BrokenTune

Reviews & Rants - Blogging about books, authors, and generally 

Reading progress update: I've read 357 out of 357 pages.

Hogfather: (Discworld Novel 20) - Terry Pratchett

Once again the Auditor managed to retain a shape for a few seconds, and managed to say: you cannot do this, there are rules!

 

YES. THERE ARE RULES. BUT YOU BROKE THEM. HOW DARE YOU? HOW DARE YOU?

 

The scythe blade was a thin blue outline in the grey light. Death raised a thin finger to where his lips might have been, and suddenly looked thoughtful.

 

AND NOW THERE REMAINS ONLY ONE FINAL QUESTION, he said. He raised his hands, and seemed to grow. Light flared in his eye sockets. When he spoke next, avalanches fell in the mountains.

 

HAVE YOU BEEN NAUGHTY . . . OR NICE?

 

HO. HO. HO.

 

Yup, this is still one of my favourite books, and definitely a must-(re-)read for end of the year.

Reading progress update: I've read 324 out of 357 pages.

Hogfather: (Discworld Novel 20) - Terry Pratchett

Ridcully pulled him away.

‘What’s all this, Mr Stibbons?’

‘I really should talk to him, sir. He’s had a near-death experience!’

‘We all have. It’s called “living”,’ said the Archchancellor shortly.

 

:)

Reading progress update: I've read 156 out of 357 pages.

Hogfather: (Discworld Novel 20) - Terry Pratchett

It was a big drink. A very big and a very long drink. It was one of those special cocktails where each very sticky, very strong ingredient is poured in very slowly, so that they layer on top of one another. Drinks like this tend to get called Traffic Lights or Rainbow’s Revenge or, in places where truth is more highly valued, Hello and Goodbye, Mr Brain Cell. In addition, this drink had some lettuce floating in it. And a slice of lemon and a piece of pineapple hooked coquettishly on the side of the glass, which had sugar frosted round the rim. There were two paper umbrellas, one pink and one blue, and they each had a cherry on the end. And someone had taken the trouble to freeze ice cubes in the shape of little elephants.

After that, there’s no hope. You might as well be drinking in a place called the Cococobana.

The God of Wine picked it up lovingly. It was his kind of drink.

 

Hehe.

Reading progress update: I've read 20 out of 357 pages.

Hogfather: (Discworld Novel 20) - Terry Pratchett

‘You mean you have actually devoted time to considering how to inhume the Hogfather?’ he said weakly. ‘You’ve actually sat down and thought out how to do it? You’ve actually devoted your spare time to the problem?’

‘Oh, yes, sir. And the Soul Cake Duck. And the Sandman. And Death.’

Downey blinked again.

‘You’ve actually sat down and considered how to—’

‘Yes, sir. I’ve amassed quite an interesting file. In my own time, of course.’

‘I want to be quite certain about this, Mister Teatime. You . . . have . . . applied . . . yourself to a study of ways of killing Death?’

‘Only as a hobby, sir.’

Still one of the best conversations on a Pratchett novel. :)

 

And I apologise in advance: I love quoting from this book and there are just so many quotable paragraphs.

Reading progress update: I've read 1 out of 357 pages.

Hogfather: (Discworld Novel 20) - Terry Pratchett

Here we go...

"EVERYTHING STARTS SOMEWHERE, although many physicists disagree. But people have always been dimly aware of the problem with the start of things. They wonder aloud how the snowplough driver gets to work, or how the makers of dictionaries look up the spelling of the words. Yet there is the constant desire to find some point in the twisting, knotting, ravelling nets of space-time on which a metaphorical finger can be put to indicate that here, here, is the point where it all began . . ."

This is a re-read for me, and it's not the first re-read. This is one of the books that I love reading around this time of the year. It's perfect - when the saccharine mush of festive cheer gets going, I like to be reminded of the darker side of festive legends. 

No, not the auditors.

