Murder in Paradise: Thirteen Mysteries from the Travels of Hercule Poirot by Agatha Christie

ABOUT ‘MURDER IN PARADISE’: Train journeys through rolling countryside and cruises across the open ocean might sound like paradise, but when murder strikes mid-journey, they鈥檙e anything but. Even on vacation, tensions can bubble beneath the surface, and when the end of the line leads to murder, everyone鈥檚 a suspect.

STORIES IN THIS COLLECTION: 路The Plymouth Express 路The Submarine Plans 路Problem at Sea 路How Does Your Garden Grow? 路The Market Basing Mystery 路The Jewel Robbery at the Grand Metropolitan 路The Million Dollar Bond Robbery 路The Adventure of the Egyptian Tomb 路The Affair at The Victory Ball 路The King of Clubs 路The Lemesurier Inheritance 路The Cornish Mystery 路The Adventure of the Clapham Cook

MY THOUGHTS: What a treat it was to have David Suchet narrate this collection! A few of these stories are also included in the Poirot Investigates collection, but they were just as interesting second time around.

This collection of short stories, also featuring Poirot’s sidekick Hastings and occasionally Inspector Japp, although lacking the depth of the Poirot novels, were still entertaining and stretched ‘the little grey cells!’ Oui!

猸愨瓙猸愨瓙

THE AUTHOR: Agatha Mary Clarissa Miller was born in Torquay, Devon, England, U.K., as the youngest of three. The Millers had two other children: Margaret Frary Miller (1879鈥1950), called Madge, who was eleven years Agatha’s senior, and Louis Montant Miller (1880鈥1929), called Monty, ten years older than Agatha.

Before marrying and starting a family in London, she had served in a Devon hospital during the First World War, tending to troops coming back from the trenches. During the First World War, she worked at a hospital as a nurse; later working at a hospital pharmacy, a job that influenced her work, as many of the murders in her books are carried out with poison. During the Second World War, she worked as a pharmacy assistant at University College Hospital, London, acquiring a good knowledge of poisons which feature in many of her novels.

Her first novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, came out in 1920. During her first marriage, Agatha published six novels, a collection of short stories, and a number of short stories in magazines.

In late 1926, Agatha’s husband, Archie, revealed that he was in love with another woman, Nancy Neele, and wanted a divorce. On 8 December 1926 the couple quarreled, and Archie Christie left their house, Styles, in Sunningdale, Berkshire, to spend the weekend with his mistress at Godalming, Surrey. That same evening Agatha disappeared from her home, leaving behind a letter for her secretary saying that she was going to Yorkshire. Her disappearance caused an outcry from the public, many of whom were admirers of her novels. Despite a massive manhunt, she was not found for eleven days.

In 1930, Christie married archaeologist Max Mallowan (Sir Max from 1968) after joining him in an archaeological dig. Their marriage was especially happy in the early years and remained so until Christie’s death in 1976.

Christie frequently used familiar settings for her stories. Christie’s travels with Mallowan contributed background to several of her novels set in the Middle East. Other novels (such as And Then There Were None) were set in and around Torquay, where she was born. Christie’s 1934 novel Murder on the Orient Express was written in the Hotel Pera Palace in Istanbul, Turkey, the southern terminus of the railway. The hotel maintains Christie’s room as a memorial to the author. The Greenway Estate in Devon, acquired by the couple as a summer residence in 1938, is now in the care of the National Trust.

Christie often stayed at Abney Hall in Cheshire, which was owned by her brother-in-law, James Watts. She based at least two of her stories on the hall: the short story The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding, and the novel After the Funeral. Abney Hall became Agatha’s greatest inspiration for country-house life, with all the servants and grandeur which have been woven into her plots.

To honour her many literary works, she was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire in the 1956 New Year Honours. The next year, she became the President of the Detection Club.

DISCLOSURE: I listened to the audiobook of Murder in Paradise, written by Agatha Christie, narrated by David Suchet, and published by Harper Collins during the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic, via Overdrive. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com

This review and others are also published on Twitter, Instagram and Goodreads.com

Pianos and Flowers: Brief Encounters of the Romantic Kind by Alexander McCall Smith

EXCERPT: This is an extract from the title story, Pianos and Flowers.

