The Marlow Murder Club

Basil seemed to be very much amused by the fact that I had once again indulged in another Waterstones’ recommendation, given how the last one had turned out. It was no surprise that I was somewhat cautious and a little more suspicious than I had been previously. Despite all this incessant deliberation, I couldn’t help myself as cosy murder mysteries are evidently my bookish kryptonite. Plus, it also helped that I was familiar with the Death in Paradise series, both on screen and in book form. So, in the end, I cut myself a piece of freshly made banana bread, poured a glass of milk, and immersed myself in The Marlow Murder Club.

The trio of protagonists were an odd bunch that instantly connected with each other and although each had their own struggles, they were definitely a force to be reckoned with. They were all endearing characters that had such vivid personalities.

Judith’s eccentricity stood out and was infectious; it was hard not to get swept along with her ideas. What made this an even more compelling read was the mystery that surrounded Judith, and how,  even though she was amazing, there was something that didn’t quite sit right. Becks had brilliant character development throughout; it was satisfying seeing her overcome her own obstacles as she challenged the changes life had thrown at her. Suzie could be described as being grounded and although she could be oblivious to people’s emotions and social protocol at times, she was also observant of details. 

One aspect that was really well done was that Judith, Becks and Suzie all contributed in some way or another to solving the mystery. The trio are soon joined by an over stretched DS Malik, who at first, was a little iffy. Once the story began to flesh out her personality, it was easy to sympathise with her situation and the position she had been put in. 

“…as far as I can see, she could be our killer.”

Beck’s eyes widened in amazement.

“That’s not posible, she does yoga!”

Although, it was ultimately Judith that put all the pieces of the puzzle together, she could not have done it without the others. Moreover, it was interesting to get brief glimpses of the other characters through the eyes of the other protagonists. However, it would have been more enjoyable had these glimpses been more than quick snatches of thoughts.

The writing itself was simplistic in nature and made this an easy, chilled read. The plot was fast paced with a handful of twists and clues that thrown in for good measure. Splashes of humour made some scenes truly laugh out loud moments. Under the protective comedic shell however, a deeper meaning could be found related to the serious issues that comes with aging. These were not dwelt on too much, yet there was still a serious undercurrent that stuck as the story progressed. The conclusion of the mystery was nicely tied up and everything made sense.

The Marlow Murder Club offered a well-crafted mystery with endearing, quirky characters.  The fast-paced plot and simple writing made this to be an enjoyable read.

Happy Solving,

Saz

P.S. Within minutes, the detective figured out what the murder weapon was. It was a brief case 😉

The Shape of Darkness

Sometimes a book can be sitting on the reading list for months at a time. And sometimes, just one glance at a new book is enough to automatically disregard all those that have been patiently waiting. This was one such book. As usual, before curling up to read this tale, I inhaled that ever-familiar bookish smell of ink and paper. Much to my disappointment, I can honestly say that the book smelt a lot better than what lay within. I had been expecting to be mesmerised (yes, pun intended) but this simply did not happen.

There was something lacking about this book. The two protagonists, Agnes and Pearl, didn’t seem to have distinctive personalities of their own and more often than not both seemed to meld into one another. Their voices were extremely similar to the point where it became difficult to distinguish between the two.  Neither Pearl nor Agnes were particularly likable, although it was difficult not to feel a little sympathetic towards both their circumstances.

There was an over emphasis on how fragile both females were throughout the narrative. Though both characters wanted to take matters in their own hands, tangibly they were helpless, and ended up being passive agents in the unfolding of events. This was frustrating to witness on several accounts, mainly because it highlighted the powerless nature of women during that era.

The plot moved at a sluggish pace and most of it was underwhelming by a large degree. So much so, that towards the end when the twist finally landed, as interesting as it was, it still wasn’t enough to lift the story. The revelations made did not have the desired effect; there was no feeling of surprise or shock. The concept of having a silhouette artist against the backdrop of murder was well done; however, the way it had played out on the page was not.

