Hello. And welcome to the start of a new series for my little blog. I decided to start a series on the books I pick out from the library. Knowing that it is not going to cost me anything, I tend to be more open-minded when I choose library books, I can indulge in chick-lit or pick a book purely on it’s cover art. Sometimes this leads to hidden gems and sometimes it leads to a colossal dud.
Anyway here is what I’ve been reading in the last three weeks.
‘The Lighthouse Keeper’ by Alan K Baker
“In December 1900, three lighthouse keepers vanished without trace from the remote Scottish island of Eilean Mòr. An emergency relief crew was sent to man the lighthouse. At the end of their month-long duty, theyresigned from their posts, and never spoke of what they had experienced on the island. The mystery of Eilean Mòr has never been solved. Until now.
In the present, a group of environmental researchers arrives on the island to observe the wildlife. While exploring the lighthouse, now automated and deserted, one of the team discovers a manuscript written by one of the relief keepers, a man named Alec Dalemore. As a sudden storm moves in, cutting off their escape, the researchers come to realise that Dalemore wrote the manuscript as a warning to all the lighthouse keepers who would come after him. A warning of something on Eilean Mòr and in the surrounding ocean – something ancient and powerful, and strange beyond imagining…
The Lighthouse Keeper is a supernatural tale based on the Flannan Isles mystery, one of the greatest unsolved enigmas in maritime history. Blending factual firsthand reports with speculative fiction, the novel takes the reader on a journey to the edge of reality, where the greatest of human fears – the fear of the unknown – holds dominion.”
I have mixed feelings about this book. I really wanted to love it, the cover and blurb were so spooky looking I thought it would be a perfect book for Halloween reading. But it never took off properly for me. The descriptive writing is fantastically atmospheric, especially the chapters set in 1900. However, after a while the story gets a bit repetitive; something supernatural happens, the characters have a conversation trying to make sense of it, they decide that it is probably something beyond their understanding, so they ignore it and plod on until another strange thing happens. Then cycle starts again. This pretty much happens on repeat in both time zones until a rather abrupt ending.
So great premise, good build up, slightly underwhelming reveal.
‘Sorry!: The English and their Manners’ by Henry Hitchings
“Sorry! presents an amusing, illuminating and quirky audit of English manners. From basic table manners to appropriate sexual conduct, via hospitality, chivalry, faux pas and online etiquette, Hitchings traces the history of our country’s customs and courtesies. Putting under the microscope some of our most astute observers of humanity, including Jane Austen and Samuel Pepys, he uses their lives and writings to pry open the often downright peculiar secrets of the English character. Hitchings’ blend of history, anthropology and personal journey helps us understand our bizarre and contested cultural baggage – and ourselves.”
I am trying to read more non-fiction books to expand my knowledge and grow into a more intelligent person, but I have a terrible habit of leaving them unfinished. The same was true with this book. I gave up on the third chapter when I realised it wasn’t quite what I expected.
I thought it was going to look at the meaning behind our manners and when they should be used and variations in different situations. Instead it was more of a history of manners starting in the middle ages and working its way to the present day. Whilst some of the information was interesting the scale was too sweeping to keep my attention.
I scanned through the rest of the chapters but didn’t spot anything to convince me to keep going. So another non-fiction book bites the dust. One day I will finish one cover to cover….maybe.
‘Rivers of London’ by Ben Aaronvitch
“My name is Peter Grant and until January I was just probationary constable in that mighty army for justice known to all right-thinking people as the Metropolitan Police Service (and as the Filth to everybody else). My only concerns in life were how to avoid a transfer to the Case Progression Unit – we do paperwork so real coppers don’t have to – and finding a way to climb into the panties of the outrageously perky WPC Leslie May. Then one night, in pursuance of a murder inquiry, I tried to take a witness statement from someone who was dead but disturbingly voluable, and that brought me to the attention of Inspector Nightingale, the last wizard in England”.
This is by far the book I have enjoyed the most this year. The story was clever and intriguing, all of the characters were entertaining and strangely likeable, even the not-so-nice ones. I especially liked Molly the silent but expressive vampire housekeeper to the Wizard policemen.
Aaronvitch has created a very good parallel universe were extraordinary supernatural powers and beings are subjected to the same level of bureaucracy and procedure as the normal world. Somehow it is the limitations on Peter’s powers and the rules that the magic obeyed that made the story more fascinating. Magic couldn’t solve everything, which means that the characters still have to use negotiation, deduction, legwork and courage to get the job done.
This book is the first in a series of four and I think I will be keeping my eye out for book 2.