Agatha Raisin and the Terrible Tourist (#6) by M. C. Beaton

Published: 1st April 2010 (print)/ 1st July 2012 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
St. Martin’s Paperbacks/Bolinda Audio
Pages: 212/5 hrs and 45 mins
Narrator: Penelope Keith
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Cosy Mystery
★   ★  – 2 Stars

In this sixth entertaining outing Agatha leaves the sleepy Cotswold village of Carsely to pursue love – and finds a murderer. Spurned at the altar, she follows her fleeing fiancé James Lacey to Cyprus, where, instead of enjoying the honeymoon they’d planned, they witness the killing of an obnoxious tourist in a disco. Intrigue and a string of murders surround the unlikely couple, in a plot as scorching as the Cypriot sun!

It seems while we’re still in the midst of the wedding drama aftermath there’s going to be some focus on Agatha and James. Even in another country with another murder the focus still revolves around the pair of them and their glaring incompatibility. There’s no mistaking Agatha’s desperation this time as she literally stalks James when he leaves the country and goes on the holiday they’d planned for their honeymoon. James hasn’t improved either; you can’t quite believe the James/Agatha story should go on the way he treats her. It isn’t that he can’t express his emotions, it is that he’s an absolute horrible person to her and then turns around and asks why she’s crying after he’s berated her.

The actual story is way too long, it drags on for the sake of pages or words and there’s no substantial mystery to cling onto. There’s no connection to these characters so when one is murdered it isn’t a big deal and Beaton doesn’t try to make us get to know or care about them. Agatha can’t do much investigating herself so nothing happens except her exploring the islands, fighting with James, sulking, and eating or drinking. Not even the apparent threat on Agatha’s own life wasn’t engaging enough. I usually get through these books quite quickly but this one seems to have dragged on. With a terrible plot it’s harder to forgive all the other problems but with six hours of nothing happening and horrible characters there isn’t a lot redeeming it except maybe we see more character interactions and advancement on their story but that’s frustrating as well. I’ll be grateful when we return to the simple village life where Beaton’s writing thrives.

You can purchase Agatha Raisin and the Terrible Tourist via the following

Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible

Archibald the Naughtiest Elf in the World Causes Trouble with the Easter Bunny by Skye Davidson

Published: 1st March 2019Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Elephant Tree Publishing
Illustrator: Skye Davidson
Pages: 32
Format: Picture Book
★   ★  – 2 Stars

It’s Easter time and Archibald’s good friend Basil’s first year as the Official Easter Bunny. What could possibly go wrong? Be enchanted as you join Archibald, Basil, a blue-haired pixie, a flying pig and hundreds of little bunnies in an adventure somewhere over the rainbow, amongst the stars.

This a cross over book as Archibald the Naughtiest Elf moves on from Christmas and into other holidays. This time it involves Easter and Archibald only wants to help his friend Basil on his big important job of being the Easter Bunny.

The main problems I have with this book is that it’s long. There are A LOT of words per page and the story itself is long and drawn out which doesn’t suit the picture book format; it is more suited to being a chapter book with a few pictures.

With such a long story the narrative text fills an entire page which on a picture book is a lot of writing. Despite all the words, the illustrations are pretty; Davidson has used strong, bright colours and the vibrancy adds a wonderful magical feel to the page.

There’re moments of friendship and helping, as well as fun and magic. Archibald is still naughty per his nature but not in a malicious way, more like a rule breaker but for a good cause. If you have kids who can sit and listen to such a long story then it is a fun adventure filled with mischief and holiday spirit. The story is not complicated per se, it is just busy and wordy.