The ending left too many questions unanswered and was just as unsatisfying as the rest of the story. Excuse the brutal honesty, but it truly read as if it had been hurried and was rather lacklustre. There had been untapped potential after the interesting twist, which was completely wasted. After finishing the book, I could do nothing but sigh, whilst feeling a pang of disappointment.

During the course of the book, it felt like too many elements had been shoved in with the result that none of them were properly explored. In the end, enough detail had not been provided, meaning that justice had not been done to any of the elements such as the supernatural component or murder mystery. The descriptions weren’t vivid enough to create an appropriately eerie atmosphere. It was impossible to tell that the story had been set in Bath bar the scattered mentions of this by name.

Basically, the whole book was a disappointment from start to finish.  I kept waiting for it to get better, and before I knew it, the last page had been turned. Despite the premise being full of potential, the characters and plot left much to be desired.

Ciao,

Saz

P.S. How does a cow become invisible? By using caMOOflage 😉

A Meditation on Murder

After finishing ‘Song of Achilles’ I was in pursuit of a cosy crime or thriller that I could curl up with. Trouble was, I just couldn’t seem to settle on one and ended up wandering from book to book. This went on for a ridiculous amount of time until eventually I stumbled, quite by chance, on the Death in Paradise series. So long story short, I downloaded the first book on to my kindle (at this point, I did have my doubts), grabbed a mocha, curled myself up on the sofa and began to read. As per usual, I was most pleasantly surprised and before I knew it, I was completely hooked.

Right from the start, the murder was a puzzling one and grabbed my attention. The more clues that were uncovered, the more complicated it got. From clues that didn’t make sense to those that seemed too obvious, a mystery ensued; one that seemed impossible at times. Occasionally, the mystery dipped a little and the voices seemed to get monotone. However this did not last for long at all and did not detract away from the enjoyment of the puzzle. The writing style was not by any means perfect or skilful; it was rather simple and at times repetitive in explanations. Again, although a little frustrating, it did not take anything away from the pleasure of the mystery.

Despite being cantankerous at the best of times, Detective Inspector Richard Poole made for a brilliant protagonist. His grumpiness was almost endearing, as were his interactions with his team, especially Camille. It felt good to be able to see Richard’s more vulnerable side as the writing gave a proper insight into his mind.

“ Because in my experience when it comes to murder, there’s no such thing as a coincidence”

His team were made up of interesting characters and it was nice that each member had their own skill set which had been utilised to various degrees. At times it was disappointing as it was felt that Richard was doing all the work and his team were under utilised. But, given that this was the first book in what looks like a series, it was understandable.

The scorching heat and gorgeous scenery bled through the pages and the whole set up was appealing. Small details had been mentioned that added to the atmosphere and authenticity. The end scene was crafted beautifully where Richard reveals the murderer and how it was done. This was very much reminiscent of Poirot.

In a nutshell, this was a brilliant cosy murder mystery with all the right elements melded together to make an intriguing puzzle. It was a delightful read and I cannot wait come back to the rest of the series at some point. In the meantime, I think I’m going to give the TV series a go!

Saz

P.S. I once met an astronaut who was claustrophobic. Turns out he just needed some space 🙂

The Song of Achilles

*SPOILERS*

Greek mythology is something that has always interested me. I remember reading the stories about the divinity of the Greek gods and the immense power Greek heroes had bestowed upon them as they completed epic quests. Therefore it was no surprise that ‘The Song of Achilles’ was added to my never ending list of books to read at some point. I had briefly read about the legend pertaining to Achilles and could remember only small muddled fragments. However, having never read ‘The Iliad’ I didn’t really have much of an idea of what to expect.

After finishing ‘Song of Achilles’, my first thought had been how romantic the Greek myths had been portrayed. I felt sheltered having just dabbled in this genre, leaving my mind open to absorb this interpretation of Achilles.

