cyphomandra: boats in Auckland Harbour. Blue, blocky, cheerful (boats)
April.

Robert Jackson Bennett, City of Stairs. This does have a terribly slow beginning (as commented on by any number of other reviews) and it was not helped at all by the fact that I read it waiting for a Bruce Springsteen concert to start and was slightly distracted. The rest of it is much better, and I do love the central idea (and I am always fond of cities in fiction) but somehow it didn't quite hit the spot for me. I do not love Sigrud as much (or, really, at all) as I'm supposed to. I do like Shara. I will read the next one, but I don't feel the need to race out.

Frances Murray, Ponies on the Heather. Girl moves to small Scottish town, goes riding. Not very exciting and all characters rather colourless.

Kate Braestrup, Marriage and Other Acts of Charity. Feels like a transition book - casting round for trying to find something to address after the success of her first, and also (it deals with the author's first and second marriages) not quite clear on how much of her family to include and exclude. There is a very funny bit about the second partner's name that I do not have the time to type up right now (she said unhelpfully). The first one is much better.

Kate Braestrup, Anchors and Flares. Much better - about raising children and letting them go, and more sure of itself. I am a bit ambivalent about the ending. It's perfect for the story, it happened - and yet using it as the punchline, rather than (as with her first book) the set-up makes it feel a little too convenient.

Catherine Harris, If Wishes Were Horses. Better horse book. Insecure girl with disabled single father acquires traumatised pony from spoilt acquaintance, trains it with help of English peer fallen on hard times who has taken rooms with them (and who does not marry the father! She hooks up with the vet, which was refreshing).

Agatha Christie, Murder at the Vicarage
Agatha Christie, The Moving Finger
Agatha Christie, A Murder is Announced

When I was small and obsessed with Agatha Christie (age 7-10ish), Hercule Poirot was my favourite. I did not see the point of Miss Marple. She was fluffy and she twittered, and she was not exciting at all.

It took me some time to get over this, and perhaps the only good thing about it is that it means that I've failed to read quite a few of of her books. Some years back I tried to read them all chronologically, but bogged down in all the 30s international conspiracy with terrible stereotypes ones. There are only 12 Marple novels (and some shorts) and I am now wallowing happily in them, and I like her a lot more. It's also fascinating to read them in series - there are bit parts who show up over and over (the vicar's wife, Griselda, and her son, who goes from toddler to working adult, for example), and there's also the passing of time itself. I will say more about these in next month (when I also read The Body in the Library, which is technically second). Briefly; Murder at the Vicarage does a nice double-bluff that threw me completely, The Moving Finger has a injured war veteran hero narrator and has a poison-pen letter writer and a rather unnerving romantic denouement, and I worked most of the mystery out; A Murder is Announced has a great set-up, clues all over the place, and the bodies stacking up whenever you try and suspect someone, and I had put a couple of tiny pieces together but completely failed to grasp what was really going on.
cyphomandra: boats in Auckland Harbour. Blue, blocky, cheerful (boats)
March. I don't have an overall favourite for this month but Here If You Need Me is probably the one I am most likely to recommend to people.

Gwen Hayes, Romancing the Beat. Basics of story structure for romances with lots of gratuitous 80s music references. Cheerfully useful.

Kate Braestrup, Here If You Need Me. Memoir. I got this as a rec somewhere on Dreamwidth and it is not the sort of book I would have otherwise picked up; the author is a chaplain for the Maine search and rescue service, a combination of job and calling that the author only came to after the sudden death of her state trooper husband. It's a book about grief, family, and God, as well as What Not To Do in the Outdoors, and I really enjoyed it - despite being an atheist I quite like reading about religious faith, although so often anything written post 1920 or so isn't worth it (I flatted with a fundamentalist Christian for a while. Most of her books were appalling, either of the straight out "demons cause schizophrenia and allergies" or the more deceptive "hey, let's ask all these big questions about the universe and coincidentally come up with a very specific set of answers that just happen to fit within a very specific narrow worldview" of her Alpha course text. I did quite like Philip Yancy's What's So Amazing About Grace.)

Martine Bailey, An Appetite for Violets. Historical; Biddy, an undercook at a stately home who has picked out her husband and her future, is caught up in the schemes of nobility, which nvolve lots of travelling and food. This has a really annoying beginning and I only picked it up again the day before it was due back. Biddy's point of view is what carries this; the plot is obvious and the end in particular too melodramatic, but the recipes and the expansion of Biddy's world are very good.

Jeffrey Deaver, The Skin Collector. In the same series as The Bone Collector. Not terribly good. There's a thing I read somewhere that says that a standard plot twist deceives the reader, but a great one deceives the characters, and unfortunately much of Deaver's work has now tipped far too far over into deceiving the readers (The Bone Collector, in contrast, has at least two fabulous twists for the characters that I still think of fondly).

Sherry Thomas, My Beloved Enemy The romance part of The Hidden Blade. Lots of great scenery. I wish the main characters in this had a bit more to do together rather than go through the romance bits, because I like them a lot but sadly the romance bits are the second-least convincing part of this book, right after death/immobilisation via accupressure points. I suspect this is more me than the book. I did like this but not as much as the first.

Jilly Cooper, The Common Years, and Appassionata. Both re-reads. I lent the former to a colleague who is having issues with her rescue dog's behaviour, on the grounds that she could not possibly do worse than Jilly, who is forced to put down not one but two of her dogs after she has done everything possible to stop them killing other people's pets except a) train them b) neuter them c) keep them on the lead. And then I re-read Appassionata, because it's probably my favourite of her novels, and it even makes me think wistfully about listening to classical music.

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