Taking a Break

I’ve often though over the last few years when the pressures of life and daily going ons meant I wasn’t writing as many reviews. I’d watch my scheduled posts dwindle and realise I could take a break, no one would blame me, but then I’d write one or two, get back into the swing of things again and before I knew it I has another few weeks ready to go.

This time I have found that I can have as many half-finished reviews open, have as many recently read books ready to go and no motivation to write anything. I’ve decided to take September off, because even if I do get some posts ready I don’t want to become trapped in a cycle of posting for a couple weeks then a couple of weeks of nothing. It’s happened this month and I didn’t like it and yet I found I couldn’t do anything about it even as I knew those no post days were approaching.

Second lockdown could be to blame for this, a lot of things could be to blame for this, but instead of focusing on why I’m choosing to focus on solutions instead. My solution is to take September away from the blog, despite my intense wish to continue I know I can’t actually do it because wishing isn’t getting anything done.

I will use this time to build up my posts again, coming back strong in October and ready to share some great books with you all. I’m also coming back from a mini reading slump too so there will be a lot of books to talk about on my return.

Don’t forget there’s still more than eight years of reviews to flick through if you’re ever in need of a good recommendation.

I’ll see you all in October!

Agatha Raisin and Love, Lies, and Liquor (#17) by M. C. Beaton

Published: 1st September 2006 (print)/1 July 2012 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
St. Martin’s Paperbacks /Audible
Pages: 231/6 hrs and 14 mins
Narrator: Penelope Keith
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Cosy Mystery
★ – 1 Stars

Cotswold detective Agatha Raisin lies to herself, hoping skimpy lingerie will suit her ex’s surprise holiday. He lies to himself, remembering childhood heyday of Snoth-on-Sea as sunny, now a wreck in a cold windy storm. Aggie threatens obnoxious guest Geraldine, later found strangled in Aggie’s lost scarf. Aggie can try drink, but needs all her friends when bodies pile up.

If I thought about it, every book with James Lacey is terrible, and Agatha is a better person when he isn’t around. Less than 1/5th of the way through I was already back to hating James and hating Agatha for who she becomes when she’s around him. I had such hopes for her after the last book, she was sensible, looking for companionship but not going after every neighbour that moved in with lust. She’d stopped going on about James and put herself in her work and her friends again. Now this is all undone.

Whilst Agatha is giving James another chance she gets caught up in another murder where she is a suspect. These can be hit or miss but because Agatha is stuck with the insufferable James it ruins any chance of enjoying anything else. You can see Agatha trying to break free from James but her desire to give him another chance is a complete disappointment.

All the regular characters make an appearance to try and help Agatha, you can see they are growing and evolving so that’s a benefit since Agatha isn’t allowed to.

Prejudices are ongoing with Agatha surprised that Harry, who dresses in punk clothing and has a shaven head, is considerate, while Patrick, who wears “conventional dress” could be considered attractive. It’s just criticisms and judgemental observations after the other. And the fact Beaton has Harry suddenly say they look foolish and wish they’d never gotten the piercings is so bizarre to me. Beaton is trying to bland down the world one book at time, just as she was adding some interesting characters.

These books were published in 1990s and 2000s, in that time society changes, language changes, and references change which I understand, you can pick that up from the way she writes her earlier books to these ones, but this one was published in 2006, there’s no excuse for this kind of writing.

There are endearing moments, but then there are also times you hate the main characters because Agatha and James will drive you up the wall. What is a quirk or personality trait for some characters, the fact these two change so much is ridiculous. Actually, James stays the same, but it changes from being a problem to not clearly on how Beaton feels on a particular book.

I truly don’t know what to expect with this series anymore. The vast differences in ratings so far is bizarre. In the beginning they were gradually getting better, characters were evolving as we got to know them and while the stories weren’t perfect they were decent enough. Now they have swung so wildly it’s hard to know what the next one will bring and characters flip suddenly between stories you don’t know what’s going to happen.

You can purchase Agatha Raisin and the Deadly Dance via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Audible

Agatha Raisin and the Perfect Paragon (#16) by M. C. Beaton

Published: June 29th 2006 (print)/26 July 2012 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
St. Martin’s Paperbacks /Audible
Pages: 284/6 hrs
Narrator: Penelope Keith
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Cosy Mystery
★   ★   ★  – 3 Stars

Agatha Raisin, recent divorcée, hates adultery cases and pompous Robert Smedley, but needs work. Unfortunately Mabel appears the perfect young wife, a pretty church volunteer. Agatha stumbles across dead missing teen Jessica, and investigates free for publicity. When Smedley dies from poison, Mabel hires Agatha, who brings in old friends, new hires, and finds the killers.

Agatha’s detective agency is still going strong, however things like missing cats, dogs, and teenagers get swept aside with multiple murders this time round. Yet despite this, Beaton still finds time to pad out the story with side plots.

The murders are interesting enough, and the reveal was satisfying which is what you want from a good mystery, logical and with a point. There is certainly a lot happening to focus on and a lot of characters to enjoy away from the murders themselves too which adds some more variety.

The story has moved on from the will they/won’t they between Agatha and James that took up so much time in earlier books, and thankfully has moved even further on from Agatha still lamenting about him. Old favourites remain like Agatha groaning about her perpetual early fifties and obsesses about men and love so nothing drastic has changed. I am glad though Beaton is mixing up the characters and storylines a little more.

