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

Happy Friday

For all you history lovers out there....


Leicester City Council's got a sense of fun:


(Found on Ben Aaronovich's Twitter account)

50 Great Books about 50 Inspiring Women (from Flavorwire)

Reblogged from It's a Hardback Life:

From the Flavorwire archives, in honor of International Women's Day.

Image result for rosie the riveter

The IHOP Papers

The IHOP Papers - Ali Liebegott

Francesca, "Goaty", has a crush on her former college tutor and follows her to San Francisco, where she starts working at an IHOP, writing a novel, and crushing on pretty much every woman she meets... 

Seriously, if I had read a synopsis of the book, I would have given it a miss. As it turned out, however, the book is not just painfully cringe-worthy as we watch Goaty's journey of self-delusion, it is also, in part, really, really funny.


Unfortunately, The IHOP Papers are not as enjoyable as The Beautifully Worthless of Cha-Ching! both of which feature a much more mature main character. 

Ovid - The Metamorphoses - Reading progress update

Metamorphoses - Denis Feeney, Ovid, David Raeburn

Now that I have whittled down my currently reading shelf, I will start on my main reading project for this spring: Ovid's Metamorphoses


I dimly remember translating parts of this in Latin class in high school, but I can't say I truly appreciated Ovid's work other than for the sense of achievement that comes with slowly being able to translate a text from another language. 


It is time for a re-read.


I have no doubt that I will have lots of thoughts on this book. In fact, I believe this is the book that once already (when I first read parts of it) shattered my believe that people thought the world was flat until the age of the great explorers, when in fact, this notion of the flat earth had already been argued against, and a spherical shape widely accepted, by the Ancient Greeks. But such is the power of reading classical texts, isn't it?

It's not just a journey back in time to discover old stories, it's also a journey through the history of what is accepted as scientific knowledge.


Anyway, I will keep this as the main post and add updates of the 15 Books of the Metamorphoses as I sail through them.

The Mystery of a Butcher's Shop

The Mystery of a Butcher's Shop (Mrs Bradley, #2) - Gladys Mitchell

"Stop, James!" came in deep rich tones from the depths of the chair. "You are wearing grey flannel trousers!"

"Yes," agreed Jim, glancing down at them.

"If I had my way," said Mrs Bradley firmly, "grey flannel trousers should be taxed, together with dogs, automobiles, wireless receiving-sets, income, and the colour curiously termed beige."

I like Mitchell's character studies and her humour but her plotting and convoluted storytelling left me, yet again, puzzled beyond what I can put up with. I was lost by the half-way mark, and the red herrings and inconsequential discussions in the second half did nothing to salvage the mystery for me. 


Not even the humour and obvious Christie-mockery could make up for it.




*Edit* - I've changed my rating from 2 to 3 stars. I did enjoy the writing and the humor more than a 2-star rating would lead to believe. 

It seems that Monday has always been tricky...
It seems that Monday has always been tricky...

Miss Phryne Fisher Investigates (Cocaine Blues)

Miss Phryne Fisher Investigates - Kerry Greenwood

"Phryne leaned on the ship's rail. listening to the seagulls announcing that land was near, and watched for the first hint of sunrise. She had put on her lounging robe, of a dramatic oriental pattern of green and gold, an outfit not to be sprung suddenly on invalids or those of nervous tendencies - and she was rather glad that there was no one on deck to be astonished. It was five o'clock in the morning."

As much as I love the tv series, the book series will not one that I will continue with. 


All that I love about the tv series - the 1920s atmosphere, the banter between the characters, the quirky fun bits (like Dr. Mac's dry sense of humour) - I just can't get a feel for in the first book. 


I get that the book is different and that the characters (and back stories) are different, but I can't even get a sense of setting (any setting!) from the book. 

The writing is sparse and focused on dialogue, and except for whatever clothes people - especially Phryne - are wearing, there seemed to be hardly any description of anything. 