I do mean the verruca gnomes! 

 

;D

 

To anyone else reading The Hogfather this month, 

Have fun All! 

24 Festive Tasks: Door 11 - Russian Mother's Day - Tasks

Task 1:  Tell us: What is the mother of all writerly sins in your book (tropes, grammar mistakes, telling instead of showing, etc.)?

 

There have been a lot of great posts about this task already and a lot of the "sins" that have been mentioned are ones that would put me off a book, too, such as the book being boring. 

The mother of all writerly sins for me, however, is when an author comes across as arrogant, patronising, biased, stupid, or revelling in his/her own greatness.

That for me is the worst. 

 

And for clarity, I understand when a character is written to come across as any of these things. That is different. I get the point of why an author may create a character like that. No, what I am talking about is when the author him/herself shines through the writing. 

 

Task 2: Do you have a favorite Mothers’ Day memory that you are happy to share? Photos welcome but optional.

 

I don't have a favourite Mother's Day memory because, for some reason or none, Mother's Day was not something we did in my family. I have no idea why or why not, it's just that we didn't...

 

Task 3: Perhaps the best-known scene in the James Bond novel and film From Russia With Love is 007 being poisoned by Russian agent Rosa Klebb with a venom-laced blade hidden in her shoe. Tell us: Have you ever owned any particular / outrageous / funny / best-beloved or otherwise special pair of shoes? Post a photo if you should still own them.

 

Yes! No picture as I don't have the shoes anymore, and there was nothing all that special about the shoes, but I once owned  pair of Vans that I bought in Liverpool during Beatleweek (a time when comfy footwear is essential) and that I loved so much that I wore them to the point that they literally fell apart.  

 

Task 4: Make a traditional Russian dish like borscht, blintzes, pirogi or solyanka soup, and share a picture with us. Find recipe suggestions here: https://www.expatica.com/ru/about/Top-10-Russian-foods-and-recipes_108678.html

 

(wip)

 

Book: Read a book set in Russia, or involving a story within a story / play within a play (like the Russian matryoshka dolls stuck inside each other), or where a key character (not necessarily the protagonist) is a mother.

 

(wip)

 

24 Festive Tasks: Door 10 - Bon Om Touk - Tasks

Update - 04 Dec.: Tasks 3 & 4 completed.

 

 

Task 1:  Make a paper boat and post a picture of it.   Instructions, if needed: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hiAWx8odStA

 

(wip)

 

 

Task 2: If you’ve ever attended a procession or an event involving festively decked out boats, post a picture and tell us about it.

 

This is another challenge that is trickier than I thought. Despite living on the coast and having a couple of boat festivals close by, I don't think they involved much festive decoration of the boats. Even the local university boat race, which I try and watch each year (because some friends of mine are involved with one of the boat clubs and there is usually a picnic going) is not keen on decorating the boats as they need to be as lightweight as possible.

 

The one event I think that came close to meeting the decoration task was the Inter-Company Regatta this year, which is also organised by the boat club (hence I happened to meet one of my friends there and watch the goings on from the upper deck of the boat house, i.e. the bar). I say this event came close because it wasn't actually the boats that were "dressed up".

 

 (source - I don't seem to have taken pics of the race) 

 

Task 3: Bon Om Touk celebrates the end of the rainy season. Tell us: What’s your favorite type of rainy day book – and do you have a favorite drink or snack to go with your rainy day reading? Photos welcome!

 

One with words, preferably, good words in a kind of sensible order. I know, it's not much to ask for. But then I don't tend to lean towards a particular kind of book on a rainy day. 

Also, I live in Scotland. We have a lot of rain.

Tho, whatever the book, tea or coffee always make for great reading drinks. 

 

Task 4: Which are your 3 favorite books where a key character is “moonlighting”?

