Saturday, 27 May 2017

Sofa Spotlight - Bullet Catcher, Joaquin Lowe


It’s the first YA book I’ve read in over a year and my overall impression was that it was alright. It started off good with Imma and her brother Nikko growing up and dreaming of becoming bullet catchers, people who can deflect bullets with their hands. Nikko runs off to join them early on and then vanishes from the face of the earth. Imma meets an old bullet catcher and basically bullies him into teaching her. Nikko reappears and Imma has to decide whose side she is on and what is right and wrong.

And I think that is what is good about this book. You have two sides, the gunslingers and the bullet catchers. Both have their propaganda that deems the other evil and in need of being wiped out. As the story progresses you see that both sides have their redeeming features but are also responsible for some pretty serious crimes.

Both Imma and Nikko have to come to terms with this and work out which side they belong to. They have family loyalties, but at the end of the day it is up to them. Mid way through this book I did get a bit bored – Imma took a while to work things out and waiting for her to do wasn’t all that entertaining. Having said that she did meet some other fun characters along the way who build into that idea of what is perceived as right or wrong.

There’s also some gore in there. The gunslingers want to be faster so they add some machinery into their hands and it is grim. I’m not one for blood so that was a tough part for me. But it added a different take to the Western setting of the book.

It’s a book that makes you think a little bit, but I would have preferred it to be faster paced. What I did like that the main character wasn’t the stereotypical tortured teenager. She was a lot more likable and real.


As it’s so hot right now maybe you should read something desert themed. Let me know how you get on if you do.

Saturday, 13 May 2017

Sofa Spotlight - The Clocks, Agatha Christie



For a novel where Poirot ultimately solves the crime, he doesn’t appear in it all that much. He sort of drifts in at the end and solves it out of curiosity. Which I suppose is fair – it is a storyline that does make you curious to know what on earth is going on.

In essence what happens is that Sheila Webb, a typist, is sent to a Miss Pebmarsh’s house. When she gets there Miss Pebmarsh isn’t there, but there is a dead body surrounded by clocks – most of them stopped at 4:15. To make it even more confusing Miss Pebmarsh, who is blind, does arrive home and claims never to have requested a typist. Also no one knows who the dead man is.

Most of the story is told by a Colin Lamb who happens to be in the area doing some work for MI5. He takes the case to Poirot, but like I say Poirot doesn’t really seem to do much until he arrives at the end with the reveal.

Although the story was intriguing it seemed to take a long time to get from murder to resolution. The police have to go through their work of not getting anywhere, but this time it just wasn’t as good. Maybe because I missed Poirot. Having said that, there were some brilliant characters and potential suspects. The crime takes place on Wilbraham Crescent and the neighbours are nosey and eccentric. But frustratingly none of them seem to have anything of value to say about the crime.

A couple more people are murdered along the way – which all goes to show that if you have dangerous information go to the police straight away and avoid getting murdered unnecessarily.


Not my favourite Poirot story but it’s still good. Oh and I worked it out/remembered how it ended just before the end.

Saturday, 15 April 2017

Sofa Spotlight - The Scarlet Pimpernel, Baroness Orczy

I had no idea that so many people hadn’t heard of the Scarlet Pimpernel. You know that moment when someone asks you what are you reading and you tell them and then you are met with a blank stare and oh I’ve never heard of that comment. Yeah. Well that happened a lot when I was reading this. In fairness even though I had heard of the Scarlet Pimpernel I had no idea that there was a whole series of books written about him. He’s not a one off.

So who is the Scarlet Pimpernel? Well, it’s the French Revolution, or one of them anyway, and the aristocrats of France are finding their way to the guillotine. But there’s an English aristocrat who, with a band of about ten follows, is doing his best to save. No one knows who he is but he always leaves a note from the Scarlet Pimpernel.

This is no A Tale of Two Cities or Les Mis but I did enjoy it. Although I didn’t like Les Mis all that much. But back to the Scarlet Pimpernel. From what I can gather this is the first book in the series. So as readers we don’t know who the elusive Pimpernel is either. But you could probably hazard a good guess and get it right. It’s not massively obscure.

The big thing in this book is the drama. It’s like Baroness Orczy has thought about the most dramatic scenario that could possible happen, hyped it up a bit more and then written it into a novel. This is probably because the story first appeared as a play, so I guess you need the drama to be high for that.

At the start you hear of the legendary tales of the Pimpernel, which read not unlike Robin Hood legends. And then you meet some of the aristocrats that he has rescued. The two characters that are central to the book are Sir Percy Blakeney and his wife Marguerite. Marguerite is French and her brother is part of the Scarlet Pimpernel’s band. Chauvelin who is the most evil of evil villains knows that Marguerite’s brother has gone to France to work with the Pimpernel and he tries to use this knowledge to get Marguerite to find out and reveal the identity of the Pimpernel.


From the way it is written you can work out that things are going to end well, no matter how bad they may seem. It’s definitely a good read, fast paced and fun. Not something you should take too seriously. 

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Sofa Spotlight - The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins



I was given this as a Christmas present and I was fairly intrigued because I’ve heard so much hype about it. It’s been on posters and then there was the film so I thought this would be a good time to see what all the fuss was about.