“…he is half my soul … as the poets say

The gods were depicted to be capricious, prideful and vengeful, thus placing them far away from humans. Yet at the same time, ironically this reflected humanity, uncomfortably so. It contrasts the way we may traditionally think Gods to be – benevolent and wise. Glimpses of this could be seen in Achilles at times, especially in his refusal to rejoin the battle of Troy despite Patroclus’ many emotional requests. More often than not, it was difficult to connect with Achilles. His fierce love and loyalty for Patroclus was truly incredible and in these moments, Achilles was truly human. The depiction of the gods as a whole was interesting given how they look down (metaphorically and literally) on humans but insist on interfering in their affairs.

“In the darkness, two shadows, reaching through the hopeless, heavy dusk. Their hands meet, and light spills in a flood like a hundred golden urns pouring out of the sun”.

The relationship portrayed between Achilles and Patroclus was simply amazing. It built up naturally and did not appear to be rushed at all. It was sincere and wonderful. The intimate scenes were heartfelt and beautifully captured. In particular the significant impact Achilles and Patroclus had on one another.

The ending left me shattered (not to sound too dramatic or anything). Even though I had an inkling of what was going to happen, due to the emotional connection with the characters, especially Patroclus, it was hard not to feel somewhat heartbroken with Achilles. The scenes in the final chapters capturing Achilles’ heartbreak were skilfully written, evoking a whole host of different emotions.

The narration did an excellent job of bringing ancient Greece to life with vivid descriptions of each place visited.  Instead of a brief description of each character’s story in narrative, the writing allowed for them to be experienced from their perspective. It can be argued that each character was complex in their own right and their intentions weren’t always as clear cut as they may have seemed at first.

Thetis was a curious character; there was more to her that met the eye on first glance. Her maternal unconditional love for her son was clear to see in the various sacrifices she made in order to protect him. It was frustrating to witness her outward hatred towards Patroclus. It was still even more frustrating that it was understandable to a degree. The connection formed between them at the end was full of pure raw emotion.

In a nutshell this was a beautiful story, focussing on the close bond between Achilles and Patroclus that started as friendship and ended in intimate love against the backdrop of the Trojan War. A whole variety of emotions have been weaved into the narration only to ultimately culminate in a heartbreaking conclusion.

Happy Reading,

Saz

P.S. I was told to stand outside for my poor performance. If anyone asks, I was outstanding 🙂

The Midnight Library

Given the synopsis of ‘The Midnight Library’ it was clear that this was going to be a heavy read. Therefore, it wasn’t surprising that this sat on the bookshelf for a while before being picked up. Based from previous experience from reading ‘The Humans’, I was expecting this to be an amazing read. And lo and behold, it turned out to be exactly that.

Between life and death there is a library,’ she said. ‘And within that library, the shelves go on forever. Every book provides a chance to try another life you could have lived. To see how things would be if you had made other choices . . . Would you have done anything different, if you had the chance to undo your regrets?’

It was incredible to join Nora in her journey somewhere between life and death whilst experiencing the sheer amount of different emotions as they melded together. Nora’s story was definitely one of inspiration as she explored just a fraction of the other paths her life could have taken her had she made different choices along the way.

The whole concept of there being a place that is significant to each individual whereby they can see the various paths life could have taken them had they made different decisions was fascinating.  All throughout, there was an undercurrent of philosophical references, which just added to the reflective tone of the story.

One aspect that was brilliant was how the book didn’t just solely focus on changing the significant decisions of Nora’s root life but rather also explored the consequences of changing smaller decisions that were considered to be insignificant and inconsequential. In a way, it was wonderful to see how these decisions not only impacted Nora but also others around her in unpredictable ways. Even the simplest decision was depicted to have unforeseen ramifications.

