Finished Dinner at Deviant's Palace by Tim Powers. A few neat ideas, and passes the time amiably enough, but probably the worst (or least good) of his that I've read. I think he does much better with the "secret histories" angle.
Started The Devil is a Gentleman: The Life and Times of Dennis Wheatley, by Phil Baker, which I picked up almost at random in the library yesterday.
I've just finished A Month In The Country by J. L. Carr. This is a short, very low-key novel in which an old man looks back at the period when he helped renovate a church mural while recovering from shell shock. It's quite a gentle, pleasant story, but it captures the sadness of not saying things to people when you have the chance. It didn't shock me greatly, but I think I will remember it for a long while.
Hah! On doing a quick check I have actually bought it (rather than just adding it to my wish list) and I did indeed pay £1.99 which is probably why I bought it whilst it was on offer! So it is in fact on my TBR pile!
I'm back on The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. This is one of those books where everything is the most amazing, the most beautiful, the most exciting thing that any of the characters have ever seen. However it falls a bit flat with me, and there really is almost no plot at all. Two people have been picked, seemingly at random, to compete in some sort of magical bet. And that seems to be it. Perhaps it'll pick up.
I'm in two minds about Dying of the Light by GRR Martin (yes, that one -- it's his first novel) which I picked up as part of the SF Masterworks series. The world building is full of interesting ideas and background, though it's a bloodthirsty misogynist culture which is the focus of the book. There is good and effective description, and mostly three-dimensional characters, but the plot is thin to say the least, it contains one of my bete noires (the woman every man falls in love with despite her having no discernible personality) and I cordially disliked the two main characters and couldn't raise any sympathy for either of them. The male main believes he has a mission to save his former lover who dumped him years before and has now got herself into a bond-marriage that is little more than slavery were her husband to enforce all the barbaric rules of his homeworld. There's an awful lot of talking, mostly to fill in backstory and give history lessons, but nothing is actually said to the point, and the two mains are stupid beyond belief in what they do and don't do and say. A lot of people killed in unpleasant ways, but as far as I'm concerned, not enough of them, with a not-ending that has no real resolution.
After that I moved onto some more modern SF with Cold Welcome by Elizabeth Moon, the first of hers I've tried. Something of a mistake, as it turns out. The book announces itself as the first in a series, but I hadn't realised it carries straight on from an earlier set of books, which means the opening chapters are full of backstory info-dumps, few of them delivered with any kind of elegance. Then the shuttle on which our heroine is travelling is sabotaged and brought down in an arctic-like ocean. She takes charge to keep the dozen or so survivors alive, compete with exhaustive (not to say exhausting) detail of the procedures and protocol involved, while on- and off-planet various other characters pop up with things to do and more backstory dumped on the page. Characterisation is thin, tech-detail is thick, and a quarter of the way into the book I've just about had enough.
From that I turned with some relief to Wrath of the Furies by Steven Saylor, one of his Gordianus the Finder stories. Usually these are set in or around ancient Rome, but this is one from Gordianus's early manhood and takes in Alexandria and Ephesus in events leading up to the so-called Asiatic Vespers in which some 80,000 (possibly as many as 150,000) Romans were massacred in Greek cities in Asia Minor in a single day. Fast-paced with interesting and well-drawn characters -- though the device of a private diary showing the thoughts of one character to supplement the first person narrative was somewhat overused and became increasingly implausible -- and with a beguiling sense of mystery and the numinous with seers, mages and dreams of Artemis and the Furies themselves.