She read constantly, almost a novel a day. She devoured Maugham’s ‘The Casuarina Tree’, saying to herself, ‘Yes, yes, that’s exactly right,’ although her friend wrote to her from Penang to say how angry they were that he had abused their hospitality by writing about them. ‘That man,’ she steamed, ‘accepted the hospitality of a whole lot of people – some of whom you and I actually know, Francie – and then writes about them like that! As if adultery and back-biting were the only things we thought about from the moment we get out of bed – rarely our own bed, in Mr Maugham’s view – until the time we turn the lights out. If you could hear some of the things they are saying about that man here, and his so-called secretary…’

ABOUT ‘PIANOS AND FLOWERS’: A delightful compendium of short stories inspired by images in the renowned photographic archive of The Sunday Times.

A picture can paint a thousand words, but what about a vintage photograph?

In 2015 Alexander McCall Smith wrote a book entitled Chance Developments: Unexpected Love Stories, in which he imagined the stories behind five chanced-upon black and white photographs. Who were those people, why were they smiling, what made them sad? He so enjoyed the experience that when The Sunday Times generously offered him access to their early 20th century photograph archive he jumped at the opportunity.

MY THOUGHTS: 14 short stories accompanied by the photos which inspired them. Some are clever, some are witty, some sad, some touching, and I found only one to be mundane.

There’s one photo that particularly touched my heart, that of a group of boys, many in sixth or seventh hand shoes.

The stories themselves are varied in subject matter: there are stories of families, friendship, romance, obligation, business and travel. They are stories of every day people going about their lives in the 1800s, their trials and tribulations, the things that make them happy and sad.

A lovely book designed, I think, to be dipped into from time to time rather than be read in one sitting. There is certainly food for thought in more than one of these stories, and I am sure that I will be picking this book up again.

猸愨瓙猸.6

THE AUTHOR: Alexander McCall Smith is the author of the international phenomenon The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, the Isabel Dalhousie Series, the Portuguese Irregular Verbs series, and the 44 Scotland Street series. He is professor emeritus of medical law at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland and has served on many national and international bodies concerned with bioethics. He was born in what is now known as Zimbabwe and he was a law professor at the University of Botswana. He lives in Scotland.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Pianos and Flowers by Alexander McCall Smith for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com

This review and others are also published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and Goodreads.com

Watching what I’m reading . . .

A glorious morning has turned into a wet and stormy afternoon here in New Zealand. Pete has been away for the weekend fishing up the Coromandel. He had a wonderful time with his mates and they even brought home a few fish! I had to work this weekend otherwise I would have been with them. I haven’t been up the Coromandel for almost 40 years.

8I am currently reading Pianos and Flowers by Alexander McCall. It is a collection of short stories written about some historical photos. I am really enjoying this.

I am currently listening to Murder in Paradise: Thirteen Mysteries from the Travels of Hercule Poirot. I have read/listened to some of these previously, but some of the stories are new to me.

This week I am planning on reading The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn, the Goodreads.com Crime, Mysteries and Thrillers January group read. I am a little late starting as I committed to two group reads this month. But I have been wanting to read this ever since it came out, so I simply couldn’t pass on this.

Anna Fox lives alone, a recluse in her New York City home, unable to venture outside. She spends her day drinking wine (maybe too much), watching old movies, recalling happier times . . . and spying on her neighbors.

Then the Russells move into the house across the way: a father, a mother and their teenage son. The perfect family. But when Anna, gazing out her window one night, sees something she shouldn鈥檛, her world begins to crumble and its shocking secrets are laid bare.

What is real? What is imagined? Who is in danger? Who is in control? In this diabolically gripping thriller, no one鈥攁nd nothing鈥攊s what it seems. 

I have ten books due to be read for review this week 馃う鈥嶁檧锔 and obviously I am not going to get them all read. Bad planning, I know, and a mistake I am trying not to repeat. So I am planning on reading Weekend Pass by Paul Cavanagh

Who can forgive a mother who poisons her eight-year-old son? Even if it was an accident.

Tasha thought she had everything under control 鈥 her family life, her career as a nurse 鈥 until her son got into her stash of painkillers. Now, during her first weekend home from drug treatment, she must come to grips with the damage she鈥檚 done and somehow pick up the pieces. Told from the points of view of four different family members, Weekend Pass is a story about the lies we tell ourselves and the people we love. And it鈥檚 about struggling to rise above the mistakes that threaten to define us.

And Ask No Questions by Claire Allen

Not all secrets are meant to come out鈥

Twenty-five years ago, on Halloween night, eight-year-old Kelly Doherty went missing while out trick or treating with friends.
Her body was found three days later, floating face down, on the banks of the Creggan Reservoir by two of her young classmates.
It was a crime that rocked Derry to the core. Journalist Ingrid Devlin is investigating 鈥 but someone doesn鈥檛 want her to know the truth. As she digs further, Ingrid starts to realise that the Doherty family are not as they seem. But will she expose what really happened that night before it鈥檚 too late?

