books, ness talks books

the curse of the pharaohs: is it a curse or is it PROPAGANDA

When Lady Baskerville’s husband Sir Henry dies after discovering what may have been an undisturbed royal tomb in Luxor, she appeals to eminent archaeologist Radcliffe Emerson and his wife Amelia to take over the excavation.

GOODREAD’S BLURB

If Crocodile On The Sandbank was the Prologue, we’re now in Chapter One of the Peabody Saga. Amelia and Emerson are happily married with a child, Ramses AKA one of my favourite characters in the history of ever. Picture Damian Wayne (Batman comics) and William Brown (Just William series) as a single character. And that’s just him as a child.

THE CURSE OF THE PHARAOHS

We start in England. Amelia and Emerson are both very depressed to be stuck in the rainy, foggy, not-hot country. They don’t like their neighbours. They don’t like the English way of life. However, they are doing it for their son – Ramses – who is alarmingly precocious and also too young to go to Egypt.

There’s this delicious scene where Amelia is trying to be polite to a neighbour and in comes Ramses, with an ‘unbroken stream of liquid filth’ marking his path. He dumps something he’s found in the compost heap onto her lap.

Ramses put his head on one side and studied his bone with a thoughtful frown. ‘I fink,’ he said, ‘it is a femuw. A femuw of a winocowus.’

‘There are no rhinoceroses in England,’ I pointed out.

‘A a-stinct winocowus,’ said Ramses

THE CURSE OF THE PHARAOHS PAGE 13

And then Amelia – who really has had enough of her neighbour, Lady Carrington – has an idea:

‘A splendid bone,’ I said, without even trying to resist the temptation. ‘You must wash it before you show it to Papa. But first, perhaps Lady Carrington would like to see it.’

ALSO PAGE 13

(She did not want to see it. The ensuing scene is hysterical.)

… it’s just brilliant, okay? I love it. I adore it. This is everything. Thank you. Goodbye. However, Ramses is left in England, safely with Evelyn and Walter as Emerson and Amelia are Summoned to finish the excavations of someone who has died under Mysterious Circumstances.

There is a curse! (Or is it a curse?!) There is danger – which Amelia deals with with typical aplomb:

We had almost reached the top when a sound made me glance up. I then seized Emerson by the ankles and pulled him down. The boulder which I had seen teetering on the brink missed him by less than a foot, sending splinters of rock flying in every direction when it struck.

Slowly Emerson rose to his feet. ‘I do wish, Peabody, that you would be a little less abrupt in your methods,’ he remarked, using his sleeve to wipe away the blood that was dripping from his nose. ‘A calm “Watch out, there,” or a tug at my shirt-tail would have proved just as effective, and less painful.’

THE CURSE OF THE PHARAOHS PAGE 79

All in all, it’s a hilarious addition to the series. Characters who will appear throughout the series are introduced, there is the typical villain (all of the mysteries are excellent), and of course – a secondary romance that Amelia definitely doesn’t have a hand in matchmaking. She would never.

I would wish that Ramses appears more in this book, but knowing as I do how much of a staple he’ll be in this series – it’s okay. We’re good.

Oh! And then Emerson is accosted by a woman who believes he is her lover from a previous life. Because OF COURSE he does. It’s hysterical. 10/10. Please read.

happy reading!

lemme tell you a story

ochhhh Scotland, me lassie!

The first time I went to Scotland, the friend I was with went into anaphylactic shock just over the border and had to be taken to hospital. This time? No hospitals were involved and so I’d like to call it: an absolute win.

My brother and I decided we’d go to the Highlands for the weekend. I’d never been. Let me tell you … WHY DID NO ONE TELL ME EARLIER JUST HOW BEAUTIFUL THE HIGHLANDS ARE???! I’ve been cheated. Damn it, Time-Traveling Scottish Highlander Romance Novels! you didn’t tell me.

‘I’ll take the high road and you’ll take the low road …’

Loch Lomand was beautiful and so big, so very, very big. I spent most of the time we were driving past it with my nose glued to the car window. We stopped in a small village by its banks and had some lovely soup served in tartan-patterned bowls.

We took a walk and a cat peered back at me from one window, a poster of Nicola Sturgeon from another. There was a strong feeling of wanting Scottish Independence up here – signs on lampposts etc. I felt almost sorry to subject everyone to my – unfortunately – incredibly English accent. (A common by-product of being English.)

