Monday, May 22, 2017

From Agatha Christie to Ruth Rendell by Susan Rowland

This is one of the two books that I've managed to finish last week (at the rate I'm going, I'll have to take a hiatus from the blog/cut down on blogging dramatically because I will eventually run out of reviews :p)

Despite the unfortunate cover (sorry but I think it looks boring), I found this to be a fascinating read! It's an analysis of the works of 6 queens of crime:

Agatha Christie
Dorothy L. Sayers
Margery Allingham
Ngaio Marsh
P. D. James
Ruth Rendell (also writing as Barbara Vine)

The book opens with very short biographies of the six women and then it starts the analysis. Each chapter covers one topic and the topics are:

- Gender and the mystery genre
- Class issues
- England and its colonial legacy
- Psychoanalysis and the genre
- The influence of gothic literature
- "Spiritual detection" (actually I didn't really understand this chapter)
- Feminism and the genre (I really like the title of this chapter 'Feminism is Criminal')

I found the writing style to be a lot more accessible than the Christie book on her film adaptations (though still on the academic side) but you really should have read a majority of these women's works if you want to fully understand the book. I haven't read Ngaio Marsh and Margery Allingham so I couldn't appreciate a lot of the analysis of their works.

That said, this did renew my interest in reading their works because of how interesting the books sound! I feel like reading something from all of them, and the library has at least one of each lady's book in ebook format so I may go on a mystery binge after this!

I would recommend this book to fans of the mystery genre who are looking for a deeper appreciation of some of the mysteries they read! The chapters aren't connected so you can pick up the book and only read what interests you (plus the chapters are broken up into sections by authors + introduction so you don't even have to read the whole thing). If you're a fan of any one of these six authors, you should give the book a go!

Friday, May 19, 2017

Penance by Kanae Minato

I found this book on Netgalley and couldn't resist requesting it. It is a good read, but I can't quite decide which genre it belongs to.

Penance is ostensibly a mystery. Five children are playing at school when one of them ends up dead after a mysterious man takes her away. The four of them swear that they can't remember what the man looks like and Emily, the dead girl's mother, curses them to either help solve the murder or do a penance.

That said, the book isn't so much about who killed Emily but what happened to Sae, Akiko, Mae, and Yuko as the deadline for the statute of limitations draw closer. Each of them is affected by the murder in a different way, but they are all driven to tragic ends. There is a clue from each of the girls, but the denouement is more about Emily's mother than the murderer.

I guess that if I had to sum up the book, it would be that it's more about the emotions that drive people to murder and the ripple effect that it causes.

Each girl gets her own story, and it's not until the later half that things start to come together. But I was really captivated from the start, because of how the relationships were written. They're sad and oddly fascinating.

For example (please ignore this if you don't want spoilers, though I will try to avoid the biggest one): Sae feels that the murderer chose Emily as his victim because she had already started menstruating and was thus a woman. The stress from this causes her not to menstruate at all. Despite this, she manages to get married, only to find out that her husband proposed only because she looks like the doll he was fascinated with and he's thrilled to have a real life doll now.

This book is dark and twisted and it's absolutely captivating. It's not a very long read but it manages to pack a punch. I wasn't able to put it down, which explains why I have a book review 2 days after the previous one. If you're in the mood for something dark and definitely not-cheery, you need to read this.

Disclaimer: I got a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for a free and honest review.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella

I decided to read this book because it was discussed by this podcast that talks about childhood classics and modern stories and I didn't want to get spoilers.

In Finding Audrey, the titular character suffers from Social Anxiety Disorder, General Anxiety Disorder and Depressive Episodes. Apart from therapy, she basically stays in her house the whole day. But she meets her brother's friend Linus and starts to push her boundaries.

I have no idea how accurate the portrayal of these were but I thought it was a pretty sensitive portrayal of mental illness. Audrey is an extremely sympathetic character who isn't defined by her mental illness. Yes, she's trying to get better and that is the main thrust of the book, but I didn't think that it was the only part of her character - she felt a lot more real to me.

I also liked the fact that Audrey was seeing a proper therapist and that the therapist was the one who gave her tasks, instead of her being magically cured by love. That said, I don't really think that meeting a guy should be the reason she takes concrete steps forward. Luckily, the climax of the book took place without Linux so it felt like Audrey wasn't completely reliant on a guy to get better.

The supporting characters were well-written as well. Apart from Audrey and Linux, there is also Frank and Felix, her brothers, and her parents. Her mom, in particular, was interesting - she was an annoying 'bookworm' (using the word lightly since she only talks about Dickens) who serves as a good example of why you should not believe the Daily Mail without some critical thinking. But she clearly loves Audrey and her brother, even though the way she expresses it isn't to their liking. The family dynamics were interesting and I really enjoyed reading about it.

I thought this was an interesting and well-written book. It's not often you see someone with a mental illness as a protagonist, and without glamorising or trivialising the issue (in my uneducated opinion). Also, I liked that I finished this in two days, because work means that I don't have as much time to read.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

A Thread of Truth by Marie Bostwick

A Thread of Truth is about a quilting shop! I normally read knitting novels, if it's a craft novel (Debbie Macomber, anyone?) but I'm cool with anything craft-related. I first heard about it from Sandra Nachlinger and her teaser convinced me to go look for the book!

The main plot of this book centers on Ivy, who is running from her abusive husband. She finds refuge in New Bern and work in Cobbled Court (a quilt shop). However, she accidentally appears in a segment about the shop and that means that if she wants to keep this life that she's built, she'll have to learn to trust her new friends with her past and secrets.

The subplot is basically about the romance lives of the other four main characters and how Evelyn (the owner) deals with having her shop featured on television. I guess it could have been confusing since this is book two, but there was one chapter that basically summarised book one, so I don't think I missed much.

While the book can be a little heavy-handed in describing feelings or making a point about something, it is on the whole an enjoyable read. The story is engaging and I found myself rooting for Ivy from page one.

Will I want to read book one and the later books? I'm not too sure. I enjoyed it, but the mini-summary of book one means that I don't feel the need to read it, and I guess everything else depends on what the later books are about (I only picked this up because another blogger mentioned it and I thought the combination of topics was interesting).

If you're a fan of quilting, you will want to pick this up.