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Month: August 2019

READING THE TBR, DAY 242: Hercule Poirot’s Christmas (1938) by Agatha Christie

When, oh when, are cantankerous and controlling old men, rich beyond reason, going to learn not to advertise an imminent change in their wills when surrounded by their not-so-loving families?

Of course they end up dead whenever they do that.


Not that it’s always the motive. But it often seems to be, at least for much of the book. It’s just stupid. Stop doing it, cantankerous and controlling old men!

The motive of this one actually took me by complete surprise, as did the culprit, and wow, Christie was a genius. Despite its title, however, the book is not especially Christmassy, and poor Poirot doesn’t get to do much in the way of decking halls or dashing through snow, but then, he’d probably much prefer to solve a murder than indulge in such frivolity.

He really is a holiday miracle.


TBR DAY 242: Hercule Poirot’s Christmas (Poirot #20) by Agatha Christie
GENRE: Cosy Mystery, Mystery, Poirot
TIME ON THE TBR: ~5 years.  
PURCHASED FROM: Vintage shop.
KEEP: Yes.

READING THE TBR, DAY 241: The Thirteenth Rose (2013) by Gail Bowen

It’s Valentine’s Day, and Charlie D’s guest on his late night talk show is his boss Misty, a former escort who’s rich husband bought her the station as a wedding present. The topic is satisfaction, and there is much discussion of how intimacy goes beyond the physical. But meanwhile, a vicious organization spearheaded by Charlie’s right wing colleague is targeting sex workers, Jack the Ripper-style, and makes sure Charlie D knows all about it.

There’s not that much of a mystery here, and the way it all wraps up is neat and efficient, as one might expect from a “Rapid Read,” while the barely-there romance between Charlie and his producer Nova is nicely played. This is the fourth and, it seems, last Charlie D mystery, and it’s been so long since I read the third one now — well over two hundred books ago — that it took me a little while to get back into this late night talk radio host’s head, and world. But once I got there, I liked it enough that I am sad that this is the end.


TBR DAY 241: The Thirteenth Rose (Charlie D #4) by Gail Bowen
GENRE: Mystery, Crime
TIME ON THE TBR: 3 years. 
PURCHASED FROM: Garage sale.
KEEP: Sure.

READING THE TBR, DAY 240: How to Archer (2012) by Sterling Archer

I have a love-hate relationship with the TV show Archer. On the one hand, it is often hilarious, this cartoon about a foul-mouthed, casually cruel and selfish spy who works for a dubious private espionage organization and is an alcoholic and womanizer and has more Mommy Issues than that guy from Psycho.

On the other hand, it is is a cartoon about a foul-mouthed, casually cruel and selfish spy who works for a dubious private espionage organization and is an alcoholic and womanizer and has more Mommy Issues than that guy from Psycho.

And everyone else in the show is pretty hateful, too.

But, funny. Admittedly, pretty damn funny. And this book, “written” by the enduringly sexist, racist and jerky Archer, is pretty damn funny too, damn it all. The conceit of the book, that Sterling Archer mistakenly signed a contract for a certain number of words and hates writing the book and wanted to include a whole chapter on cobras and has a very real disdain for his “editrix” at the publishing house, and so provides pretty much no useful information on anything — except the cocktail recipes — somehow doesn’t pall, and there were a few instances where I quite literally laughed out loud at one of Archer’s snide cracks. Though I groaned at his often terrible puns even more, of course.

It’s all very silly, but it’s probably the best possible tie-in to Archer that could have been produced. Whether that’s a compliment or not, I am honestly not sure. 


TBR DAY 246: How to Archer: The Ultimate Guide to Espionage and Style and Women and Also Cocktails Ever by Sterling Archer
GENRE: Media Tie-in, Humour
TIME ON THE TBR: 4 years. 
PURCHASED FROM: Minotaur Melbourne.
KEEP: Absolutely!

READING THE TBR, DAY 239: Opposite of Always (2019) by Justin A. Reynolds

I can’t remember the last time I got so far into a book before being forced to stop reading it. I actually got to the 75% mark of this one, and then a plot development so stupid, so utterly without reason or justification or sense, took place so suddenly that I was just like… nope. Not doing it anymore. 

Shame on you, book!

Don’t bother with this one, friends.


TBR DAY 143: Opposite of Always by Justin A. Reynolds
GENRE: YA, YA Romance
TIME ON THE TBR: 5 months.  
PURCHASED FROM: Readings Carlton.
KEEP: No way!

READING THE TBR, DAY 238: Excellent Women (1952) by Barbara Pym

Barbara Pym is an author I have long heard compared to Jane Austen, and it was due to this that I have been collecting her works whenever I happen upon them any time over the past decade or more. But have I read any of them yet? No. Pshaw. Why would I have done that?

But today — oh! I read this one. And it is just lovely.

Miss Mildred Lathbury is an unmarried woman in her thirties in 1950s London, in a world that is still recovering from the ravages of war. She is eminently respectable in every way, a stalwart in her church and kind friend to all. Into her small life comes new neighbours, Helena and Rockingham Napier, whose tempestuous relationship is forced upon her notice, even as she is charmed by the smooth, careless Rocky.

Amid the local clergyman’s romantic entanglements, the waspish tongue of Mildred’s oldest friend, a visit to the Anthropological Society and multiple encounters with a socially awkward maybe-suitor, the story unfolds with warmth and wit, Mildred’s often caustic inner-monologue often causing laughter, at other times cringe, at other times total empathy.