You can purchase Archibald the Naughtiest Elf in the World Causes Trouble with the Easter Bunny via the following

BooktopiaDymocks

 Fishpond | Amazon Aust

Agatha Raisin and the Walkers of Dembley (#4) by M. C. Beaton

Published: 4th August 2009 (print)/1st July 2012 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Minotaur Books/Bolinda Audio
Pages: 192/4 hrs and 40 mins
Narrator: Penelope Keith
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Cosy Mystery
★   ★  – 2 Stars

Agatha Raisin joins Dembley hiking club to pursue handsome Cotswold neighbour James Lacey. Angry member Jessica targets wealthy landowner Charles Fraith, who retaliates with tea invitation, but her body is found dead on his grounds. Agatha and James investigate the crime, the group ready to kill.

I didn’t enjoy this one nearly as much as the others. This was almost an uneventful story and it couldn’t hold my interest, no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t focus on the story and my mind kept wandering. I think in part it was the long dialogue between the walkers and the story in general, there was nothing engaging about it.

Even during the reveal of the culprit I found myself tuning out because I wasn’t interested. Nothing in the story had grabbed me enough to care about these characters or what they were doing. The most interesting part of the whole thing was at the very end with the set up for the events in the next book.

The story isn’t set in the village of Carsley and as a result we are introduced to a host of new characters. After the events at the end of the last book where Agatha returned to London briefly, she gets herself involved with the walkers through her desire to get fit, and as usual goes over the top and her vanity and complaints take up a lot of sentences.

With a lot of the focus on the walkers most of the story revolves around them, as well as those in the surrounds of the new village like Sir Charles Fraith. I liked how Charles tells Agatha outright that she shouldn’t pursue James because I never connected with this love match Beaton is trying for. They get together to start sleuthing about who the murderer could be, but since James has shown barely any interest in Agatha, often seems to dislike her at times, it’s weird trying to force them together.

You can purchase Agatha Raisin and the Walkers of Dembley via the following

Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Audible

The Voting Booth by Brandy Colbert

Published: 7th July 2020 (print)/7 July 2020 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Disney-Hyperion/Dreamscape Media
Pages: 292/6 hrs and 5 mins
Narrator: Robin Eller and Cary Hite
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Young Adult
★   ★  – 2 Stars

Marva Sheridan was born ready for this day. She’s always been driven to make a difference in the world, and what better way than to vote in her first election?

Duke Crenshaw is so done with this election. He just wants to get voting over with so he can prepare for his band’s first paying gig tonight. Only problem? Duke can’t vote.

When Marva sees Duke turned away from their polling place, she takes it upon herself to make sure his vote is counted. She hasn’t spent months doorbelling and registering voters just to see someone denied their right. And that’s how their whirlwind day begins, rushing from precinct to precinct, cutting school, waiting in endless lines, turned away time and again, trying to do one simple thing: vote. They may have started out as strangers, but as Duke and Marva team up to beat a rigged system (and find Marva’s missing cat), it’s clear that there’s more to their connection than a shared mission for democracy.

I found this and thought I would give it ago since even in Australia we’re inundated with news about US politics and the election. After having sat through Red, White and Royal Blue and enduring political explanations I didn’t care about in book form, I was unsure I wanted to read a book seemingly even more dedicated to it. Turns out I was right but not for what I was expecting.

I thought it would be an ok read about two teens meeting on election day and fighting to get a vote counted, no doubt falling in love on the way in this 24 hour type story. What I didn’t expect was every other issue under the sun to come up and so many subplots that by the end I essentially forgot it all began with a voting issue.

The first half is all about voting as Marva and Duke, both from politically focused families, talk about their voting day plans as first time voters. Marva is an activist and passionate about voting rights and making the system easier for people, while Duke lives in the shadow of his brother who was more politically active than he is but still wants to do the right thing.

What I didn’t need was to sit through 27 plus chapters reminding me about how ridiculous the US election process is and I don’t know whether it is because it isn’t my experience or that it is so in your face about how broken their system is, and I get that a few people need to hear this, but it was less of a story and more of a PSA about the troubles in voting and the hassles people have to go through. Side stories about siblings and cats aren’t enough of a distraction from the fact I was over the story and the different blockades in place for Marva and Duke to deal with. I never felt there was an actual story here.

