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review 2018-12-08 01:58
Us Against You
Us Against You - Fredrik Backman

If you told me I would be crying while driving and listening to a book about hockey, I might not have believed you... but this is the second book from Backman about Beartown, and, honestly, though I am not a fan of series, I could listen to even more. I love these characters, the old and the new, because Backman has an extraordinary talent for making you care about every single one of them.

ps—I don't want to be a spoiler, but I had questions about Benji, and I am hoping now that there's a #3, and that those people who read the first one carefully are wrong...

 

pps—This is not as long a read as it looks by my dates, I was listening to another library book when I got this audio book, and so my time ran out before I finished. Had to get back on the very long hold line.

 

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text 2018-12-06 20:44
Reading progress update: I've read 16%.
Somewhere inside of happy - Anna McPartlin

I'm reading this for the Russian Mother's Day Door on 24 Festive Tasks.

 

I picked it up despite the fact that I knew it covered some very raw and painful emotions because Anna McPartlin was recommended to me as one of Ireland's rising stars.

 

What I've read so far justifies that assessment. The prose is personal, powerful, accessible and has a distinct voice. 

 

The story is filled with tragedy but it's also filled with honest human emotions love, anger, guilt and a little more love that make it compelling and real.

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review 2018-12-05 17:21
"Crimson Lake" by Candice Fox
Crimson Lake - Candice Fox

Set in Cairns, the grim but gripping "Crimson Lake" tells the story of an investigation by two unusual private detectives, one a convicted murderer and the other an ex-policeman charged but not tried for the abduction and rape of a thirteen-year-old girl, into the disappearance and possible murder of an author of fantasy novels that have a cult following.

 

There aren't that many books set in "The Top End" of Australia and even fewer with such apparently unsympathetic main characters but Candice Fox manages to make the location and the people work to produce a compelling read.

 

Ted Conkaffey, the accused cop is interesting because he looks (very) guilty. He's been worn down by the process of being imprisoned and released without trial. He's lost everything from his former life, wife, daughter, reputation, friends. He has nothing left, not even a reason to see tomorrow. Yet you still can't be sure whether or not he did the things he's accused of.

 

Ted would be an easy person to dislike but he wins our sympathy, slowly, through his kindness to animals (a wounded goose and her goslings) his openmindedness about his convicted-murderer business partner, Amanda Pharrell and the courage with which he stands up to the two local cops who are determined to make his life a misery.

 

Tatto-wearing, bicycle-riding. afraid-of-no-one Amanda Pharrell is a wonderful creation. She manages to be full of life, sometimes, even joy, and yet is different in a way that reads as damaged.  Except for some paragraphs in the epilogue, we don't get inside her head yet her presence, her directness, her courage, even her compulsive rhyming dominates the book.

 

Together, Ted and Amanda make more sense than either of them do alone and that gives their story power.

 

The tropical environment becomes almost a character in the book: the constant humidity, the lurking crocs, the snakes, miles of emptiness, the forests and the beaches give a wild, other-things-are-possible-here feel to the book.

 

The intensity of Crimson Lake's main characters and its setting is amplified by having three plots tightly plaited together: Ted's case, Amanda's case, the disappeared author's case and spicing them with two unpleasant cops, an untrustworthy reporter, local vigilantes, freaky fans and an author with a secret life. 

 

All this made "Crimson Lake" a high impact thriller that was very satisfying to read. 

Sequel "Redemption Point" or "Redemption"  in the audiobook version is already out and a third book is planned.

 

I read "Crimson Lake" as my "Melbourne Cup Day" Book.

 

I listened to the audiobook version of "Crimson Lake", performed with muscular skill by Euan Morton. Click on the SoundCloud link below to hear a sample of his work.

 

[soundcloud url="https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/391017813" params="color=#ff5500&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&show_teaser=true&visual=true" width="100%" height="300" iframe="true" /]

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review 2018-12-03 22:00
"Third Girl -Hercule Poirot #38" by Agatha Christie - starts well but disappoints
Third Girl - Agatha Christie

"Third Girl" was a strange and dispiriting journey for me.

 

At the start of the book, I was pleasantly surprised at the contemporary (1960's) feel of the novel. There was much more humour in it than I'd expected but there was also more violence and a deeper sense of threat than in other Poirot novels I've read.

