Looking forward to…

Episode 7

Another selection in my occasional looks back at old reviews which I finished by saying something along the lines of “I’ll be looking forward to reading more of her work/this series/his books in the future” to see if I actually did read more and, if I did, did I like the ones I looked forward to as much as the ones that made me look forward to them?

Let’s see then…

The Secret Life of William Shakespeare by Jude Morgan

First reviewed 24th April 2013. A well researched and beautifully written imagining of Shakespeare’s life and the events that may have influenced his writing. I said “A wonderful book that will appeal not only to Shakespeare fans but also to anyone who appreciates a superbly crafted tale filled with poetry, humanity and tenderness.” Its five-star rating put Morgan onto my looking forward list to read more of his work. But did I?

I did not! I find this unaccountable. He is no longer on my list and I can only assume I removed him during a particularly brutal cull. Over the intervening years, several people have recommended his book about the Brontës, The Taste of Sorrow, and I have now added it to my wishlist. (These posts are playing havoc with my TBR!)

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Strange Bodies by Marcel Theroux

First reviewed 25th April 2013. This one is hard to summarise in a few words. Part science fiction, it’s really a study of what it is that makes us us. I said “A story of mad science turned to evil purpose, the age-old search for immortality, man’s inhumanity to man, but at its heart this is a search for a definition of humanity.” I loved it and again its five stars put him on my list to read more. But did I?

I did! I read his next book, Far North, and sadly felt it was a pretty standard post-apocalypse thriller that didn’t really thrill me. As a result Theroux slipped off my list. I’d still be happy to read another of his books if it came my way, but I no longer specifically look out for him. (Harsh, I know, to drop someone on the basis of one book, but there are well over a hundred authors on my Looking Forward To list, so I have to be pretty brutal.)

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Free Fall by Chris Grabenstein

First reviewed 3rd May 2013. Set in the sunny beach resort of Sea Haven, this is the 8th book in a series about police detective John Ceepak, as told by his sidekick, Officer Danny Boyle. I described it as “cosy with an edge” and said “I’m certainly looking forward to spending some more time in Sea Haven in the future.” But did I?

I did not! To be fair, this is mostly because he hasn’t published another in this series since, seeming now to be concentrating on a highly successful series of children’s books. But I could have – should have – read some of the earlier books in the series! I’ve now added the first, Tilt-A-Whirl, to my wishlist.

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The Stockholm Octavo by Karen Engelmann

First reviewed 4th May 2013. This historical fiction is beautifully written, though sometimes a little too sweet and frothy for my taste. However the art of the folding fan, its manufacture and use, is given centre stage, and I found that aspect fascinating. As a debut novel, I felt it showed real promise and said “overall this book gave me a sense of deep enjoyment. I look forward to reading more from this author in the future.” But did I?

I did not! However I’m completely exonerated from the charge of neglect this time, since she has never published another novel. Such a pity, since I felt she has a lot to offer. Her website tells me she’s working on another, so I’ll keep looking forward to reading more sometime in the future…

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So, two neglected authors I’ve now reinstated to my wishlist, one who fell off my must-read list but stayed on my might-read list, and one who has stymied my desire to read more by not writing more! Undoubtedly my least successful batch of four so far – told you things would soon start to go downhill. 😂

Have you read any of these authors?
Are they on your “looking forward to” list?

The Stockholm Octavo by Karen Engelmann

stocholm octavo coverLove and connection…

🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

This beautifully written novel hides its dark heart under a multi-layered confection of sweet scents, glowing colours and dazzling displays of the art of attraction. Our hero, Emil Larsson, is ordered by his superior in the Customs Office to marry and is guided in his quest for love and connection by his friend Mrs Sparrow, cardsharper and mystic. It is she who lays the Octavo, a form of divination based on cards, sending the seeker to look for the eight people who will influence the outcome of his quest. Mrs Sparrow’s own Octavo is darker – she is driven to find a way to save King Gustav from the threat of assassination.

octavo card2The art of the folding fan takes centre stage and Engelmann tells us of the craftsmanship that goes into their making, the silent language of attraction used by those who hold them and the dark purposes to which they can be put. With an air of mysticism throughout, the book just manages to stay this side of the supernatural. Engelmann uses language lovingly, as careful in her own crafting as the artists she describes. There are some lovely illustrations of the cards in Emil’s Octavo, which lets the reader visualise them as Mrs Sparrow explains each one.

fan4I found that sometimes there was a little too much froth for my taste, an explosion of adjectives, a little too much sugar in the icing. While the descriptive writing is very fine and gives a convincing impression of the ultimate decadence of the aristocracy she describes, I found myself longing for the plot to move a little faster, and felt that sometimes we could have done with fewer mentions of lemon-scented rooms and orange-scented hair. Because the book is based round a historical event, the outcome of Mrs Sparrow’s Octavo is never in doubt and I found Emil’s own search for love somewhat overly prolonged and rather unsatisfying in the end.

However the skill of the writing and above all the fascination of the fans drew me in and meant that overall this book gave me a sense of deep enjoyment. I look forward to more from this author in the future and must thank Lady Fancifull for pointing me in the direction of this book – her review is here. Recommended.

Portrait of Lady with a Fan by James Tissot
Portrait of Lady with a Fan by James Tissot

NB This book was provided for review by Amazon Vine UK.

Amazon UK Link
Amazon US Link