After all of that the voting actually felt like the least important thing in the end once all the unimportant subplots and other issues were discussed. After all the complications it gets brushed over and you forget that that was the start of the book. If it was mean to be a jumping off point for their meeting maybe there shouldn’t have been half a book dedicated to Marva explaining how important it is if it gets pushed aside so quickly.

To Colbert’s credit, her use of chapter headings and flashbacks are a good way to introduce character histories and family relationships. But so many important issues try to be covered in the story that are important during their scenes but then are forgotten just as quickly. Social justice, racial prejudice, class difference, grief are all subjects woven through this story and it is done naturally and sometimes quite well but they are also brushed over very quickly.

There is not much in the way of romance either. Duke and Marva do gradually start to like one another as they traipse all over town which feels like a nice, normal start to a friendship, but the leap to romance felt unnecessary and through the whole thing there were barely any indicators that that’s where the story was headed. Even for a 24 hour type story this was a rushed convenience and it felt out of place.

The blurb makes it sound like the issue in voting is going to be a larger part of the story, and it was in a way but it also meant giving the characters time in a car or waiting in line to talk about everything else. There are too many unnecessary subplots which felt like time fillers when more time could have been spent on establishing the characters themselves and their growing relationship together. The saving grace is that it was short and easily forgettable.

You can purchase The Voting Booth via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | Angus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible

Love, Frankie by Jacqueline Wilson

Published: 17th September 2020Goodreads badge
Publisher:
RHCP Digital
Pages: 432
Format: Paperback
Genre: Young Adult
★   ★  – 2 Stars

GROWING UP. FALLING IN LOVE. COMING OUT.

Frankie is nearly fourteen and teenage life certainly comes with its ups and downs. Her mum is seriously ill with MS and Frankie can feel herself growing up quickly, no thanks to Sally and her gang of bullies at school.

When Sally turns out to be not-so-mean after all, they strike up a friendship and are suddenly spending all of their time together.

But Frankie starts to wonder whether these feelings she has for Sally are stronger than her other friendships. Might she really be in love?

Frankie doesn’t want Sally to just be her friend. She wants her to be her girlfriend. But does Sally feel the same?

I picked this up because I was looking for some LGBTQIA books that were directed at younger audiences and while this does have a storyline of a hopeful romance, it honestly falls short. There are a lot of things to praise Wilson for, she shows a strong character who deals with her sick mother and stands up to bullies which is good, but this wasn’t the coming out story I was expecting.

That’s not to say it isn’t there at all. There are a few major themes playing out through this narrative from illness, bullying, as well as a young girl trying to work out if she loves her new friend. Wilson combines all of these together well so we see and understand the pressure Frankie is under concerning her mother and the girls at school, but also her own internal struggles she has to come to terms with.

I found myself becoming worried for Frankie and what Sally’s intentions were for her, I didn’t want to read about any homophobic slurs, especially since Frankie is so unsure herself and since the blurb wasn’t matching up with the story I was reading. However Wilson brings it together in a slow but sure way and you see the start of a story between these girls where there is something more than friendship on the cards.

This story is young adult but it is very much aimed at the low end with younger readers. There is drinking and talk of drugs but none are actually done and there is never a feeling of long term between Frankie and Sally, more is placed on the long lasting friendship than the romance. But it is still an important story about young girls of thirteen and fourteen discovering who they are.

While it feels unresolved and open, the ending is positive in its own way. Not to have Sally outed if she isn’t ready is an unspoken hurdle but there is a light in the future for both girls. The story ends in hope for Frankie and for her mother as well which is a good decision from Wilson given the young age of her main character. For young teens trying to work out their own sexuality it is a stepping stone to show how small steps can feel like big steps and at this age there doesn’t need to be definitive answers or pressure. It just wasn’t the full experience I was looking for and it fell flat in terms of voice. I may have forgiven it if it fell into the junior category, but bumping this into the YA group I wanted a strong voice and writing style that felt less childlike.

You can purchase Love, Frankie via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

Previous Older Entries