Nemesis by Agatha Christie

I was excited when ‘Maidens of Murder’ picked ‘Nemesis’ (a Miss Marple mystery) as the November book club choice. This was a story that, although I had never read, I loved from the days of the BBC adaptations of the novels with the wonderful Joan Hickson in the role of our elderly sleuth. So, when I picked up the book, I had high hopes…

However, I was left a little deflated when I started. The pace of the novel was slow – and I think I had been so spoiled from being familiar with the story that I wanted action to happen almost immediately. This is not a bad novel at all, I just found it a struggle to get into. Although, once we did reach a little bit more of the action and the tension began to build, I found myself more engrossed. There was possibly a little too much scene-setting, as a cold case rather than a current investigation is the main focus.

There is, however, all the way through, the charm we are all used to when we join a Miss Marple investigation. There is great characterisation as Miss Marple meets her cast of characters on her coach holiday paid for by her ‘Nemesis’ – our dear friend Mr Rafiel.

Yet the one big question I had by the end (other than why the ITV versions always strayed from the novels) is why, in the TV adaptations, does she always take a nephew with her on this trip – when, in the novel, she is such a tough, independent lady? Let’s give Miss Marple all the credit she deserves.

The Truth Pixie by Matt Haig

2018 has been a funny old year so far, but one constant has been my enjoyment of books by Matt Haig, both fictional and factual. I did, in fact, read his Children’s Christmas fiction first and was intrigued when this year he released his first Children’s book that really tackled those issues he can be so outspoken about on social media.

Although ‘The Truth Pixie’ is a Children’s book it is a book, I think everyone should read it. The Truth Pixie is a little bit of an unhappy soul at the start of the book. However, her chance encounter with a little girl who is finding things tough helps them both find some happiness. In fact, the truth our pixie friends speaks is a truth about life that we should all try to learn from.

This book, for me, was not only a beautiful read from cover to cover, with great illustrations from Chris Mould, but will also be a little reference guide. You can turn to a number of pages and you will find a spark of inspiration or motivation for any number of difficult situations.

So, I urge adults and children alike to read this book – or why not read it together? After all, most of my fondest memories with those I love are of when we shared a book together!

To All the Boys I Loved Before by Jenny Han

When I was in Canada (a blog post will be coming soon) I ran out of books – not cool for a Bookworm – but luckily we knew that there was the Indigo Spirit Bookshop which would no doubt save the day. And it did!

I chose a holiday read – mainly because I was a little bit overwhelmed by choice, but also was worried about the different formats on my bookshelves (such a book geek I know). So, for the second time, Netflix inspired my book choice with ‘To All the Boys I Loved Before’, as I had watched the film and always want to read the books if there is one.

This is such a lovely read. It is a girly YA book, but there is something rather wonderful about it. For me, it was a great coming of age novel and seemed very relateable for anyone who ever had a teenage crush growing up. The journey of Lara-Jean goes on is one that I am pretty sure we all went on. (Although, I am till glad that I did not grow up with social media).

However, the real joy and emotional ride for me was the family unit with their dad bringing up 3 girls. I may have shed a little tear at the sweet moments in the story where they had family traditions and kept the memory of their mum alive.

This was an easy read but enjoyable – perfect for a relaxing holiday (or it can make it into the festive read category as it does cross into Christmas) – and I may well find my way to read the rest of the series (and rewatch the film).

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

With Netflix releasing its adaptation of ‘The Haunting of Hill House’, I decided it was time that I tried to read some of Jackson’s work.

I am usually not one for spooky novels but, as I have started to want to read books that fit seasons this year, I made a change. I could not put this book down once I started it. Shirley Jackson writes in a wonderfully accessible style which sucks you in – and also adds to how much she manages to spook her readers. Although it was clear that the TV adaptation was only really inspired by, rather than fully based, on the book both are wonderful in their own way.

Again, I do not want to spoil the novel for anyone who may want to read it. However, if you do, you will be as drawn into the mystery of Hill House as its inhabitants. I did not find it a terrifying read but it certainly can play on your mind as the story unfolds. What is real in the house and what isn’t? Is everyone having the same experience or is there more to it?

I am certainly glad that I chose to read this book in October, as it is idea for autumn. I am also glad that I did not assume I knew the story from the Netflix series – well, for me anyway. So, I have now discovered another author whose books I would like to read more.

Have you read any Shirley Jackson novels? What are your thoughts?

The Chalk Man by C J Tudor

So, I spotted that this was considered a must-read for autumn, which was the final little piece of encouragement I needed to pick up a copy – as, basically, I wanted to read it anyway – haha!

This is a brilliant thriller and I was genuinely surprised it was a debut novel. It is a clever and sophisticated plot with a twist on what seemed like every page. The tale is told in the past as well as the present – giving us the context around the strange events playing out, or almost, repeated in Eddie’s life. I genuinely can not say much about this book but I do not want to even hint at a spoiler for anyone who would want to pick it up. However, I would have liked a little bit more of the ‘spooky’ side of the tale – but this does not negatively impact the tale at all merely a personal preference.

I also could not believe the final chapter – it was not what I was expecting at all – maybe some of you would have spotted it, but I didn’t, so it was an excellent twist.

The Chalk Man – which works on more than one level in the story – is correctly identified as an excellent autumn/winter read. It is ideal for those dark nights when many of us like to be a little bit spooked.

Really excited to see what C J Tudor’s next book brings…

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

I had spotted this book in the Bookstagram world, so when it was a bargain then I had to pick up a copy. Now, I had no idea what this novel was about, just that it was by the same author as ‘Gone Girl’.

