Bookish selfie…

A snapshot of my reading week in quotes…

‘I am slain,” she cries, “alas! I am slain!” I did not write the line, so I am not responsible for the older woman stating what must already have been obvious. The younger woman screams, not in shock, but in exultation.

The older woman staggers some more, turning now so that the onlookers can see the blood. If we had not been in a palace, then we would not have used the sheep’s blood, because the velvet gown was too rich and expensive, but for Elizabeth, for whom time does not exist, we must spend. So we spend. The blood soaks the velvet gown, hardly showing because the cloth is so dark, but plenty of blood stains the lavender silk, and spatters the canvas that has been spread across the Turkey carpets. The woman now sways, cries again, falls to her knees, and, with another exclamation, dies. In case anyone thinks she is merely fainting, she calls out two last despairing words, “I die!” And then she dies.

* * * * * * * * *

Josh Griffin was racing to beat the news deadline clock with his last story of the week when he heard his name.

It wasn’t in dulcet tones, either. “Griffin – you got a minute?”

Looking up from his computer, Josh zeroed in on his editor, seated in her office, clear across the crowded newsroom. She was wearing her usual scowl as she shuffled a stack of wire copy, confident her minion would jump to attention and present himself before her throne.

Josh felt his heart quicken. Any time Millie String bellowed at a hapless colleague, Josh cringed, knowing his turn would come one day, too. This must be my day of reckoning, he decided.

“I’m on deadline, Millie,” he called, without rising but with a point to the Seiko on his wrist. “Can’t it wait?”

Millie fixed a stare on him and shook her head. “Now,” was all she said.

* * * * * * * * *

Haruo’s room was near the front door. A child’s crayon drawings of “a general” and “a soldier with tulips” were pinned to the wall. In the middle of the room stood a potted fir tree, with braids of golden wire and chains of coloured paper threaded between the branches, topped by snow made of white cotton. It was the Christmas tree Sanshirō had bought for his son just before he had left for his temporary assignment.

But the first thing I noticed as I entered the room was the empty bed of the little master of the Christmas tree standing in front of a small desk in one corner. The blankets had been thrown back and the child who should have been sleeping there was nowhere to be seen. The silver paper stars of the Christmas Tree that had lost its master sparkled as they started to turn and sway in the cold currents of air.

From The Cold Night’s Clearing by Keikichi Osaka

* * * * * * * * *

If I move, even ever so slightly, this stair will creak and they will hear me. They’re all around me and one of them will cry out, that’s for sure. Bound to. Then I’m done for. I’ll never get another chance like this to get away. And I need to get away tonight, come what may. No matter what.

If I turn my head oh-so-slowly to the right and look up, I can see three doors on the first-floor landing above me. All shut. Ainsley is in the room at this end of the landing, closest to the stairs. He’ll be sitting there now, rocking gently back and forth and mumbling to himself. He’s sharper than you’d think, though. If he hears me, he’ll shout out, “Who’s there?” at the top of his thin, whiny voice. And he’ll do it over and over, each time louder than the last.

Sprake is in the middle room. He’ll be staring out of the window across the lawn. Absolutely motionless, he’ll be. I know. I’ve seen him. He sits that way for hours at a time. Like he’s in a trance. If I get out of here, I’ll have to stay round the side of the building to get away. If Sprake sees me he’ll start shouting and banging on the walls with his fists. He turns quickly, that one. He’s mad, proper mad. I’ve even seen him biting his toenails until they bleed.

* * * * * * * * *

From the Archives…

“Well, I’d got to talk so nice it wasn’t no comfort – I’d got to go up in the attic and rip out awhile, every day, to git a taste in my mouth, or I’d a died, Tom. The widder wouldn’t let me smoke; she wouldn’t let me yell, she wouldn’t let me gape, nor stretch, not scratch, before folks -” (Then with a spasm of special irritation and injury) – “And dad fetch it, she prayed all the time!”

* * * * *

The minister gave out the hymn, and read it through with a relish, in a peculiar style that was much admired in that part of the country. His voice began on a medium key and climbed steadily up till it reached a certain point, where it bore with strong emphasis upon the topmost word and then plunged down as if from a spring-board:

“Shall I be car-ri-ed toe the skies, on flow’ry BEDS of ease,
Whilst others fight to win the prize, and sail thro’ BLOOD-y seas?”

(Click for full review)

* * * * * * * * *

So…are you tempted?

36 thoughts on “Bookish selfie…

  1. Oooh I have Unplayable Lie sitting on my TBR and am desperately hoping I get a chance to read it soon! I have high hopes of it, of course 🙂
    Sweet William sounds very good, this is a very tempting excerpt, as is the one from Foreign Bodies (a nice festive passage!) I do like a bit of Bernard Cornwell, too, but can pass on Mark Twain, for now. I don’t know how you keep up with it all, FF!


    • I shall be reviewing it soon, so no spoilers till then! 😀

      I think you may have to make room for Sweet William – fortunately it’s not too long. Brilliant opening paras though, I thought. By the end of the first page I was sold. And sadly both Foreign Bodies and Fools and Mortals were good too – sorry! Haha – idleness is the secret! One advantage of the Professor finding an invisibility cloak is that I no longer get my arm twisted to read more Twain… 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      • I think if I hide myself away from family and friends I might just be able to read a bit more AND continue writing. Pesky real life people take up a lot of time!
        I have nothing against Twain as such, but he doesn’t do a lot for me. Ah, the Professor, the blogosphere is much quieter without him… 😉


  2. I wanted to read Foreign Bodies at any rate, FictionFan, and you’ve made it all the more tempting. I really do hope you’ll post a review of that one when you’ve finished it. And you’ve got some other great reads there, too. Not sure, to be honest, about the Cornwall. But the rest look good.


    • I’ll hopefully be reviewing Foreign Bodies soon but *spoiler* I can tell you now it’s excellent – one of the best of these collections for me. Haha – the Cornwell is actually quite entertaining but there’s a tad too much of it, if you know what I mean… 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Woo Hoo, my book is mentioned in the famous FF’s blog this week — can you see me blushing from across the Pond?!? I do love your selections today. That excerpt from Sweet William grabs me right off the bat, and I’m intrigued by Foreign Bodies, too. Drat! There’s just not enough time in a day to read all the books I want to pick up and still do the things I have to do (like work and sleep). Whoever finds a way to stretch time will be richly rewarded!


    • Haha – I wondered what that pink glow in the sky was! 😉 That’s a great opening from Sweet William, isn’t it? Really makes you want to read on. Foreign Bodies is very good too – I seem to be on a bit of a run of good books at the moment. Oh, I know – it doesn’t matter how much I read, my little list keeps growing… 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ve just finished Fools and Mortals and enjoyed it much more than I’d expected to (Cornwell has never sounded very appealing to me in the past). I’m definitely tempted by Foreign Bodies as well!


    • I enjoyed it too – he’s an entertaining writer, I think. I’ve only read one of his Viking books before and I enjoyed it too, but this one is really more to my taste (fewer gory battle scenes!) Foreign Bodies is excellent – variable, as these collections always are, but some really good stories in it. Review soon if I ever get around to writing it! 🙂


  5. I’m sorely tempted by Foreign Bodies and very impressed with the cheerier tone to the bookish selfie this week – off to read your review of Sweet William as that one is also calling to me – I seem to have well and truly lost the willpower hat!


    • Haha – a kidnapping, a collection of murder stories and a deranged psychopath, and that’s cheerier? Last week must have been bad… 😉 Foreign Bodies is excellent – some really good stories in it…

      Liked by 1 person

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