Saturday, 3 October 2015

2015 Reading No.4

The fourth set of reading matter to have gone through my cerebral cortex this year is herewith presented for your perusal, admiration and/or ridicule. My assessments are for amusement only - just because I like or dislike something is not to be taken as meaning that you will find it equally wonderful or tedious. So having explained that this is a pointless exercise... let's get to it!

If you remember, there were a few books in my last selection that I was less than enthusiastic about... No I hadn't been eating cheese before bedtime and reading them in bed or anything like that. This time I could scarcely have liked them less than the previous batch and so it proved to be. Most get a thumbs up, starting with this one - the tenth in Susanna Gregory's Matthew Bartholomew series about the physician scholar at Cambridge University in the 1300s.

This nicely draws a few strands together from previous books - the return of a couple of murderers, recently given a Royal Pardon after some bribery of officials. Naturally they want a bit of revenge on those who helped convict them. Also in the prologue to the previous book a death occurred which now assumes some significance. And to top things off a mummified hand revered as a saint's relics, that Matthew knows are nothing of the sort, gain even more status in the eyes of a townsfolk eager for supernatural benevolence and certain factions within the University, eager to own it for its potential for bringing in revenue! As ever, we are plunged into the realities of a time when being poor meant being hungry and not only having insufficient food but making do with food of very poor quality. Recommended!

Samwise gets literary... Actor Sean Astin (son of John Astin - Gomez from the 1960s TV version of The Addams Family) played the faithful companion of Frodo, enduring ringwraith attack, Gollum droppings and some serious moments of self-doubt and angst. Not as light and intriguing as I thought it might be... Interesting, yes, and it does give some detail of how the three films of The Lord of The Rings were painstakingly put together. But at times I felt it might have been better to let fly with some of the angst lying on a couch with his favourite counsellor than put it in a book. It's a different world in America and in the film industry, particularly on an ensemble film like LOTR there are lots of competing egos, I understand that. My main feeling at times was that over here a mate would say "For ****'s sake get a grip!" and that would be that. There was easily enough good stuff to keep me interested to read to the end though!

So far the score is one winner and one so-so and the next is - oh no! A loser! What happened? I think I actually had this book as a bare-kneed scab-collecting oik. But on re-reading it I find it's almost an exact repeat of Five On A Treasure Island. An island [check], dungeons and tunnels [check], baddies with guns more intelligent than themselves [check]... There is only one more FF book to go - and this could easily have been the book responsible. Dick! Stop that at once!

Wow, it's been a while since I read the last in the series about Prefect Cato and Centurion Macro of the Roman army, but here they are again, once more in Britannia and sent on a desperate mission. There's a renegade centurion been playing the savage and bumping off his superior when they tell him off. Cato looks to be next in line for the treatment. But our lads are tough and keep a firm grip on their testudos (er... that's when the legion holds their shields overhead like a tortoise, you know...) Remember always the scene where Kenneth Connor in Carry On Cleo meets a huge warrior who says, "I'm Agrippa!" Kenny pulls himself up to his full height and says "Well I know a few moves myself, Mate, so you'd better watch it!"

A little light reading! The third novella in the Third Pig Detective Agency series sees the third pig (he was the one who had built with bricks, remember?) on a new case helping Little Miss Muffet who seems to have a giant spider invasion in her guest house... And where did that beanstalk come from???

What is it that makes the Tudors so popular at the moment? Whatever it is, my other favourite Gregory tells the tale of Mary, Queen of Scots from the triple viewpoints of Mary herself and her unhappy hosts husband and wife team George Talbot, Lord Shrewsbury and his wife Bess of Hardwick. They had to play this role for years, becoming impoverished as they bore the cost of hosting what was essentially a Royal Court, even if a limited one, without much by way of recompense. If I've looked haggard over the last few days it's because this one was keeping me reading until gone midnight...!

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