Past Fort William and ever onwards, and the further we went, the more beautiful our surroundings were. There was this moment when heavy rain gave way to the most stunning hills that rolled downwards towards the car. It felt like a secret world, locked away and so very magical.

the view.

The AirBnB we booked was on its own little loch and again – stunning.

the breakfast. also: me

We went for a walk around its banks, got caught in the rain, but I entertained my brother by pretending to be the presenter on a documentary ‘AND IT WAS HERE, ON THIS VERY ROAD THAT WILLIAM WILLIAM HAMMERSMITH TROD’. I use the term ‘entertained’ very loosely. ‘Tortured’ would perhaps be more apt.

JUST LOOK AT IT

If you, dear reader, ever plan a trip up to Scotland, I’d advise doing such a thing as: checking the weather first, and also planning the trip. I’m not going to say that we didn’t do it, but I will say that it turned out marvellously in spite of our incredible organisational skills and the tropical storm battering everywhere at the time.

We went to Skye and saw our aunt and the little corner of paradise that is her back garden. Over a deliciously filling meal (far better than the sandwiches I’d cobbled together that morning) I realised just how nice it is to see familiar faces, especially when so far from home.

Eilean Donan Castle

We stopped off in Eilean Donan Castle where there were a lot of tourists (obviously I’d never call myself a tourist. Purchasing something from the gift shop DOESN’T COUNT.) and also torrential rain. It was entirely worth it, especially after we’d taken photos in front of the castle with gritted teeth, braved the queue for a coffee, and retreated with moderate haste, to the much drier confines of the car.

Eilean Donan Castle, as seen from the car. Where it was NOT raining.

With only one full day to spend in the Highlands, we’d done our best to spend it well. The next day, it was time to share the eight+ hours of driving it would take to get back home.

I insisted we stop at Gretna Green for two very important reasons:

  1. just in case I felt like eloping
  2. to make every regency novel heroine proud

It was then that disaster struck. I did not, dear reader, like Gretna Green. It did not have the romance. It did not even have a romance novel corner. This was a crushing moment of disillusionment. The only person to elope with was a shop mannequin and I did not feel Equal To The Task.

my future husband

We returned home, tired, but immensely satisfied. I’m going to steal the Highlands and shove them in my next book. It won’t be a time-travelling romance, because I still feel betrayed by them. It will, however, include such descriptors as:

‘The rain moves in ghostly veils across the loch, pushed by wind.’

and

‘Binky looks cold, wet, and utterly miserable.’

I can’t wait.

lemme tell you a story

cosplaying as jason todd // london comic con

Honestly, I like to think that everyone is a bit of a nerd these days. This year was the first time I properly expressed it though. You see, I went to ComicCon with a friend, dressed as Jason Todd. Oh yeah. I have a crowbar now. One that stuck out of my backpack all the way through London and no one stopped me.

Okay, so I guess I’ll have to fess up – aside from spending too much money on finding just the right jacket and experimenting with white hair paint – I really should have spent more time figuring out exactly what goes on at ComicCon. You probably shouldn’t, you know, just rock up.

(We did just that.)

However, I’m going to say it – I didn’t mind at all. Because: 1) it was about the atmosphere and 2), my friends, I got to see Batman.

BOOM!!

It was one of the worst moments of my life. Batman said ‘ah, the disappointment’ and I, with the zeal of a true fan and Jason Todd aficionado fumbled out a ‘no, YOU’RE the disappointment for not killing Joker’.

… don’t say anything. Please.

The earth, contrary to my dearest wish, did not open up and swallow me whole. The man who was cosplaying at Batman looked a little taken aback but was wonderful because he let me take a menacing photo with him.

(When I got back to work, one of my colleagues framed that photo. Life is glorious. Also: I’m pretending that this exchange never ever happened.)

I was trying to get up to have a photo taken but you know what? this looks like I have some kung fu skills. I have none. But I cling to the illusion this photo provides.

I also saw the literal best cosplay ever in the form of the Batman Who Laughs (who was also The Batman Who Couldn’t See as the cosplayer literally couldn’t see and had to be led around and honestly? THE DEDICATION.)

We wandered over to the tattooist stall where I contemplated ‘should I get one?’ in the same way one leisurely contemplates ‘well, SHOULD I become a dairy farmer on Mars?’ but then I saw the price and backed away. And then I met a Red Shirt being consumed with tribbles and this man? Iconic. The Moment.

