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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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review 2018-11-24 18:25
The Girl from the Other Side (manga, vol. 4) by Nagabe, translated by Adrienne Beck
The Girl from the Other Side, Vol. 4 - Adrienne Beck,Nagabe

Shiva's aunt tells Teacher the story of how she found baby Shiva Outside, next to her dead parent. She also tells Teacher that the true horror of the curse isn't just how it changes people, but that it

makes those it affects immortal (which is why soldiers kill everyone while that's still possible). After that, she grows more and more protective of Shiva, even going so far as to urge Shiva to run away with her. Meanwhile, Teacher feels lonely, and like an interloper. Shiva and her aunt come back, however. Auntie begins to lose her memories and ends up leaving. The volume ends with the Outsider from earlier in the series bringing back her head. Does this mean she has somehow died, despite telling Teacher that Outsiders are immortal? I guess I'll find out later.

(spoiler show)

This volume is heart-wrenching on multiple levels. First there was Teacher, who was clearly distressed at the possibility of being left alone but who, at the same time, wanted what was best for Shiva. Then there was Auntie and

her deterioration. I wonder why it started so suddenly and progressed so quickly? Do all Outsiders find themselves forgetting the people and things they loved and moving on? It doesn't seem to affect relationships formed after they become Outsiders, or Teacher would have forgotten Shiva and moved on already. In fact, if I'm not mistaken, Teacher seems to do better when Shiva is around. If Shiva's aunt had stuck around, could she have learned to love Shiva again? Or maybe it would have been too upsetting for everyone involved.

Extras: a couple full-color pages and a few four-panel comics, one of which revealed that Teacher managed to learn how to bake a pie from Shiva's aunt before she forgot how to make pies. Aww.

(spoiler show)

Speaking of pie-baking, I loved the artwork during the scene where the flour got dumped everywhere. It was the first clear view of what Teacher and Auntie's facial structures were like.


(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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review 2018-11-24 18:13
The Girl from the Other Side (manga, vol. 3) by Nagabe, translated by Adrienne Beck
The Girl from the Other Side: Siúil, a Rún Vol. 3 - Nagabe

Shiva's aunt takes her back to the Insiders, leaving Teacher all alone. Things go badly very quickly -

Shiva's aunt succumbs to the curse, and so the soldiers raze the town. Shiva and Teacher find each other again, but Shiva is feverish, injured, and horrified at the possibility that she might have ultimately been responsible for all those deaths. Shiva's aunt, now an Outsider, arrives and tells Teacher that, yes, she abandoned Shiva, but she also once found Shiva abandoned and took her in. Extras: a couple full-color pages and some four-panel comics.

The suspense, as Shiva's aunt began to display signs of the curse, was great. The entire "razing of the town" scene made me think of Attack on Titan - dark and awful.

(spoiler show)

Since I had theorized that the curse was actually just a disease and the Outsiders were just beings shunned by humans, the revelation that the curse was a real thing was a bit of a shock. I'm very intrigued by the beginning of Shiva's aunt's story. Where did Shiva come from? Is she

some kind of carrier of the curse? I also found it interesting that Shiva's aunt retained both her personality and her memories.

(spoiler show)


(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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review 2018-11-24 18:03
The Girl from the Other Side (manga, vol. 2) by Nagabe, translated by Adrienne Beck
The Girl From the Other Side: Siúil, A Rún Vol. 2 - Nagabe

Teacher finds an Outsider in his home, touching Shiva, and attacks it (her? I vaguely recall feminine pronouns being used at one point, but I'm not sure and my notes are unclear) to defend Shiva. Shiva and Teacher go after the Outsider because it said it knew where Shiva's "mother" is. Teacher follows the dog-like Outsiders into a lake and learns a terrible thing about the curse, which Shiva will surely eventually show symptoms of. Meanwhile, the Insiders

send Shiva's aunt out as bait to capture Shiva.

(spoiler show)

Extras: a couple full-color pages and a few four-panel comics.

I'm intrigued by whatever it is Teacher learned. What is the nature of the curse and why do both Insiders and Outsiders want Shiva? Also, where did Teacher come from and why doesn't he remember?

Teacher leaving Shiva alone while he went into the lake with the Outsiders struck me as both risky and out-of-character. What if it was a trap? What if Insiders came across Shiva while was alone, with only a headless and untrustworthy Outsider for protection?

I hate to say this since I mostly love the character designs and artwork in this series, but the fight scene between Teacher and the Outsider was pretty bad. Very stiff and difficult to follow. The dark characters plus dark floorboards and grey walls didn't exactly help.


(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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review 2018-11-22 18:09
Girl in Translation
Girl in Translation - Jean Kwok

















Hands down one of the most empowering and profoundly inspirational books that I've ever read, and I am not sorry at all that I had spent quite a large chunk of hours of my precious time reading it. Cannot tell you how much I enjoyed reading every single line the author has written. No words needed. Really and seriously. Comes highly recommendable especially to the younger crowd, for they shall fall in love with the lead protagonist and quite possibly learn some of the most valuable lessons in life, if they shall pay enough attention.

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