Monday, 5 November 2018

Any Ordinary Day by Leigh Sales

"Emotional bonding can aid recovery, and this idea has underpinned the concept of support groups for decades."

I couldn't sleep, so it seemed the perfect opportunity to dive into this latest work by the always engaging, Leigh Sales. Naturally, I was more than a little reticent in diving into horrific days in people's lives, and yet I found it oddly soothing.

Resilience is an amazing human ability and one we all have within us. Having suffered, the worst day of her life, Sales sets out to see how others have dealt with unexpected horrors.
Consistent across many of the stories was a sense of hope and purpose - be it in oneself, religion or one's family, and the support one receives in that moment of need. She showcases some truly inspiring individuals both the people subject to hideous tragedies and the tireless support people who supported them in their grief.

Fantastic characters such as Wendy Liu and Father Steve are interviewed with skill and respect, as the author seeks to grapple with some rather big questions.
Unexpectedly, this was a really life-affirming read that left me rather teary and I could not put down. It reflects the character that Sales always personifies - a questioner, a listener, and an all-round fantastic human being with all the challenges and flaws that entails. I am a massive fan, if you couldn't guess.


5 out of 5 because life goes on even after the worst day, so make the most of it.


Sunday, 4 November 2018

Agatha Raisin and the Day the Floods came(Agatha Raisin #12) by M.C. Beaton

"Like Ophelia, the girl from the beauticians, who she remembered was called Kylie, floated underneath her on the flowing river"


A floating, dead bride is at the centre of mystery number 12 for Agatha Raisin. Finishing this lovely little morsel meant that I'd finished my reading challenge of reading 110 books this year and its only November - hurrah for public transport - my only chance to read.

I would have enjoyed this story rather more, had the mystery not been taken out of it somewhat. Certainly it offers up a new romantic prospect with the new novelist that has taken over James Lacey's house. Mind you, Mrs Bloxbey has a bit of fun disguising his appeal to an already romantically challenged Agatha. Nevertheless, back from an island holiday, Agatha is drawn into solving the mystery of the floating, frozen bride in the river.

Murder or drug overdose? The problem with this one is I already knew what happened as it has been adapted as part of the TV show and I remember it quite vividly, Very frustrating I must say - rather detracted from the thriller aspects. It still remains an entertaining tale and, like most things Agatha's romantic exploits ( or disasters) remain catastrophic.

Eager to see what develops next with the neighbour and a newly divorced Sir Charles.

5 out of 5, it never rains but it pours.

Agatha Raisin and the Love from Hell (Agatha Raisin #11) by M.C. Beaton

“Flies were buzzing about her dead body: heavy flies, sated flies.”

James Lacey might have finally ‘put a ring on it’ and yet domestic bliss is far from reach as we launch into the eleventh Agatha Raisin mystery. Still living apart and unable to find their rhythm, the newlywed couple break into a bit of a stoush at the local and it’s all downhill from there. James suspects Agatha has been up to old tricks with Sir Charles, Agatha believes James has been overfriendly with newly arrived Melissa Sheppard. Next minute, James is gone, and Melissa is dead.

 Can Agatha forgive her husband’s philandering? Is he really capable of murder? Where the heck has he gone? It turns out psychopaths can even make an appearance in the village of Carsely and things will get rather grim before we see hide nor hair of James again. As always, I love time spent with Agatha and I much prefer Bill and Charles to James (he seems like such an old fashioned wet blanket). Nevertheless, Agatha is faced with a dangerous mystery and the prospect of being married to a murder suspect unless she can find her errant husband and clear his name.




Thankfully Charles is up for driving duties. As usual though, he does have a habit of disappearing just when things get interesting. Nevertheless, the adventure grows apace with an unpredictable outcome that may just involve a monastery.

 

5 out of 5, another great visit with Aggie and co.

Tuesday, 30 October 2018

Agatha Raisin and the Fairies of Fryfam (Agatha Raisin #10) by M.C. Beaton


“Agatha, reflected Charles, would never be a beauty, but she carried with her a strong aura of sexual magnetism of which she was entirely unaware”