 

1. Sherlock Holmes - There are too many stories to list, so I'll only designate one entry to Holmes' moonlighting variably as a priest, a plumber, a dying man, a vagabond, a down-and-out bookseller, ... So.Many.Fun.Adventures!

 

2. Edmond Dantes as The Count of Monte Cristo.

 

3. Hercule Poirot as his own twin brother. I know. This was one of the stupidest plots Christie ever came up with. The Big Four is, you may be surprised to learn, my favourite of the "bad Christies", because it is just so bad, that it does make me laugh. A lot.

 

 

Book: Read a book that takes place at sea or on a river OR with water on the cover OR where the plot involves a festival or the moon plays a pivotal role in the plot.

 

(wip)

 

 

24 Festive Tasks: Door 9 - Thanksgiving - Tasks

Update - 04 Dec.: Task 1 and 2 completed.

 

Task 1:  List the 3 books you’ve read this year you’re most “thankful” for (your favs) or the one book you’ve ever read that changed your life for the better.

 

Jane Wagner's - The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe

 

I have not written a review for this, yet, but I found this book (which was also a Broadway show starring Lily Tomlin) rather thought-provoking and moving, and there is one scene, where the "crazy" lady takes the aliens to the theatre that is just hard to forget. It is seriously beautiful, and, like much of the book, makes the reader question perspectives that we take for granted.

 

Marc-Uwe Kling's - Das Känguru-Manifest (and the rest of the trilogy)  

 

I believe non-German-speaking readers are missing out here. I loved everything about this book (and its sequels). So much so, that the audio-versions accompanied me and mum on our trip to Berlin (where the book is set). Seriously, I could not belive that I would grow so fond of a communist kangaroo and it's struggle against it's nemesis - the penguin from across the hall.

 

Ursula K. LeGuin's - No Time to Spare

 

It may be that reading this book shortly after LeGuin's passing added to the book's impact on me, but it brought home so many things about Le Guin, her attitude to life, to readers, authors, as well as my attitude towards her work and so much more. I really loved this one.  

 

Task 2:  Describe your perfect meal.  What would you cook for the perfect celebration, or, what would you have your imaginary personal chef cook for you?

 

I thought about this one long and hard, but I don't think I have a favourite meal, and to move along further in the task's description, I don't think there is anything I would ask a chef to cook for me. The reason for this is that my favourite meals have probably been the ones prepared by of for and shared with friends and/or family. 

 

I think I mentioned it in a comment somewhere, but my gran's potato salad was one of those meals. She didn't use a recipe, and it was simply the best. My mum and I have tried for decades to recreate it, but come only marginally close (tho my mum has created her own outstanding version in the process...). 

I am fairly convinced that no chef could ever even come close.

 

Task 3:  Name a book you’ve read this year that you thought was full of “stuffing”.

 

Again, I keep thinking about how The Hunchback of Notre Dame was full of weird descriptions of architecture, but this had a purpose and I really liked it, so I can't nominate that book for this task.

 

Steve Brusatte's Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs on the other hand, ... now there was a book the content of which could have been halved if the unnecessary detail had been removed. 

It would still have been a painful (read "cringe-inducing") read, but at least it would have made for a short book.

 

Task 4:  Show us your 2018 book “harvest” – the books you newly acquired this year, regardless whether bought, received as gift or in whichever other way.

 

Skipping this. There are too many books to face here, and I didn't exactly keep a record.

 

Book:  Autumnal covers, set in New England, or a turkey shows up in the story.

 

(searching for book)

 

 

The Water Rat of Wanchai

The Water Rat of Wanchai - Ian  Hamilton

They had been profitable years, with Ava earning enough money for the condo and the car and an impressive investment portfolio. But the best thing about the jobs she and Uncle did was the ride getting to the money - it was never the same twice, and though it taxed her emotionally, it also forced her to expand her senses and her thought processes. Then there were the clients. Although she complained about them sometimes, especially those who in utter desperation were far too clinging and demanding, she also accepted Uncle's conviction that they were simply lost souls looking for redemption. "When we get them their money back, what we are really doing is saving their lives," he would say. Ava believed that, too.