I have a busy week ahead at work so I probably won’t be able to sneak any extra reads in this week, but if I can, I will.

And of course I have already read and reviewed the amazing gangland crime thriller Family by Owen Mullen, which is being released 21 January.

Check out my review which I posted 11 January. This is one book that you won’t want to miss out on!.

I have only two new ARCs from Netgalley this week, so I am back on track. The first is The Words We Whisper by Mary Ellen Taylor

And Three Missing Days by Colleen Coble. This is my first book by this author so I am very excited!

Happy reading everyone, and enjoy whatever is left of your weekend!

Cheers

Sandy 鉂ゐ煋

Bibliomysteries Volume 1 edited by Otto Penzler

EXCERPT: They’d met last night for the first time and now, mid-morning, they were finally starting to let go a bit, to relax, to trust each other. Almost to trust each other.

Such is the way it works when you are partnered with a stranger on a mission to kill. (An Acceptable Sacrifice by Jeffrey Deaver)

ABOUT ‘BIBLIOMYSTERIES Volume One’: If you open your dictionary, you will discover that there is no such word as 鈥渂ibliomystery.鈥 However, most mystery readers know that the word refers to a mystery story that involves the world of books: a bookshop, a rare volume, a library, a collector, or a bookseller.

The stories in this unique collection were commissioned by the Mysterious Bookshop. They were written by some of the mystery genre鈥檚 most distinguished authors. Tough guys like Ken Bruen, Reed Farrel Coleman, Loren D. Estleman, and Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins. Bestsellers like Nelson DeMille, Anne Perry, and Jeffery Deaver. Edgar winners such as C. J. Box, Thomas H. Cook, and Laura Lippman.

Here you will discover Sigmund Freud dealing with an unwelcome visitor; Columbo confronting a murderous bookseller; a Mexican cartel kingpin with a fatal weakness for rare books; and deadly secrets deep in the London Library; plus books with hidden messages, beguiling booksellers, crafty collectors, and a magical library that is guaranteed to enchant you. The stories have been published in seven languages鈥攐ne has sold more than 250,000 copies as an e-book (鈥淭he Book Case鈥 by Nelson DeMille)鈥攁nd another won the Edgar Allan Poe Award as the Best Short Story of the Year (鈥淭he Caxton Lending Library and Book Depository鈥 by John Connolly).

MY THOUGHTS: This is a mostly excellent collection of short stories with books and mysteries at their centre. There is a mix of contemporary and historical fiction. There were a couple of stories that I felt weren’t really mysteries at all, but the high quality of the others eclipsed them.

My favourite story was ‘The Book of Virtue’ by Ken Bruen; the story I liked the least was ‘The Final Testament’ by Peter Blaumer.

The stories are: An Acceptable Sacrifice by Jeffrey Deaver 猸愨瓙猸
Pronghorns of the Third Reich by C.J. Box 猸愨瓙猸
The Book of Virtue by Ken Bruen 猸愨瓙猸愨瓙猸
The Book of Ghosts by Reed Farrell Coleman 猸愨瓙猸愨瓙
The Final Testament by Peter Blaumer 猸愨瓙
What’s in a Name by Thomas H. Cook 猸愨瓙猸愨瓙
Book Club by Lauren D. Estleman 猸愨瓙猸愨瓙猸
Death Leaves a Bookmark by William Link 猸愨瓙猸愨瓙
The Book Thing by Laura Lippman 猸愨瓙猸愨瓙猸
The Scroll by Anne Perry 猸愨瓙猸.5
It’s In the Book by Mickey Spillane and Max Allen Collins 猸愨瓙猸.5
The Long Sonata of the Dead by Andrew Taylor 猸愨瓙猸.5
Rides a Stranger by David Bell 猸愨瓙猸愨瓙猸
The Caxton Lending Library and Book Depository by John Connolly 猸愨瓙猸愨瓙.5
The Book Case by Nelson De Mille 猸愨瓙猸

David Thomas May did an excellent job of narrating the stories. He had an awful lot of different voices to portray and did so admirably.

Please note: some books are harmed in the telling of these stories.

Overall a 猸愨瓙猸愨瓙.6 rating

#BibliomysteriesVolume1HighBridgeAudio #NetGalley

EDITOR: Otto Penzler is an editor of mystery fiction in the United States, and proprietor of The Mysterious Bookshop in New York City, where he lives.

Otto Penzler founded The Mysteriour Press in 1975 and was the publisher of The Armchair Detective, the Edgar-winning quarterly journal devoted to the study of mystery and suspense fiction, for seventeen years.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to HighBridge Audio via Netgalley for providing an audio ARC of Bibliomysteries Volume 1 for review. Publication date 05 January 2021.

