What I’ve been reading – October 2016

October 2016 books

This month I finished all the (so far published) Giordano Bruno books (which I loved, obviously, as I wouldn’t have read all five), finished reading the very useful and practical Art Inc. and read the fascinating Soldier Spy, which was an eye-opening glimpse into the battle that goes on on our streets, without us (most of the time), even realising it.

The only other book I’ve been reading this month is Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz, it’s a bit of a weird book (so far), in that it’s a book within a book, a murder story set in 1950s and then an account of the present day publisher who has just received the manuscript for said murder story. So far it’s quite good, although I think I prefer the 1950s murder story bits more than the present day publisher bits, as the publisher narrator narrates it like she’s giving an account to a lawyer, although I think there is purpose in that style. I’m currently just over half way through, so I’ll find out.


Soldier Spy

Soldier SpySoldier Spy by Tom Marcus

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is not normally the sort of book I read but I saw a clip of ‘Tom Marcus’ on the news and his story sounded fascinating, so I thought I’d give this memoir a go. Tom had a rough upbringing, essentially a street kid, he couldn’t join the army quick enough to escape. Once in the army, he moves into doing secret work in Ireland, from there he is recruited into MI5, as an operator (what most people would think of as a spy). The news stories I saw pretty much summarised the entire book, so I knew in advance how it ends but that didn’t really matter, in fact, knowing in advance what ultimately happened, you could really see the warning signs throughout the book.

The book is really well written and very gripping. It’s a fascinating insight into the work of the secret services and how they protect us from multiple attempted terrorist attacks and foreign spying. If you ever wonder how the UK has been ‘lucky’ (touch wood), so far, compared to some other countries, this book goes some ways to answering that and some of the attacks that Tom was involved in stopping sound horrifying. The book highlights the team work involved and the mental and physical danger that the operators put themselves in, to protect us. It was also fascinating that this stuff goes on under the public’s gaze and we don’t even realise, so next time I see a car racing way too fast down a road, yep, it could just be a jerk speeding but it could also be an operator on ‘steel badge’.

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Conspiracy (Giordano Bruno  #5)Conspiracy by S.J. Parris

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Bruno is back in Paris, desperately seeking patronage to save him from destitution, he seeks help from an old priest friend but when said friend turns up murdered a few days later, Bruno is once again drawn into the world of murder. Taking in an austere abbey and the glamourous, debauched French court, there are more twists and turns than a very tangled ball of wool. I am up to date with the series now and have found the books to be increasingly more ‘TV-like’, which is not a bad thing, they’re very atmospheric and I like the later conclusion of wry one-liners but the number of times Bruno is wrong about a plot point, it almost feels like the ‘duh duh duuuh’ moment at the end of an episode of a TV period crime drama but then again I would like to see Giordano Bruno on TV.

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Art Inc.

Art, Inc.: The Essential Guide for Building Your Career as an ArtistArt, Inc.: The Essential Guide for Building Your Career as an Artist by Lisa Congdon

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I think a good sign as to how useful a book like this is, is how often it’s highlighted and my copy is highlighted a lot! Lisa Congdon is a big hero of mine, I love her work and I love her classes on Creativebug, so it was fascinating getting an insight into how she manages her work. This book is very comprehensive but if you’re not US based, be warned that some sections are less relevant.

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Jennifer Orkin Lewis’ Draw Every Day, Draw Every Way – the first month

My first month working my way through Jennifer Orkin Lewis’ Draw Every day from J Lacer on Vimeo.

Jennifer Orkin Lewis’ Draw Every Day, Draw Every Way has been fantastic at helping me keep my drawing practice up. It’s part sketch book, part instruction, part prompt, you get monthly themes and with each month, you get to practice with different materials. The first month’s theme is nature and marker pens, you can see how I got on in the video above.


Treachery (Giordano Bruno #4)Treachery by S.J. Parris

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another excellent Giordano Bruno book; this time both he and Sir Philip are in Plymouth to see Drake’s fleet and as they arrive they discover that the Captain General himself is in desperate need of Bruno’s unique services, as a member of Drake’s crew has been found dead onboard. There are a lot of twists and turns and false leads and it’s all very atmospheric. The ending is rather bittersweet too.

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What I’ve been reading – September 2016

Books I've read September 2016

This month my reading has pretty much all been about Giordano Bruno, the hero of SJ Parris’ Tudor thrillers. I’ve completed books 1 to 3 and I’m currently at the beginning of book 4. I like them because they’re weaning me off my almost exclusive crime novel kick of the last many months (honestly, I was boring myself) but people are still getting murdered in these, so it’s a gentle weaning. And I particularly love them because the characters featured are actually, in the most part, real people. Now obviously these are fiction, I’m sure Giordano didn’t nearly as often have a knife to his throat for a start (which seems to happen at least every other chapter in the books), but the real life Giordano was apparently thought possibly to have been a spy to Walsingham. Out of curiosity, I did read Giordano’s Wikipedia page (I know, height of historical accuracy), so obviously I know all the spoilers about what happened to Giordano in the end (spoiler – it’s rather sad) and what happened to his friend Phillip Sydney (spoiler – also rather sad) but actually knowing how the real life Bruno and Sydney ended up, you can see traces of it in the books, behaviours in the fictional Bruno and Sydney that tally with how and why their real life counterparts met their ends.

Also this month, I’ve been reading a little bit of The Cozy Life, that hygge book everyone is talking about and Art Inc. by Lisa Congdon, which is very encouraging and inspiring.