Ava Lee is a forensic accountant, but we learn very little about what forensic accountants do in this book, because right from the get-go, Ava Lee turns into this shady figure tracking down people and information by using any means necessary - deception, coercion, chloral hydrate, but very little accounting.

 

Oh, I am so conflicted about this book. I really wanted to like this a lot. I was really hoping to find a new series that would fill that silly void left by other series about action-packed espionage. And this one looked good because the idea of a Bond-like figure written as a woman sounded too good to pass by.

 

However, the execution of the book didn't live up to my expectations at all. There are silly plot elements that required me to suspend disbelief just a little too much, like when Ava calls up a shipping company out of the cold and they remember every single detail about a one-off, very ordinary, transaction from 8 weeks earlier, and they didn't even have to consult their files? I found that hardly credible.  

 

There were other elements of the writing that also grated on me: the use of brand names instead of descriptions, was a major annoyance. I find this so lazy. Even if we get to learn that someone wore Adidas pants, it still doesn't tell me what colour or style or whether they were tracksuit bottoms or the more fashion-conscious kind. All I know is that they may have stripes down the sides (tho not all of them do...). 

So lazy. Yet, this book is full of this. Brand names appear so often that I once even laughed at how the multitude of product placement compared to a James Bond film, which is famously full of the same advertising. 

 

There was one particular scene where the author has Ava decide between two hotels in Hong Kong (or was it Macao), and I literally had to skip the page because I was not going to put up with reading an advertising leaflet for the Mandarin Oriental. Still, as we can see, the advert worked as I will forever remember the name of the hotel. Gaaaahhh...

I'm so annoyed about this. And I haven't even mentioned Ava's addition to a particular kind of Starbucks coffee sachet...

 

In all of this, what I can only describe as an exercise to replace descriptive writing with consumerist imagery, the plot and character development gets left behind. 

In the first half of the book, Ava does little else than answer phone calls and jump on planes to exotic locations. 

In the second half of the book, the plot thickens. Or rather, Ava breaks out her martial art skills to kidnap someone...

Ironically, this is where I should have really gotten into the book and just didn't. It took me a lot longer to finish the book than I thought, because I just could not face the tedium of reading about Ava's attempts to restore money to a company account. I think I'd have been more interested in it if the underlying purpose had not been quite so ... transactional, and if there had been more emphasis on the characters involved.  

Hogfather Buddy Read

Hogfather: (Discworld Novel 20) - Terry Pratchett

Prompted by Themis-Athena's post about the 24 Festive Tasks stats, it dawned that we're approaching Hogswatch!

So, in the spirit of the season, who's in for a Hogfather buddy read?

 

When:

All through December 2018. 

 

Where:

Right here! Please comment below if you fancy to join the buddy read, so we all know who is reading, and can make sure to follow everyone to see and comment on update posts.

 

Whether you're taking part in the 24 Festive Tasks or not,

Anyone and everyone is welcome to join in! 

 

I suggest we use "Hogfather Buddy Read" as a tag.

 

Reading progress update: I've read 64 out of 412 pages.

The Water Rat of Wanchai - Ian  Hamilton

I should be able to finish this book today, as I am having up to 2 hours of uninterrupted reading time while my car is getting new winter tyres put on.

The gent at the garage told me I could wait or I could leave and he'd give me a call when they have finished. Even he smiled when I pulled out my book asking him to point me to their waiting room.

 

So, reading the heck out of this book while fuelled by garage coffee. :)

 

As for the book, I'm still interested but there are elements that really annoy me.

 

For example,  I find it a stretch to believe that a shipping company would remember the details of a one-off job from 8 weeks ago, that was a normal job, without consulting its files.

That does not happen, and yet, this happened twice already.