If this is an example of Pym’s literary calibre, then I believe the comparisons to Austen are fully justified.  


TBR DAY 238: Excellent Women by Barbara Pym
GENRE: Women’s Fiction
TIME ON THE TBR: 10 years.  
PURCHASED FROM: Dymocks Booksellers.
KEEP: Yes.

READING THE TBR, DAY 237: Book Love (2019) by Debbie Tung

I got this book for my birthday this year, and it could not be more perfect for me. (Thanks, Tara!) Cartoonist Debbie Tung perfectly illustrates exactly how it feels to be a total bibliophile, and for me it was just page after page of understanding and agreement as I nodded along, smiling in recognition as I found myself within its pages.

The perfect gift for your book-obsessed friend! 


TBR DAY 237: Book Love by Debbie Tung
GENRE: Comic Books, Memoir, Books
TIME ON THE TBR: 9 months. 
PURCHASED FROM: It was a gift. Thanks again, Tara!
KEEP: Absolutely!

READING THE TBR, DAY 236: The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy and Other Stories (1997) by Tim Burton

If this volume of nonsense verse had been penned by almost anyone else, it would probably have been dismissed as sophomoric and rather pointless. But since it was written (and, it must be added, illustrated) by once-visionary director Tim Burton it received praise such as this:

The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy & Other Stories exquisitely conveys the pain of an adolescent outsider. Like Tim Burton’s movies, the work manages to be both childlike and sophisticated, blending the innocent and the macabre.” New York Times

The weird thing is, both assessments would be correct. Full of creepy kids of often questionable parentage — and one of whom is eaten by his father to cure his impotence — there is definitely metaphor here, and I get it, but the verse often limps along to very unsatisfactory conclusions, and the wordplay is lacking, and ONE OF THE KIDS IS EATEN BY HIS FATHER TO CURE HIS IMPOTENCE.

One poem — this one prose — did make me laugh, however. Entitled “James,” it runs thus: “Unwisely, Santa offered a teddy bear to James, unaware that he had been mauled be a grizzly bear earlier in the year.”

That is the whole of it, and, for me, the best of the collection. I think that says it all, really. 


TBR DAY 236: The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy & Other Stories by Tim Burton
GENRE: Poetry, Humour, Creepiness
TIME ON THE TBR: ~5 years.  
KEEP: Possibly.

READING THE TBR, DAY 235: The Dragonfly Pool (2008) by Eva Ibbotson

This book is so very many things, and while it is ostensibly a children’s book, it is much, much more than that.

And it is completely fascinating.

It’s an English boarding school book. But it’s also a tale of World War II. It’s a story of a sad young prince from a minor European kingdom. It’s a story of classism and racism. It’s a story of the decline of royalty, and the end of empire. It’s a story of friendship. It’s also more than a touch Sound of Music.

It’s just a delight from beginning to end, and the only problem I had with it is that its title is in no way descriptive, nor evocative, of the book itself, and so may not be as attractive to readers as I would like.

Because everyone should read this book. It is funny, it is wise, it is action-packed but also sweet and thoughtful. It is wildly improbable, but also very, viscerally real. I loved it a lot, this story of an unusual school, a trip abroad for a festival of folk dancing (of course!), a little boy lost and the importance of communication.

Also, Nazis are bad, you guys. Just so you know.  


TBR DAY 235: The Dragonfly Pool by Eva Ibbotson
GENRE: Children’s Fiction
TIME ON THE TBR: ~5 years.  
KEEP: Absolutely.

READING THE TBR, DAY 234: P.S. I Like You (2016) by Kasie West

Lily and Cade hate each other. There are various reasons. They do not matter.

But Lily starts writing anonymous notes to someone — a boy! — who shares her desk in Chemistry, but in a different class time.


That pretty much sums up this book. I liked it fine, but as I read it I did have to wonder I why I bought it, and at full price too. I remember thinking that I had heard good things of Kasie West, and should check her out some day, and the next thing I knew I was at the counter and handing over my hard-earned,  cold-hard cash. 

I swear, something sinister happens to me in bookshops.

It is outside my control.

I need help.


TBR DAY 234: P.S. I Like You by Kasie West
TIME ON THE TBR: 2 years.  
PURCHASED FROM: Readings Carlton.

READING THE TBR, DAY 233: Appointment with Death (1938) by Agatha Christie

How do these Poirot books just keep getting better? There were so many twists and turns in this mystery that my head is spinning just trying to put it all together. 

Poirot is in the Middle East again, and he again overhears some people plotting to do someone in. (This has been used before a few too many times in this series, methinks, but we’ll let the recycled unlikeliness of it pass.) A horrid old woman who is a sadistic tyrant, and who lords her wealth and viciousness over her adult relatives, is unsurprisingly murdered, but what is a surprise is the culprit. 

At least, it was kind of a surprise.

This outing took rather longer to get to the point than others of its ilk, mostly because there was never any direct proof that murder had actually been committed, and apparently EVERYONE had a motive and opportunity, which just made Poirot’s conjuror’s trick of solving the crime so handily all the more impressive.

Really, Christie’s mind was a marvel, and each one of these Poirot stories (most of which it transpires I have definitely not read before) just proves that over and over again.


TBR DAY 232: Appointment with Death (Hercule Poirot #17) by Agatha Christie
GENRE: Mystery, Cosy Mystery
TIME ON THE TBR: 5 years.  
PURCHASED FROM: Vintage shop.
KEEP: Yes.