Agatha is still mourning the loss of her relationship with James and feeling a little vulnerable. The suggestion of a fortune teller that her destiny lies in Norfolk, sees her pack up her house in the charming village of Carsely and rent a cottage in Fryfam. A village she settles on by sticking a pin into a map. Hardly an auspicious beginning and indeed, the new digs have their own sense of mystery.
 Weird lights in the garden support a local myth about fairies who have a habit of making off with bits and pieces from the largely unlocked houses in the area. When an expensive painting goes missing from the appallingly nouveau-riche, Tolly Trumpington-James. Apparently, he doesn’t’ just get on Aggie’s nerves, because the gentleman in question soon provides the body for another page-turning murder mystery.
The adorable, Sir Charles is back. I know he’s a bit of a bounder, but he’s way less of a wet blanket than James. Why Agatha doesn’t just enjoy the toy boy more often is beyond me. Sure, he picks on her, constantly forgets his wallet and trysts around a lot, but he’s always there when she needs a hand and often provides rather sage advice.
Can you expect the usual thrills and spills? Will fish out of water, Agatha endure more hilarious run-ins with the locals? Of course, that and more. Nothing like a little raisin to put a smile on my face. In further good news, apparently there’s a season 2 of the tv adaptations – hurrah! See: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SUPyO1K5i70. I love Ashley Jensen she’s such a great Agatha.



5 out of 5  - snoopy ex-PR mavens make for fascinating reading.

Sunday, 28 October 2018

10:04 by Ben Lerner

"What could be more contaminating than this remote control, which had been in how many sullied hands?"


I am completely torn on this one. Is it brilliant, annoying, or both? Probably both. The novel about a writer in New York suffering from a heart condition and also trying to help his best friend out by fathering her baby is verbose in the extreme. You can almost feel yourself trapped inside his head with thoughts flying around. Stream of consciousness writing bombards the page ( or in my case, in this instance, the e-book page - is it still a page?).

There are moments where this in-depth analysis of every move (every sight, every action)really works. Other moments where it seemed, to this reader at any rate, somewhat self-indulgent and annoying. What it does represent for me is, thankfully, another tick off the 1001 novels list - this one having been recently added to the fold in the latest 2018 edition.

Life is fleeting, maybe it is the minutiae that is important. For some reason the scene where the protagonist babysits a kid at the natural history museum and is desperate to use the loo, but not to leave the child, is one of the more memorable moments. That and the trip to the semen collection facility with the focus on hand washing and panic about the potential impact of Viagra. There's something infuriatingly infantile about him, as though he has zero agency and has to be pushed in any direction of note, or perhaps I'm projecting because of the author's first name.


4 out of 5 - don't drug the pigeons.

Tuesday, 23 October 2018

Time's Convert by Deborah Harkness



"Phoebe floated in a velvet darkness, sinking into folds of quiet."

Goodness me I've been awaiting this unexpected delight with anticipation since its announcement. I thought the All Souls Trilogy was all done and dusted. That I would never again enjoy the world of Matthew and Diana, save for the television series - which I've yet to embark upon.

This time Matthew and Diana are very much in the periphery as Marcus and Phoebe take the lead. That's not to say the domestic bliss of Matthew and Diana isn't fraught. Their children certainly bring the drama in this one with a faint whiff of  Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.  You may think I'm being particularly light on when it comes to details. You would probably be right in this assumption. I'm making sure I don't spoil the read for Nicki when she borrows the book.

The back story of Marcus is an interesting one and I certainly flew through the more than 400 pages. It is, as always, an entertaining world that Harkness creates, and one that I rather enjoy a sojourn within. Now that I've closed the final pages I'm left thinking.... but what next? Will there be more? I hope so!

This represents a nostalgic revisit into the All Souls world with a lot less romance. That being said, it is still great. I love the del Clermonts, although you would want to stay on their good side.


5 out of 5 vampire life is difficult... that's why I wear my sunglasses at night.


Thursday, 18 October 2018

The Devil in Amber (Lucifer Box 2) by Mark Gatiss

"He looked awfully dishy in that nice blue uniform. I gave him an encouraging smile and, not for the first time in twenty-four hours, asked him nicely to take it off."


Sometime in the wee hours of the morning, when I couldn't sleep courtesy of a horrific selection of pillows in my temporary apartment ( the joys of interstate work), I managed to finish this enjoyable read. Certainly, I am currently a little delirious, but don't let that stop you from taking my word for how much fun this is.

The sequel to the delightful The Vesuvius Club,  which I've reviewed earlier in the year, represents a shift in genre. While the first novel was more of a bi-sexual James Bond, here the element of the supernatural is introduced, with the hero, Lucifer Box ( love the name) facing off against that guy who really likes the number 666, amongst others.

During the proceedings Lucifer manages his usual fun romantic interludes with the better looking specimens of both sexes. At first it seems his main concern is the potential of being made redundant, but there is much more at stake. Not to mention we get to meet his rather hideous sister, who seems totally like a Trump voter (USA),  Brexit fan (UK) or admirer of Pauline Hansen ( Australia). You get my drift, my well read friends.


Once again, Gatiss reconfirms my affections for everything he does. I've seen some love it or hate it reviews for this one, I'm definitely feeling the love.


5 out of 5 sexy spies must go through a lot of laundry