Reviews & Rants - Blogging about books, authors, and generally 



Drastic Measures

I hate to do this. I've dreaded the day that I would have to write this.


It's taken seven minutes for this text box to work, just so that I could type out the words that I hoped I'd not have to write: I can no longer consider BookLikes my primary home for bookish chat and updates.


Over the course of this year, and especially the last weeks, it has become clear that BookLikes is running on the barest minimum of functionality. 

It takes forever to load posts. It takes forever for comment boxes to appear. It takes forever for comments to load. The search no longer works. The book database has been abandoned except for the valiant efforts of a few BookLikers. The place has security issues and is overrun with spammers. Hell, I can't even block spammers anymore because the page does not load.


So,  in preparation for Doomsday, aka the BookLikes Apocalypse, or just in case you want to connect on another platform, I am moving the bulk of my activity to other forums for the time being. I will still check in and try and catch up as often as I can but I just don't have the time and energy to put up with a non-functioning site.

I could spend that time and energy reading!


So, for the foreseeable future, I'll posting updates and reviews and non-reviews etc. in the following places in the first place:


Goodreads - I am not keen on returning to GR, but drastic measures are needed. I'll be mostly hanging out in The Outpost and The (Mostly) Dead Writers Society, two groups that are excellent homes from home.


Library Thing - I've gotten to grips with LibraryThing's quirks and really like it. The database is excellent and users seem to be friendly, too, even tho the forum does not lend itself to socialising as much as BookLikes or GR. If you're on LT, get in touch!


WordPress - I set up my own blog years ago as a back-up for BookLikes. In other words, I export posts to my WP account but I need to spend more time there to make it look pretty. I am keen to spend more time on the blog, tho. I would really miss the blogging activity if BookLikes went bust, and I love the place as a home for my reading projects.


As I've said so many times over the past few years - literally every time that Booklikes took a wobble - I really hope that BookLikes will get their act together, but if not please feel free to get in touch elsewhere.




Reading progress update: I've read 266 out of 320 pages.

Capital Crimes: London Mysteries - Various Authors, Martin Edwards

The Hands of Mr Ottermole - Thomas Burke

I know I read this only a few days ago, but I remember little about it. So, not one that is memorable.


The Little House - H. C. Bailey

Interesting, but more of a crime story than a mystery. Not entirely my cup as it did include crime involving children.


The Silver Mask - Hugh Walpole

Well, this was unnerving. It's a crime story, but it's more of a horror story in my book. 


Next up:

Wind in the East - Henry Wade

The  Avenging Chance - Anthony Berkley

They Don't Wear Labels - E. M. Delafield

The Unseen Door - Margery Allingham

Cheese - Ethel Lina White

You Can't Hang Twice - Anthony Gilbert


Previous Reading Updates:

Reading progress update: I've read 171 out of 320 pages.

Reading progress update: I've read 67 out of 320 pages.

Reading progress update: I've read 21 out of 320 pages.

Reading progress update: I've read 34%.

Frieda: the original Lady Chatterley - Annabel Abbs

Well, the book has been ridiculous in parts so far, but Frieda's latest mission takes the biscuit:


Feeling that her husband, too, should be freed from the shackles of matrimony pressed on him by the patriarchy, she sets up a woman to visit him and seduce him. 

The poor man knows nothing about this plan, of course. What is worse, it's very much not something he's looking for.


Erm,... uh,... WTF?


Btw, hubby is saved by fainting from what can only be described as a very sudden onset of double pneumonia...for which he has so far not shown any symptoms. You know, like a cough or anything.



I'm out.


DNF @ 35%.


This week's audiobook

Frieda: the original Lady Chatterley - Annabel Abbs

It seems I have a knack for picking historical fiction for my work-from-home setup. And at that, I seem to pick historical fiction that does not work for me. 


I'll give this another hour, which should take me to about 25% of the book and will make a call then whether to continue with this. 



Reading progress update: I've read 295 out of 380 pages.

The Weather in the Streets - Rosamond Lehmann

‘I suppose you said I was your wife.’

‘Well, yes. It seemed less trouble than stating the exact position. Besides, it’s true, I presume, isn’t it?’

