A Very Murderous Christmas: Ten Classic Crime Stories for the Festive Season by Various Authors (Review)

A Very Murderous Christmas: Ten Classic Crime Stories for the Festive Season by Various Authors and edited by Cecily Gayford

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Blurb

The Christmas season is one of comfort and joy, sparkling lights and steam rising from cups of mulled wine at frosty carol services. A season of goodwill to all men, as families and friends come together to forget their differences and celebrate the year together.

Unless, of course, you happen to be harbouring a grudge. Or hiding a guilty secret. Or you want something so much you just have to have it – whatever the cost. In A Very Murderous Christmas, ten of the best classic crime writers come together to unleash festive havoc, with murder, mayhem and twists aplenty.

Following Murder on Christmas Eve and Murder under the Christmas Tree, this is the perfect accompaniment to a mince pie and a roaring fire. Just make sure you’re really, truly alone …

Review

I bought this book last year just after Christmas so I never read it and thought I would save if for Christmas 2019. I’ve been desperate to start my Christmas reading and so kicked it off by reading this book. I read a short story a night and loved it.

The book has a range of short stories but sadly they are not all murder mysteries and some are just merely mysteries. My favourite story was Camberwell Crackers by Anthony Horowitz, it really made me giggle.

The first story in the book The Man with the Sack by Margery Allingham set the scene of a wonderful Christmas in the old days where the village children would come and visit the big house and someone would dress as Father Christmas and give out presents. I really enjoyed the beginning of this story but must admit I found the ending rather a disappointment and it was all a bit too predictable for me.

The Adventure of the Red Widow by Adrian Conan Doyle and John Dickson Carr was very amusing and it was a nice Sherlock Holmes mystery and I enjoyed the murder mystery immensely but I must admit I found the ending rather sad, not something I wanted from a Christmas book, even a murder mystery Christmas book.

Camberwell Crackers by Anthony Horowitz my absolute favourite of the book and made me giggle. A proper little Christmas story.

The Flying Stars by G. K. Chesterton I must admit I found this story rather annoying in places and rather predictable. Just could not get on with characters in this story and rather pleased it was only short.

A Problem in White by Nicholas Blake this story I did enjoy and loved how it unfurled, a real mystery and set on a train with snow. A perfect Christmas tale with more than one crime to solve.

Loopy by Ruth Rendell now this story I found disturbing and rather worrying. The main character had clearly been over protected by his mother his entire life and also did not live in the real world or cope well when made to deal with it.

Morse’s Greatest Mystery by Colin Dexter. Oh I love a Morse story and this one was excellent. Morse is so eccentric in this story and his usual grumpy self, it did make me laugh.

The Jar of Ginger by Gladys Mitchell. An odd Christmas story and I’m not entirely sure I would have included it in a Christmas book if I had been choosing the stories but the plot was good and overall an interesting concept.

Rumpole and the Old Familiar Faces by John Mortimer. This is another wonderful story that I thoroughly enjoyed. It had all the Christmas requirements: a pantomime, snow, a cold vicarage, Christmas parties and festive spirit. A perfect little Christmas story.

The Problem of Santa’s Lighthouse by Edward Hook. The last story of the book was a great mystery and rather Johnathan Creek in style and not just because of the windmill!

Overall I loved this book and would highly recommend it, especially as you can just dip into it over the festive season. The only reason it didn’t get the full 5/5 Dragons and only 4 was because it did not have a full set of murder mystery stories and because The Flying Stars just annoyed me.

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Venus and Adonis by William Shakespeare (Review)

Venus and Adonis by William Shakespeare

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About the author

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William Shakespeare (1564-1616) was an English poet, playwright and actor. He is widely regarded as the greatest writer in English history. He wrote 39 plays, 154 sonnets and other verses.

Blurb

Venus and Adonis is Shakespeare’s narrative poem about the love of the goddess Venus for the mortal youth Adonis, dedicated partly to his patron, the Earl of Southampton (thought by some to be the beautiful youth to which many of the Sonnets are addressed). The poem recounts Venus’ attempts to woo Adonis, their passionate coupling, and Adonis’ rejection of the goddess, to which she responds with jealousy, with tragic results.

Review

I decided after reading Twelfth Night that I wanted to read more Shakespeare and so reading through his list of works I thought I would go for something that I have never heard of before from Shakespeare and this is what I chose. Sadly I was rather disappointed.

I will be honest it started off well, I soon got into the flow of the poem and was enjoying it, but then it just kept going. It seemed to go on forever and I will be honest before the end I kept checking to see how much more I had left to read and even contemplated giving it up.