You don’t have to understand life, you just have to live it

In many respects, it was remarkable to realise the sheer amount of outcomes possible from a change in one single decision. It was intriguing to view about this from a simplified quantum mechanics angle; the whole analogy of everything happening simultaneously and different universes being like tracing paper, on top of each other was highly thought provoking. Being given an inkling of the vast possibilities of how life could have turned out was equal parts dizzying and awe – striking.

Reading about a handful of Nora’s infinite lives was amazing in itself and went on to show that despite popular belief, there is no such thing as a perfect life. The path that we think may have given us the most happiness isn’t in hindsight always what it seems.  

It was nice that each time Nora picked a different life, instead of reading about it from the beginning of that life, we got to see her life from the present day as if she had been living it all along. It was also therefore interesting to see how well Nora was able to fit herself into these parallel lives of hers.

Nora’s characterisation was inspiring; she was clearly broken yet she was a survivor. The story highlighted the pure desperation she felt and had a continual dark undertone to it, but by contrast offered warmth, compassion and hope. The end ‘lesson’ was somewhat predictable, but the journey to get there was incredible.

In a nutshell, this was a heart warming and inspiring read. It was thought provoking and reflective of life especially in consideration of our own regrets. The encompassing message was beyond beautiful. An absolute must read.

Until next time fellow readers,

Saz

P.S. I found out my boyfriend is really a ghost. I had my suspicions the moment he walked through the door.

The Foundling

After having being amazed by ‘The Familiars’, I was curious to see how The Foundling would play out (plus the cover was pretty, it was too tempting not to).  Ordinarily, I don’t think I would have picked it up given the synopsis but I was intrigued nonetheless. Looking back on it (it’s definitely been a while since reading it and getting my musings down), I don’t actually know what I was expecting but do know that I did not regret my decision in the slightest.

This was definitely fast paced right from the get go. The atmosphere of Georgian London was incredible. The way The Foundling Hospital was written about and described was fascinating, giving a real sense of London in the eighteenth century. It was evident that this had been well researched which only added to the authenticity of the book.  The tragic elements entwined with the mystery aspect of the plot made this to be a compelling read.

The two different perspectives complimented each other beautifully, melding well together to give a glimpse in to the difficulties experienced both by Bess and Alexandra. It was fairly easy to sympathise with both women, more so with Bess. When first introduced, Alexandra wasn’t exactly likable. Yet, she started to become the heroine of the story as the plot developed and her perspective was more widely explored. It was evident that her trauma had started to define her, resulting in her outward coldness. Nonetheless, she could certainly be admired in some respects, making her a formidable character. There was no doubt that both Bess and Alexandra had been skilfully written.

Interestingly, at a first glance, both Bess and Alexandra seem to be at complete contrast with each other given their social standing. However, when delving further in to each woman, both depicted similarities with the other, particularly when looking at what a mother’s love will make someone do. It could be said that the sudden change in Alexandra’s character towards the end was unrealistic, which made it feel as if the ending had been rushed.

Basically, this was a wonderfully crafted historical story featuring two strong women as protagonists. As with The Familiars, the writing was amazing; it was easy to get lost within the atmosphere of Georgian London and forget about the present completely. Whist the ending was on the unrealistic side, the story as a whole was brilliant.

Saz

The Thursday Murder Club

I remember seeing this book pretty much everywhere I went, and sooner rather than later, I gave in to the overwhelming wave of curiosity and began reading it with excitement. Honestly, I’m actually glad that curiosity nudged me to pick this one up given that it was a rather quirky read and delightful in its own way. To put simply, it was the perfect cosy read.

The quartet of main characters that formed ‘The Thursday Murder Club’ was simply brilliant. Their personalities were amazing to say the least; each had their own unique personality that melded well together. One other thing that I absolutely loved was how they worked closely with both Donna and Chris, forming an unconventional collaboration.  Part of the narrative was formed from Joyce’s perspective that took place in the shape of diary entries scattered throughout the book. It was interesting to get a glimpse of an insider’s thoughts, especially someone, whom like myself was experiencing all this for the first time.

