Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Book Review: Police at the Funeral ★★★★

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Published in 1931 Allingham wrote her mysteries in the height of the golden age of crime fiction, a time when mysteries were supposed to adhere to certain rules. The authors at the time did like to surprise their readers though by finding ways to solve the crime that would be entirely unexpected. Cue Allingham's Police at the Funeral.

Albert Campion, an upperclass professional socialite (but with enough brains to class himself as an adventurer and detective) is called upon to help solve the mystery of his friend Joyce's uncle Andrew's death, found drowned in the river, there are suspicious circumstances, and along with his chum Inspector Oates, Campion solves the mystery with flair.

I bought this book years ago, and should have read it in 2009 when I was writing about Margery Allingham as part of my undergraduate dissertation, but for some reason I never got around to it, and I really don't know why because I absolutely love Campion as a character and all the stories he features in. He manages to appear the fool at all times until he pulls an absolutely genius solution out of the bag. He is constantly fooling people into believing that he hasn't the capacity to be of any threat, when in actual fact he is a very good judge of character. I love that allingham has created such a versatile character.

If you prefer your aristocrats to fulfil the stereotypes but still capable of doing some crime bashing, Campion is rumoured to be a parody of Dorothy L Sayers' Lord Peter Wimsey, who is rather more as you would expect for a gentleman detective, no hopping out of fireplaces for him.

Police at the Funeral surprises me every time with how clever it is, even when I know how it will end and who has committed the crimes I smile to myself as I read it or watch an adaptation, and marvel at the skill there is to be found in golden age crime fiction. The construction is marvellous, you are presented each clue in turn, but the most probable solutions seems far fetched, but is it?

I love when a classic mystery can boggle the mind, and boggled my mind was.
★★★★

Thursday, 25 July 2013

The Book Jar

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Now, in case you don't know me very well, you may not be aware of the extent of my TBR pile. I can't really call it a pile any more because it takes up a whole bookcase (though I now have new shelves, so it takes up 8 cubes, which sounds nicer) and is somewhat out of control.
I may tell you the number...177, though that does include eBooks, they aren't all sat on the shelves.

Anyway, this is definitely out of hand, and as much as I try to read them, I do get overwhelmed and sometimes haven't a clue what to read next.

Last week I decided enough was enough, I had just finished Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl and I had had my YA fix and couldn't for the life of me decide what to read next. In panic mode I started watching YouTube book recommendations, picking random books off my shelves and then putting them back, I simply couldn't decide. I had seen a couple of videos on YouTube about making a Book Jar, so I decided this was the solution.

I opened a document on the computer and got to typing, thank god I already keep a record or I could have spent ages looking at each book in turn. I grabbed some pretty coloured paper a la Rincey Reads, printed and trimmed each slip, folded them up and popped them into a pretty jar from Laura Ashley.

I actually ended up reading a library book next, but I have my jar all ready and waiting for the next time I really haven't a clue what to read, I will simply pull out a slip and then grab the book.

Problem solved...I hope!

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

The Best of Omens ★★★★★

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This was my 26th book of 2012, and my World Book Night book.

I love Neil Gaiman's work, I have written about him before (American Gods, The Graveyard Book) but I had never read any Terry Pratchett. I had had him recommended to me time and time again, but had simply never got around to reading his work. The writing in this novel is fascinating as both authors collaborate and manage to create a story that is both hilariouisly funny and a gripping adventure at the same time. They manage to do so while making sure they read as one voice, and it has inspired me to pick up more of Pratchett's work.

The story follows a slightly suspect bunch of characters, a demon, an angel, a witchfinder, a witch, the four bikers of the apocolypse and the eleven year old anti-christ as they all either help to or fight to stop armageddon from occuring some time after tea next saturday. As you can imagine it is fraught with adventure and hilarious circumstances. I especially loved the use of the stereo as a means for communication between the firey depths of hell and the surface.

The story took me quite a long time to read, though this does not by any means suggest I didnt like it, in fact i loved it and would happily read it again now. It is quirky and funny and also very complex, there is a lot of information packed into each paragraph, with pop culture references and historical and religious references too. The story reminds me of the film Dogma, but better. I love that there are multiple story lines with multiple groups of characters that all come together at the end, it really does help to create the feeling of impending armageddon.

The novel was a great choice for World Book Night as it is something a bit different being of the fantasy genre. It is something i believe many would never pick up by themselves, but if they enjoyed it could open a whole new genre up for them to try.

★★★★★

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Mid Year Update

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So it is over half way through the year now, and I am thinking maybe we should have a little update on my reading challenge progress.