The new characters introduced fit well into the story, not just living in the village and moving out at the conclusion for the convenience of the plot as the formula has been for a few books. The rotation of villagers leaving through murder, scandal or random chance meant people were coming and going fairly frequently it was hardly worth caring about them.

New regulars of the series are the employees of the detective agency. I liked the mixture of ages and motivations Beaton has chosen for these people; Harry is young and a punk looking for something to fill his gap year, Patrick is a retired police officer which is handy for connections and actual skill and training, and Phil is retired and looking for something to keep him busy and conveniently takes a decent photograph. It’s a mix that works and while they don’t all have complete depth or intricacies, they are enough to be decent characters. Beaton’s certainly presented us with a lot less before.

Charles is back which is always fun, and the regular characters play their formulaic roles. Again there are a lot snide comments and big opinions stated in the story that don’t feel like they fit within the story. It’s a hard line to decide if the views expressed and thought by the characters are their own quirks or Beaton’s own opinions about “these days” and “nowadays”. The judgement, mild offence, and criticism of everyone and anything comes across as mini tirades but it’s such a strange thing because it could be Agatha lamenting, or it is Beaton’s own criticisms about the changes in the world that she is projecting. It is consistent enough however that at least it is predictable even if it feels out of place.

You can purchase Agatha Raisin and the Perfect Paragon via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible

More Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina and Ann Marie Mulhearn Sayer

Published: 27th October 2015Goodreads badge
Publisher:
HarperCollins
Illustrator: Esphyr Slobodkina
Pages: 40
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★  – 3 Stars

Celebrate the 75th anniversary of the perennial favorite Caps for Sale with this never-before-published sequel to the beloved classic! In this first posthumous book from Esphyr Slobodkina, those mischievous monkeys are at it again, bringing laughs to a new generation of readers. The sequel, More Caps for Sale, picks up right where Caps for Sale left off, as the peddler comes face-to-face with those monkeys and their funny business yet again.

This sequel comes long after the publication of the first one in 1940 and is official in the sense that according to the authors note Slobodkina told Mulhearn Sayer to continue her work after her death and apparently they worked on this book together.

This story continues on immediately after the interaction with the monkeys in the first book as the peddler contemplates what occurred and how upset he is at not having sold any caps that day.

Once again the narrative uses repetition and mimicking in the monkeys actions and the peddler’s, and once again the peddler gets angry at the monkeys, somewhat incorrectly this time as they are less of a hindrance this time and more harmlessly mischievous.

The style of writing is similar to the first. The short sentences, the repetition as mentioned, and the basic story all feel like the original style Slobodkina wrote in. The illustrations are the same with the same basic but detailed style and if you combine the two together they could almost be the same story, a longer picture book with no deviation of story whatsoever.

The narrative asks questions to the reader which is engaging, just like the first story, and no doubt the antics of the monkeys will entertain kids. The monkeys have a larger role this time and do more than simply thievery in the first which is entertaining, especially given the peddler’s reaction and the impact that involvement has.

I don’t feel like the first book is ruined by this, it remains one of my favourite children’s books, but I do think it doesn’t hold the same standing. Whether that has to do with the additional author, the different era, or it was always going to be that way I don’t know. It’s a fun addition and with so many similarities it is still just as good as the original I think I’m always wary of posthumous sequels to famous books so long after the fact I probably go in unjustly sceptical before I start.

You can purchase More Caps for Sale via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | Angus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

Long Lost Review: The Colour of Magic (#1) by Terry Pratchett

Long Lost Reviews is a monthly meme created by Ally over at Ally’s Appraisals which is posted on the second Thursday of every month. The aim is to start tackling your review backlog. Whether it’s an in-depth analysis of how it affected your life, one sentence stating that you only remember the ending, or that you have no recollection of reading the book at all. 

Published: 18th January 1985 Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Corgi
Pages: 287
Format: Paperback
Genre: Fantasy
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

Somewhere on the frontier between thought and reality exists the Discworld, a parallel time and place which might sound and smell like our own, but which looks completely different. Particularly as it’s carried through space on the back of a giant turtle (sex unknown).

If you’re new to the Discworld don’t worry, you’re not alone . . . Twoflower is the Discworld’s first tourist, he’s exceptionally naive and about to get himself into an array of dangerous and fantastical situations on his travels.

And if that didn’t sound fateful enough, it’s the spectacularly inept wizard, Rincewind who is charged with safely chaperoning Twoflower and his Luggage (a walking suitcase that has half a mind of its own and a homicidal attitude to anything threatening) during his visit.

Safe to say chaos ensues…

I’ve wanted to start reading the full Discworld series for years and finally started. They can be read in any order but I’m not one to read things out of order so I’m starting at the beginning. This is a great introduction in that you get introduced to the world but also you get thrown into this bizarre reality and have to make sense of how things work there.

Pratchett’s writing is wonderful in that it’s quirky, strange, and incredibly funny but also makes a lot of sense in the right circumstance. It has a similar tone to Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide, and even in some way The Never Ending Story. I loved this absurdist, fanciful world where things are magical but based in some reality, and logic comes into play but it isn’t the right sort of logic you’re used to.

Twoflower is an ideal character because he brings his own quirks on top of trying to navigate Discworld as the first tourist and with Rincewind acting as guide the pair of them have some fantastic encounters which are chaotic in different ways.

It’s easy to fall in love with these characters and this world Pratchett has created. The humour is brilliant in its absurdity and the whole book is a fun little adventure that makes you want to dive right into the next one.

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