It’s one of those books that has got a lot of twists. It has you looking in one direction and then you realise you’re looking completely the wrong way. Sometimes I like that kind of thing, but I don’t massively like unreliable narrators.

So the story is told by three narrators, Rachel, Anna and Megan. They are all connected in some way. Anna married to Rachel’s ex-husband Tom, and Megan lives a few doors down from Tom and Anna. Rachel can see into the lives of Megan her husband Scott when she travels into London on the train each day.

Then Megan goes missing and Rachel thinks that her viewpoint from the train might be helpful for the investigation. And that’s when everything starts to unravel.

Part of the reason I didn’t like it more is that I don’t like books where there isn’t at least one character that I can hold onto as sane and reliable. This book didn’t have that and I find characters who are spiralling down quite stressful, hence my need for a sensible character to cling on to.

It is gripping and I got through it very quickly, mainly because I wanted to know what had happened. I had pretty much worked it out before it ended though, although there was one twist I didn’t see coming. EG read it after me and worked it all out by about half way through so I suppose you might be entirely different.

What was nice was knowing a few people who were reading it at roughly the same time. Interestingly none of them liked it. I even had to just tell one of them how it ended so as to put him out of his misery.

If, like me, you missed out on this when the hype was big then I would say have a read and see what you think. It’s been a bestseller so maybe all those people are right.

Monday, 10 April 2017

Sofa Spotlight - The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding, Agatha Christie


I started to read this just after Christmas, and thankfully only the first of the stories is about Christmas. Otherwise I would still be feeling Christmassy. So yes it is a collection of six short stories featuring either Hercule Poirot or Miss Marple. A slight deviation from my Poirot fest, but a little interlude of Miss Marple isn’t going to upset me at all.

So on the menu are:
The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding
The Mystery of the Spanish Chest
The Under Dog
Four-and-Twenty Blackbirds
The Dream
Greenshaw’s Folly

Greenshaw’s Folly was the story featuring Miss Marple and potentially my favourite one of the bunch. It is only a short story and there aren’t that many characters, but the characters that are in this are brilliant. It’s murder but you end up laughing at who gets the last laugh. I saw a dramatization of this shortly after reading it. It was good, but they had made it into a full length film so had added loads of characters and story lines. Which is fine – it was enjoyable, but I think the lighter short story is better.

The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding is one that you should read on Christmas Eve with a mug of hot chocolate in hand, curled up in front of a log fire. I love Poirot in this. It features characters that turn Poirot’s genius into kindness as well. Endearing is the word I would use for it.
Other picks are The Mystery of the Spanish Chest. Wasn’t concentrating enough at the start and thought I knew who the murder was pretty much from the start. Until I realised that the person I’d picked out as the murderer was in fact the victim. Fail.

The Dream was weird, a little bit spooky, but clever.


The rest you will just have to read for yourself. If you read the whole book I reckon you have a ten day read to go at. 

Monday, 26 December 2016

Sofa Spotlight - Strait is the Gate, Andre Gide


Ages ago EG and I said that if we read enough books we would go to Hay on Wye as our prize. Neither of us succeeded in that, but it didn’t stop us going to Hay on Wye anyway. In fact we went twice.

This last visit I was commissioned to find a copy of Straight is the Gate for a friend. Being a book by an author I had never heard of I was intrigued. My one disappointment was that rather than this being a whole day quest I found it within the first five minutes. As it didn’t look like a long read I decided to check out the first couple of pages. Mistake! Four weeks later my friend has only just had her book delivered.

It might only be a short book but there’s some deep themes.

In essence it is a story about two cousins who had developed an attachment in their teens but as you would expect problems arise. Jerome wants to marry Alissa, but Alissa has a sister who is also in love with Jerome. And so the complications begin.

Alissa tells Jerome that she will not marry until her sister is married. Her idea is that her sister will marry Jerome, but what she doesn’t count on is that her sister is prepared to sacrifice herself for Alissa. For the rest of the book you have to work through Alissa’s religious thinking and Jerome’s response to each twist and turn.

Maybe it’s just me but French romance novels seem to have someone dying as a result of love and I had the feeling all the way through this book that one of the pair would drop down dead.

What I did like is that at different points in the novel you get inside both Jerome’s and Alissa’s head. Jerome is the easiest to understand – he wants to win the love of Alissa so for the most part goes along with her religious fervour. At the beginning it is genuine but the motivation is very different from Alissa’s.

For me Alissa was a frustrating and flawed character. But I think that was intentional. Her perspective is skewed. Devotion to God is admirable but it does not necessarily follow that you must have a miserable life. It is sad that she has spent so long studying her religion and has missed the point. The Bible she was reading did not forbid her marriage in fact it would have taught her that marriage was a good thing.

There was a good amount to think about from this book, short as it was. But not only that, it was beautifully written. I like to be able to think about why I believe what I do, but that experience is enhanced by good story telling to go along with the thought provoking narrative.


As for the ending – you will have to read it for yourself to find out what becomes of Jerome and Alissa.