 

I loved the opening where Norma, (a young woman who is constantly referred to as a girl) interrupts Poirot's breakfast, insisting that she needs to talk to him about a murder and then leaves without giving him any details, telling him that, having met him face to face, she can see he's too old to be able to help her.  This was a splendid inversion of the Philip Marlowe type of opening scene where the femme fatale uses her allure to get the hard-bitten gumshoe's help. It was also perfectly calculated to ensure Poirot's enthusiastic engagement.

 

I also greatly enjoyed seeing the inimitable and indomitable Adriadne Oliver playing detective. She was a complete hoot, a wonderful example of misplaced confidence arising from a broad imagination married to narrow experience.

 

All the best scenes in the book had Adriadne in them. Her presence brought the dialogue alive. She's so much easier to like than Poirot  and her pen sketches of the young people in the allegedly swinging London of 1966 were refreshing: the young man with the pretty hair and the gaudy clothes that she calls "The Peacock", the artist working in oils that she refers to simply as "The Dirty One" and the young model who she describes as throwing herself into Burne-Jones poses with admirable flexibility. There's no malice here, just a naive observation by someone who has no qualms about not being in tune with the times.

 

I had no idea what was going on or how the plot strands would come together but I was enjoying the journey.

 

By the time I was midway through the book, my disappointment had begun. I continued to enjoy Poirot's dry wit, Ariadne's blustering slapstick and the carefully nuanced descriptions of people's characters but those things began to be outweighed by the large chunks of clumsy plot exposition that even Hugh Fraser's narration couldn't make interesting. I was also starting to be irritated by the deeply conservative attitudes towards gender and mental health. I felt as though I was dipping blindly into a box of Bertie Bott's Every Flavour Beans: I might get something that made me smile or something that made me want to wash the taste away.

 

The last third of the book was a chore. There were repeated attempts at sharing Poirot's thought processes, which was irritating as they were mostly plot recaps, lacked any analysis and reached no conclusions. The psychiatrist who is instrumental in resolving the plot managed, despite having all the credibility of a cardboard cutout, to be deeply offensive both as a person and as a mental health practitioner.

 

The plot, when it finally emerged from the detritus-ridden undergrowth we had all wriggled through, was moderately clever but was spoiled for me by one of the early Mission Impossible TV Series moments when a mask is pulled off a main character and he or she is instantly revealed to be someone else. This was limp at best. 

 

What disappointed me even more than the cheat in the big reveal was the way in which Norma was treated. The outcome stretched my willingness to suspend disbelief and angered me because it so demeaned the woman who, as the novel progressed moved from main character to semi-plausible plot-device, to the punchline of a French farce.

 

If this has been my first Agatha Christie, it might well have been my last. As it is, I'm going to read "The Murder Of Roger Ackroyd" in the hope of demonstrating to myself that Poirot stories once had substance.

 

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text 2018-12-02 10:07
Reading progress update: I've read 31%.- slapping hand to forehead - NOW I notice it's a romance novel?
On Turpentine Lane - Elinor Lipman

I was almost a third of the way through this slightly droll but deeply puzzling book, struggling to work out where it was going, when the lights went on - flashing LED lights - spelling out IT'S A ROMANCE, DUMMY.

 

That explains why the heroine is intelligent, well-educated, slightly bland and completely hapless - so she can come into her own by getting together with the right guy.

 

Now it's all clear. 

 

The contract with the reader is that the woman should be nice, maybe too nice for her own good when it comes to dealing with her self-absorbed, hippy-boy-man-at-41 boyfriend, so that the reader can root for her and hope she'll smell the coffee and find someone worthy of her.

 

I got distracted by the bullying sexism or her employer, the apparently dark history of the house she's recently bought and my underlying lack of empathy for a woman so used to be being loved and protected by her family that she lacks basic survival skills.

 

I feel like someone reading the start of a werewolf novel and wondering why the characters, who seem prone to physical aggression when resolving status-related conflicts, are stressing about how close the next full moon is.

 

OK, now I can settle back and let the romance roll with the appropriate level of readerly collusion. with what the author is doing.

 

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