The Beauty in the Beast

1 May

Hugh Warwick has a unique concept: “gateway species”, species which people form an attachment to, and then forge an attachment with nature in general.  For Hugh (and for myself) this species was the hedgehog.

In “The Beauty in the Beast” Hugh goes looking for people with a deep attachment to their “gateway species”, and in doing so meets a variety of charming and eccentric individuals, and gets up close and personal with many different English creatures.

For Hugh, the idea was to find another creature who delighted him as much as the hedgehog does, and that creature would be immortalized as a tattoo on his leg…to go with the hedgehog one he already had.

The book provides an enchanting look at various British creatures, and also the people who now dedicate their lives to them.

There are sections on otters, dragonflies, water voles, bats, badgers, and many more.

“The Beauty in the Beast” is both enchanting and depressing, because you cannot write about wild creatures without writing about their rapidly shrinking habitat and the attitudes of both governments and big business… ie…they couldn’t give a stuff, in most cases.

I came away from the book with a desire to know more about water voles, and a desire to see them in the wild, if at all possible.

And no, I won’t be getting a tattoo.

In the Dark

26 Apr

“In the Dark” is a stand alone thriller by Mark Billingham.  Except it really isn’t.  The main character is DC Helen Weeks, who becomes a major character in the Tom Thorne series later on.  I love the fact Mr Billingham created a character he felt was too good to only use once.

Helen is heavily pregnant when her partner goes out on a night out to farewell a retiring fellow police officer and is killed by a car at a bus stop, when the car is shot at by gang members.

But is everything what is seems?  Confused and grieving, Helen’s cop sensors still pick up that something is wrong.  She sets out to find out the truth.

Meanwhile, a young man, who happened to fire the shots into the car, finds his world collapsing around him.

Eventually their paths cross as “In the Dark” twists its way towards it’s finale.

I admit to feeling a little let down by the penultimate chapter, but it did not detract from making the book a powerful and absorbing read.

Like the majority of Mark Billingham’s books, “In the Dark” is set in London, giving added pleasure for Londonphiles like myself.

Highly recommended.

Walk the Lines

25 Apr

I took my first ride on the Underground when I visited London last year, and promptly fell in love with it, so “Walk the Lines” caught my eye when it came up on my recommendations on the Good Reads site.

Mark Mason’s book, “Walk the Lines: The London Underground, Overground” is a walking tour of all the lines above ground.  Some took three days to traverse on foot!

This book is a wonderful homage and love letter to the Underground system, and London in general.

There is so much marvelous trivia in this book on people and places, that it is the sort of book you keep to dip into again and again.

It will also be a memory jogger for those who have visited or lived in London.  Mark Mason paused to drink at a pub near the hotel that I stayed at last year.  Being able to visualize the scene made it that much more enjoyable to read.

A rare five stars from me, and this book now sits snugly among my permanent collection of books for future re-reading.  I can see me re-reading both before and after every London trip.

Highly recommended.

The Day They Met

19 Apr

Wendy C. Fries pondered the concept that the friendship between Sherlock Holmes and John Watson is something that would exist across time.  That it was something that was meant to be.  So she sat down and wrote 50 short stories of how these two friends could possibly meet which was published as “Sherlock Holmes and John Watson: The Day They Met”.

The ways of meeting are many, varied, and deeply entertaining.

From John Watson finding Sherlock Holmes asleep in a morgue drawer, to meeting whilst Watson performed first aid on Lestrade, the book is packed with wonderful, entertaining, and, above all, believable alternate meetings.

Wendy C. Fries is well known in the Sherlock fan fiction world as Atlin Merrick, so trust me, this lady can write!

“The Day They Met” is a  charming little book which should delight all Sherlockians of all ages.

From The Dead

17 Apr

“From the Dead” by Mark Billingham is an excellent British crime novel.

In DI Tom Thorne, Mark Billingham has created a detective as interesting and as readable as Ian Rankin’s Rebus, or Peter Robinson’s Banks.

The Tom Thorne books are mostly set in London, for those who like their reading in familiar locales.

In “From the Dead” a woman who has served ten years for conspiring to murder her husband is released from prison.  Then someone starts sending her photos of her husband… her still very much alive, husband.

From that point onwards the book becomes a roller-coaster ride of action and murder.

This book has, quite frankly, more twists than a corkscrew!

Fantastic read.  Highly recommended.

London 2016

11 Apr

I’m off back to dear old Blighty for two weeks again this year.  Same time as last year.  July/August.

This year, the 400th Anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, I am trying to give my two weeks in London a Shakespearean flavour.

There are two things that I am confirmed doing so far.  One is visiting the British Library’s special exhibition “Shakespeare in Ten Acts”.  As they will have one of the few known examples of William Shakespeare’s handwriting as part of the exhibition, that’s a must.

The other is attending a performance.  I have a ticket to see “Romeo and Juliet”, put on by Kenneth Brannagh’s Theatre Company, at the Garrick Theatre.  For me the highlight of this performance is the fact Sir Derek Jacobi will be playing Mercutio.  The chance to see an actor I consider one of the finest Shakespearean actors of our age performing live is too good to miss.  I have seen recorded performances by Sir Derek.  Notably his Hamlet and Richard II for the BBC back in the late 1970s.

I am hoping to get to Oxford as well, as the Bodleian Library has a free exhibition on Shakespeare and death.

I’m also going to try and squeeze in a visit to the Globe Theatre.  Maybe just a tour of it, because I’m not sure I’m going to get a chance to see a play there too.  Even though they are performing on of my favourites this season – “Macbeth”.

All in all, it’s going to be a wonderful two weeks.

Furiously Happy

10 Apr

“Furiously Happy” is the second book by Jenny Lawson aka The Bloggess dealing with her life coping with mental illness.

I have to say, first off, I really admire Jenny.  She has balls, honesty, frankness, and one of the most twisted senses of humour on the planet.

For a book about someone dealing with mental illness, I was reduced to tears of hysterical laughter far too many times.  So many times that it felt almost wrong to be laughing.

The sections on her trip to Australia, and the voodoo vagina, both left me breathless with laughter.

I cannot recommend “Furiously Happy” highly enough.  It is both entertaining and thought provoking.  If you, or someone in your life, is dealing with mental illness, I suggest you read this.  It will help.  If only to give you a sense of perspective.

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