Sunday, 15 September 2019

A Spoonful of Poison ( Agatha Raisin #19) by M.C. Beaton

“Agatha cast one longing look after George’s retreating well-tailored back as he headed for his car.”

Death by LSD, these country murders are getting more and more unexpected!
Agatha Raisin is back, full face of makeup, uncomfortable shoes and for at least a few pages no keen romantic interest. The dishy looking George Selby might be just the ticket, unless he happens to be a murderer?

Who the heck has tampered with the jam? Will Agatha's ego survive the attention that her protege is receiving? So many questions. The only real solution is to dive deep into the book for yourself and sleuth out the answers.

5 out of 5 carry on Agatha.. you are the jam.

The Enchanter by Vladimir Nabokov

   He knew that her friend (whose husband had not come at all) was also out doing errands —  and the foretaste of finding the girl alone melted like cocaine in his loins."

This pre-cursor to Lolita is at times both more disturbing and more compelling. At its core is a horrific premise of a man who marries a vulnerable, sickly woman in order to access her young daughter. That is the stuff of nightmares. So, why is this novella so compelling? Perhaps because his own horror with his actions is so viscerally realised. You feel his self disgust at his scheming and actions. That you can experience any kind of sympathy with the protagonist is a reflection of how brilliantly this is written.

I'm glad I don't have kids because my fear would always be single and to be in the situation of the mother in this story. 

4 out of 5  pervy step dads are dangerous.

Thursday, 12 September 2019

Spring by Ali Smith

"She's the kind of thin that looks like her arm might break if it lifts a mug of tea."

Let me set the scene here. I absolutely loved the other books in this series, unreservedly and yet this one just seemed to be so loud and "shouty". Now, I'm prone to hayfever and generally not a fan of spring, so that seems completely appropriate somehow.

Did I devour it nonetheless? Does it have moments of the sublime? Am I somewhat questioning my choices? Yes, to all of the above. While the tale is compelling, much like life these days, it is a stormy, loud tempest, often best appreciated in reverse.

That sounds somewhat deeper than perhaps I anticipated.Such is the genius of Ali Smith for bringing out the conundrums in the everyday. The seasons turn and yet I'm lost in their thrall once again. I really must read some Katherine Mansfield - I feel that would add to my appreciation. Did I mention how this novel epitomises the time we live in? I can't wait to hear Nicki's take on this.

 4 out of 5... bloody hayfever!!

Castle in the Air by Diana Wynne Jones

The genie's hollow voice came from inside it.

The minute that I finished Howl's Moving Castle,  I was desperate to read the sequel and my always reliable Booktopia delivered. So I dove in head first and was ....perplexed. This  wasn't "the droids I was looking for".. or so it seemed. If you area expecting a direct sequel well you, gentle reader, are barking up the wrong tree. Persistence, however, pays off, the novel's denouement will answer your questions. I fear I have given too much away at this point.

We begin with a story that is very familiar to anyone who has watched the Disney movie, Aladdin,  and I'm talking about the original, minus the "Whole New World"  number.
A boy dreams he comes from royalty, he gets hold of a flying carpet and falls for a princess. Sound familiar? Well, its ... wait for it... a "tale as old as time"..sorry.

Expect adventure, intrigue, comedy and transformation. Oh, you ain't never had a friend like Abdullah.

 5 out of 5.. oh tell me we build.."castles in the sky?"

Sunday, 8 September 2019

On Film-Making An Introduction to the Craft of the Director by Alexander Mackendrick

"There are many exercises that the student of dramatic construction can undertake, but I have found that some of the most effective are born of very simple ideas."

When you are a film obsessed nerd dating the same, the conversation often turns, unsurprisingly, to movie making. So when "the Chief" suggested I borrow his reading material, I was intrigued and dived in. Just in time for a four hour flight, I began my journey into the true machinations of movie making.

Mackendrick deftly describes the technical concerns of a script and how they are a very different beast to the shot versions that I've read which have been published. The sparsity of words make them more like poetry and open for interpretation both by the Director, the Editor and all the other major contributors - which is an interesting concept. I particularly related to the layout sections when the author described the impact of his early experience in publishing. It was something I could relate to wholeheartedly having learnt the hard way about what works and what doesn't on a page during my time creating tender submissions - I love my indesign. I feel I've gone off on a tangent... back to the book.

I especially love the worked examples throughout the book including examinations of many films that I absolutely love such as The Third Man  and North By Northwest. The author was a director known for such films as The Man in the White Suit (which he also wrote)  and one of my absolute favourites Whiskey Galore! (see video link) and The Ladykillers.

So it was a relatively un-bumpy flight and in between watching a couple of movies - the secret to a short flight is to fast forward all the advertisements - I also managed to make a big dent in my reading. I finished this the other day and had a new found understanding and respect for the mechanics behind movie magic and for that I'm grateful.

5 out of 5  - and Scorsese is also a fan!

Saturday, 7 September 2019

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet (Wayfarers #1) by Becky Chambers

“We cannot blame ourselves for the wars our parents start. Sometimes the very best thing we can do is walk away.” 

What's that you say? A science fiction novel with an amazing female protagonist is what you seek? Well look no further, my friend, this one is supremely good. As soon as I finished the last page I got online and ordered the sequels..squealing with joy that there were indeed sequels to be had.

When your dad is a universally hated war criminal, where else would you go but outer space and of course, carrying false credentials. Rosemary is unprepared for the crew of the Wayfarer and uncertain as to whether she will fit in and as the reader you will savour each moment of her journey.

Not to mention cross species nookie with a rather leathery creature. What's not to love.

Alas, I've given away far too much, now gentle reader, get thee to a bookshop and pick yourself up a copy pronto!

5 out of 5 intergalactic planetary.

The Summer Book by Tove Jansson

"The sea was as smooth as oil, and so pale you could hardly tell it was blue."

Sitting on a sofa looking out at the ocean from a blissful island in Fiji, accompanied by this beautiful little book, I encountered a few moments of perfect happiness. The slim volume belies perfection.

A young girl's mother has died and she goes to stay with her grandmother on an island in Finland in summer. Her grandmother is a character that is a delight and reminded me of how much I miss and loved my Nonna. 

How to describe this book? Yes, its from the creator of the Moomintrolls which I loved as a kid and yet, this is a book created for adults. Nevertheless, it perfectly captures the inquisitiveness of youth and the beauty of summer.

Reading it is like diving under a wave at the beach or feeling the last rays of warmth tease your skin on a balmy afternoon. Clearly it was the perfect beach read and I'm glad I packed it. If I had children, this is what I would read to them, so they too would feel the implied hug that it gives.

 5 out of 5 grannies rock.