This strongly reminded me of the Murder, She Wrote tv tie-ins, which rely on the reader's knowledge of the series to fill in the missing parts with the knowledge of what the tv series had already communicated - visuals of place and characters. Except of course that the tie-ins were written to correspond with the tv series, which is not the case with the Phryne Fisher book (as the book preceded the tv series and has a slightly different story line and characters).


What's probably worse than not getting a sense of place - and I was really looking forward to reading about Melbourne in the 1920s! - was that I didn't even get a sense of the 1920s. 


So, yeah, this is where I am glad I got a copy from the library. I still love the tv series, tho. So much so that I consoled my disappointment with the book by re-watching a couple of favourite episodes on Netflix until the wee hours. 

The Secret Adversary

The Secret Adversary - Agatha Christie

IT was 2 p.m. on the afternoon of May 7, 1915. The Lusitania had been struck by two torpedoes in succession and was sinking rapidly, while the boats were being launched with all possible speed.

This is still one of the most intriguing Agatha Christie opening lines I have read (another can be found in Murder on the Orient Express, but I'll get to that in a different post). 


The Secret Adversary is the first adventure of Miss Prudence Cowley and Lieutenant Thomas Beresford, a.k.a. Tommy and Tuppence. 


Tommy and Tuppence have known each other since childhood but lost touch over the years with the exception that they met again in 1916, when Tommy was injured in the war and Tuppence worked as an auxiliary nurse. The story sets in as they meet again for the first time since 1916, now in London in 1920. Both are best described as Bright Young Things of their time, both are broke, and both are looking for way to make some money.


I absolutely love the start of this story, the setting and the dialogue between Tommy and Tuppence. It's fresh, it's witty, it's believable.

Christie shines through in every aspect of Tuppence, and, based on descriptions of her own circumstances in Christie's autobiography, I have a hunch that Tommy was somewhat inspired by Christie's then husband Archie.


When thinking about bright young things, I usually first think of Waugh's Vile Bodies. However, what is striking about The Secret Adversary is that it was published in 1922 - a whole 8 years before Vile Bodies!


This is only Christie's 2nd(!) published novel, and yet we get such fun dialogue as this:

"Rot!" said Tommy hastily. "Well, that's my position. I'm just about desperate."


"So am I! I've hung out as long as I could. I've touted round. I've answered advertisements. I've tried every mortal blessed thing. I've screwed and saved and pinched! But it's no good. I shall have to go home!"


"Don't you want to?"


"Of course I don't want to! What's the good of being sentimental? Father's a dear--I'm awfully fond of him--but you've no idea how I worry him! He has that delightful early Victorian view that short skirts and smoking are immoral. You can imagine what a thorn in the flesh I am to him! He just heaved a sigh of relief when the war took me off. You see, there are seven of us at home. It's awful! All housework and mothers' meetings! I have always been the changeling. I don't want to go back, but--oh, Tommy, what else is there to do?"


Tommy shook his head sadly. There was a silence, and then Tuppence burst out: "Money, money, money! I think about money morning, noon and night! I dare say it's mercenary of me, but there it is!"


"Same here," agreed Tommy with feeling.  

While I love Tummy and Tuppence, the plot of the story doesn't quite work for me. It's Christie's first attempt at international espionage, and, if you ask me, she should have left it at that. After the two friends discuss an idea to go into business together, the plot snowballs out of control fuelled by the most unlikely of coincidences, and at some point I got confused again (and this was my third re-read!) about who is who and who is bluffing whom. 


Mystery-wise, this is not the greatest of stories. However, I'd recommend it just for the sheer fun of getting to know Christie in her early years, before the necessity to make money from writing leads her to develop that famous formula that runs through most of her best known creations.

Love is Love

Love is Love: Exclusive Digital Edition - Sarah Gaydos, Jamie S. Rich

This is a collection of poetry, stories, and graphic artwork rather than one story. While all of the works included are expressing reactions to the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, the overarching theme of the collection is love. Love in various forms.


The artwork in this collection is fantastic, and really made me stop to think about it. 


Paper Girls

Paper Girls Volume 1 - Cliff Chiang, Brian K. Vaughan

I had heard good things about this and going by the synopsis, a graphic novel set in the 1980s and focusing on a group of girls on a paper route looked intriguing.