All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com

This review and others are also published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and Goodreads.com

The Ocean House by Mary-Beth Hughes

EXCERPT: And maybe this is where the story begins. If the younger sister was the terrible middle, and the old poet, seen at long last through the eyes of love, was the end, then this, the poets began to believe – and it frightened them in its starkness – might be the start.

Who picked her stepmother up at the train station? They all did.

A huddle of poets, braced against the whipping wind off the icy river, sheltered only by each other’s warmth. The train crept in to a stop. They already felt the escaped curl on the collar. The sexy wisp. As if the old poet had bequeathed them something delicious. Alive. Breathing.

ABOUT ‘THE OCEAN HOUSE: STORIES’: Faith, a mother of two young children, Cece and Connor, is in need of summer childcare. As a member of a staid old beach club in her town and a self-made business consultant, she is appalled when her brother-in-law sends her an unruly, ill-mannered teenager named Lee-Ann who appears more like a wayward child than competent help. What begins as a promising start to a redemptive relationship between the two ends in a tragedy that lands Faith in a treatment facility, leveled by trauma.

Years later, Faith and her mother, Irene, visit Cece in college. A fresh-faced student with a shaved head and new boyfriend, Cece has become a force of her own. Meanwhile, her grandmother, Irene, is in the early stages of dementia. She slips in and out of clarity, telling lucid tales of her own troubled youth. Faith dismisses her mother’s stories as bids for attention. The three generations of women hover between wishful innocence and a more knowing resilience against the cruelty that hidden secrets of the past propel into the present.

MY THOUGHTS: I don’t know quite what I was expecting, but I didn’t get it. And when I say ‘I didn’t get it,’ I really didn’t get it.

I love interconnecting stories. I adore Elizabeth Strout’s work. But The Ocean House didn’t work for me. The publicity blurb says ‘The Ocean House weaves an exquisite world of complicated family tales on the Jersey Shore.’ Complicated is right. I found the writing restless and fidgety. I felt confused. If ever a book needed a family tree, this is it. I couldn’t get a handle on the characters at all, let alone figure out how they were connected.

I abandoned this read at 33%. I really wanted to like The Ocean House of which, btw, the only mention made of it by the time I abandoned the read was that it was let out for the summer and Cece was expected to clean it when the tenants moved out in return for subsidized rent on her apartment.

I think the cover is exquisite. I would have liked the contents to be equally so.

Reading is a personal and subjective experience, and what appeals to one may not please another. So if you enjoyed the excerpt from The Ocean House, and the plot outline appeals, please do go ahead and read it. Just because it wasn’t for me, doesn’t mean that you won’t enjoy this.

#TheOceanHouse #NetGalley

THE AUTHOR: Mary-Beth Hughes is the author of the bestselling novel鈥疻avemaker II, a鈥疦ew York Times鈥疦otable Book, and the acclaimed collection鈥疍ouble Happiness, which earned a Pushcart Prize. Her latest book, The Loved Ones, was a New York Times Editors’ Choice. Her stories have been published in The Paris Review,鈥疨loughshares,鈥疓eorgia Review, and鈥疉 Public Space. She lives in Brooklyn and Rhinebeck, New York. (Amazon)

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Grove Atlantic via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Ocean House: Stories by Mary-Beth Hughes for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com

This review and others are also published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and Goodreads.com

Watching what I’m reading . . .

What a tumultuous week it has been around the world! I am so grateful to be living in New Zealand. 鉂 I hope that wherever you are, you are safe and healthy.

Currently I am reading Trafficked (The Missing Children Case Files #3) by M. A. Hunter. This was published earlier this week.

I have also started reading The Lost Man by Jane Harper. I have only read the prologue and already I am enthralled! I love this author.

I am almost finished listening to Bibliomysteries: Stories of Crime in the world of books and bookstores, a Netgalley audiobook ARC. There are some excellent stories in this collection. My favourite so far would have to be The Book of Virtues by Ken Bruen.

This week I am planning on reading The Ocean House: Stories by Mary-Beth Hughes.

Faith, a mother of two young children, Cece and Connor, is in need of summer childcare. As a member of a staid old beach club in her town and a self-made business consultant, she is appalled when her brother-in-law sends her an unruly, ill-mannered teenager named Lee-Ann who appears more like a wayward child than competent help. What begins as a promising start to a redemptive relationship between the two ends in a tragedy that lands Faith in a treatment facility, leveled by trauma.

