August 19th, 2017


2-5 (slow reading this year!)

Poirot's Early Cases - Agatha Christie
Pages: 263
Amazon Blurb: Still in the formative years of his career, Hercule Poirot faces a most taxing case: who killed Lord Cronshaw? Was Coco Courtenay's death on the same night a mere coincidence? And did she deliberately take an overdose of cocaine?
No sooner has Poirot revealed his astonishing powers of deduction than he is faced with 17 other mysteries to test his soon-to-be-famous "little grey cells".
As a matter of courtesy to a group of young people, he endeavours to solve the gruesome murder of a woman whose body they have stumbled upon while locked out of their flat, and with his usual precision and elan, he discovers exactly how "Mary, Mary quite contrary" makes her garden grow.
Thoughts: I read this after two quite heavy going books. Thoroughly pleasant and involved a lot of cases of Poirot's which were my personal favourites.

Agatha Raisin and the First Two Tantalising Cases - M.C. Beaton
Pages: 440
Amazon Blurb: The Quiche of Death: High-flying public relations supremo Agatha Raisin has decided to take early retirement. She's off to make a new life in a picture-perfect Cotswold village. To make friends, she enters the local quiche-making competition - and to make quite sure of first prize she secretly pays a visit to a London deli. Alas, the competition judge succumbs after tasting her perfect quiche, and Agatha is revealed as a cheat and potential poisoner. Definitely not the best start. So Agatha must turn amateur sleuth - she's absolutely got to track down the real killer!
The Vicious Vet: Agatha Raisin is enjoying life in her pretty Cotswold village of Carsely. It even seems likely that the attractive new vet, Paul Bladen, has taken a shine to her. But before romance can blossom, Paul is killed in an accident with Lord Pendlebury's horse. Only the circumstances are rather suspicious. Agatha decides she must once more play amateur investigator. And this cloud has a silver lining - she can persuade her stand-offish neighbour, James Lacey, to become her partner in the quest. As usual, Agatha rushes in, heedless of the lurking menace to both James and herself.
Thoughts: Two books for the price of one! Having really enjoyed the Sky One adaptation of this series, my other half bought me the first two books to see if I like the actual books. Light and easy to read, both books were thoroughly enjoyable. It took me a while to stop picturing Agatha as Ashley Jenson (descriptions of Agatha are less than polite in the book) but eventually I started to get a picture of the 'true' Agatha. Looking forward to trying the rest of the series!

Strangers of a Train - Patricia Highsmith
Pages: 262
Amazon Blurb: The world of Patricia Highsmith has always been filled with ordinary people, all of whom are capable of very ordinary crimes. This theme was present from the beginning, when her debut, Strangers on a Train, galvanized the reading public. Here we encounter Guy Haines and Charles Anthony Bruno, passengers on the same train. But while Guy is a successful architect in the midst of a divorce, Bruno turns out to be a sadistic psychopath who manipulates Guy into swapping murders with him. "Some people are better off dead," Bruno remarks, "like your wife and my father, for instance." As Bruno carries out his twisted plan, Guy is trapped in Highsmith's perilous world, where, under the right circumstances, anybody is capable of murder. The inspiration for Alfred Hitchcock's classic 1951 film, Strangers on a Train launched Highsmith on a prolific career of noir fiction, proving her a master at depicting the unsettling forces that tremble beneath the surface of everyday contemporary life.
Thoughts: God I absolutely hated this. And I mean really hated it. The film is one of my favourites and I completely get the need to change the film from the book. I decided to persevere despite my dislike of the book but really wish I hadn't bothered. Characters unlikable, plot too far-fetched (and yes I realise that's saying something!), a real slog which I cannot recommend.

Closed Casket - Agatha Christie (Sophie Hannah)
Pages: 371 (2102)
Amazon Blurb: Hercule Poirot returns in another brilliant murder mystery that can only be solved by the eponymous Belgian detective and his ‘little grey cells’.
‘What I intend to say to you will come as a shock . . .’
Lady Athelinda Playford has planned a house party at her mansion in Clonakilty, County Cork, but it is no ordinary gathering. As guests arrive, Lady Playford summons her lawyer to make an urgent change to her will – one she intends to announce at dinner that night. She has decided to cut off her two children without a penny and leave her fortune to someone who has only weeks to live . . .
Among Lady Playford’s guests are two men she has never met – the famous Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot, and Inspector Edward Catchpool of Scotland Yard. Neither knows why he has been invited . . . until Poirot starts to wonder if Lady Playford expects a murderer to strike. But why does she seem so determined to provoke, in the presence of a possible killer?
When the crime is committed in spite of Poirot’s best efforts to stop it, and the victim is not who he expected it to be, will he be able to find the culprit and solve the mystery?
Following the phenomenal global success of The Monogram Murders, which was published to critical acclaim following a co-ordinated international launch in September 2014, international best-selling crime writer Sophie Hannah has been commissioned by Agatha Christie Limited to pen a second fully-authorised Poirot novel. The new book marks the centenary of the creation of Christie’s world-famous detective Hercule Poirot, introduced in her first book The Mysterious Affair at Styles.
Blurb: I know a lot of people don't like Sophie Hannah's books but I don't honestly mind them. They are easy to read, stay very true to the nature of Christie's books (which let's face it are not as serious or well-written as many think) and are a good extension of the world of Poirot.

