The Vicious Vet (#2) by M.C. Beaton

Published: 15th July 1994 (print)/1st July 2012 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Minotaur Books/Bolinda Audio
Pages: 256/5 hrs and 13 mins
Narrator: Penelope Keith
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Cosy Mystery
★   ★   ★   ★ – 4 Stars

Retired PR boss Agatha Raisin is enjoying life in her pretty Cotswold village of Carsely. It even seems likely that the attractive new vet, Paul Bladen, has taken a shine to her. But before romance can blossom, Paul is killed in an accident with Lord Pendlebury’s horse. Only the circumstances are rather suspicious.

Agatha decides she must once more play amateur investigator. And this cloud has a silver lining – she can persuade her usually stand-offish neighbour, James Lacey, to become her partner in the quest. As usual, Agatha is quite prepared to rush in, heedless of the lurking menace to both James and herself.

I liked the mystery and the story was a nice length, a good mix of personal and mystery going on. Agatha’s obsession with her appearance and looking youthful make her act like a fool and do stupid things but that is who she is. Her abrasiveness and her rudeness are passed over by other people as she still manages to start investigating with James about the latest murder.

Beaton shows Agatha as having keen observational skills and great mind for detail and deduction which is how she manages to work out why these murders happen. It’s like the old stories where the police are incompetent and the solo amateur can solve the crime except the police aren’t entirely inept here and it’s more Agatha’s nosiness and desire to solve the mystery.

We see more of village life now that Agatha has settled in and we get to know a few of the villagers and Agatha’s relationships with them. We also see her growing infatuation with her neighbour James Lacey, but he doesn’t seem interested. The other characters are what you’d expect from a quaint village: vicar’s wives and ladies society members, as well as curmudgeon estate owners and other minor characters who pop in for the one or two lines and then disappear. Most are mentioned in passing but people like Mrs Bloxby and James are gradually becoming more established as key characters as they help Agatha adjust to village life and solve the murders around her.

Agatha is definitely a person you have to grow to tolerate, she is unlikable and annoying as a character but if that’s the way Beaton is portraying her then so be it. Her contrast to the other characters and people in the village show how much of an outsider she is but she tries to fit in in her own way which you have to give her credit for.

You can purchase The Vicious Vet via the following

 Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible

The Cool Bean (#3) by Jory John

Published: 3rd December 2019Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Harper Collins
Illustrator: Pete Oswald
Pages: 40
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

Everyone knows the cool beans. They’re sooooo cool.

And then there’s the uncool has-bean . . .

Always on the sidelines, one bean unsuccessfully tries everything he can to fit in with the crowd—until one day the cool beans show him how it’s done.

This is a fantastic book for kids who might have had friends who moved on and while they used to spend all their time together, now they’ve gone their separate ways. It can be hard seeing people you used to hang out with, especially if you’re not quite sure why you stopped hanging out in the first place.

The bean in the story tries hard to fit in with his old pod but nothing works, and while Bean thinks it’s because he is uncool, it is also showing you can’t pretend to be someone else, you can only be yourself. There’s so much kids can relate to in this story, it’s about loss, about change, but also about hope, kindness, and what being cool really means.

Once again the pun game is on point with the illustrations. Leguma Beach and The Great Gatsbean are the bean type puns we all need and I love how Oswald has created these little tiny pieces of joy in amongst his fun illustrations.

I like the formula of this series because while each story is unique, and the stories are diverse, the structure is often the same. The short sentences and miniature pictures are side by side with full page illustrations and with an absolutely delightful Jory John story through its pages what can go wrong?

You can purchase The Cool Bean via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible

Lenny’s Book of Everything by Karen Foxlee

Published: 1st November 2018 (print)/1 February 2020 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Allen & Unwin/Bolinda Publishing
Pages: 352/8 hrs and 56 mins
Narrator: Abbe Holmes
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Young Adult
★   ★   ★   ★ – 4 Stars

I knew my brother. I knew when he talked too much about Timothy his imaginary pet eagle. He was scared.
‘Whatever you do,’ I said to Davey on the walk to school, ‘Do not tell people about your eagle. Do not tell Miss Schweitzer about your eagle.’
He looked crestfallen. His shoulders slumped. He looked to make sure Timothy hadn’t fallen off.

Lenny, small and sharp, has a younger brother Davey who won’t stop growing – and at seven is as tall as a man. Raised by their single mother, who works two jobs and is made almost entirely out of worries, they have food and a roof over their heads, but not much else.

