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.

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The Bad Seed (#1) by Jory John

Published: 29th August 2017Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Harper Collins
Illustrator: Pete Oswald
Pages: 34
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★  – 3 Stars

This is a book about a bad seed. A baaaaaaaaaad seed. How bad? Do you really want to know?

He has a bad temper, bad manners, and a bad attitude. He’s been bad since he can remember! This seed cuts in line every time, stares at everybody and never listens. But what happens when one mischievous little seed changes his mind about himself, and decides that he wants to be—happy?

With Jory John’s charming and endearing text and bold expressive illustrations by Pete Oswald, here is The Bad Seed: a funny yet touching tale that reminds us of the remarkably transformative power of will, acceptance, and just being you. Perfect for readers young and old, The Bad Seed proves that positive change is possible for each and every one of us.

What I liked about the Bad Seed is we’re shown his little life story and we understand how he came to be bad. His misfortune and harsh life meant he has been altered from the happy seed he once was. I think this was incredibly clever of John because it shows no one is born bad, and even though they can do bad things, deep down there may be a reason.

John shows us that being bad doesn’t have to be forever, and that it’s ok to change your mind. I liked there wasn’t a specific event or outside influence that impacted on Bad Seed and his decision, it’s clever to make it his own choice to improve himself.

The story is funny and clever, I liked the different moments we got to see with the Bad Seed and how he lives his life. The sentences are short and there are not a lot of words on the page but each line is reflected in an illustration. Oswald has done a great job with the depiction of the character and reflecting the story around him. I loved the changes of colours and the look at the tiny world Bad Seed lives in. Also, the interactions he has with other characters show off a diverse and curious world of other food.

I am fascinated by the sentient foods in this story because there is a clear and present danger of being eaten and yet the personified foods go about their lives normally. This works fine if you have a society of sentient food, but John has shown there are humans in their world who will eat them which raises a few questions.

You can purchase The Bad Seed via the following

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Queen Celine by Matt Shanks

Published: 1st February 2019Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Walker Books Australia
Illustrator: Matt Shanks
Pages: 40
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★  – 3 Stars

Celine Beaufort is queen of what she is quite certain is the most beautiful rock pool in the world. It’s perfect. And to make sure nothing ever changes, she decides to build a wall around it. Unfortunately, that turns out to be a royal mistake. As self-proclaimed ruler, it’s up to Celine to right her wrong and restore her rock pool to its former glory, this time with everyone welcome. 

This is a cute book and it has a nice message but it doesn’t really grab you. I didn’t entirely dislike it though, I liked the contrast between every day Celine and at the beach Celine, it highlights how this is her time to shine and become the queen she wants to be. It’s also a good story that shows Celine never intentionally means to cause any of problems that arise. It’s innocent enough and sweet enough that Celine never is shown as malicious or controlling, just a little too enthusiastic and naïve.

But while the story is a tad lacklustre, the illustrations on the other hand are the absolute best. I think I had more fun studying the cute and clever illustrations than I did reading the book. The pictures are adorable and each page is filled with a lot to look at and study. I loved the art style and I loved the tiny details that made up this beach community. Small details like little sea creatures with fun expressions are so gosh darn adorable that I can forgive the underwhelming story that goes with it.

While the story had a nice message about sharing and nature, and Shanks does do a good job in showing us all of that without actually saying it, it doesn’t quite hit the spot.

You can purchase Queen Celine via the following

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Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw

Published:  20th October 1994 (print)/1st August 2009 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Dover Publications/Naxos Audio
Pages: 82/2 hrs and 36 minutes
Narrator: Anton Lesser, Lucy Whybrow, Geoffrey Palmer and cast
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Play
★   ★   ★ – 3 Stars

Professor Henry Higgins, a linguistic expert, takes on a bet that he can transform an awkward cockney flower seller into a refined young lady simply by polishing her manners and changing the way she speaks. In the process of convincing society that his creation is a mysterious royal figure, the Professor also falls in love with his elegant handiwork.

I adore the movie My Fair Lady which is the film version of this play and I loved that now having finally read the play on which it is based that it is virtually the exact same story. The main differences are the play brushes over a few scenes which are expanded in more detail in the film that might have only been a passing reference. This doesn’t take anything away from the play it was a curious observance, but from a production point of view it makes sense to limit your set locations.

Another comforting and familiar piece is Henry is just as much of a pig, even though Shaw has Henry admit he’s like that, and have other characters point out his issues, I can’t understand why he is so horrible. His selfishness and arrogance still make me want to punch him in the face.

Other than that, I do love this story a lot. It is also a great play to experience as an audio because I got the different voice actors in my ear and while I had their voices I could picture Rex Harrison in my mind. I loved how the different accents and components of the story came to life it was like I was listening to the movie.

One of the parts that always resounded with me was when Eliza asks Henry what she is meant to do with herself now he’s finished with her. She has been made into a lady without a skillset to actually work in society as a “proper lady” and she is deemed too posh to return to where she’s come from. I felt it trapped Eliza into becoming reliant on Henry. Not to say they couldn’t remain friends, but he’s rebuilt her into someone she doesn’t know how to be and expects her to manage.

Which brings me to something I will never understand, where the romance element comes from in this play. I can maybe see Henry falling for Eliza and becoming reliant on her because he laments missing her, in his own way, and after all that time together you would grow accustomed to one another, but this I would not class as romance, even in 1927. Henry is too much of a pig and abusive for Eliza to want to be with him, she says so enough times. Good company and companionship might be the best they can give one another, with Colonial Pickering popping over occasionally as a third friend.

You can purchase Pygmalion via the following

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How to Hide a Lion at Christmas by Helen Stephens

Published: 4th October 2018Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Alison Green Books
Illustrator: Helen Stephens
Pages: 40
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★  – 3 Stars

A charming holiday picture book about a girl, her pet lion, and a Christmas adventure.

Iris and her lion go everywhere together. But when Christmas comes and the family is going away, Mum says the lion must stay behind. After all, you can’t take a lion on a train. Luckily the lion has other ideas. He sets off on a festive, snowy adventure to find Iris—and almost bumps into Santa Claus!

This is the Christmas edition of How to Hide a Lion and in this story we see Iris face the challenge of hiding her lion once more because lions can’t go on trains and therefore cannot come with them to visit Auntie Sarah.

It’s a very sweet book. It’s fun to see Iris attempt to hide her lion but can’t quite make it work. Iris’ lion doesn’t want to make her sad by being left behind so he sets off to join them on their Christmas. Having not read the original book or others in the series first I was slightly underwhelmed, but I’ve since read the first book which is more substantial and this makes this a nice addition to the series of Iris’s numerous adventures of having to hide her lion.

You don’t need to have read the original per se, it’s easily accepted that Iris has a lion and no understanding of how this came about is required, but I did feel like it was missing something. Having now read the original story I can see the themes Stephens uses here which connect it to the original. But even beyond that, there is a sweet story about a lion not wanting his friend to be lonely and setting off to make sure she has a nice Christmas, albeit with a few mishaps on the way. It doesn’t need to be any more complicated than that.

I enjoyed this because there is a lion in it, which is an easy way to gain my approval over anything, but beyond that it’s also a nice, fun story. Stephens’ illustrations are bright and colourful, the mixture of full page and small illustrations suit the story and helps convey the narrative being told. Her style is simple but still full of detail, and the scenes through the book tell their own story.

I think I will have to track down more of Iris’ adventures because seeing the humorous and creative ways she tries to hide her lion, I’d love to see more of her attempts and see what mischief they get up to in the meantime.

You can purchase How to Hide a Lion at Christmas via the following

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