So far I have read 39 books, the list of these books can be found in the "Project 2013" page which is liked to the right, or of course on my Goodreads page, linked to the left.

I am 14 books behind, and to some this would be a disaster, but I have already pulled this back once this year from being 10 books behind (and then let it slip for various reasons) so I am not too worried, but I am also not so determined to finish this challenge either.

This year has been pretty awful so far, I have never believed in unlucky numbers, but maybe the whole 13 is a bad number thing has got something behind it, there have been a lot of things going wrong so far so in light of those I am not going to beat myself up if I don't hit my target.

Now don't get me wrong, I am still trying to get as close as possible, I just wont be too upset if I don't hit it.

In terms of other updates, I have spent the past few days writing and scheduling a whole bunch of book reviews from last years challenge. They aren't going to be posted in the order that I have read the books I am afraid because I may have forgotten to take some pictures (I am in the process of retaking them now) but I aim to have a good chunk of the reviews I want to write posted over the next few months. If you do want to see what order I read them in, they are listed correctly on the Project 2012 page to the right.

I am working on a backlog of about 45 books from last year, and then I want to catch up to the ones from this year, so depending on how many I can sit and write at once (I managed 8 last weekend) I am aiming to have at least one a week, maybe two, to allow for me to get on with other things in life too.

So how is your reading challenge going? Have you hit a slump or are you powering through?




Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Librarians make the best detectives ★★★★

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The Aurora Teagarden mysteries compose of eight seperate stories all of which occur in the town of Lawrenceton, Georgia, and are solved by the local librarian Aurora Teagarden. 
Harris wrote these before her sojourn into fantasy crime fiction with the Sookie Stackhouse books, and she really excels at writing standard crime fiction, the writing doesn't feel awkward like it sometimes can in her other work, an although not entirely realistic all the time, it doesn't feel too contrived either. Auroras character has a good balance between firm strengths and realistic weaknesses and as the stories progress she grows as a character demonstrating plenty of gumption, I suspect she also grows as Harris grew into being an author.

So how does a librarian get mixed up in solving crimes? By being a font of knowledge of course. In Real Murders, the first of eight novels, Aurora is a member of a true crime fan club where they discuss real life criminals like detectives would, examining evidence. At one of the meetings a murder occurs and Aurora finds the body, being a potential suspect and being a professional know it all (im allowed to say that when I am one) she begins to investigate to help clear herself of suspicion. 

This was the first book I finished on my Kobo, it got me really excited to read on it, I bought the whole collection in two omnibuses and read about one per day. They are incredibly quick reads but also addictive, I was sad when the last one was finished because I simply wanted more!

The only real disappointments I felt we're Harris's need to create drama in Roe's love life mid way through the series (she is known for not allowing her characters to be happy for too long), and that the importance of the crime to the plot varies between stories. As mysteries go these we're light and fluffy while still having some integrity and I often didn't guess the criminal, either through cleverness or being content to float along with the story.

If you are looking to read a new series I recommend you give this one a try.

I give the series as a whole ★★★★

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Currently Reading

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So lets catch up. I've had a very busy year, I wont go into why, but I have done a lot of reading. I have so far this year read 39 books, almost twice the amount I had this time last year. I have been making my own notes about them but I obviously haven't been posting, and I wont promise to for various reasons, but I hope to post a bit more over the next 6 months now things have settled down a bit.

Lets start with what I am currently reading.

As I am sure you are aware Philippa Gregory's The White Queen has been made into a BBC television series, 10 parts I believe. I loved The White Queen and have a review for it here, I also have read The Red Queen, though did not enjoy it as much. The television show is actually bringing together the first four books in the Cousins War series, and as I have only read two, I thought I had better hurry up and catch up to the show.

I am about 3 chapters in to The Lady of the Rivers, which is so far ok, I don't love it as much as The White Queen, nor dislike it as much as The Red Queen.
I shall pass verdict once I have finished.

I have also been really interested in non fiction reads lately, I am not sure what it is about them, as it is only recently (by recent I mean maybe the past year) that I have been drawn to them. I have always been someone who enjoys learning and as I am now out of education I suppose I am fulfilling that desire for knowledge.
Also I will admit I simply like to knows lots of random information so that I can pull it out of my head when everyone else least expects it.

So far Food Myths is interesting, each myth is spoken about for a couple of pages, with some quick key facts at the end. It feels very quick to read because each chapter is essentially one myth.
I am enjoying the writing style, it's to the point and slightly humorous, and I love to know stuff about food.
It is win win!

How about you, what have you been reading lately? Any recommendations for me?