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review 2019-01-07 21:39
Very Good, Jeeves / P.G. Wodehouse
Very Good, Jeeves! - P.G. Wodehouse

Whatever the cause of Bertie Wooster's consternation — Bobbie Wickham gives away fierce Aunt Agatha's dog; again in the bad books of Sir Roderick Glossop; Tuppy crushes on robust opera singer — Jeeves can untangle the most ferocious muddle.


What an excellent first book for 2019! Wodehouse writes like a charm, making me giggle whilst turning a gorgeous phrase. And it’s as if he knew the women in my family when he says, “Hell, it is well known, has no fury like a woman who wants her tea and can’t get it.” My sisters, my niece and myself frequently suffer from being hangry if we are not fed & watered on a regular basis. Having a pleasant outing requires copious amounts of coffee, regular feedings, and sufficient snacks for the day. So Jeeves plan to disrupt Mrs. Bingo Little’s school friendship through depriving her of lunch plus delaying tea-time was entirely believable to me.

I love Bertie’s willingness to flee the house to avoid unpleasantness, his suffering being known as a lunatic in order to avoid jobs & women. He is the ultimate peace-at-any-pricer. The all-knowing expertise of Jeeves is the perfect foil to the very fallible B. Wooster.

If you haven’t yet made the acquaintance of Mr. Wooster and the inimitable Jeeves, what are you waiting for?

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review 2018-12-31 09:42
"Bleeding Empire" by C. L. Raven - abandoned at 38%
Bleeding Empire - C.L. Raven

Humour's a funny thing, until it isn't. Then, it's a complete waste of time.


I started "Bleeding Empire" hoping for a zany and original approach to the Apocalypse,

The opening fitted the bill. The Five Horsemen of the Apocalypse (five because Death is twins) arrive in a city centre (without horses - banned by Health and Safety - but with motorbikes) to find that everyone is so busy with Christmas shopping that their, slightly bumbled, entrance goes unnoticed. Then they checked into a cheap TravelInn and bickered endlessly about what to do next.


By the 20% mark, I was beginning to realise this book might not be for me. I felt it was trying too hard. There was lots of brittle, clever-clever dialogue exchanged between the five horsemen of the apocalypse as they behaved like sadistic, murderous, children on a sugar-high with a tendency to sulk or throw tantrums when not killing people. This got old VERY quickly.


The graphic violence had already palled. The witty dialogue had slipped into juvenile jibes with a bleeding edge vocabulary. There was some gleeful anarchy at the heart of everything but it was SO anarchic that the story seems to have no purpose or direction.


I hoped that a plot might emerge or, failing that a character or two I might care about, or even a clever twist that explained why this video game level carnival of carnage was interesting.


I gave up at 38%, after a series of murders and a violent riot that were described in detail but without any flair. Who knew that blood and gore and pointless, spiteful aggression could be so boring?


Now I'll never know if this bunch of back-biting, sulky, incompetent demi-gods ended the world. The upside is, I won't have to spend any more time with them in my head.

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review 2018-12-26 11:02
"Agatha Raisin And Kissing Christmas Goodbye - Agatha Raisin #18" by M C Beaton
Agatha Raisin and Kissing Christmas Goodbye - M.C. Beaton

I don't normally start a series at the eighteenth book but I wanted something linked to Christmas and there it was. It turned out that being in the middle of everything was not a problem, it may even have skipped all that "who is Agatha Raisin and how did she get here?" stuff that can make the start of a series a little slow.


The Agatha Raisin I saw was someone who has started a second career, done well and become bored, Someone who sees herself as a tough cookie who has used sheer force of personality to climb from a bad home to being a successful woman, running her own small detective agency. Someone with an instinct to kindness and fairness that she hides, even from herself, with ex post rationalisations about return on investment that maintain her tough cookie self-image.


The story revolves around a new client, a rich old widow who lives in a stately home and owns the village around it, who asks Agatha to investigate who in her household is trying to poison her. Agatha imagines a sort Poirot investigation. A lot of the humour comes from how far away the reality is from Agatha's imaginings.


