After Mara's mother dies, Mara goes to live with her dad on an island. No one seems happy about that, including Mara.
The plot is rather thin, as it's...moreAfter Mara's mother dies, Mara goes to live with her dad on an island. No one seems happy about that, including Mara.
The plot is rather thin, as it's based on holding back a few pieces of information for no particular reason. Which I'd likely have forgiven if there was more time spent on being a mermaid. But the extent of the mermaid activity is swimming out from the coast a few times, staying near/on the surface (and it's made clear this is pretty typical, especially during tourist season). It wasn't really what I look for in mermaid stories, as I like the underwater bits the best.(less)
Agatha Raisin takes early retirement from her PR job to move to a quiet Cotswolds village. In order to fit in, she enters the quiche competition with...moreAgatha Raisin takes early retirement from her PR job to move to a quiet Cotswolds village. In order to fit in, she enters the quiche competition with a quiche she bought. When the judge dies after eating her quiche, her deception comes out. But was the death an accident or murder?
The main focus is really on Agatha trying to find where she fits. Her life has been very lonely up to moving to the village, and she feels like an outsider (which brings her to cheat, as she thinks winning will help her fit in). She does spend time questioning suspects and the like, but she isn't fully committed to the path of the amateur sleuth and has her own doubts about whether it was murder. It's clear this book is setting her up to believe in herself as a sleuth.
The mystery was relatively straight-forward, though there are several suspects (one of my criticisms of a number of the mysteries I've read recently is there's only one possible suspect).
I liked the main character. Agatha is someone who's had to struggle for everything she's got in life. She's abrasive, ruthless and not above cheating to get where she needs to go. During the story, she has to acknowledge that she's not always the nicest person. But the people around her also have to acknowledge that she's good at getting stuff done.
In terms of inclusion, some of the characters are rather stereotyped. The one that particularly got the side-eye from me was describing one of the characters as "gypsy-looking". She was also someone with poor personal hygiene and a gambling problem.
Then there's Roy, who comes across as the stereotypical gay best friend and is described as effeminate. I did like that Agatha disapproves of some of his later actions as chauvinistic (like wanting to marry a woman purely to help advance his career). It'll be interesting to see where Roy ends up going with that. Personally, I liked his first friend (implied boyfriend) Steve, who was serious and wrote everything down in a notebook. He made a good contrast with Roy... but I suspect he wasn't being set up as a regular series character.
There's also Bill Wong the British-Chinese detective, who I imagine will be a reoccurring role, though there wasn't that much of him in this one (he's mostly there to warn Agatha not to get involved, rather than working with her).
Overall, I enjoyed the story. It fulfils its cozy mystery aim of providing a lighter read, with nothing too graphic (there's some mild violence and a few instances of stronger language). It also made me want to eat quiche (though I avoided the spinach one). My main criticism is the stereotyping and some of the language used to describe marginalised people, which did detract from my enjoyment of the book.(less)
Lexy's ex-boyfriend is killed with poisoned cupcakes from her bakery. With the bakery closed for testing by the police, she sets off to investigate. T...moreLexy's ex-boyfriend is killed with poisoned cupcakes from her bakery. With the bakery closed for testing by the police, she sets off to investigate. The book also includes recipes for cupcake tops and frosting.
On the positives, I liked that Lexy is mainly surrounded by women. Her best friend is also a woman and she gets help from a group of elderly women. That does tend to be a strength of cozies, but it's not something to take for granted. There wasn't a love triangle (it's obvious who the love interest is and that they'll end up together), which is a good thing for me as I find love triangles endlessly angsty.
On the negatives, the mystery was barely there. The character motivations were stretching it even for a cozy (like the police took all the ingredients from the bakery to test, rather than samples, which makes no sense even with handwaving police procedure). There isn't really anything new here in terms of the plot, characters and setting.
I also dislike books where the main character can eat anything and not put on weight, and it's portrayed as a wonderful thing. I tend to lose weight quickly and put it on slowly. It's not wonderful. It means sugar crashes where I stop functioning if I forget a meal. It means even mild sickness can mean dropping underweight. This isn't a trope I can find fun.