 

Anyway, onwards...

The 2018 Mt. TBR Project - End of November Update

Things have unravelled a bit with respect to posting regular updates of the Mt. TBR Project and with respect to keeping track of which books I have read over this year. That is, erm, I never posted an End-of-October update and I did something to my spreadsheet that...well, I don't believe the numbers I'm getting on the TBR percentages (original pile vs. new additions vs. books read in other formats) are right. But since there is only a month to go, and I would be wasting valuable reading time in trying to figure out where I went wrong, I am just not going to fix this. I think the update picture will speak for itself that this year's method of reducing Mt. TBR has worked.

 

Also, I now have a total of 7 books that I haven't deducted from the piles as "swaps", yet. I.e. 7 books I read from my own shelves that aren't on Mt. TBR. I'll apply any swaps at the end of December. 

 

Also, I have come to the conclusion that there is a flaw in this year's MT. TBR reduction method as it is unlikely that newly bought books will be read straight away and putting them on Mt. TBR defeats the purpose of trying to read the books that have been sitting on my shelves for ages, in some cases years. 

So, I am not adding the most recent additions (small pile on the left) to the official Mt. TBR. The next time I set up a Mt. TBR Project, I will likely set a cut-off date after which books will not be added...or I will just track the new additions in a separate way. We'll see.

 

End of November Mt. TBR:

(The actual pile for MT. TBR Project purposes is the one on the right.

 

Mid-October Mt. TBR:

End of August Mt. TBR: 

 

End of July Mt. TBR: 

 

End of June Mt. TBR:

 

End of May Mt. TBR:

 

End of April Mt. TBR: 

 

End of March Mt. TBR:

 

End of February Mt. TBR:

 

End of January Mt. TBR:

 

Start of the Year Mt. TBR:

 

The Stats:

 

Books read this month: 17 (Nov)

Mt. TBR Books read this month: 3 

 

Women / Men / Team*: 51% / 46% / 3%

Fiction / Non-fiction*: 73% / 27%

% of original Mt. TBR read: 97?% 

% of live Mt. TBR read**: 87?% 

 

Available swaps (not made yet): 7

 

(* - of all books read since 01 January 2018)

(** - live Mt. TBR includes new purchases added throughout the year)  

 

Link to the original Mt. TBR (2018) post.

Link to the original Mt TBR (2018) Reading List.

 

Rules - same as previously - are that I picked a stack of physical books off my shelves at home which I would try to read over the course of the year. Any new purchases are added to the pile. If I pick another physical book of my shelves, I get to take one off the pile and put it on the shelf - as a substitute.

24 Festive Tasks: Door 12 - St. Andrew's Day - Tasks

(Source)

 

Task 1:  Nominate someone for sainthood.  Who?  Why?

 

Thinking about it...

 

Task 2: St Andrew is revered in many countries, particularly in Eastern Europe, where he worked as a Christian missionary, long before his relics were brought to Scotland centuries later. – Tell us: Is there a book (regardless whether fiction or nonfiction) for which you would basically walk up to strangers and tell them: “Read this!”? What would you say and do to get people to read that particular book?

 

I don't believe in inflicting books on random strangers. And I don't like making recommendations without even knowing anything about the tastes of the person receiving the recommendation. It annoys me no end when people recommend something to me without even asking if I'm interested ... I have unfriended people on GR for doing this (after asking them not to recommend books out of the cold). It really, REALLY bugs me.

 

So, I am going to approach this task slightly differently: I do believe in asking someone (once we have already established that they are a reader - apparently not everyone is) what books they would say have made a significant influence on them. Not their favourites necessarily, but books that would fit into their personal canon, and I would want to know why.

 

Task 3: Legend has it that the saltire or St. Andrew’s cross (white on an azure background) – which constitutes the national flag of Scotland – originated as a cloud formation, symbolizing St. Andrew’s being crucified on an X-shaped cross rather than an upright one.  Do you have any pictures of unusual cloud formations?  If so, share them with us!