The 80s feel in this was great, the characters we're great, and I liked the artwork. 


What didn't work for me was the storyline. I'm just not that into time travel / alt universe even if this particular storyline also fits well with the 80s theme.

Series Cross-Over

The Secret Adversary - Agatha Christie

Oysters had just given place to Sole Colbert when a card was brought to Hersheimmer.

"Inspector Japp, C.I.D. Scotland Yard again. Another man this time. What does he expect I can tell him that I didn't tell the first chap?


Agatha Christie - The Secret Adversary 


I forgot that Japp is in this one, even tho it is a Tommy and Tuppence and not a Poirot adventure. 

Sunday Soup

There may be something in the air tonight because it's not just Whiskey who has had a craving for soup today. 


I met up with a friend for gelato earlier - apparently meeting for gelato on Sunday is becoming a thing - she was talking about soup she made earlier today. What can I say, soup's been on my mind for the rest of the afternoon....


So, here is what I ended up with: I just wanted something easy and filling, that I could make with ingredients that I already had at home. 


I roasted some sweetcorn with smoked paprika for a bit, then added it to other veg (celery, onion, carrot, a red pepper, and a potato). Let it boil with a bay leaf, salt, black pepper, rosemary for a bit, then blitzed it. 



The smoky goodness of the soup goes nicely with some cheesy topping. 

My sides are slices of bread topped with humus. 


It's a really simple soup, but I'm loving it.


Happy (Soup) Sunday All!

The Trouble with Education

Strong Poison - Dorothy L. Sayers

‘But what am I to do? Steal the box?’

‘Not quite. Do you know how to pick a lock?’

‘Not in the least, I’m afraid.’

‘I often wonder what we go to school for,’ said Wimsey. ‘We never seem to learn anything really useful.


Dorothy L. Sayers - Strong Poison

Library Haul and Weekend Reading Plans


Thanks to you all, my very own Mt. TBR is not getting any smaller and after several book discussions last week, I found myself with a pre-order of library books that became available today.


This is what my (longish) weekend will look like:




After a bit of Coin-toss Opera, that is...

Am I Normal, Yet?

Am I Normal Yet? (The Normal Series) - Holly Bourne

It's YA and I got given the book by a friend who had copies for World Book Night 2016.


Otherwise, I would not have picked it up, because...YA.


If I had read this when I was 15, I would have enjoyed this much more, but as I haven't the book fell a bit flat for me. 


The intention of the book is great, tho: To give readers an insight into how OCD and general anxiety disorder can affect people. It's not something that I as a 15-year-old would have been that familiar with, other than by way of crude jokes. And this is the point of the book - to get people think about the jokes and flippant remarks that are based on mental health issues. 


From that aspect, I really appreciated the book, too.


Where it fell flat for me was in the writing - it was so full of cliches that made it seem quite ironic that the books attempts to look behind the common misconceptions - and cliches - surrounding mental health issues.


And of course the precocious little sister character, just seemed a thinly veiled psychology lecture...

The Unexpected Guest

The Unexpected Guest - Charles Osborne, Agatha Christie

The Unexpected Guest is another play by Agatha Christie that was adapted as a novel Charles Osborne - so in short, it is not that great.


Of course I am peeved that I ended up with this book because it was advertised as an Agatha Christie novel, and it is not, but I am also astounded Osborne got to write several novelisations at all, and all of them on commission by Christie's estate!


He has no feel for Christie's characters.


While I can see that the setting in this novel is a typical Christie country house mystery, the main character of Laura Warwick does not strike me as a Christie woman at all.


But maybe I'm just peeved that Audible did not make it clear that this was an Osbone novel. 

Currently reading

Boundless: Tracing Land and Dream in a New Northwest Passage by Kathleen Winter
Progress: 28%
Flappers: Six Women of a Dangerous Generation by Judith Mackrell
Progress: 11%
Metamorphoses by Denis Feeney, Ovid, David Raeburn
Progress: 144/723pages