Beating About the Bush (#30) by M. C. Beaton

Published: 3 October 2019 (print)/ 24 October 2019 (audio) Goodreads badge
Minotaur Books /Audible
Pages: 236/6 hrs and 22 mins
Narrator: Penelope Keith
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Cosy Mystery
★   ★   ★  – 3 Stars

When private detective Agatha Raisin comes across a severed leg in a roadside hedge, it looks like she is about to become involved in a particularly gruesome murder. Looks, however, can be deceiving, as Agatha discovers when she is employed to investigate a case of industrial espionage at a factory where nothing is quite what it seems.

The factory mystery soon turns to murder and a bad-tempered donkey turns Agatha into a national celebrity, before bringing her ridicule and shame. To add to her woes, Agatha finds herself grappling with growing feelings for her friend and occasional lover, Sir Charles Fraith. Then, as a possible solution to the factory murder unfolds, her own life is thrown into deadly peril. Will Agatha get her man at last? Or will the killer get her first?

Thirty books. Have I really suffered through thirty of these books? Though surprisingly I did not suffer that much this time around which came as a shock to no one more than myself. I went in with trepidation given past evidence and while it wasn’t perfect, there was a spark of the old writing style and structured, edited, and coherent storytelling.

The old outlandish plots are back with Agatha falling in love with a donkey whose been accused of murder. It was a strange shift from the Agatha of late, it was a refreshing change and so out of the blue it was easier to go along with it and revel in the absurdity of it all. The humour shown in earlier books is back, this time written well and used by characters in enjoyable ways so you fall comfortably into the story and accept it.

Agatha’s usual jealousy of Toni is there, a new love interest though as unsustainable as the others, and while the key characters get a mention, they are barely featured in the story. An offhanded reference here, one line there, they are hardly main players this time around as the focus is on the bigger plot of Agatha, Toni, and the donkey. Everything isn’t fixed entirely, the predictability remains, the outlandish outbursts and short temper of Agatha rains down on those who cross her, and we can’t have a new book without Agatha getting herself into dire strife. Things are better but there are no miracles.

Beaton passed away while I was reading this book and at the time I did hope someone was going to keep writing them because it looked like Beaton was finally realising that Charles and Agatha should be together. Reading the summary of one of the upcoming books I’m learning this was never going to eventuate. I’ve been burned before and watched good character development be pushed back into the box for worn out tropes and lazy writing so I have little hope on that front. The will they/won’t they is a good tantaliser but there must be a day when you can’t string it along forever. It’s actually annoying Beaton died after this book (if she was actually still writing them) because it’s the closest we’ve come to having Agatha and Charles get together and it’s a shame we didn’t get that as a reward for all the pain and suffering we’ve put up with. If nothing else the only thing I wanted as a reward from enduring thirty of these books was the two of them getting together and this is the closest Beaton has come without actually doing anything about it.

Because it’s taken me two years to write some of these reviews because of *gestures at everything* three more books have been published. Now, I don’t think I have the strength to read those three books but at the time this was the latest publication. This was my goal. This was where I wanted to get to and given the way this whole grand plan of mine worked out I think I’m going to stop. I read the thirty published books through 2020 and while it’s taken me longer to review them than planned I have met that goal and I don’t know if I feel inclined to keep going with the series. I’m calling that a win and while this was the most enjoyable book in a long, long while, I will wait and see if my own curiosity tempts me to see if the writing really does change with this new author and pick it up again. But if I’m honest with myself I really don’t think I’ll be back.

You can purchase Beating About the Bush via the following

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Blob by Anne Appert

Published: 14th September 2021Goodreads badge
Illustrator: Anne Appert
Pages: 32
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★  – 3 Stars

Blob is a creature of indeterminate kind. Blob can be a giraffe, cotton candy, and even an octopus. It’s not until a negligent (albeit well-meaning) narrator continuously calls them “Bob” that Blob starts to question who they really are.

After a series of funny yet enlightening discoveries about all the possible things they can be, Blob realizes that the best thing to be is…


(With the L.)

The story is written as a dialogue between Blob and the narrator alongside cute illustrations. The story follows our introduction to Blob as they demonstrate all the wonderful things they can turn into as well as work out who they want to be.

It’s funny be also endearing to watch Blob’s journey of self-discovery and Appert’s illustrations are creative and charming which show off a lot of Blob’s personality. I love Blob’s design and the way the illustrations are laid out on the page adds to the story.