Years later, Faith and her mother, Irene, visit Cece in college. A fresh-faced student with a shaved head and new boyfriend, Cece has become a force of her own. Meanwhile, her grandmother, Irene, is in the early stages of dementia. She slips in and out of clarity, telling lucid tales of her own troubled youth. Faith dismisses her mother’s stories as bids for attention. The three generations of women hover between wishful innocence and a more knowing resilience against the cruelty that hidden secrets of the past propel into the present.

Including stories from an array of characters orbiting Faith’s family, The Ocean House weaves an exquisite world of complicated family tales on the Jersey Shore.

And, The Boatman’s Wife by Noelle Harrison.

There was some dark secret in this western edge of Ireland that her husband never wanted her to find out. She might never be able to lay his body to rest, but she could gain some kind of closure by finding out who the man she married was.

When Lily married her soulmate Connor, buffeted by the sea spray and wild winds of her coastal homeland in Maine, she never imagined she鈥檇 be planning his memorial just three years later. Connor has been lost at sea in the bleak stormy Atlantic, leaving Lily heartbroken.

But as she prepares to say goodbye to Connor for the last time, she is shocked to discover a message to him that he never told her about:

Does your wife know who you really are, Connor Fitzgerald? Don鈥檛 ever think you can come home. Because if you do, I swear I鈥檒l kill you.

Unable to bear living in the home she and Connor shared, Lily decides to find out her husband鈥檚 secret. She flies to Connor鈥檚 home town of Mullaghmore on the west coast of Ireland, a harbour town hugged by golden beaches and emerald-green fields. But when doors are slammed in her face, she begins to realise that she knows nothing about her husband鈥檚 past.

Connor鈥檚 grandmother, a hermit living on the cliffs of the wild Atlantic, must know the truth about her grandson. But when Lily tries to find her, threatening notes are pushed through her door warning her not to stay. Will Lily leave the darkness of the past where it belongs? Or will she risk everything to find out the truth about the man she married鈥

I have four new ARCs from Netgalley this week: The Gorge by Matt Brolly

The Secret Within by Lucy Dawson

Forgotten Victim by Helen H. Durrant

And, The Incredible Winston Browne by Sean Dietrich

I have requested a couple of audiobooks, but my approvals don’t seem to be in any hurry to come through. 馃し鈥嶁檧锔

I am not looking forward to going back to work tomorrow, but needs must. There were so many things I was planning on doing during the two weeks I had off work, and so many things that are still on my list, uncompleted or, worse still, not even started. I always overestimate what I can do in the time I have available. My Netgalley back list is evidence of this failing!

Look after yourselves my friends and stay safe.

Pop in tomorrow check out my review of a book that I didn’t really expect to love, but ended up being a five star read for me!

Cheers

Sandy 鉂ゐ煋

Tall Tales and Wee Stories by Billy Connolly

Here is the review that you never got yesterday! It is somewhat shorter than the original.

EXCERPT: And into this (pub) one day wandered a guy called Gordon, with his vertical-stripe velvet coat, his shoes that turned up at the front, his Brylcreemed hair, his Ascot tie and his violin. And a wierd look about his face. I became instantly friendly with him.

Gordon only had one eye – he’d lost the other one in a motoring accident in Spain – but that’s not when we discovered it, that came later. We found that out one day when it was somebody’s birthday in the pub. ‘Happy birthday!’ – chink-chink – ‘Happy birthday! All the best!’ – chink-chink – ‘Yeah, happy birthday to you!’ – chink-chink. And Gordon went; ‘Yeah, happy birthday!’ and he lifted his glass and chink-chinked it with his glass eye. We were amazed: ‘Did you see that? He chinked the glass off his fucking eye!’

He was a crazy bloke. He drank Guinness and when he needed to pee, he’d take his eye out and put it in the foam, because there were a lot of thieves in the pub. We called them ‘mine-sweepers’, because they’d go up and grab somebody else’s glass, saying, ‘That’s mine!’ Well, they’d try it with Gordon’s – ‘That’s mine!’ – and then they’d see this eye floating in the foam: ‘Aaaggghhh!’

Well I was walking through the pub one day, and he came in the door with his arm in a sling. I said, ‘What happened to you?’ He said, ‘You’ll never believe it. I was driving up Sauchiehill Street, I was scratching my good eye, and I ran into a bus.’ He’d thought because his artificial eye was so expensive he could see through it!

ABOUT ‘TALL TALES AND WEE STORIES’: In December 2018, after fifty years of belly-laughs, energy and outrage, Billy Connolly announced his retirement from live stand-up comedy. It had been an extraordinary career.

