Thursday, 2 April 2020

Crosstalk by Connie Willis

“But something had woken her. As before, she had the distinct feeling that she’d heard a voice. Trent would definitely be out of the anaesthesia by now. Had he reached out to her?”

498 pages of brilliance have been sitting on my ‘to be read’ pile for way too long and I have no idea why. I read this in a day, well actually, in just a few hours, having forgone tv for some quality reading time. Have you ever wondered what your partner is thinking or feeling? If you had the chance to have some ‘minor’ surgery to open up your neural pathways, would you do it?
Briddey and her boyfriend Trent work at a smartphone company and are taking the big step of having EDD implants. Now their love will be enhanced by just a small operation for a true meeting of the minds, where emotions do not require words for communication. What could possibly go wrong? Isn’t she just replacing her busy-body family with an even closer interloper? Would she get her family off her back if she settled down with a nice Irishman? Isn’t her boyfriend just way too busy with the apple iPhone busting mysterious ‘Hermes Project’?
When Briddey wakes up post-surgery she has seeming got more than she bargained for. Apparently, she can have entire conversations mentally, but not with her beloved. Another man is in her head and things are about to get really complicated. 
Honestly, I can’t think of any man I’ve ever dated that I’d want to know what’s going on exactly in my head. Protestations of love met with uncertainty, words of encouragement on performance masking internal disappointment and the like. It sounds like a horrible idea to me. Mind you, I’ve yet to crack the Prince Charming lotto.
When Briddey’s powers grow the volume gets louder and the author delightfully weaves in some fantastic moments highlighting the magic of a library. The book is funny, easy to read and the characters are just amazingly rendered mostly through dialogue. I can’t wait to lend this to my friend Nicki, as I think this combines modern sci-fi, romance and comedy in a fabulous way and was one thousand times better than a night in front of the television.

5 out of 5 – I’m not a mind-reader okay.

Wednesday, 1 April 2020

French Exit by Patrick Dewitt

“She had occasionally in her life found herself loving men not in spite of but for their stupidity. Suavity was never more than playacting, she knew this, and it endeared them to her that they themselves were unaware of their transparency.”
About three quarters of the way through this book I was thinking this could be the perfect antidote to today’s troubled times. The bizarre relationship between Frances and her son that has developed since his father’s death has seemingly infantilised him. He almost floats around rather than has any direction, while his mother brings an air of entitlement and decisiveness. It seems she’s spent all the inheritance and now must leave her Upper East Side Pad for a cruise to Paris and a new life.
She’s being haunted by her ex-husband in the form of a cat called Little Frank and her son’s dalliance with a psychic on board the ship to France is a catalyst for an increasingly weird set of circumstances that will have you laughing, shaking your head and then, unexpectedly left rather low. The writing is delightfully catty — pun not intended — cocktails amid a riot, poverty at the Four Season, in some ways it’s a kind of coming of age story – albeit at age 30 in Malcolm’s case. He resembles the kind of guy that people’s parents thank the stars is not their son, probably the kind of guy I’d usually date — sidebar the lockdown has the fantastic benefit of providing a respite from all the wrong individuals.  You get the extent of their weird relationship via the dialogue which is limited but so telling. For instance, upon hearing that Malcolm has bedded Madeleine the Medium, his mother says, “Did you do a good job?”, consoling herself that he’s probably only good at one thing and that wouldn’t be such a bad thing to excel at.
Back to the novel, though, it is fantastically written. I am not a cat lover but adore the craziness of Little Frank’s sad adventures in Paris. The crazy characters, the heightened surrounds and the family dysfunction that provides a deep dose of dark humour make this a great read. 
5 out of 5 – some mothers do ave em.

Tuesday, 24 March 2020

Lady in Waiting: My Extraordinary Life in the Shadow of the Crown by Anne Glenconner

“Instead of the bronzed gods we were expecting, they were all so frightfully pale because it was the beginning of the season.”

When I saw Lady Glenconner on Graham Norton I knew this was a book I had to invest in. She seemed so effervescent and entertaining. I longed to hear more juicy stories of her time with the most interesting of modern royals, Princess Margaret. Let's face it she's definitely the most exciting character on The Crown.

