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

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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

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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

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I Think I am in Friend-Love With You by Yumi Sakugawa

Published: 6th December 2013Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Adams Media
Pages: 128
Format: Graphic Novel
Genre: Fiction
★   ★   ★   ★ – 4 Stars

I have a confession to make.
I think I am in friend-love with you.

What’s friend-love? It’s that super-awesome bond you share with someone who makes you happy every time you text each other, or meet up for an epic outing. It’s not love-love. You don’t want to swap saliva; you want to swap favourite books. But it’s just as intense and just as amazing.

And it’s this search for that connection that comic-book artist Yumi Sakugawa captures in I Think I Am in Friend-Love with You. It’s perfect if you’ve ever fallen in friend-love and want to show that person how much you love them…in a platonic way, of course.

I really loved this book. It has a super sweet message about how important friendships are and how they can hold as much weight and importance as romantic relationships. The illustrations are both cute and a teeny bit horrifying but I liked the layout and how Sakugawa keeps it simple but profound. Emotions are portrayed sometimes without words and the figures in this book have no real shape or gender so it’s perfect for all friendships.

The narration is first person addressing another and with basic illustrations alongside the words their affections are described. From simple things like sharing a love of books, enjoying movies together, hanging out and sharing small thoughts about their day are all ways they love their friend. It also covers other things like wanting to be near them and have long conversations over tea and stay up late chatting online. What makes me love this is it shows how the smallest things can mean so much. Spending time together, sharing passions and small gestures are all miniature acts of love that make friendships so special.

This was the perfect book until it got to the end. I was disappointed only because I felt it altered the intention of the book and the story that was being expressed and it changed the dynamics slightly. It didn’t ruin the story, it was still conveying the same overall message, but that changed made it slightly less perfect for me.

What made it fabulous was I could see so much of my own friendships in this story and seeing it as a universal experience, as well as one treated with affection, sincerity and a small amount of humour was really wonderful. It’s heart-warming and sweet and I love that this kind of book exists; it put everything I have ever wanted to say to my friends into words and it was so refreshing to see such an honest, loving and genuine book about love and friendship.

You can purchase I Think I am in Friend-Love With You via the following

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Long Lost Review: Strange the Dreamer (#1) by Laini Taylor

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: 28th March 2017 Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Hodder & Stoughton
Pages: 532
Format: Paperback
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
★   ★  ★  ★ – 4 Stars

The dream chooses the dreamer, not the other way around – and Lazlo Strange, war orphan and junior librarian, has always feared that his dream chose poorly. Since he was five years old he’s been obsessed with the mythic lost city of Weep, but it would take someone bolder than he to cross half the world in search of it. Then a stunning opportunity presents itself, in the person of a hero called the Godslayer and a band of legendary warriors, and he has to seize his chance to lose his dream forever.

What happened in Weep two hundred years ago to cut it off from the rest of the world? What exactly did the Godslayer slay that went by the name of god? And what is the mysterious problem he now seeks help in solving?

The answers await in Weep, but so do more mysteries – including the blue-skinned goddess who appears in Lazlo’s dreams. How did he dream her before he knew she existed? And if all the gods are dead, why does she seem so real?

I picked this up back in 2017 because someone I followed on Twitter was completely obsessed with book and her excitement got me to read it and I will admit it was quite good. It was interesting and I loved this new world I was exploring and how the rules worked. The story is beautifully written, it is eloquent and poetic at times, Taylor creating wonderful and vivid descriptions that bring the story to life in your mind.

Lazlo is a genuinely good person. His simple upbringing means he cherishes what he has got and when more is offered to him he still reveres it as a humble and restrained pleasure. I loved learning about things through his eyes and Taylor does a great job weaving his obsession with the story around him that helps drive the story as well as inform the reader.

It is a generous 500+ page book, but by the time you’ve gotten to that last page, every part of it is as important as the last. There is a sequel which I have yet to read. It’s curious because I was amazed by this world and this story so much, and yet I’ve yet to find the impulse to read the second book and see where it was all heading. Maybe soon when I have a spare moment I can revisit this world with another journey through the beautiful narrative Taylor has created.

You can purchase Strange the Dreamer via the following

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