I wish I knew your name, cosplayer! But you DID GOOD.

It was, I must admit, a little overwhelming – the con was heaving with people. There was a man selling mushroom merch and I commented that he must be a ‘fungi’ to which a passer by said: ‘I heard that – no.‘ (Alas, the burden of loving puns is a heavy one and unappreciated.)

We browsed the stalls and I was tempted by a comic but bravely said no. I stopped a Nightwing cosplayer and complimented him. He was queuing for lunch, and so was unprepared. (Compliments wait for no man!)

The creativity on display! It was all very incredible! However, the sheer volume of humanity eventually got the better of us. We escaped into London, wandering its streets, tasting its food, staring at the group of American tourists on bicycles on a Harry Potter tour. We were a wonderful trio – my friend, me, and my crowbar.

behold – buildings

Would I go again? Yes. Definitely.


I’m not certain what the etiquette is of posting photos of other cosplayers, but if I ever find their social media handles, I’ll link them up. If I don’t and I find out I’ve committed a Heinous Error, I’ll remove the photos and draw stickmen figures as illustrations instead.

books, ness' slow descent into madness / rants

jurassic park AKA dinosaurs tho’

I tried a matcha colada recently. It tasted like one would imagine an unfortunate frog would, had it been whizzed up in one of those whizzer things and poured into a glass. It had texture.

behold, the drink in question

What has this got to do with Jurassic Park, you ask? Simple. 1) it’s an analogy I just thought up and 2) it’s about the DNA, specifically the frog DNA which this drink doesn’t have, but the dinosaurs do because their DNA was edited by Doctor Wu in the aforementioned book.

Wow. What a smooth segue.

I’ve read Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton. Boom. Segue.

Let me tell you – if I hadn’t been aware of the movies, I’d have lost my mind over this book. DINOSAUR CLONING? IN THIS ECONOMY? Sign me up. Yes, I accept.

As it is, I’ve watched Lost World and Jurassic World and Jurassic World: Lava Is Hotter Than That, Surely, but I still really enjoyed this book.

I wasn’t expecting so many people to be eaten and expressed this horror to a friend when we met up afterwork. I read the passage outloud where the newborn baby gets eaten by the little dinosaurs (‘THEY REALLY WENT THERE! ISN’T IT AWFUL? LISTEN TO THIS BIT.’) and hindsight is a beautiful thing and really, I don’t think reading it in public was a brilliant idea..

I read it on the train and at home and on a road trip and basically, if this book had a step counter, it would be quite high. But it doesn’t, so it can’t. (Unlike dinosaurs, books don’t have legs. FACTS.) And look, I’ve stared at the front cover far too much and thought WOW THAT’S SO CLEVER IT’S A SKELETON OF A T-REX BUT IT’S ROARING BECAUSE IN THE BOOK THE T-REX ROARS AND IT’S A CALL BACK TO MUSEUM EXHIBITS EXCEPT FOR THE FACT THAT IT’S A REAL DINOSAUR and yes, I am widely known for my intellect and astonishingly creative thinking – why do you ask?

Oh, and there’s these two kids on the island – Lex and Tim – and I kept on reading Tim as Tim Drake aka one of Batman’s Robins which lead to a very disorientating reading, especially when he gets to the computer monitors. Like, Tim, you literally could do this in your sleep. Why is it taking so long to- waiiiitttt.

Lex, boy oh boy, Lex annoyed me.

BUT, I think she’s well-written. She’s just a kid. A kid dragged to partially complete island resort with dinosaurs by her grandfather who is whack-a-doodle-dandy in his thinking. Grandfather Of The Year, I’m calling it now.

Obviously I had to watch the movie. I know! First time watching it? What an uncultured swine! I loved it. I finished it underneath a bridge, on my mobile phone, during a heatwave. (These are factors you do not, in fact, need to know.)

In short, I’d recommend both the movie and the book. I’m also desperately looking forward to watching Jurassic World: Dominion which apparently is terrible and therefore, entirely up my street.

ness talks books

crocodile on the sandbank: amelia is single until she isn’t

Let’s pretend I haven’t taken a long hiatus from this blog (HI HOW ARE YOU FORGIVE ME), and let me tell you about the first book from a series that I would happily tattoo on my body. (Though, because such real estate is limited, I’ll just write about it here.) It’s the Amelia Peabody series by Elizabeth Peters AKA Barbara Mertz and it is most excellent.