This really was not for me and I think it was mainly due to length, I just felt that it could have been shorter and although the language was beautiful and a lot of innuendos were clearly in the text it just seemed to be a bit waffly for my tastes.

All in all this was not my cup of tea and I think I will stick with Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets in the future. Only 2 out 5 Dragons from me this time.

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The Janus Stone by Elly Griffiths (Review)

The Janus Stone by Elly Griffiths

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About the author

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Elly Griffiths was born in London and began her career in publishing, she then turned to writing full time. In 2016 she won the CWA Dagger in the Library for her work. Griffiths lives in Brighton with her family and the cat Gus.

Blurb

Forensic archaeologist Dr Ruth Galloway is called in to advise when builders, demolishing a Victorian house in Norwich, uncover the skeleton of a child – minus the skull. Is it some ritual sacrifice or just plain murder?

The house was once a children’s home. DCI Harry Nelson meets the priest who used to run it, who tells him two children did go missing forty years before – a boy and a girl. They were never found.

But someone is trying hard to put both Ruth and Nelson off the scent – and a seemingly forgotten crime becomes terrifyingly real, with deadly consequences.

Review

Firstly, Elly Griffiths is fast becoming an absolute favourite of mine, every book of hers I read I can not put down and look forward to reading the next one.

I loved this story and loved the connections with Roman history and the God Janus. When I was younger I absolutely loved the history of the Roman Gods and Janus was a personal favourite, I became obsessed with closing gates so I didn’t anger him.

It was really nice to be reading about Dr Ruth Galloway again, she is such a wonderful character, she is down to earth, intelligent and not glamorous or hung up on her appearance. DCI Nelson is rough around the edges and does not pull his punches and quite funny.

The character that I really enjoyed in this book is Cathbad, he is so free and funny and really does not care what people think of him. I wish he would feature more in the stories to be honest.

The book was fast paced and kept me hooked from the beginning. I must admit I did work out the culprit but it did not ruin the story for me and it was a nice surprise that the story did not go down the predictable line I thought it was looking like.

The other element I loved was the personal dramas of the characters unfolding and I enjoyed that as much as the actual crime investigation unfolding. Overall I loved this book and have given it 5 out 5 Dragons. I highly recommend it to everyone but especially people who love a good crime drama.

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The House with a Clock in its Walls by John Bellairs (Review)

The House with a Clock in its Walls by John Bellairs

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About the author

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John Belliars (1938-1991) was an award-winning American author of many gothic mystery novels for children and young adults.

Blurb

When orphaned Lewis Barnavelt comes to live with his Uncle Jonathan, he is amazed to find out there is a wizard in his family.

Lewis experiments with Uncle Jonathan’s spells and uncovers the mystery behind the ticking that he can hear throughout the house, sometimes loud, sometimes quiet, sometimes fast, sometimes slow. It’s an evil clock and it could destroy humankind.

It is up to the Barnavelt’s to find where the clock is hidden in the walls – and stop it.

Review

I bought this book ages ago and it has just been sat in a pile gathering dust but I spotted it the other day and thought that looks like a fun quick read and thankfully I was correct. As I have mentioned previously I do enjoy reading children’s books and especially enjoy reading them when I’m very busy or stressed. I can truthfully say I loved this book and could not put it down.

The three main characters Lewis, Uncle Jonathan and Mrs Zimmermann were fantastic. I especially loved the character of Mrs Zimmermann who isn’t afraid of anything and speaks her mind and has an unhealthy obsession with the colour purple. She just seems to be the ultimate cool aunt figure.

Uncle Jonathan is the ultimate cool uncle, teaching Lewis to play poker and letting him stay up late and basically doing what he likes within reason. Lewis is the typical child who doesn’t quite fit in at school but has found his happy place living with his Uncle because as the story develops you can see that Uncle and nephew are rather alike.

Overall I loved the storyline and it kept me hooked from the start, the idea of magic being in a house and its walls was fantastic and in places it was rather spooky although that part was rather rushed through but that was probably because it is a children’s book. The only issue I had with the story was the lack of story about the actual clock, considering the book is about the clock in the walls it hardly features and it just feels like a very rushed ending.

I give this book 4 out of 5 dragons because of the lack of clock in the story. I highly recommend it to children and adults alike. A really good read that keeps you hooked from beginning to end.

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The Testaments by Margaret Atwood (Review)

The Testaments by Margaret Atwood

9781784742324

About the author

Margaret Atwood born 18th November 1939 is a Canadian author, poet, essayist and literary critic. She has written numerous fiction and non-fiction books, books of poetry and children’s books. She has won the Giller Prize in Canada, Premio Mondello in Italy and the 2000 Booker Prize. She was also awarded the Asturias Prize for Literature in 2008.