6 & 7

The Berlin Wall - Frederick Taylor
Pages: 668
Amazon Blurb: The appearance of a hastily-constructed barbed wire entanglement through the heart of Berlin during the night of 12-13 August 1961 was both dramatic and unexpected. Within days, it had started to metamorphose into a structure that would come to symbolise the brutal insanity of the Cold War: the Berlin Wall. A city of almost four million was cut ruthlessly in two, unleashing a potentially catastrophic East-West crisis and plunging the entire world for the first time into the fear of imminent missile-borne apocalypse. This threat would vanish only when the very people the Wall had been built to imprison, breached it on the historic night of 9 November 1989. Frederick Taylor's eagerly awaited new book reveals the strange and chilling story of how the initial barrier system was conceived, then systematically extended, adapted and strengthened over almost thirty years. Patrolled by vicious dogs and by guards on shoot-to-kill orders, the Wall, with its more than 300 towers, became a wired and lethally booby-trapped monument to a world torn apart by fiercely antagonistic ideologies. The Wall had tragic consequences in personal and political terms, affecting the lives of Germans and non-Germans alike in a myriad of cruel, inhuman and occasionally absurd ways. The Berlin Wall is the definitive account of a divided city and its people.
Thoughts: I am making a conscious effort to try and read more German things and history things (what is the point of having a degree in both after all?) and this ticked both boxes. As far as history books go, this at times feels more like ready a fiction book. It is incredibly well-written and makes history very accessible. Taylor has researched the subject thoroughly and I learnt so much. It was great to read a book which covered the construction, wider politics and personalities surrounding the wall. While just over 650 may be daunting, if you interested in this behemoth of Cold War history, this book is an excellent starting point. I've loaned it to my other half and he is really enjoying it - and he isn't really into modern history!

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince - J.K. Rowling
Pages: 607 (3377)
Amazon Blurb: When Dumbledore arrives at Privet Drive one summer night to collect Harry Potter, his wand hand is blackened and shrivelled, but he does not reveal why. Secrets and suspicion are spreading through the wizarding world, and Hogwarts itself is not safe. Harry is convinced that Malfoy bears the Dark Mark: there is a Death Eater amongst them. Harry will need powerful magic and true friends as he explores Voldemort's darkest secrets, and Dumbledore prepares him to face his destiny.
Thoughts: Still slowly working my way through the Harry Potter world. I really enjoyed this, must admit I think a few aspects would have worked better in the film adaptation and made it a bit more interesting. Unfortunately the final book is packed away as we have been waiting to move house for two months now! It may be my first book to be read once we are in our new place!
book collector

Book 78

ヴァニタスの手記 1 [Vanitas no Carte 1] (The Case Study of Vanitas, #1)ヴァニタスの手記 1 [Vanitas no Carte 1] by Jun Mochizuki

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I picked this one up thanks to the cover art and blurb (not realizing at the time it was by the mangaka who did Pandora Hearts.) I’m a sucker for vampires and then I saw inside the front cover that Hiromu Arakawa loves it, so I bought it.

The story is a lot of fun. There’s a touch of steampunk (another fave of mine) to go along with the vampires and I was hooked. It opens on an airship following the main pov character, Noe (who I thought was an albino but is something more). He comes across as a naive and excited country bumpkin going to Paris to look for the book of Vanitas, a blue leather, black paged grimoire that is rumored to have power over vampires.

In this world all vampires are born on nights of the crimson moon but Vanitas was born under the light of the blue moon, making him different, cursed and it’s believed he can and has cursed the vampires. At the opening of the story the vampires and humans have lived side by side in peace for some time but the peace is breaking down. The vampires are attacking out of control.

Noe finds this out the hard way being attacked on the ship, an attack stopped by a young man, a human calling himself Vanitas and in possession of the tome in question. Noe learns a few things quickly a) Vanitas calls himself a vampire doctor b) that the book does have power over vampires but not in the way he thought c) people are out to get Vanitas and d) Vanitas is annoying as hell, potentially crazy, and wants to work with Noe to cure more vampires and prove that there is in fact something wrong with the ones attacking humans and they don’t all need put to death.

Noe and Vanitas set up an uneasy alliance by the end of chapter one framed with the idea that Noe is telling this story at some distant time (and that Vanitas may no longer be around). There are a lot of elements coming together in the narrative and it draws you in. I loved the art. It’s detailed and beautiful. I’m looking forward to the next volume.

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