When I started reading I was instantly hooked as there were so many strands to this novel that you simply wanted to know ‘Who, What, Where, When, Why, How’. There is a clever study of human nature and psychological throughout. The interactions between the characters are absolutely fascinating. Especially, when you realise the impact that someone’s actions and attitudes can have on someone else. Camille and her mother have a very strange and strained relationship but as secrets are uncovered there are even more surprises ahead for all. As well as the solution to the mystery gripping Wind Gap.

This book is not a comfortable read, as it deals with some very difficult issues, but it is compelling. I am glad I have read it and it will certainly stay with me for a long time to come – a good autumnal choice.

Have you read any Gillian Flynn novels?

The Pale Horse by Agatha Christie

My reading habits have changed slightly since becoming a book blogger. Never before did I consider which month to read certain books, but now it seems to be one of the key considerations when deciding what to read. Therefore, I was really excited when it was revealed that this month’s ‘Maidens of Murder’ book was ‘The Pale Horse’, one I knew had a slightly spooky undercurrent.

Again, we were not taken on this adventure by Poirot or Miss Marple but Mark Easterbrook is our narrative provider. (Even the most recent ITV adaptation did add Miss Marple to the tale). A number of mysterious deaths have taken place, but when a priest is murdered after visiting one of the ‘victims’ it seems that there could be more to this than meets the eye. Mark Easterbrook becomes intrigued by this mystery, which seems to lead to a slightly strange public house called ‘The Pale Horse’. It appears that the ladies who inhabit it may have some connections to practicing the ‘dark arts’.

I really enjoyed this novel. If you read this little blog on a regular basis, you will know that I am an Agatha Christie fan but there are still a few novels that do not quite hit the spot, but this was not one of them. I just wanted to know what was happening next; there is a well-built-up tension – and the twist – well I did not spot that coming! (Although, as always, it seems so obvious when it is fully revealed).

So, October has got off to a suitably spooky start – A classic Christie!

The Girl With All The Gifts by M.R Carey

This is not a book I would ever read if I was faced with a choice. A strange statement, I realise, as I have clearly read it, but that is thanks to it arriving in a little bookish parcel from Hayley of Hayley From Home. I also actually enjoyed it – my first step into real zombie fiction.

Once I started reading this book, I could not put it down. I was intrigued at every page and chapter about what was going to happen next. Melanie, the girl with all the gifts, appears to be living a monotonous life of routine and confinement. It does not seem to make sense and nor does the ‘fear’ people express around her and her ‘friends’. When an attack breaks the ‘life’ she is used to, and she finds herself on the run with four adults, she finally realises the uncomfortable truth, forges some unusual friendship and understands exactly what it is that makes her different.

The tale was a little bit slow in the middle but it did seem to reflect the development of the story and experiences of the characters. There are brilliantly jumpy moments, emotional moments and even moments of real humour. Although, the thing that really appealed to me was that this was a story with a heart. There is a real human side to this zombie book. And the twist was not one I expected, but was very well done.

This was an ideal book for the dark autumn nights – I am glad that Hayley sharing it with me pushed me out of my comfort zone and encouraged me to try something new.

Has a friend ever helped you find a surprising new read?

Notes on a Nervous Planet by Matt Haig

Less than a month ago I read ‘Reasons to Stay Alive’ and it left such an impression on me that I was keen to read ‘Notes on a Nervous Planet’. The thing that always strikes me is that Haig is so honest in his writing. His willingness to share personal experiences and his successes (and flaws) makes it such a relatable read.

The irony of this book is that I was introduced to Matt Haig through social media. Yet he makes a very good point about the impact, sometimes negative, that such things can have on our lives. Having felt anxiety levels rise over the years (and working with the young people of the 21st Century) this book certainly encouraged me to re-evaluate my use and potential reliance on social media.

This book also reminds you that the simple things in life are worth enjoying. After all, do we really need a 24-hour life? Our bodies are made for sleep, so let them sleep. Give yourself the chance to recover from whatever the day has thrown at you.

Follow some, if not all, of the guidance Matt Haig offers and you will start to realise that we can not control everything around us, but we can support ourselves to reduce our nervousness. You will also learn some history as you go and it will spark some other paths of interest that you may wish to follow.

So, slow down, pick up a book and take a little break from the Nervous Planet.

The Seven Dials Mystery by Agatha Christie

This months ‘Maidens of Murder’ book club choice is ‘The Seven Dials Mystery’. This was not a title that I was aware of but, as regular readers of the blog will know, I am always happy to give a Christie novel a go. It also seems fitting that I finished it on Agatha Christie’s birthday, which is a fitting tribute to the ‘Queen of Crime’s’ memory.

I found this novel an absolute joy to read. It really reminded me of the novels of PG Wodehouse, as there was a humour and charm to this novel that resonated with me from the first page.

This is not a novel that involves Poirot or Miss Marple, but instead Superintendent Battle (who appears in five of Christie’s novels). However, for me, other than his part in the big reveal that we  all associate with Christie’s work, he is not the star of the story. This novel in fact has a wonderfully strong female lead in ‘Bundle’. A young (and fairly wealthy) lady who sees herself as a little bit of an amateur sleuth and ends up embroiled in the ‘Seven Dials Mystery’ when two young men from her social circle wind up dead.

It is a beautifully crafted novel, as you would expect, but does read in a slightly different style to the Marples and Poirots I am used to. This made it even more appealing to me as it demonstrated that Christie is a consistently skilled writer but can make small adjustments to her style to keep the stories fresh.

I absolutely can not wait to see what next month’s offering is as so far each title has reignited my love of Agatha Christie’s work.