‘I suppose it is.’

They laughed.

‘His beard’, she said. ‘I thought I must be dreaming.’

‘I know. Superb.’

‘I should have thought a beard like that would interfere with his practice.’

‘Not in his heyday – I dare say it was an asset.’

‘It’s very odd: he’s exactly – in every respect – how I always imagined Dr Fell.’

They laughed again. 

Even in the most horrid circumstances, Lehmann makes her characters behave very human. And nothing says "we are out of our depth" as much as cracking a joke.
Hahaha. Dr Fell.
But which Dr Fell? The one from the nursery rhyme or the one from John Dickson Carr's mystery series?

Reading progress update: I've read 217 out of 380 pages.

The Weather in the Streets - Rosamond Lehmann

This is still fantastic...or at least it is ticking all the boxes of what I need in a book just now.

I just read the part where Olivia feels sick on the train.

What a superbly written paragraph that lets us know so, so much about what is going on with both the plot and the character.

Reading progress update: I've read 143 out of 380 pages.

The Weather in the Streets - Rosamond Lehmann

It was nine when they said what about a film? And Anna said there’s a French film at the Academy I want to see, and I got up and said, ‘I must go, dears.’ There was expostulation, and I said, ‘My cousin that none of you believe in is in bed with a feverish cold, and I swore I’d come back at nine and look after her.’

That is some fine bunburying.

Reading progress update: I've read 110 out of 380 pages.

The Weather in the Streets - Rosamond Lehmann

This is so very good.


It's entirely not what I expected, but Lehmann's writing is excellent. She's keen on pointing out aspects of morality that are not usually discussed in depth in books of the same time other than perhaps by cliche or an unspoken understanding of things. 

I love the way that Lehmann writes about even serious things and yet still keeps a light tone. 


When I started the book this morning, I thought I might have accidentally bought a romance novel, but I was soon cured of that notion. It's about relationships, but it is definitely lit fic.

I also bet it was quite shocking when it was first published.

Reading progress update: I've read 19 out of 380 pages.

The Weather in the Streets - Rosamond Lehmann

Ugh,... Booklikes' slowness is driving me nuts. I hit the update field and the post only loaded once I finished doing the washing up. 


Anyway, I woke this morning with an interest in starting The Weather in the Streets which is another book I picked up purely because of the cover, ... and a 3-for-2 sale might have had something to do with it last year, too.


Anyway, this is interesting. It's the sequel to another book, which I haven't read. I didn't know it was a sequel, but it is likely that I would have been less interested in the first book anyway as it is a coming of age story. 


This one starts with a woman, Olivia, meeting an old acquaintance (Rollo) on a train. There is something very Noel Coward to the story, and I don't just mean Still Life (Coward's 1936 one-act play that was the basis of the classic film Brief Encounter). The dialogue and observations are very witty, or rather, sharp. 

This is not a comedy, tho. There is something tragic about both Olivia and Rollo.


Interestingly, The Weather on the Streets was also published in 1936.

‘I’m afraid I’m not very grown-up,’ he said suddenly.

‘Nor am I.’

‘I should have said you were.’

‘Oh, no!’ There was a pause; and she added nervously: ‘I’ve noticed people with children don’t generally mind so much … about age, I mean. They seem to feel less anxious about time.’

‘Do they? I suppose they do,’ he said. ‘I expect it’s a good thing to have children.’

‘You haven’t got any?’

‘No,’ he said. ‘Have you?’


They made it a joke, and laughed … All the same, it was surprising he hadn’t produced an heir. Couldn’t, wouldn’t Nicola? … or what?

‘Then,’ she said, ‘there are the pleasures of the intellect. They’re said to be lasting. We must cultivate our intellects.’

‘Too late,’ he said. ‘One ought to make at least a beginning in youth, and I omitted to do so. The fact is, I don’t care much about the intellect. I’m afraid the scope of my pleasures is rather limited.’


‘Confined in fact entirely to those of the senses.’

‘Oh, I see …’ She answered his odd comically inquiring look with a lift of the eyebrows. ‘Well, I suppose they’re all right. Only they’re apt to pall.’

‘Oh, are they?’