I liked that Blob stands up to the narrator as they keep getting things wrong and presuming things about them. Appert shows that there’s still time to find out what you want to be and to have the courage to go after it. It’s a deceptively simple story but one that shows taking chances and standing up for who you are despite what other people say you are is always worth the risk.

You can purchase Blob via the following

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Pom Pom Gets the Grumps by Sophy Henn

Published: 6 October 2015Goodreads badge
Philomel Books
Illustrator: Sophy Henn
Pages: 32
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★  – 3 Stars

When Pom Pom Panda wakes up in a BAD mood one morning, nothing is right. And then things go from bad to worse.

This is a simple story of a panda who gets on the wrong side of the bed and realises if he yells at everyone he’ll have no one to play with. It is a cute story, enjoyable and a quick read. The illustrations are adorable and I loved Pom Pom’s cranky face and the various trials and tribulations he endures through his bad day.

I also loved the animal friends and their designs. Henn uses the layout well to tell the story just as effectively through images and variety of colours throughout add an extra element too.

Overall a basic story but it’s cute and enjoyable which is all you can ask from a book to be fair.

You can purchase Pom Pom Gets the Grumps via the following

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Wait! by Beck and Matt Stanton

Published: 19 March 2018 Goodreads badge
ABC Books
Pages: 32
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★  – 3 Stars

‘Wait! Just wait!’ You find yourself saying this all the time, right?

Well, we’re sorry, but you’re gonna hate this book!

This book is going to make you wait too. Once you and the kids start reading it, you can’t do anything else until it’s finished.

You’ll just have to … wait.

And the kids will love it!

I love the Stanton Drive Kids Crazy books and this is another to add to the list. While it wasn’t as funny as the others to read to yourself, I can see how reading this out loud would be a fun activity, and one that certainly plays up to the words in the book.

The creative use of the text to infer and influence speech is amazing and when you have wiggler and impatient people then this is a great torturous read. There are multiple activities to do while you ‘wait’ with each page, humming, patting your head, wriggling your toes. It’s also makes you stay by saying you aren’t allowed to leave until you finish, which also brings in great grown up involvement as well.

Beck and Matt have definitely tapped into a great formula with these books and it goes against usual reading conventions by making you very aware you’re reading a book and lets you interact with it in innovative ways.

You can purchase Wait! via the following

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I’m Sticking with You Too by Smriti Prasadam-Halls

Published: 7th September 2022Goodreads badge
Simon Schuster Children’s UK
Illustrator: Sam Small
Pages: 40
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★  – 3 Stars

Much-loved characters Bear and Squirrel are back! And they’ve found the perfect rhythm for their friendship. Until, that is, Chicken turns up… She wants in! But how will Bear and Squirrel feel about accepting a new friend? Will they come to see that some things work out when we do them together. That two can be good…but three can be BETTER?

This beautifully written, gorgeously illustrated follow-up to the bestselling I’m Sticking with You is the perfect book for examining how, even if new friends might disrupt the rhythm at first, the sense of belonging that friendship can bring has the potential to make your heart sing!

It’s a sweet story, one that is enjoyable but I felt may have been a smidge too drawn out. I can see what Prasadam-Halls was doing though, and in terms of the musical nature of the text and the story being told, there is justification to the length.

Chicken wants to join the rhythmic duo of Bear and Squirrel but they are a tight-knit duo who don’t want to ruin their good thing. Prasadam-Halls acknowledges that they aren’t being mean, but to them it wouldn’t work out and it’d throw off their groove.

The story is told in rhyme which makes it a quick read as you get caught up in the rhythm. Something that is a plus because there’s a few pages, though few words on each page. The illustration layout and the position of the text helps you get the beat right as well as enhances the story being told.

Small’s illustrations are great accompaniment and I liked the expressions and activities each character was doing. Minimal facial manipulation doesn’t stop there being great expressions and feelings of the characters.

There is very much a troubadour or minstrel group singing through the forest vibe from the story. Bear and Squirrel playing their instruments and sing along, then the three of them at the end is like a pictorial musical number. I liked how at the end it turns out they still don’t have a rhythm together, Bear and Squirrel were right, but they learn it doesn’t matter.

You can purchase I’m Sticking with You Too via the following

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Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

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