Jan 2016 TBRWe’re just back from a lovely long weekend away, and so these books were read on the journeys and when milling around in the hotel. I have to say here that I didn’t only read genre fiction, as sandwiched between these two came Virginia Woolf’s “Mrs Dalloway”. However, I needed something easy on the way down after a very busy few days (weeks) and I needed something light after Mrs D, so these two go together nicely and you’ll get Mrs D and some Dorothy Richardson next time.  What do you like to read on trips? Do you take something meaty to get your teeth into or something light to snooze over on the train?


(Bought Oct 2015 I think but I didn’t write the date in it)

In the third Reykjavik Murder Mystery, it’s Christmas time, and Erlundur isn’t really into the festivities, but has to persuade his faithful colleagues, Sigurdur Oli and Elinborg to take time out of their preparations, and the manager of the hotel where the body is found to actually let him investigate the murder. Suspects and seedy characters abound among the hotel’s guests and staff, but no one will admit to knowing the dead doorman / Santa well. Meanwhile, Erlundur comes up against his daughter’s struggles not to take a bleak view of life and go back to using drugs, but he has a hint at a possible romance, and the parts featuring this are very nicely done as he tries to remember how to ask someone out or date them. In a development from the earlier books, there’s an echoing sub-plot which is not directly related to the main action except in its subject matter and the emotions around it – that’s very well done and gives the book depth.

There’s a very unsavory Englishman, an insight into the world of collectors and a range of interesting hotel characters, and I still enjoyed it, even though there weren’t so many different locations around Iceland or Reykjavik to enjoy. Although it’s bleak, it does have the black humour of the sagas and I found it a good read.

This book will suit … those (like me) who like Scandi books but not the horror of the Scandi noir genre. If I can manage them, you can, too.

MARIAN KEYES – “The Brightest Star in the Sky”

(Kindle: bought 20 Jan 2015 so actually from the same approximate time as my print TBR, by accident)

I think Keyes was in a magicky phase when she wrote this (I seem to remember “Anybody Out There”, which she wrote next, had a supernatural theme, too), as it’s a little different from her usual modus operandi, but it’s still character-driven and hilarious in places, while dealing with some serious themes. If you’ve got the author down as a fluffy chick-lit author, think again (even in her earlier books, she deals with addiction, depression, etc.), as this treats quite a lot of serious themes, mainly around trauma and mental health.

I can’t give much detail without introducing spoilers, but the novel is narrated by some kind of supernatural, invisible being that’s hanging around a Dublin apartment block and checking in on the inhabitants, from a 40-year-old music PR to an elderly lady and her dog, a seemingly content young couple and – my favourites – spiky taxi driver Lydia and her hated Polish flatmates.

There are hilarious groups of women, sexy but unsuitable men and family dramas – a good and involving read where nothing is quite as you expect it, but the ending is satisfying.

This book will suit … I can’t actually call this one, as if you look at the reviews, this was a real marmite book. So give it a go if you like Keyes and you don’t mind the odd Dark Theme.

BENEDICT LeVAY – “Britain from the Rails”

(Bought 28 March 2015, The Works in Macclesfield)

There’s nothing wrong with this book as such, it’s just a reference book rather than a reader (and I do have a habit of reading reference books, but you can’t read this one cover to cover). I took it off the shelf before it got to the front because we were travelling on one of the railway lines it describes. This book takes various train journeys (but none in the Midlands!) and describes things you can see and places of interest along the way. It’s actually very interesting, but you do need to be travelling on a train while consulting it.

Unfortunately, it’s a bit heavy and bulky to actually pack for trips away that you might do by train – and there’s no Kindle version, so I’m going to be reduced to photographing the relevant pages when we next go somewhere it covers. But it is good in principle!

Currently reading Ken Livingstone STILL (I’m afraid this phrase came into my head when I was working through some of it at lunchtime: “This book reminds me of the time I had to minute a 3-hour meeting on what colour to paint the lamp-posts of Lewisham”) and the next Dorothy Richardson, which is an unexpected joy when I thought it would be a slog.