Wednesday, 26 October 2016

2016 Reading Part Four

Blimey! Just 51 days after finishing the previous batch and writing Part Three and I've got through another six books. This is a bit more like it! So what are we waiting for? Here goes...

The 14th book about Cambridge University's physician of the 14th century, Matthew Bartholomew. After the last book in which an unscrupulous quack doctor claimed to be a magician, in The Devil's Disciples Matthew and his friend, the university's portly Senior Proctor, Brother Michael are faced with the threat of witches, warlocks and covens all convinced that Satan is about to reveal himself. At the time of the tale, a few years after the first visit of the plague to England, people saw it as the visitation of God's wrath and because the clergy were not spared this, many of the population looked away from the Church in the hope of spiritual protection. The threat to Matt and Michael and the university and town are very real and unless our two scholars can uncover the truth, they may find themselves silenced forever. Fourteen books in, I would not still be reading this series unless it were very good. Susanna Gregory has produced yet another nail-biting page-turner here!

This came out of the blue - it was one of those cheap offers for the Kindle and I downloaded it without ever having heard of the author, Genevieve Cogman. But what a fabulously riveting and ingenious story it turned out to be. It's one of those multi-dimensional sword and sorcery plus fantastic creatures fantasies. There's lots of action, some hilarious but thoroughly logical developments and any fans of comedy fantasy, say of the Tom Holt or Terry Pratchett kind (more of these later...) would love it.

In the previous article detailing my reading habits I reviewed a book by a friend. This one is the autobiography of someone who I feel may well turn into a friend. I received an email several months ago from John Featherstone asking for permission to use a couple of my photos on the cover of his book. We chatted a bit and then met up and in due course his book Pushing Treacle Uphill came out. The title is the sort of thing your Granny would come out with if you were brought up in Lancashire. It refers to things being done the hard way, not necessarily because there isn't an easier way. This covers John's life, brought up originally in Heywood (where I myself went to school) and then moving to Blackpool (where I moved myself on getting married). His story takes in time spent in the police force as a motorbike officer - a role that he took a stage further with a career move into the motorcycle sales world. This is a story full of warmth, humour and humility, not always without problems. A believable and enjoyable life story. There are a couple of episodes I particularly enjoyed and the book is very well written. I didn't just read it I shared some of those experiences. If you like biographies then this is a well put-together book with a few appearances by some famous names too.

I'm sure I've not read these in the right order, but this is another Terry Pratchett Discworld novel about The Night Watch, Ankh-Morpork's after dark police force. The Watch contains humans, dwarfs, trolls and a werewolf, but now it's up against some pesky clay golems as well... They shouldn't be able to kill people but...

The fifth book about defrocked Italian cleric, heretic and philosopher, Giordano Bruno by S. J. Parris sees our troubled hero in Paris in trouble with both the Queen Mother, the redoubtable Catherine Medici and the Duke of Guise and his Catholic League, whilst tasked by both the Duke and King Henri III with investigating the death of an old friend and priest. With twists and turns and a spell in a dark oubliette (dungeon with the door in the ceiling) and the glamourous, tempting and murderous spies of Catherine Medici to contend with, this had me up into the early hours on a couple of occasions!

I've stayed clear of the multi-dimensional books of Tom Holt this time and instead this is the tale of interstellar intrigue and would-be planet destruction. Unfortunately it's Earth that is the target and the antagonists are a planet of intelligent dogs who keep humans as pets. All would be well, except that the intelligent planet-busting bomb that they sent seems to have become self aware and gone to ground. Without a bang... Very funny and works up to a great ending too.

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