‘I was thinking of cake.’ She sighed. ‘It used to be my passion – especially chocolate, or any kind of large spicy bun. Now, it’s beginning to mean less … much less.’

He leaned back, laughing; the tension dissolved again.

I think I shall like this quite a lot.

Reading progress update: I've read 171 out of 320 pages.

Capital Crimes: London Mysteries - Various Authors, Martin Edwards

So far, I like the variety of authors that Martin Edwards has picked, but few of the stories have been fun reads:


The Magic Casket - R. Austin Freeman

An interesting concept. I liked the local colour of mentioning exhibits at the museum in South Kensington (now the V&A), but other than that the depiction of the Japanese gangsters makes this one another one that won't be all that memorable.


The Holloway Flat Tragedy - Ernest Bramah

This is not my first Bramah, but it is the first that I have DNF's even tho it is a short story. There is something about Bramah's writing and his Max Carrados stories that just bores me stiff. 

It's a pity, the setting around Holloway sounded promising.


The Magician Of Cannon Street - J. S. Fletcher

Interesting up to a point, but it's another story that features the "evil foreigner" trope. That's not unusual for a GA mystery but it does lessen my reading enjoyment. Meh.


The Stealer of Marble - Edgar Wallace

This was delightful. True to form Wallace with the smart, yet totally bonkers, solution. 


The Tea Leaf - Robert Eustace and Edgar Jepson

Fantastic. I loved this locked room mystery. Not dissimilar to the Wallace story that precedes it (The Stealer of Marble) but I loved that this one combines several elements I liked with good mystery that kept me guessing. 

To be fair, I did not expect anything less from Robert Eustace. :D


I'll probably finish the rest of the stories tomorrow or Monday. 

Reading progress update: I've read 67 out of 320 pages.

Capital Crimes: London Mysteries - Various Authors, Martin Edwards

Reading on:


A Mystery of the Underground - John Oxenham:


I have no idea what I just read. I may have missed the point ... and plot of this story in its entirety. This is not one that will be memorable at all.


The Finchley Puzzle - Richard Marsh:


Erm, this story evidently emulates one by ACD, and one of my favourite Holmes stories at that. While the original required some suspension of disbelief, Marsh's story was absolutely preposterous, and not in a good way.





Reading progress update: I've read 336 out of 376 pages.

Based on a True Story - Delphine de Vigan, George Miller

I'm hoping to finish this up in the next hour or so.

This has turned out to be a gripping read.

Maybe this is one where the story reminding me of other stories actually adds to the suspense. Based on a True Story is more layered than the book/film it reminds me of and which actually features by reference (so it is definitely meant to be based on it).

The additional layers make this a really interesting read.


The overwhelming question I have is: Who is L.?

Reading progress update: I've read 201 out of 376 pages.

Based on a True Story - Delphine de Vigan, George Miller

I started - finally!!! - on a new book today. Delphine de Vigan's "Based on a True Story". It is a little predictable and slow, but much less annoying than the Ware book. It also reminds me of Stephen King's film but I hope that there will be twists coming up that will make this book different.


This edition is not the edition I have, btw. My cover is nicer. But with all the BL slowness, indeed unresponsiveness, I am not even going to try to add my edition to the database. 

It's taken far too long to even add the book to my currently reading shelf AND add a reading update!


The whole BL mess is seriously frustrating me right now. I don't want to leave, but I now too fear that the platform may no longer be sustainable as my main bookish home. :( 

The 2020 Mount TBR Project - End of June Update

Wow. That's half of 2020 behind us already. It does not feel like it, does it?

June was an odd month. I had a birthday, a close friend had a birthday. I had my first meet-up with friends since the lockdown started (all safely distanced and in the garden, of course). I've tried new recipes. Work has settled down a little bit. This year has been so weird, and yet, there has been much to enjoy as well. 


In book-related updates, I managed to read a lot of short books, but still fell into a slump at the end of the month. Still, there were highlights this month such a discovering new to me authors (such as Bernardine Evaristo and Louise Welsh) and being able to discover a new independent bookstore (Topping & Company). They have a shop in St. Andrews, and another in Edinburgh, and I look forward to visiting them once we are back to travelling.