When he first started out in the late sixties, Billy played the banjo in the folk clubs of Scotland. Between songs, he would improvise a bit, telling anecdotes from the Clyde shipyard where he’d worked. In the process, he made all kinds of discoveries about what audiences found funny, from his own brilliant mimes to the power of speaking irreverently about politics or explicitly about sex. He began to understand the craft of great storytelling. Soon the songs became shorter and the monologues longer, and Billy quickly became recognised as one of the most exciting comedians of his generation.

Billy’s routines always felt spontaneous. He never wrote scripts, always creating his comedy freshly on stage in the presence of a live audience. A brilliant comic story might be subsequently discarded, adapted or embellished. A quick observation or short anecdote one night, could become a twenty-minute segment by the next night of a tour.

Billy always brought a beautiful sense of the absurd to his shows as he riffed on his family, hecklers, swimming in the North Sea or naked bungee jumping. But his comedy can be laced with anger too. He hates pretentiousness and calls out hypocrisy wherever he sees it. His insights about the human condition have shocked many people, while his unique talent and startling appearance on stage gave him license to say anything he damn well pleased about sex, politics or religion.

Billy got away with it because he has always had the popular touch. His comedy spans generations and different social tribes in a way that few others have ever managed.

MY THOUGHTS: I bought this book from a small independent bookstore in Russell, northern New Zealand, when we were up there on holiday over the 2019/20 Christmas/New Year period.

I love Billy Connolly and was lucky enough to see him live last time he toured New Zealand. I came out of his show with my mascara all down my face, and my sides ached for days.

Billy writes exactly as he talks, so I could hear him as I was reading. Some of the stories were familiar to me, some were new. All were entertaining. No one escapes his attention. Not his wife, daughters, friends, workmates, or the scone loving, brogue, twinset and heather coloured tweed wearing elderly ladies of Scotland.

If you’re a Billy Connolly fan, or simply need a good laugh, this is the book you need. It has joined The World of Pooh: The Complete Winnie-The-Pooh and the House at Pooh Corner by A.A. Milne as my all time favourites. They are never put away on a shelf, but instead are always somewhere close at hand where I can pick one up and while away a few minutes, or hours.

猸愨瓙猸愨瓙猸

THE AUTHOR: William “Billy” Connolly, Jr., CBE is a Scottish comedian, musician, presenter and actor. He is sometimes known, especially in his native Scotland, by the nickname The Big Yin (The Big One). His first trade, in the early 1960s, was as a welder (specifically a boilermaker) in the Glasgow shipyards, but he gave it up towards the end of the decade to pursue a career as a folk singer in the Humblebums and subsequently as a soloist. In the early 1970s he made the transition from folk-singer with a comedic persona to fully-fledged comedian, a role in which he continues. He also became an actor.

It is as a stand-up comedian that Connolly is best known. His observational comedy is idiosyncratic and often off-the-cuff. He has outraged certain sectors of audiences, critics and the media with his free use of the word “fuck”. He has made jokes relating to masturbation, blasphemy, defecation, flatulence, haemorrhoids, sex, his father’s illness, his aunts’ cruelty and, in the latter stages of his career, old age (specifically his experiences of growing old). In 2007 and again in 2010, he was voted the greatest stand-up comic on Channel 4’s 100 Greatest Stand-Ups.

Connolly has been married to comedian and psychologist Pamela Stephenson since 1989. In the book Billy, and in a December 2008 online interview, Connolly states he was sexually abused by his father between the ages of 10 and 15. He believes this was a result of the Catholic Church not allowing his father to divorce after his mother left the family. Due to this, Connolly has a “deep distrust and dislike of the Catholic church and any other organization that brainwashes people”. In a 1999 interview with “The Sunday Herald” Connolly condemned the SNP as “racist” and the new Scottish parliament as a “joke”.

In November 1998, Connolly was the subject of a two-hour retrospective entitled Billy Connolly: Erect for 30 Years, which included tributes from Judi Dench, Sean Connery, Whoopi Goldberg, Robin Williams, Dustin Hoffman, and Eddie Izzard.

DISCLOSURE: I own my copy of Tall Tales and Wee Stories written by Billy Connolly and published by Two Roads. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com

This review and others are also published on Twitter, Instagram and Goodreads.com

Olive Again by Elizabeth Strout

EXCERPT: On a Tuesday morning in the middle of September, Olive Kit颅teridge drove carefully into the parking lot of the marina. It was early鈥攕he drove only in the early hours now鈥攁nd there were not many cars there, as she had expected there would not be. She nosed her car into a space and got out slowly; she was eighty-two years old, and thought of herself as absolutely ancient. For three weeks now she had been using a cane, and she made her way across the rocky pathway, not glancing up so as to be able to watch her foot颅ing, but she could feel the early-morning sun and sensed the beauty of the leaves that were turned already to a bright red at the tops of the trees.