What I liked most about the book was Agatha's slow realisation of her changing desires. Hiring (rescuing might be a better description)  a very young but brilliant (and lucky) detective from a background similar to her own, holds up a mirror to Agatha. It allows her to see that she's become older but that that isn't a bad thing. It lets her review her strengths and her achievements and puts her in a position to think about what she really wants.


At the beginning of the book, what she really wants is to have the perfect Christmas meal, in her cottage, with all her friends and to end up under the mistletoe in the arms of her ex-husband. By the end of the book, what she wants has changed as she slowly acknowledges who she is and how much she likes being who she is.


This was a light read with a funny and clever plot and engaging characters. A good book to settle down with before Christmas (or to bring Christmas back when you feel the need for it.

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review 2018-12-11 22:26
Book for Door 7 Mawlid An-Nabi - "On Turpentine Lane" by Elinor Lipman
On Turpentine Lane - Elinor Lipman


"On Turpentine Lane" sat on my TBR pile for eighteen months. I bought it in a fit of enthusiasm after reading "Isabel's Bed".  I've looked at it a few times since then and gone, "I want to read that but not today." I finally picked up because it qualified as my book for Mawlid An-Nabi in the 24 Festive Tasks challenge,


It wasn't the kind of book I'd expected. It was a light, mildly amusing comedy of manners kind of book but I found myself struggling with it because I found it hard to empathise with a privileged white middle-class, university educated woman in her thirties who was so hapless.


Her haplessness was fundamental to the humour of the book so letting it irritate me was self-defeating. Her haplessness is quite plausible. She's conflict-averse, trusting, committed to her job and looking for a quiet life. I'd probably like her if I met her. Yet I find myself irritated by her inability to use the advantage she has, which says more about me than about Elinor Lipman's writing.


About a third of the way through the book, 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.

Suddenly, it was 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 felt 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.


Once I settled back and let the romance roll with the appropriate level of readerly collusion. with what the author is doing, I started to enjoy myself more.


"On Turpentine Lane" is an odd mix of ingredients that never quite come together convincingly. Crises are triggered around apparent financial improprieties at work, mysterious deaths in the heroines house and a mid-life crisis separation between her parents. These crises stand side by side like plates spinning on poles rather than building to anything. There is no character development to speak of but there is a slow, sometimes enjoyable slide towards happy-ever-afterdom.


I never did get to feel any empathy for the heroine but my reflex-animosity for her lessened as I understood her family dynamic.


"On Turpentine Lane" was well-executed entertainment that I'm now certain I'm not the target demographic for.

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review 2018-12-10 19:37
Small Gods / Terry Pratchett
Small gods - Terry Pratchett

In the beginning was the Word. And the Word was: 'Hey, you!' This is the Discworld, after all, and religion is a controversial business. Everyone has their own opinion, and indeed their own gods, of every shape and size, and all elbowing for space at the top. In such a competitive environment, shape and size can be pretty crucial to make one's presence felt. So it's certainly not helpful to be reduced to appearing in the form of a tortoise, a manifestation far below god-like status in anyone's book.

In such instances, you need an acolyte, and fast: for the Great God Om, Brutha the novice is the Chosen One – or at least the only One available. He wants peace and justice and brotherly love. He also wants the Inquisition to stop torturing him now, please...


The captain frowned. “It’s a funny thing,” he said, “but why is it that the heathens and barbarians seem to have the best places to go when they die?”
“A bit of a poser, that,” agreed the mate. “I s’pose it makes up for ‘em….enjoying theselves all the time they’re alive, too?” He looked puzzled. Now that he was dead, the whole thing sounded suspicious.

Dare I admit that this is my very first encounter with the writing of Terry Pratchett? I’ve seen the praise of his work from my friends and acquaintances and have been meaning to get to him sooner or later, so I’m glad that my reading project got me started.

Wow, Pratchett is an excellent writer, able to keep many balls in the air while still being humourous. This is very definitely a critique of organized religion of the modern sort, dressed up in the clothing of the Greco-Roman period. He makes good use of the early Christian idea that heathen gods ceased to exist as their worshippers drifted away. Also the notion that those best qualified to lead are the least likely to seek leadership positions. Plus, he plays with the tortoise/turtle mythology that is common to so many cultures. Very skillful.

Book number 303 in my Science Fiction & Fantasy reading project.

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