Monday, 9 March 2015

2015 Reading No.1

A very slight change for 2015. There will be an entry for every six books, rather than eight, this year. That saying there are seven here because we have to mop up one that came at the very end of 2014. So we start with...

Billy Bunter's Benefit. Picked up in an antiques warehouse from a stall that is selling off extremely cheaply. So much so that I bought a handful of books that I've looked at before and thought "If that was a bit cheaper...". Bunter prangs his bike and then someone else's and decides mistakenly that his father would be only too pleased to shell out for a brand new top range model. He promptly orders one from the local shop and has dented and scratched that by the time he realises his father is not about to stump up the readies... Bailed out by his chums, the lure of the tuck shop proves more tempting than the bike shop's bill and with dire consequences looming his only hope is for his form's drama group to run a benefit performance. Brilliant!

The brand new Matthew Shardlake thriller has our lawyer hero deeply involved trying to keep Henry VIII's final queen, Katherine Parr from following the fate of some of her predecessors. She has written her The Lamentations of a Sinner in 1547 and the manuscript, deeply critical of the catholic faith, has gone missing. As he starts to unfold the mystery, Matthew finds himself once again at odds with his old enemies the Duke of Norfolk and Sir Richard Rich. Another cracking read, filled with atmosphere and some real tension as Matthew inadvertently draws his friends into danger.

I love Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next novels and the nursery crimes books too. This one is aimed at a younger audience, though often all that means is a younger hero or heroine and a bit less swearing and I can cope with that! Here the heroine is a 16-year-old orphan who finds that she is prophesied to be the last dragonslayer. This dismays her somewhat as she meets and grows to like the last dragon... Meanwhile, kingdoms either side of the dragonlands get set to invade in search of rich pickings once the dragon dies. Intelligent and with some shrewd comment on corporate greed and ethics.

This was one of those cheapies from the Kindle store - nothing wrong with that as I have one out there myself (see the side panel and snap it up before it gets famous and more expensive!). This started off with a few glitches - repeated favourite phrases and some grammar problems, but the story was gripping and as I persevered the problems disappeared, probably as the writer got more into the story themselves and found writing less of a concious effort. A couple of chapters and I was toying with the idea of setting it aside but I'm glad I stuck with it and I'll probably look for the next in the series.

Ah, my other favourite Matthew - Matthew Bartholomew the physician and master at the fledgling University of Cambridge undertakes a journey to the great cathedral at Ely where Brother Michael's master, the Bishop of Ely has been accused of murder. With a welcome return of the wanton Tysilia, who introduces many moments of humour into the mayhem as she lusts after Brother Michael. Not that he has much chance to think about that sort of thing as a string of deaths brush close to our intrepid pair as their list of suspects grows until they are not sure who they can trust any more.

Speaking of which... George notwithstanding, there's a distinct lack of gender-confused children in this episode of the Famous Five. Instead, we get to sneer at those grasping Americans, eager to buy history and ship it back home. But with the Five on the job you know that the treasure trove is safe and that huge meals and determined children will win the day! Dick, don't wave that sword about so - you'll.... ah... fetch some sawdust someone... and Anne's sewing kit...

I always look forward to these as well. The eighth book in the series of the Warlord, the Saxon Chronicles takes on the story from The Pagan Lord at the end of which our hero, Uhtred, sustained a grievous wound. In this he struggles to recover from his wounds against the backdrop of the death of King Aethelred. Uhtred's support of Aethelred's queen - and his former mistress - Aethelflaed and his protection of the boy Athelstan provide another few hundred pages that grip and surprise and excite. Roll on the next!

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