Once inside, she sat at a booth that had a view of the ocean and ordered a muffin and scrambled eggs from the girl with the huge hind end. The girl was not a friendly girl; she hadn鈥檛 been friendly in the year she鈥檇 worked here. Olive stared out at the water. It was low tide, and the seaweed lay like combed rough hair, all in one direction. The boats that remained in the bay sat graciously, their thin masts pointing to the heavens like tiny steeples. Far past them was Eagle Island and also Puckerbrush Island with the evergreens spread across them both, nothing more than a faint line seen from here. When the girl鈥攚ho practically slung the plate of eggs with the muffin onto the table鈥攕aid, hands on her hips, 鈥淎nything else?,鈥 Olive just gave a tiny shake of her head and the girl walked away, one haunch of white pants moving up then coming down as the other haunch moved up; up and down, huge slabs of hind end.

ABOUT ‘OLIVE AGAIN’: Prickly, wry, resistant to change yet ruthlessly honest and deeply empathetic, Olive Kitteridge is “a compelling life force” (San Francisco Chronicle). The New Yorker has said that Elizabeth Strout “animates the ordinary with an astonishing force,” and she has never done so more clearly than in these pages, where the iconic Olive struggles to understand not only herself and her own life but the lives of those around her in the town of Crosby, Maine. Whether with a teenager coming to terms with the loss of her father, a young woman about to give birth during a hilariously inopportune moment, a nurse who confesses a secret high school crush, or a lawyer who struggles with an inheritance she does not want to accept, the unforgettable Olive will continue to startle us, to move us, and to inspire moments of transcendent grace.

MY THOUGHTS: I love Elizabeth Strout’s writing. I loved Olive Kitteridge, but I love Olive Again even more. While Strout meanders through Olive’s life and the lives of those around her, she brings back memories of our own lives, things we have done, and people we have known. She makes us look at our own relationships, the way we treat people, and our expectations of them.

In Olive Again, Strout examines aging, loss, grief, loneliness, and the ways in which we have to adapt both physically and mentally to these challenges. She treats the breaking down of our bodies with empathy and humor. After all, as Olive says, ‘ That’s life, nothing you can do about it.’

I like Olive. More than like her. And I plan on visiting with her frequently.

猸愨瓙猸愨瓙.5

THE AUTHOR: Elizabeth Strout is the author of several novels. She teaches at the Master of Fine Arts program at Queens University of Charlotte.

DISCLOSURE: I listened to the audiobook of Olive Again written by Elizabeth Strout, narrated by Kimberley Farr, and published by Random House Audio. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com

This review and others are also published on Twitter, Instagram and Goodreads.com

The Girl’s Guide to Hunting and Fishing by Melissa Bank

EXCERPT: I closed my eyes and tried to pretend I was in Nantucket.

The house we’d rented every year there had a widow’s walk – a square porch on the roof, where the wives of sea captains were supposed to have watched for their husband’s ships. At night, we’d hear creaks and moans. Once I thought I heard footsteps pacing the widow’s walk. You could feel the ghosts in that house, scaring you in the best way.

If there were any ghosts in this one, they weren’t moaning about husbands lost at sea but slamming doors over modern, trivial matters, such as not being allowed to go water skiing.

ABOUT ‘THE GIRL’S GUIDE TO HUNTING AND FISHING’: Generous-hearted and wickedly insightful, The Girls’ Guide to Hunting and Fishing maps the progress of Jane Rosenal as she sets out on a personal and spirited expedition through the perilous terrain of sex, love, and relationships as well as the treacherous waters of the workplace. With an unforgettable comic touch, Bank skillfully teases out issues of the heart, puts a new spin on the mating dance, and captures in perfect pitch what it’s like to be a young woman coming of age in America today.

MY THOUGHTS: I was actually looking for something else when I came across this, stuck behind some other books on my shelf. I remember reading this not long after it was first published, somewhere around 2000, twenty years ago now, so I thought that I would give it a reread and see how it has stood the test of time. And I am delighted to say that it has stood up well.

Now I am not a chic lit lover. But I needed something light and easy to read, something where I wasn’t going to have to remember 93 characters and their relationships with one another, where I wasn’t going to have to remember a complicated plotline with numerous twists. The Girl’s Guide to Hunting and Fishing ticks all those boxes.