Despite appearing to be simple, it was far from it. This was a multi-layered mystery infused with wit, secrets and surprises.  The plot moved at a rapid pace and kept me guessing, questioning each character in turn. The plot became more complex with the turning of each page. Despite this, the story managed to retain its light heartedness at the core, beautifully contrasting the more serious undertones.

This book was unquestionably different and written in what can be described as a simple manner. Straightforward descriptions were provided to help create the right atmosphere. In that sense, it was an easy read. At times, it felt that certain things had occurred awfully conveniently for the quartet, particularly when it came to Elizabeth and her skill set. Yet, this was easily brushed over and overall took nothing away from the story.

In a nutshell, this was a delightful read, with the characters providing such excellent company. Cannot wait to accompany the quartet alongside Donna and Chris on their next whirlwind of an adventure!

Until next time,

Saz

P.S. My doctor just diagnosed me with a severe lack of awareness. That came out of nowhere 🙂

Before the Coffee gets Cold

I cannot remember how this book became a part of my never ending ‘to read’ list. Regardless though, I’m incredibly grateful that it did simply due to the sheer delight that came with reading it.

There was something so beautiful and magical about this story – whether it was the concept, the prose, the characters or a combination of everything, was hard to tell. The writing itself was simple, as was the story. Yet the detail was just downright amazing. Each character had been explored and the way the four different stories interconnected was incredible.

Despite the story tending to be more reliant on dialogues rather than descriptions (something I didn’t mind in the least) and the plot moving at a slow pace, I still immensely enjoyed sitting with my own cup of coffee (with a couple of homemade oatmeal and chocolate chip cookies because obviously), observing how all these characters from different walks of life went on their journey in trying to reconcile with the past without changing it. It was heartwarming to see how each of them came to terms with their present and made the best of it.

“At the end of the day, whether one returns to the past or travels to the future, the present doesn’t change.” 

Time travel is definitely a topic that has been written about countless times. However, this story took a step back from the classic time travelling plots, which was definitely appreciatively different. The rules for time travel were beautifully simple. All throughout, the story prompts the question of what would you change if you could back in time? But more importantly who would you visit for the last time?

In a nutshell, this was a beautiful story that explored the concept of going back to the past to voice those unsaid things and savour the moments without changing the present. An poignantly emotional book that interconnects four stories.

Saz

P.S. As I put my car in reverse, I thought to myself – ‘this takes me back’ 🙂

His Dark Materials (TV Series; Season One)

*Minor spoilers coming your way should you continue…*

Since the TV series had been originally recommended, I was too curious not to watch it after finishing the book. Plus I needed something for my commutes and this seemed like a perfect fit. Initially, I was a bit hesitant to dive straight in, given how often the screen adaptation doesn’t really live up to the books. But putting these doubts and thoughts aside, I began to watch (with a little trepidation).

I was actually rather surprised at how true the show stayed to the book. Granted, some details had been changed but arguably this was mainly done to move the plot along rather than deviate completely from the books. Yes, some details had been changed in terms of how some of the plot points had been delivered and it wasn’t always clear why but this was somewhat minor. One thing I wished had been kept the same as the book was when Lyra escaped from the facility. It felt as if they had changed too much and enough credit wasn’t really given to Lyra as was in the books. Plus, a lot of that segment just was not properly explained as it should have been.

The casting was a bit mixed. Lyra’s personality had ben depicted pretty much perfectly whereas her appearance didn’t quite match up to the descriptions provided in the books. Admittedly, these were small details such as hair colour but still – it’s all in the details. Roger was portrayed exactly as I had imagined him to be and the same went for Lee and Ma Costa. The other characters were a little more on the hit and miss side which was a tad disappointing but to be expected. In all fairness, some of the characters had not been fully described in a lot of detail in the books, so I guess it just came down to a matter of interpretation.