 

Maybe the cloud formations aren't unusual, but the fluffiness and density of these rather impressed me. They just look like huge fluffy pillow mountains. 

 

(Photo taken somewhere in Penang, Malaysia, in November 2017)

 

Task 4: The town of St. Andrews, where the saint’s bones ended up in the course of the spread of Christianity to Scotland, is also famous for its golf course and tournament.  List your 3 favorite books where golf is key to the plot.

 

1. Murder on the Links by Agatha Christie - this is the one where Hastings falls in love. How can I not list this one?

 

2. Goldfinger by Ian Fleming - not a favourite as such unless we're including favourite books to detest. This is the one where Auric Golfinger cheats Bond at playing golf. There is A LOT of golf in this book. It follows a long tedious description of people playing cards. It's enough to put anyone off both games.

 

3. Fer-de-Lance by Rex Stout - the first Nero Wolf novel and if I remember correctly, golf plays a part in the murder.

 

Book: Andrew was the first apostle; read the first book in a series. OR:  Andrew and Peter were brothers; read a book about brothers. OR: Read books about or set in Scotland or by a Scottish author, or set in Charleston, South Carolina (which is where the celebrations as we know them today began – by a group of Scottish expats – according to scotland.org).

 

Thinking about it....

 

Reading progress update: I've read 46%.

The Clocks - Agatha Christie

There have only been a few Poirot books where it is made very clear how much Poirot owes to the Sherlock Holmes stories. Poirot very much stands as his own character and as its own series. But when Dame Agatha does pay respects to the Holmes canon she does it without trying to write pastiche and without trying to hide their influence on her own work, and I applaud her for it!

‘Of course not, of course not,’ said Poirot. He waved me to a chair and offered me some tisane, which I instantly refused.

George entered at the apposite moment with a whisky decanter, a glass and a siphon which he placed at my elbow.

‘And what are you doing with yourself these days?’ I asked Poirot. Casting a look at the various books around him I said: ‘It looks as though you are doing a little research?’ Poirot sighed. ‘You may call it that. Yes, perhaps in a way it is true. Lately I have felt very badly the need for a problem. It does not matter, I said to myself, what the problem is. It can be like the good Sherlock Holmes, the depth at which the parsley has sunk in the butter. All that matters is that there should be a problem. It is not the muscles I need to exercise, you see, it is the cells of the brain.’

‘Just a question of keeping fit. I understand.’

‘As you say.’ He sighed. ‘But problems, mon cher, are not so easy to come by. It is true that last Thursday one presented itself to me. The unwarranted appearance of three pieces of dried orange peel in my umbrella stand. How did they come there? How could they have come there? I do not eat oranges myself. George would never put old pieces of orange peel in the umbrella stand. Nor is a visitor likely to bring with him three pieces of orange peel. Yes, it was quite a problem.’

I even felt a little emotional when Poirot muses about Arthur Conan Doyle and remembers his very own "Watson":

‘And then—there are always the old favourites.’

Again he dived for a book. ‘The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes,’ he murmured lovingly, and even uttered reverently the one word, ‘Maître!’

‘Sherlock Holmes?’ I asked.

‘Ah, non, non, not Sherlock Holmes! It is the author, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, that I salute. These tales of Sherlock Holmes are in reality far-fetched, full of fallacies and most artificially contrived. But the art of the writing—ah, that is entirely different. The pleasure of the language, the creation above all of that magnificent character, Dr Watson. Ah, that was indeed a triumph.’

He sighed and shook his head and murmured, obviously by a natural association of ideas: ‘Ce cher Hastings. My friend Hastings of whom you have often heard me speak. It is a long time since I have had news of him. What an absurdity to go and bury oneself in South America, where they are always having revolutions.’ 

