacrifice, and including quotes from the Bible and Shakespeare. Then a second girl goes missing and Nelson gets another letter - like the ones about Lucy. Is it the same killer? Is it a ritual murder, linked in some way to the site near Ruth's remote home? Then one of Ruth's cats is killed and clearly she's in danger from a killer who knows that her expert knowledge is being used to help the police with their enquiries.

I bought this one, although I may get the next in the series from the library instead. Wonderfully twisty mystery, but I'm a little unsure about the story arc that seems to be developing for the main recurring characters.

Seasons of Splendour: Tales, Myths and Legends of India
by Madhur Jaffrey
Illustrated by Michael Foreman
Published by Puffin Books
ISBN 9780140346992

This is a rich and dazzling collection of mythological tales drawn from Hindu epics. Each story is told in colourful yet simple language, and prefaced with some personal anecdote from the author's childhood. It is beautifully illustrated throughout in black line and tone by Michael Foreman.

I assume from the blurb for the paperback that they cut down on the colour illustrations that were in the hardback edition I read. If so that's a very great shame. Indian mythology is just as bloodthirsty as the European ones I grew up with and this is a smashing introduction to the story for children(!) of all ages.

Kissing the Demons
by Kate Ellis
Publisher: Creme de la Crime
Print book
ISBN 9781780290010

Thirteen Torland Place is a house with a disturbing past. Not only was it the scene of five terrible murders back in the nineteenth century, but the place is also linked to the disappearance of two teenage girls twelve years ago. When a student living there is found murdered, DI Joe Plantagenet wonders whether her death has anything to do with the house's grim history. Then other, similar deaths come to light and he fears that a ruthless serial killer is at work in the ancient Yorkshire city of Eborby, a killer who deprives each victim of one of their five senses. Could the deaths be connected to Obediah Shrowton, an executed murderer whose presence still seems to linger in the house? Or is there a yet more sinister and dangerous explanation?

I was a little disappointed with the ending of Ellis' last Wesley Peter's story, but this one (from her other currently running series) restored my faith in the author. Although none of the guest characters in Eborby mysteries are particularly sympathetic, I felt that the issue that hadn't been dealt with effectively in the other book got a much better treatment here. As usual this series has a supernatural edge in contrast to the down to earth solutions in the Devon stories, but there's no proven paranormal elements in there. Just a lot of spookiness that may be explainable, but we aren't always told how. I'll definitely be looking out for her next book with excitement again now.

Charley's War: Great Mutiny
by Pat Mills and Joe Colquhoun
Published by Titan Books Ltd
Graphic Novel
ISBN 9781848567412

In September 1917, Charley is caught up in the mutiny by troops against harsh treatment at Etaples and faces divided loyalties as the rebellion gathers pace. Eventually, back on the front line, he faces death once more as a stretcher bearer...This seventh volume of "Charley's War" is rich in the detailed minutiae of the terror-punctuated existence of a Tommy.

Seventh in the series, and one I'd been waiting for, as it deals with some of the same ground as The Monocled Mutineer of which I have fond (if that's really the word for it) memories. This didn't disappoint and included a lot more historical details I hadn't previously been aware of. Mills and Colquhoun continue to make the Great War feel terrifyingly real and recent. The next one comes out in November, so it's straight on my Christmas List.

Lily Alone
by Jacqueline Wilson
Illustrated by Nick Sharratt
Published by Doubleday Children's Books
Print book
ISBN 9780385618649

Lily isn't home alone - but she sort of wishes she was; looking after her three younger siblings is a lot of responsibility. When Mum goes off on holiday with her new boyfriend and her stepdad fails to show up, Lily is determined to keep the family together and show they can cope without any grown-ups. But taking care of 6-year-old twins, her 3-year-old sister and the family's flat feels overwhelming and Lily is worried that school or social services might discover their situation and break up the family. What could be better than to take all the little ones for a camping adventure in the park? Plenty of space to run about, no carpet to vacuum, and surely no chance anyone will guess they're there...

After so many harrowing stories in a row, I was hoping for something lighter when I decided to read a children's book next. I should have known better... Although after the first few depressing chapters (probably more depressing for adults than for shildren) in which we meet the very engaging Lily and her ragtag family, things do brighten up. The children adapt to their predicament (which isn't entirely the fault of the parents) and start having adventures. Another plus is that the illustrations are pretty. I'm tempted to buy my own copy when it comes out in paperback as the library will want their hardback copy returned soon.
Tags: ebooks, print books, reviews
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