The cinematography was absolutely stunning for some of the scenes especially of course when showing the North. From reading the book to watching it unfold on screen, my wanderlust definitely grew. I mean, let’s be honest, if I could hop on a plan right this second and go to Iceland, I wouldn’t even think twice about it. Too bad lockdown has other ideas.

I was a bit confused and a little taken aback that elements from the second book had started to seep in to the first season. Given that I hadn’t read The Subtle Knife before starting the series as I assumed that the first season would only cover elements from The Northern Lights, I was in two minds as to whether to continue as I didn’t want there to be spoilers for the second book. In short, there weren’t any major spoilers as far as I could tell. Although having said that, I’m still yet to pick up The Subtle Knife ( I am seriously behind on my reading as you can probably tell).

To put simply, I enjoyed the show and I feel it’s probably one of the fewer screen adaptations (The Twilight Saga and The Hunger Games also falling in this category) that have stayed as true as possible to the books. As a stand alone, it was amazing and definitely worth a watch. Can’t wait for the next season – but first, need to read The Subtle Knife.

Saz

Northern Lights (His Dark Materials)

My first memorable encounter with this series was surprisingly at university. At the time, this was on Basil’s reading list as part of one of her courses. On our walks to campus in the early mornings, I used to demand for there to be conversation (much to Basil’s exasperation). So naturally we discussed Northern Lights (amongst other topics such as Boethius). Let’s just say that whilst she could appreciate certain elements, Basil did not exactly hold a favourable opinion of the book as a whole. Therefore, I wasn’t particularly inclined to read it and soon after, I had forgotten all about it.

Fast-forward a handful of years, and I was on the prowl for a book after my social plans had fallen through. Funnily enough, someone recommended that I watch the TV show as they had enjoyed it immensely. I finished the first episode and had a load of questions. Which naturally, made me go the book seeing as it was bound to have more detail in it.

I didn’t know what to expect but can say that I was somewhat pleasantly surprised. One aspect that I absolutely loved was the concept of daemons and how they are essentially part of your soul. But it wasn’t just this, it was the fact that so much thought had been put in to this or maybe I’m just reading too much in to it. The way children’s daemons keep changing forms may be reflective of the fact that children are still finding themselves whereas adults are more sure footed in life, which is mirrored by their daemons settling on a single form. When the concept was first introduced, it threw up a hell lot of questions for me and to be fair, bar a couple, all my questions had been answered throughout the story in a simplistic manner.

Lyra wasn’t a particularly likable protagonist but I appreciated her skill, courage and determination. She could be described as manipulative and a liar in some ways, but there’s no denying that she was clever especially when in tight situations. It was heart warming to witness the growing bond between Lyra and Iorek. It was more difficult to get a sense of Pantalaimon but perhaps that was because he was a daemon. By the end, I was questioning all characters to some degree in terms of their morality.

The writing was exceptional and the story telling was beyond words. The plot at times was predictable but at other times completely unpredictable. Emotion had been woven in masterfully and some scenes were truly heart breaking.  The world building was just completely on another level.

“You cannot change who you are, only what you do.”

I felt that this is perhaps one of those rare books that worked as a children’s book as well as one to be enjoyed by adults. It had the elements in it that undoubtedly appealed to a younger audience as well as subtler deeper meanings and messages meant for an older audience.

At a first glance, this is a simple fantasy adventure, however this barely scratches the surface. Thought provoking questions are thrown up as the narrative explores science vs. religion and whether morally the means can justify the ends. Also, the story lightly touches upon the complexities of Christianity. But I expect this will be further delved in to later on in the series.

Overall, there was definitely something intriguing about this story so much so that needless to say, I will be carrying on with the series. Nevertheless, I’m also curious about the TV adaptation so may look in to that first.

Saz

P.S. My doctor told me I was going deaf. The news was hard for me to hear 🙂