And, damn, I just love when Dame Agatha reveals some of her own process through the character of Ariadne Oliver, even when she's only mentioned in the Poirot universe:

‘I have read also,’ he said, ‘some of the early works of Mrs Ariadne Oliver. She is by way of being a friend of mine, and of yours, I think. I do not wholly approve of her works, mind you. The happenings in them are highly improbable. The long arm of coincidence is far too freely employed. And, being young at the time, she was foolish enough to make her detective a Finn, and it is clear that she knows nothing about Finns or Finland except possibly the works of Sibelius. Still, she has an original habit of mind, she makes an occasional shrewd deduction, and of later years she has learnt a good deal about things which she did not know before. Police procedure for instance. She is also now a little more reliable on the subject of firearms. What was even more needed, she has possibly acquired a solicitor or a barrister friend who has put her right on certain points of the law.’

The mystery in this story is not taking a backseat exactly, but it appears there is more to this book by way of adding flesh to the series than focusing only on solving the puzzle of the original story. 

Reading progress update: I've read 26%.

The Clocks - Agatha Christie

I know that people say this isn't one of Dame Agatha's best, but from what I have read so far, she was having a blast writing this - from the scene where the typist copies the latest work of dull pornography:

"Edna restored the toffee to the centre of her tongue and, sucking pleasurably, resumed her typing of Naked Love by Armand Levine. Its painstaking eroticism left her uninterested—as indeed it did most of Mr Levine’s readers, in spite of his efforts. He was a notable example of the fact that nothing can be duller than dull pornography. In spite of lurid jackets and provocative titles, his sales went down every year, and his last typing bill had already been sent in three times."

 

to this scene with the mad cat lady:

 

"Round her neck she was wearing a necklet of orange fur. Inspector Hardcastle said dubiously:

‘Mrs Hemming?’

‘I am Mrs Hemming. Gently, Sunbeam, gently doodleums.’

It was then that the inspector perceived that the orange fur was really a cat. It was not the only cat. Three other cats appeared along the hall, two of them miaowing. They took up their place, gazing at the visitors, twirling gently round their mistress’s skirts. At the same time a pervading smell of cat afflicted the nostrils of both men.

‘I am Detective Inspector Hardcastle.’

‘I hope you’ve come about that dreadful man who came to see me from the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals,’ said Mrs Hemming. ‘Disgraceful! I wrote and reported him. Saying my cats were kept in a condition prejudicial to their health and happiness! Quite disgraceful! I live for my cats, Inspector. They are my only joy and pleasure in life. Everything is done for them. Shah-Shah-Mimi. Not there, sweetie.’

Shah-Shah-Mimi paid no attention to a restraining hand and jumped on the hall table. He sat down and washed his face, staring at the strangers.

‘Come in,’ said Mrs Hemming. ‘Oh no, not that room. I’d forgotten.’

She pushed open a door on the left. The atmosphere here was even more pungent.

‘Come on, my pretties, come on.’

In the room various brushes and combs with cat hairs in them lay about on chairs and tables. There were faded and soiled cushions, and there were at least six more cats.

‘I live for my darlings,’ said Mrs Hemming. ‘They understand every word I say to them.’

 

Inspector Hardcastle walked in manfully. Unfortunately for him he was one of those men who have cat allergy. As usually happens on these occasions all the cats immediately made for him. One jumped on his knee, another rubbed affectionately against his trousers. Detective Inspector Hardcastle, who was a brave man, set his lips and endured."

And it may just be that The Clocks will turn out to be her best "espionage thriller". At least, I hope that's the way this book works out.

Reading progress update: I've read 149 out of 232 pages.

Being Wagner: The Triumph of the Will - Simon Callow

"Ludwig was not, to put it mildly, of a military disposition, though he was rather keen on soldiers. Once, he spotted a sentry at the Residenz who looked tired, so he sent out a sofa for him."

 

I have no words. Callow cracks me up.

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