Overall, the writing flows well enough and it succeeds at its aim - it's a light-hearted book that can be read quickly, without a whole lot of attention required. I wouldn't recommend it if you're looking for a strong mystery, but for a bit of light romance and mystery (plus recipes), it might fit the bill.(less)
Silvia Moreno-Garcia's collection has stories mostly set in Mexico, with speculative and folkloric themes. My favourite was Maquech, about selling liv...moreSilvia Moreno-Garcia's collection has stories mostly set in Mexico, with speculative and folkloric themes. My favourite was Maquech, about selling live beetle jewellery. The beetle is the last one decorated by a particular crafter, and brings with it dreams of the jungle. Yet it has to be sold to cover basic living costs, to a rich person who only wants it as this season's shiny thing.
It's a strong collection, with a range of themes and approaches. Recommended for those who like stories of the quietly strange.(less)
You may want to slap the author for his racism, sexism and other things. However, it does have a lot of information, and is a valuable reference for a...moreYou may want to slap the author for his racism, sexism and other things. However, it does have a lot of information, and is a valuable reference for anyone studying magic and religion in sixteenth and seventeenth century England. As with all sources, just be careful to keep the author's tendencies in mind when judging the conclusion he draws from the information.
A few of the topics covered are the reformation, magic in the church, magical healing and fairies. Much of the magic of this time period combined pagan beliefs and church beliefs, such as using old herbal remedies, whilst chanting prayers like spells. There are a lot of specific examples given and references are marked throughout.
It's not a book I'd read for fun due to the overtones of the text, but as a reference, it was exactly what I needed.(less)
Lucy Wood's debut collection is a series of stories set in Cornwall. The central problems are average ones, such as dealing with moving away from a ch...moreLucy Wood's debut collection is a series of stories set in Cornwall. The central problems are average ones, such as dealing with moving away from a childhood home, losing a husband or growing up, with some added folkloric complications. For example, a woman helps out her ex-boyfriend, who needs a lift to see a new house he might be buying, but she's on a deadline as she's turning into stone. A boy with a giant father isn't growing, and frets about it while hanging out with a friend in a giant's boneyard.
The feel of the stories is generally melancholy or wistful. They build slowly and fade out, rather than ending with a firm conclusion. Recommended for fans of literary fantasy and magical realism.(less)
The Memory Eater anthology is based on the premise that unwanted memories can be erased by a machine. Themed anthologies can suffer from the stories b...moreThe Memory Eater anthology is based on the premise that unwanted memories can be erased by a machine. Themed anthologies can suffer from the stories being too samey... and that was a big problem here. I read the first couple of stories, but after that, I skipped and picked a few at random from the rest. I'd hoped to see more of a range of situations, but the ones I chose all read as though they were set in near-future America, and focused on a heterosexual relationship problem. One story had a gay man being murdered for getting in the way of an opposite sex relationship, which is a negative trope I'd rather not ever see again, especially in an anthology with a heterosexual focus.
It's possible there are some standouts in the ones I didn't read, but I had no motivation to give the rest of the stories a chance.
The stories are anonymous. Author names and bios are in a list at the back, but who wrote which story isn't identified. This was unfortunate as a reader (as I do like to know who authored a story, for better or worse) and bad for the authors themselves.
On the plus side, I didn't see any issues in the editing and each story was illustrated. If you're a fan of the themes I've mentioned, this might be for you.(less)
This edition of Alice in Wonderland is illustrated by Yayoi Kusama. The story needs no introduction, as it's Lewis Carroll's classic tale of a girl fa...moreThis edition of Alice in Wonderland is illustrated by Yayoi Kusama. The story needs no introduction, as it's Lewis Carroll's classic tale of a girl falling down a rabbit hole into a magical world. My review focuses mainly on the art and presentation.
Yayoi Kusama is known for artwork involving polkadots and other repeating elements, in bold colours. Her work tends towards the abstract and surreal, which is a good match for the tone of the story. But the book isn't simply illustrated in the sense of having a few pages with pictures. The art interacts with the story. When Alice is falling down the hole, there are double page spreads of abstract designs giving the feel of movement and falling. Polkadots adorn many of the pages, with the text either flowing around them or over them. The less abstract pictures are often scenery items, such as fish, fungi and flowers, which create the feel of Wonderland.
It's a beautiful book, and highly recommended to fans of illustrated collector's editions.(less)