The Flames was one of my best reads of 2022. It’s my featured book today, which is the end of the first week of the A to Z Challenge this year.
The plan for the month is to feature daily a book I’ve reviewed in the past (or review it that day), and also highlight others: not all are included each day.
- spacetime challenge (I host this reading challenge – you can join here)
- middle grade (childrens) choice
- series (love a good series – there’s a challenge for finishing those, too)
- ‘notable’ reads
- ‘outstanding’ books
- my books!
Featured book: The Flames
The Flames by Sophie Haydock, has a brilliant blurb. If you read it (it heads my review) you feel for the time, the place, and the tensions. You know that you are going to discover an unconventional artist, and the women who inspired him. What a roller coaster that was!
For me it had a very personal interest. I fell in love with Egon Schiele’s work when I discovered it at the Belvedere, in Vienna, one cold November day in the mid 90s. I’d gone to see Klimt: I came out loving Schiele and Kokoschka. So I connected with this work (Klimt also turns up: he was Schiele’s hero). But more than that, I was transported back to a Vienna before the first world war, to a time of strict codes in art, and the rebels that were the Vienna ‘school’ although they were less organised than that.
It’s a brilliant book, full of life, pain, rebellion against the forms of conduct deemed appropriate for young women at the time… and full of love and pain for the women themselves. And since I knew when and how Schiele died, it also had a good deal of suspense for me–how was this going to be fitted in? I recommend it wholeheartedly.
Forgotten Suns by Judith Tarr: one of the best types of space opera, where a visitor to a settled community on a distant planet creates a disturbance. This sets in train a journey through many bizarre and beautifully created worlds, to a dimension that we have yet to conceive of (although obviously the author has!). Unusually in space opera, and sadly for me, it is a standalone. I would love to have had more time in this world!
Middle Grade choice
Frankie Dupont and the Mystery of Enderby Manor by Julie Grasso. This is Julie Grasso’s second appearance on a row. Frankie Dupont is a keen criminologist, even if he is only ten. The story has all the hallmark excellence of Julie Grasso’s world building and plotting – and fun! Frankie has three further adventures for your young reader to immerse him or herself into.
How about a series – or two?
Falco and Flavia Albia are related series by the peerless Lindsey Davis. Marcus Didius Falco is an Informer, a dirty profession in ancient Rome, but basically a private eye. In the first of the twenty-book series, Falco and his mate head off to Britannia to solve a problem to do with the silver mines. To be honest, I must have read The Silver Pigs in the 1980s or early 90s, and way before I was blogging my reviews! But it got me hooked. In this first book he also retrieves a haughty Roman matron from a marriage in Londinium that is falling apart, and they pick up an orphaned beggar child, who they subsequently adopt.
By book 20, Nemesis, Falco and his wife Helena have about three children plus a dog, and a settled household in Rome. The adopted daughter is working on making her own living and working arrangements. She learns a thing or two from Falco… she becomes an investigator, and her name is Flavia Albia.
Flavia Albia has an off-on relationship with a magistrate, Manlius Tiberius Faustus, after her first husband died on her. They get into a huge number of scrapes, these two. I’m currently on book 10 of the series, which appears to have no end in sight yet.
Did I mention we’re in Ancient Rome? Caesars come and go, have their Triumphs and other excuses for riotous parties and gladiatorial games. Lindsey Davis’s attention to detail is sublime. Do begin either series at the start, or at least near it!
Other Notable books beginning with F
The Far Side of the World by Patrick O’Brian: the tenth book of the Aubrey-Maturin series which starts with Master and Commander. The first few books were squidged together to provide the film Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World and I was distraught that the film was not deemed successful enough for the sequel to be made. It’s another series you can get your teeth into, But Far Side is probably my favourite, because of the Galapagos. I read all twenty before I started blogging, so I’ll just link you to Goodreads.
Fractions of Existence by J Lenni Dorner, is first in a series, but with a cliffhanger, and the second is only due out this week. I hope the second lives up to the first!
That’s all for today, so come back tomorrow for more. I’m hoping to meet more people who like the same kinds of book, so feel free to recommend something you’ve read beginning with the letter of the day!