The bright spot every week is the arrival of the latest issue of Burrell’s Build-It-at-Home Encyclopaedia. Through the encyclopaedia, Lenny and Davey experience the wonders of the world – beetles, birds, quasars, quartz – and dream about a life of freedom and adventure, visiting places like Saskatchewan and Yellowknife, and the gleaming lakes of the Northwest Territories. But as her brother’s health deteriorates, Lenny comes to accept the inevitable truth; Davey will never make it to Great Bear Lake.

This was so highly praised I feared it was a Literature book that won the awards but was dull to read. Thankfully this wasn’t the case and instead it is a sweet and heartbreaking story set in the 1970s filled with sibling love and a love of information. There is a strong chance this book will break your heart but it will also fill you with love and admiration, you’ll become so consumed by these two siblings that everything in their lives becomes of vital importance to you.

Foxlee’s narrative is so beautifully written. It’s profound and magical and it captures so many feelings and emotions that are eloquent but never feel pretentious. The themes of loss and heartbreak are clear, but love and support are evident throughout as well. Lenny’s life is one where she tries so hard to be the big sister and the extra grown up her family needs but so often Foxlee shows she is also a little girl herself and with so much uncertainty around her, her own strength and determination doesn’t always have the reach required.

It was fascinating to see how Davey’s condition was dealt with and managed in the 1970s. It was also a wonderful look through Lenny’s eyes at her life with her brother and their life as a family. Lenny’s protectiveness of her younger brother, even when no one knew quite what was wrong, was so sweet. No matter what was going on with Davey he was still her little brother and she had to help and guide him through the world. You also feel the fierce pride and love Lenny’s mother had for her children, the way she advocates for them, not only with Davey’s condition, but in regards to the encyclopaedias as well. I loved how Foxlee uses the encyclopaedias as a focal point throughout and how it piques the children’s interests and passions. She beautifully captures the anticipation of the upcoming edition and highlights its importance in their lives.

Holmes does a fantastic job with the audiobook. She captures the childlike innocence of the children but also Lenny’s determination to be strong and brave for her mother and brother. I found myself completely absorbed in this story about Lenny and Davey and their discovery and fascinating with the subjects of each new edition of the encylocpaedia. This is a beautiful story and one that stays with you even after you’ve put it down.

You can purchase Lenny’s Book of Everything via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible

And the Winners Are…

It’s time to announce the winner of my 8th blogiversary giveaway!

Thank you to everyone who entered, there were so many entries it was wonderful to see. I am so glad I’m giving it to more people this year because everyone who visits is amazing!

The winners were drawn via Rafflecopter and I’m very pleased to announce that the winners are

Megan S

Cassandra Darens

Melissa Greco

The winners have been notified by email.

Congratulations!

The Quiche of Death (#1) by M.C. Beaton

Published: 7th March 2006 (print)/5th July 2012 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
St. Martin’s Paperbacks/Bolinda Audio
Pages: 246/6 hrs and 25 mins
Narrator: Penelope Keith
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Mystery
★   ★   ★ – 3 Stars

Agatha has moved to a picture-book English village and wants to get in the swing. So she buys herself a quiche for the village quiche-making contest and is more than alarmed when it kills a judge. Hot on the trail of the poisoner, Agatha is fearless, all the while unaware, that she’s become the next victim….

I quite enjoyed this book. Agatha comes to the village from her big city job and Beaton provides all the explanations and justifications about why it’s possible. The problem being Agatha has built up in her mind what this kind of life would look like not understanding her own personality doesn’t quite fit in.

Agatha’s personality clashes with the gentler folk in the village but her own determination and insecurities push back and she gets herself into village life as she tries to live the life she’s always dreamt about. Entering the competition to try and assimilate but with no baking skills whatsoever she enters a bought quiche which cause more trouble and exposes Agatha’s fraud at the same time.

In a way you feel sorry for her, but other times you can see she only has herself to blame. The fact Beaton points out that prior to arriving at Carsely Agatha never had any friends is meant to make you sympathise with her, but also demonstrating her behaviour and interactions with other people it’s understandable why.

It’s a cosy mystery with a few rough edges. Agatha herself has a few rough edges herself as she smokes, drinks, swears and descents upon this quite village with her brashness and controlling nature. Coming from a world where money talks she uses that to solve her problems and her effect on the village is immediate.

The mystery itself was quite good, there are clues and secrets and it blends in with getting to know these new characters so the two work side by side. Keith does a good job as narrator, she has unique voices for the different characters and you can tell who’s going to be a reoccurring character. The story is a quick read but it didn’t feel incomplete, you get a sense of who the characters are and who Agatha is. Being the start of the series there are plenty of future stories to expand upon all the characters we have met and to delve further into the Carsely life.

You can purchase The Quiche of Death via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible

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