The chapters are all separate stories, so it’s a good book for picking up and putting down again. Although I have to admit to reading it over a twenty four hour period, stretched out on the sofa watching the rain beating against the windows and catching a few zzzzzzzs every now and then.

I liked Jane’s character. There’s a lot more depth to her than your average Chic Lit heroine. She’s kind, funny, smart and sassy, even if she doesn’t always have much confidence in herself. And I like her relationship with her family. And despite the light hearted tone, the author does deal with some serious issues, and does so with empathy.

I had originally planned to read then discard this, but somewhere along the line, I changed my mind. It is now tucked back in its little hideyhole, ready for me to rediscover and hopefully enjoy again in a few more years.

And for what it’s worth, IMHO The Girl’s Guide to Hunting and Fishing leaves Bridget Jone’s Diary for dead.

猸愨瓙猸.7

THE AUTHOR: Melissa Bank (born in 1961 in Philadelphia) is an American author. She has published two books, The Girls’ Guide to Hunting and Fishing, a volume of short stories, and The Wonder Spot,” a novel, which have been translated into over thirty languages. Bank was the winner of the 1993 Nelson Algren Award for short fiction. She currently teaches in the MFA program at Stony Brook Southampton.

Bank was born in Philadelphia; her father, a neurologist, died of leukemia in his late 50s. Bank attended Hobart and William Smith Colleges,and has an MFA from Cornell University.

DISCLOSURE: I own my copy of The Girl’s Guide to Hunting and Fishing by Melissa Bank. I obtained it from the Gateway Book Exchange, Gosford, NSW, Australia, probably somewhere around 2001/2. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com

This review and others are also published on Twitter, Instagram and Goodreads.com

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

EXCERPT: For many years Henry Kitteridge was a pharmacist in the next town over, driving every morning on snowy roads, or rainy roads, or summertime roads, when the wild raspberries shot their new growth in brambles along the last section of town before he turned off to where the wider road led to the pharmacy. Retired now, he still wakes early and remembers how mornings used to be his favourite, as though the world were his secret, tires rumbling softly beneath him and the light emerging through the early fog, the brief sight of the bay off to his right, then the pines, tall and slender, and almost always he rode with the window partly open because he loved the smell of the pines and the heavy salt air, and in the winter he loved the smell of the cold. (Taken from the short story ‘Pharmacy’)

ABOUT “OLIVE KITTERIDGE’: At times stern, at other times patient, at times perceptive, at other times in sad denial, Olive Kitteridge, a retired schoolteacher, deplores the changes in her little town of Crosby, Maine, and in the world at large, but she doesn鈥檛 always recognize the changes in those around her: a lounge musician haunted by a past romance; a former student who has lost the will to live; Olive鈥檚 own adult child, who feels tyrannized by her irrational sensitivities; and her husband, Henry, who finds his loyalty to his marriage both a blessing and a curse.

As the townspeople grapple with their problems, mild and dire, Olive is brought to a deeper understanding of herself and her life鈥搒ometimes painfully, but always with ruthless honesty. Olive Kitteridge offers profound insights into the human condition鈥搃ts conflicts, its tragedies and joys, and the endurance it requires.

MY THOUGHTS: I love this collection of character studies of Olive herself, her family, friends and acquaintances. If you think about where you live and the people you know, you will recognise many of the traits and personalities of Strout’s characters. It may even help you to understand them a little better. Kitteridge has chronicled the small but important incidents in their lives, incidents that often precipitate a turning point, but remain unrecognised as such.

Olive herself is not always likeable. She can be brusque and harsh in her judgements, yet she can also be kind, generous and understanding. She is a ‘smother mother,’ which she vehemently denies, and one of my favourite scenes occurs after her son’s wedding when she overhears her new daughter-in-law criticising the dress she was so proud of. She exacts her own revenge on her hapless and to be short-lived daughter-in-law.

The stories themselves are short and deceptively quiet. There are no great revelations, very few dramas. This is about people coping with their lot, their day to day lives, their decisions or lack of them. Strout takes a dissecting knife to our familiar world and places slivers of it under the microscope. We won’t always like what we see, but she has produced a startlingly honest portrait of the people of a small town.

猸愨瓙猸愨瓙.3

THE AUTHOR: Elizabeth Strout is a US-American novelist and author. She is widely known for her works in literary fiction and her descriptive characterization. She was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for her novel Olive Kitteridge in 2009.

DISCLOSURE: I listened to the audiobook of Olive Kitteridge, written by Elizabeth Strout, narrated by Kimberly Farr, and published by Random House Audio via Overdrive. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com

This review and others are also published on Twitter, Instagram and Goodreads.com