I've also got a few books on order that haven't arrived, yet. Yay for birthday book hauls! So, there are more new authors to look forward to once I get over the current slump. Not that any of this is helping the Mt. TBR Project much.


Talking about the Mt. TBR Project, I still have not swapped any books for "book jokers" (see explanation at the end of the post), so my current 2020 Mt. TBR shelves look like this:


End of June Mt. TBR:


End of May Mt. TBR:

End of April Mt. TBR:

End of March Mt. TBR:

End of February Mt. TBR:


End of January Mt. TBR:


Start of the Year Mt. TBR:


The Stats:

Books read this month: 18 (June)

Mt. TBR Books read this month: 3 

DNFs this month: 2


Women / Men / Team*: 50% / 45% / 5%

% of original Mt. TBR read: 37.5% 

Available swaps (not made yet): 24 (+8 from previous month)

(* - of all books read since 01 January 2020)


Link to the original Mt. TBR (2020) post.

Rules - same as previously - are that I picked a stack of physical books off my shelves at home which I would try to read over the course of the year. If I pick another (yet unread) physical book off my shelves, I get to take one off the Mt. TBR shelves and put it on the regular shelf - as a substitute. In a change from previous years, new purchases (physical books only) will not be added to the Mt. TBR shelves - I will track these separately.

The Sunday Post



It's Sunday and I don't have much to post other than Scotland apparently has not had any COVID-related deaths for a 3rd day in a row, infection rate is low, and businesses are opening up again ... slowly. 

So, it's mostly good news all round. 


However, I'm definitely in a reading slump. I've not really read much at all. Instead, I've been catching up on tv series, Netflix, and ... baking. 


I've come across a new to me recipe this week and managed to make it - with a few substitutions as I have neither apricots nor raspberries, and i didn't not fancy going to the supermarket just for them. I had tinned peaches, tho. They worked a treat! I also added some cinnamon. 


All in all, this is super delicious. It doesn't need the ice cream. It's just pretty perfect as it is.


Happy Sunday!

Paul Temple: East of Algiers

Paul Temple: East of Algiers - Douglas Rutherford, Francis Durbridge, Anthony Head

Paul Temple and Steve are asked to perform a favour for a friend and deliver a pair of glasses that were left behind to their rightful owner in Tunis. Somehow this leads to murder and other crimes that Paul and Steve get to investigate.


To cut it short, this story was not great. It was really slow-moving and much of it just made no sense. 


Part of the charm of the Paul Temple stories is that they are all rather similar and all follow the same formula. So, in East of Algiers we get the usual plot, too. Paul Temple stories always require the suspension of disbelief. 


What I found absolutely ludicrous in this story was the way Durbridge wrote about the investigations in Paris and Tunis. 

While in Paris, they collaborate with the local police in the investigation.

However, when they get to Tunis, they somehow seem to bypass the local police and the investigation seems to be led by their friend Sir Graham Forbes of Scotland Yard.

While Sir Graham does make mention of his being asked to work on the case by Interpol, the lack of local police involvement made it look like it was perfectly fine for foreign authorities to take control of matters that really would be outside of their jurisdiction. 

The sense of Imperialism at work here spoiled some of the book for me.


To be fair, tho, the story was not exactly interesting otherwise either, but Anthony Head's narration saved the book for me. 


Oh, and why call the story East of Algiers, when the story is set in Tunis? Algeria or any other part of Algeria don't feature. I mean, sure, Tunisia is east of Algiers. That is true. But why not make reference in the title to something that actually has some relevance to the story?

These questions are entirely rhetorical, of course. I'm moving on to the next book.

Currently reading

Creed or Chaos? Why Christians Must Choose Either Dogma or Disaster (Or, Why It Really Does Matter What You Believe) by Dorothy L. Sayers
Red Ellen: The Life of Ellen Wilkinson, Socialist, Feminist, Internationalist by Laura Beers
Progress: 36/532pages
Selected Poems by W.H. Auden, Edward Mendelson
Progress: 64/376pages
The Complete Works (Oxford Shakespeare) by William Shakespeare, John Jowett, Gary Taylor
Progress: 605/1344pages
Halbschatten by Uwe Timm
Progress: 16/272pages