There is something otherworldly about this tale and I think therein lies much of its charm. The relationship of Anne with her husband just seemed so foreign  to me but compelling nonetheless to read about.

Perhaps one of the most unforgettable aspects of the book was the amount of tragedy this woman had to endure.It doesn't matter where you stand on the social sphere, we are all fallible and human.The death of one son to AIDS and one to a motorbike accident are truly horrific and you can't help but admire her tenacity.

I had an overwhelming desire, after reading this, to find some way to holiday in Mustique in full Princess Margaret kaftan gloriousness. That was in those days when travel was an option, lets hope they return soon.

 5 out of 5:  sometimes its hard when you have such stunning friends.

Beating About the Bush (Agatha Raisin #30) by M.C. Beaton

“Agatha stole a glance towards Toni. She really was a very pretty young thing, she mused. Blonde hair, blue eyes and a trim figure.”

As usual, Agatha is jealous of Toni but she is about to make the acquaintance of a rather interesting donkey. You heard me correctly. Agatha and the donkey will make national news and of course there's a rather meaty mystery involving a factory involved also.
My feelings for Sir Charles Fraith ebbed and flowed just as much as Agatha's in this one.
A severed leg, an ornery donkey and a battery factory that might just be up to something dodgy, sounds like just the kind of setting for murder, mayhem and reading till the wee hours.
Unfortunately I finished this way too quickly and now I have to wait until the next story is released which is later this year. M.C.Beaton is a legend and I love her creation.

 5 out of 5 legs in a bush are always a surprise.

Agatha Raisin and the Dead Ringer (Agatha Raisin #29) by M.C. Beaton

“And there were no bell ringers more dedicated than Mavis and Millicent Dupin. They dressed alike in twinsets:  baggy tweed skirts and brogues.”

Bell ringers, it would appear, are a strange breed. Given that they're dragging heavy ropes up and down in rhythmic patterns and enduring loud noises, I imagine things might get a little strange. The impending visit of the rather good looking new bishop's visit sets the bellringers in a frenzy and when one turns up dead, you just now our delightful detective will be back on the case.
The bishop himself has a back story - a former fiancee went missing - could he be the killer? An increasing body count will have Agatha and her friends busy detecting and this reader happily ensconced in the outcome.

5 out of 5 - ding dong.

Becoming Strangers by Louise Dean

“Year after year a fresh crop of cells emerged, excisions followed and he lived. The knife-and-forking of his body seemed to give a perverse impetus to his will to survive.”

Thoroughly enjoyed this tale of a holiday that isn't quite what its cracked up to be. An old couple is sent to an exclusive resort by their children for a much needed break and yet things aren't quite what they seem. A dying man and his wife's holiday is not the delightful last hurrah it could be. 
An attempted rape is entirely not what it seems and all around an air of deceipt and evasion acts in stark contrast to the beautiful surrounds.

Personally I found the writing engaging and in between the sensation of the summer sun, I could feel that sense that one has sometimes of a holiday as a relationship solution that never delivers. I was transported to my own recent travels with the former source of woe and the way that even the delights of travel can be tainted by the wrong company. The author excruciatingly realises that strange juxtaposition of confinement and freedom that a resort can create.

5 out of 5 : right now I wish I was isolated somewhere tropical.

Agatha Raisin and the Witches' Tree (Agatha Raisin #28) by M.C. Beaton

"To hell with both of them, she thought, as she settled down in front of the fire in her cottage with a large gin and tonic in one hand and a cigarette in the other."

A creepy start to this cosy cottage murder mystery when an old lady is found swinging from the 'witches tree'. Charles is his unreliable best in this one, where a coven plays a major role in the proceedings, mind you that won't stop hi from having a roll in the hay with the eponymous Agatha. Eerie as ever, the body count mounts and the intrigue builds and as always our favourite detective's life is endangered.

Agatha also brings her extensive public relations talents to bear to help Sir Charles with his financial woes. Perhaps this wasn't the best of the series, and yet it remains a delightful outing for this fan.

5 our of 5 scary witches might not be the worst problem.