Monday, May 30, 2011

{review} also seen (& read)

Also known as: books that I'm pretty sure that everyone else in the entire world has already reviewed so that I am paralysed by my inability to say anything original, but I can't put these books away until I mention that they were quality reads and well worth a go.

The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag: A Flavia de Luce Novel  The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag. Alan Bradley (Flavia De Luce Mystery 2)

For a moment there seemed nothing to say. And then the woman spoke:
'You wouldn't happen to have a cigarette, would you? I'm dying for a smoke.'
I gave my head a rather idiotic shake.
'Hmmm,' she said. 'You look like the kind of kid who might have.'
For the first time in my life, I was speechless.
'I don't smoke,' I managed.
'And why is that?' she asked. 'Too young or too wise?'
'I was thinking of taking it up next week,' I said lamely. 'I just hadn't actually got round to it yet.'
The first Flavia de Luce mystery (The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie) set such a high standard that it is doubtful that any sequel could live up to the hype. I enjoyed this book mostly for its wonderful setting - the archetypal, almost Utopian, English village of the 1950s. I wonder if it could only have been written by someone who was not English. It contains a sort of nostalgia that, as a colonial, I sometimes feel for the 'motherland'. The plot had holes the size of, um, really big holes in it and Flavia herself is a bit of a pain. Read it for the evocation of England, My England and the wonderful light touches of humour. On Mrs Mullet's awful cooking:
'I knew you'd like it, she said, 'It was no more than this morning I was sayin' to my Alf, "It's been a while since the Colonel and those girls 'ave 'ad one of my lovely jells. They always remark over my jells [this was no more than the truth], and I loves makin' 'em for the dears.'"
She made it sound as if her employers had antlers.
{Have I mentioned that I HATE dialect?}

The Snowman ((A Harry Hole Mystery)) The Snowman

Jo Nesbø The Snowman (English translation 2010)
At that moment Harry felt it again. The sensation he had had at Spektrum, earlier that evening. The sensation that he was being observed. Instinctively, he switched off the torch, and the darkness descended over him like a blanket. He held his breath and listened. Don’t, he thought. Don’t let it happen. Evil is not a thing, it cannot take possession of you. It’s the opposite; it’s a void, an absence of goodness. The only thing you can be frightened of here is yourself.
OK. Really gripping, high quality stuff. Great plot. Excellent build up of tension. Serial killing. Who could ask for anything more? Less: I could have done with a little less police politicking, but I can live with that for some really inventive and grotesque crimes. The murderer also belongs to my favourite occupational category for a serial killer but I can't say any more than that (apart from that when you both live and work with this group of people, nothing much they do can surprise you). Fabulous crime novel. I've now read all of the Nesbøs that have been translated so far and this one is by far the best (IMHO. I loved The Redbreast next best: better plot, more interesting subject matter, but not so scary).


The Case of the Not-So-Nice Nurse: A Nancy Clue and Cherry Aimless Mystery (Maney, Mabel)

"It's all my fault," she sobbed, collapsing on the bed in tears. "People are always disappearing around me. Why, when I was a dude ranch nurse-in-training, an entire family disappeared and was never found!"
Were you brought up on Nancy Drew and Cherry Ames? Do you like a tongue-in-cheek girl detective parody with some spoofy lesbians thrown in for good measure? Join Nancy Clue and Cherry Aimless as they search for Cherry's missing aunt and a gaggle of lost nuns. Eat a lot of pie. Always carry a clean handkerchief. Accessorize. These books are very funny and spot on in their take-offs of the ultra-nice, well-fed, immaculate good girls of 50s' young adult fiction. There's a Hardy (Hardly!) Boys spoof out there too. Verdict: amusing. But maybe not in large doses. You'll never read a Cherry Ames' story again with a 'straight' face. Warning: very small font. The next one I'll get on the Kindle, I think.

Audrey Niffenegger Her Fearful Symmetry (2009)

Her Fearful Symmetry
'Ahem,' she said. 'What are you doing?' Jessica had a voice that rose and fell like a swooping kite. The children instantly stopped what they were doing and looked self-conscious, like cats that have fallen off something ungracefully and now sit licking themselves, pretending nothing has happened. Jessica walked carefully to where Robert and James sat. Two of her friends had broken their hips recently, so she had temporarily modified her habit of striding boldly wherever she went.
I hope that this book makes a lot of money for Highgate Cemetery because the cemetery is the big star here. This book is completely freaky, and for ages I kept oscillating wildly between love/loathe. I think, on the whole, if not 'love', then 'definitely liked' wins out. Certain passages were so beautiful that they carried the book for me. But what a strange creature it proved to be: love story, ghost story, horror story, family history, local history. The story of two American identical twins and their inheritance of a flat in Highgate from their dead aunt receives a twist in the tail of the tale (another feline reference) that is astonishing, spooky and absolutely fitting. I've not read any other of Niffenegger's books. Should I? Not sure...

2 comments:

  1. Re Niffenegger - her first book, The Time Travellers Wife, is much better - once one suspends disbelief. I was very disappointed with this, the second one. Just sayin'.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks for that, Amanda - I'll give it a go. Must work on my suspension of disbelief tho' first!

    ReplyDelete

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