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Death and Croissants

Death and Croissants

Ian Moore

7th July 2024

I’ve seen this book and its sequels in shops so many times and eventually picked it up in a charity shop.

This is a tale of a bewildered Englishman who runs a B&B in the Loire Valley, who just wants a quiet life, but whose guests seem to be a wild mix of people causing too much excitement to enter his life.

I think my main frustration was that we’re aligned with the wrong character. This means that there’s so much going on that we don’t see, and even when action happens most of it is in the chapter breaks and we just get filled in afterward.

I found the narrative very easy for my eyes to just slide past and so found myself having to go back and find out what I’d missed, which is never a great experience.

There are a couple of moments where I did actually laugh, but eventually I realised I needed to just put the effort in to get the second half done in one sitting so I couldn’t move on to something hopefully more engaging.

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Dune

Dune

Frank Herbert

7th July 2024

I’ve waited many decades to read this, but a desire to avoid the films until I’ve done the book finally prompted me into it.

At its core this is the tragic tale of a young man forced by prophecy/destiny into a course of actions that he has almost no control over, serving as a vehicle for building a science fiction world seemingly decrying a capitalist future of oppression by a hereditary ruling class.

I struggled to find most, if any, of the characters engaging, and the worldbuilding limited in interest with the focus being more on the politics than anything else. I found the plot to be slow, and driven much more by what people were thinking rather than doing.

The narrative frustratingly flicked between characters, often seemingly mid-sentence, so just when I was starting to feel comfortable in an alignment I was thrown elsewhere. I’m not sure I would read something that’s so much in the heads of its characters and think “this’ll make a film”.

As much as I wanted to appreciate it, I don’t expect to be picking up any of the sequels.

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Death in Fine Condition

Death in Fine Condition

Andrew Cartmel

29th June 2024

After reading a hefty non-fiction tome and trying to read something which turned out to be very much not my thing, I turned to Andrew Cartmel, whose previous novels I’ve found very relaxing and enjoyable.

The Paperback Sleuth is the opening to a new series with a new main character, but very quickly becomes clear that it’s the same world as the Vinyl Detective series, and Cartmel makes great ongoing jokes out of cross-over between the two.

This though has a new tone. Cordelia, our main character, has a more chilled attitude to life, and that’s reflected in slightly more graphic sex and drugs references than those in the previous series.

It’s a really good book, and I absolutely stormed through it in two days, aided by the weather being perfectly attuned for sitting out in the garden in the evenings.

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The Whole Truth

The Whole Truth

David Baldacci

29th June 2024

Having just finished a hefty non-fiction tome, I was recommended (by said tome) to pick up a thriller next, and so I grabbed this one which was early on my shelf and had remained unread for some years.

The narrative immediately grated. I was dropped into a scene of baddies plotting their plots, which is never something that I find that interesting - where’s the mystery? Where’s the joy in working things out? I don’t want a sense of empathy with the baddies.

Then I was introduced to “Shaw” - no first name - who for some reason in advance of reading I’d got the impression was going to be a professional female special agent character. But nope, turned out to be a man with an ego and no easy to discern profession. I don’t know why I’d got the impression I was expecting a woman, but it was disappointing to find another book about a man.

But still I kept going, until in about the fifth chapter there was a scene so unnecessarily reprehensible, that just felt like it was a throwaway scene to make the hero look less seedy, but could have been handled with much less shock value.

And so yeah, this was in no way what I was looking for to read. I wasn’t feeling entertained, I wasn’t feeling escapism, and I was being made to feel uncomfortable by the author’s choices of what to include. So away it went and I moved on to something more fun. I won’t return.

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Unruly

Unruly

David Mitchell

29th June 2024

Just occasionally I dip into some non-fiction reading, and this time I’m glad I did.

David Mitchell covers the monarchs of England from the mists of time (years with three digits) up to Elizabeth I, with an appreciation of irony and narrative storytelling that reality lacked at the time.

His voice comes across perfectly as he walks through history in roughly chronological order, taking no prisoners as he labels kings and queens by levels of competence and luck, with various anecdotes from history mixed in with his own personal reminiscences about learning about the period.

I really enjoyed both the facts and the sense of humour that the book portrays, and felt it much more approachable a read than other attempts at comic history that I’ve read.

If there’s ever a sequel (although I’m not anticipating one) then I would read it.

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Murder at the Monastery

Murder at the Monastery

Richard Coles

23rd June 2024

Everything is a bit shaken up in Canon Clement’s third mystery novel, which follows immediately on from the second.

The narrative is split here across multiple locations, as we follow three different threads of plot, which only somewhat overlap into plot. This feels quite odd in places where we jump between points of view mid chapter, which isn’t a style I’m all that used to.

One of the big changes with this book is that it’s much more a story about the characters, and less of the focus is on the mystery. This might be seen as detracting from it, as the murder referenced in the title feels secondary to the actual story that’s being told. Personally, I found it an interesting take and was engaged sufficiently with the characters that this didn’t matter.

I’m continuing to really enjoy this series and am intrigued to see where Richard Coles is going to take us next.

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Supernova

Supernova

Robb Pearlman

23rd June 2024

The second Star Trek Prodigy novel is a novelisation of a video game based on the TV series. It seems to be set immediately after the first novel, somewhere in the early second half of season one.

The crew find a mysterious message and set off to investigate, only to lose each other across three planets infested with baddies.

I can’t actually see quite how this would map to a video game, so in that sense it’s either a good novelisation or a weird game.

Compared to the first Prodigy novel though, I don’t feel like this manages to capture the characters’ voices as well. It gave me less of the evocative sense of the TV show, and felt just that bit less immersive as a result.

The plot isn’t bad, but felt like the connection to existing baddies was tenuous and could have worked equally well without that aspect that felt like it risks being contradicted by later TV episodes.

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