Amelia Peabody inherited two things from her father: a considerable fortune and an unbendable will. The first allowed her to indulge in her life’s passion. Without the second, the mummy’s curse would have made corpses of them all. 

goodreads blurb

This is … the beginning of everything. And I think, once you’ve read the whole series, it’s very much worth coming back to reread this one. You will gain an entirely new perspective. Different interactions will take on a great more worth and meaning once you’ve seen how everything plays out.

CROCODILE ON THE SANDBANK

I must admit – I view this book through rose-tinted glasses. With fond eyes. That sort of thing – but if you read this and think oh there’s stuff that I like but other things that are a little meh (cough the mummy cough) then continue on with the series because let me promise you: it only gets better. Everything is up from here. All the stuff you love will be present IN SPADES. Yes. I love this series. No, I don’t have any chill.

THE MYSTERY

There’s a curse! There’s a mummy haunting the archaeological camp! What will we do?? When in danger, when in doubt, run in circles, scream and shout! (I’m a poet …)

“Stop,” he ordered, in a low but compelling voice. “Do not take another step, or I fire! Dash it,” he added vexedly, “does the monstrosity understand English? How absurd this is!”

“It understands the gesture, at least,” I called, thrusting head and shoulders through the window. “Lucas, for pity’s sake, seize it! Don’t stand there deriding its linguistic inadequacies!”

It’s fun. Is it A++ Agatha-Christie-wishes-she-could-write-this? No. It’s not. It’s good, but it’s not great. But I’m not here for the mystery in this one. I’m here for the characters. More specifically, I’m here for Amelia Peabody and Radcliffe Emerson.

THE ROMANCE

Amelia starts off single as the last pringle in a pringle tube. She meets Emerson who is … cares for two things: his brother, Walter, and Egyptology. (And not necessarily in that order.) He is handsome. He is tall. He blusters. He immediately starts a battle of wits with Amelia.

Emerson: You, asking for advice? Let me feel your brow, Peabody, I am sure you must be fevered.

EMERSON, A MAN AMONG MILLIONS

It’s a delight to read. I adore it. I subscribe. This is my cup of tea. This waters all the crops I don’t have.

God help the poor mummy who encounters you, Peabody,” he said bitterly. “We ought to supply it with a pistol, to even the odds.

EMERSON, A MAN IN LOVE AND TERRIFIED BY IT

But for those who view his behaviour as Not Nice and excessively boorish, let it be known that he has Peabody’s number and his bark is worse than his bite. He might protest plenty but methinks he protests too much. Also he saves her life from a VERY DEADLY SNAKE and suffers a great deal of worry that he immediately tries to hide.

(He’s Victorian and they are all emotionally constipated. DON’T WORRY – WE WILL HAVE CHARACTER GROWTH.)

which they will handle with grace and aplomb

If you read ‘Amelia Peabody’s Egypt’ – you’ll find that there’s some excerpts from his own journal regarding these events. It’s perfectly delicious.

But let it not be said that Amelia doesn’t give as good as she gets. Forget the mystery, this book is really a tale of two people who are incurably fascinated with each other – and do their best to a) annoy each other and b) hide it in the midst of a potentially life-threatening situation.

I looked Emerson up and down. The clinical appraisal annoyed him, as I had known it would; he squirmed like a guilty schoolboy …

AMELIA PEABODY, EVERYONE

They are entirely suited to each other and – for the rest of the series – they are On Each Others Side. Married. Deeply In Love. But for this first book? We get to witness all the sparks flying. All of ’em. We get to see them reluctantly falling ever deeper in love.

There’s a secondary romance which is very Victorian-esque and suitably dramatic (but in the best way)

“To Walter! May he make Evelyn as happy as she deserves – or I will deal with him!”

“Spoken with characteristic tact,” said Emerson under his breath.

AMELIA PEABODY, EXCELLENT AT TOASTS

So while this book isn’t the very, very best of the series, it’s still good, it’s Elizabeth Peters finding her writing legs. This has to walk, so the rest can run and prod everyone with a parasol. This is the origin story so that we can have the other adventures. And in true, origin story style, it even starts with a dead parent. (*Batman has joined the chat*)

happy reading!