Blurb

In this brilliant sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale, acclaimed author Margaret Atwood answers the questions that have tantalized readers for decades.

When the van door slammed on Offred’s future at the end of The Handmaid’s Tale, readers had no way of telling what lay ahead for her–freedom, prison or death.

With The Testaments, the wait is over.

Margaret Atwood’s sequel picks up the story more than fifteen years after Offred stepped into the unknown, with the explosive testaments of three female narrators from Gilead.

Review

This book was a welcome change from The Handmaid’s Tale that I will be honest I really did not enjoy but thankfully because I had preordered this book and forgot it until it turned up on my doorstep I read it instead of just avoiding it because of thinking it would be like The Handmaid’s Tale. I understand that people find my opinions on The Handmaid’s Tale as controversial and a lot of people will find my opinions on The Testaments as controversial but thankfully we are all different and that is what makes us all interesting.

I loved this book and would have happily read it a lot quicker but I have a lot of university reading that is taking up my reading time. The first thing that struck me was how different the writing style was from The Handmaid’s Tale. The book flowed better and to me made more sense and because there was so much more information in it about Gilead and its history I found the book a great deal more interesting.

I loved the characters in this book especially sweet Becka who was just so kind and loving even though she had such a horrid upbringing. To me she is the embodiment of goodness in the dark and dangerous world of Gilead.

The character of Aunt Lydia was what really made the book. Her contributions were fantastic and I loved how she could play all the other characters like they were on a chess board. She could orchestrate everything because she was always so many moves ahead of everyone and her main talent was reading people and knowing how people would act.

This book also keeps you on your toes because it has a great deal more action within it in comparison to The Handmaid’s Tale and this is probably another reason why I enjoyed this book more.

Overall I thoroughly enjoyed this book and due to this I have given the book the full 5 out of 5 Dragons.

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Girl in Trouble by Stacy Claflin (Review)

Girl in Trouble by Stacy Claflin

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About the author

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Stacy Claflin is a USA Today bestselling author who writes about complex women overcoming incredible odds. Whether it’s her Gone saga of psychological thrillers, her various paranormal romance tales, or her sweet romance series, Stacy’s three-dimensional characters shine through.

Decades after she wrote her first stories on construction paper and years after typing on an inherited green screen computer that weighed half a ton, Stacy realized her dream of becoming a full-time bestselling author.

When she’s not busy writing or educating her kids from home, Stacy enjoys watching TV shows like Supernatural, Pretty Little Liars, and Once Upon a Time.

Blurb

He gave up his daughter years ago, but now he’ll risk his life to save hers.

Alex Mercer is no stranger to kidnappings. The emotional scars still run deep from his sister’s disappearance years earlier. His daughter Ariana remains safe long after her adoption, and he cherishes the few times a year he gets to see her. The joy is palpable when he takes her on their first one-on-one outing. At least until he pauses to answer a text and Ariana disappears…

Wracked with guilt and determined to find answers, Alex teams up with an unlikely ally at the police department. As the clues reveal a pattern of missing girls, the kidnapping case becomes a race against time to save Ariana. What cost is Alex willing to pay to keep his daughter alive?

Review

I got this book as a freebie on Apple Books and I must admit it did not take me long to read and was nice to pick up and read when I had a few minutes spare. This was an easy read and I enjoyed the story but for me it lacked the wow factor and the ending was rather predictable.

I really liked the characters in this book especially Alex and Nick the police captain. I also liked how the character of Alex developed from a dead beat man who had little to do with his daughter but as the story went along Alex turned into a dad determined to get his little girl back and become a better dad and person in general.

The character that I did not like very much was Zoey, Alex’s ex and Ariana’s mother. She drove me slightly mad and I would be happy to not have her feature greatly in the following books in the series if I decide to continue reading the series. I’m not sure what it was that caused me to dislike the character but for some reason she grated against my nerves.

I will be honest it took me a while to get used to Claflin’s writing style and the sheer number of chapters was a bit mind numbing at times but I did enjoy the story. I personally think this book would make a great holiday read or read on a long flight and I will happily read the rest of the series. I have only given this book 3 out of 5 Dragons because it just did not have the wow factor for me.

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Classics: A Very Short Introduction by Mary Beard and John Henderson (Review)

Classics: A Very Short Introduction by Mary Beard and John Henderson

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About the authors

Mary Beard and John Henderson both teach Classics at the University of Cambridge. Mary Beard is a fellow of Newnham College, and John Henderson is a fellow of King’s College, Cambridge.

Blurb

This Very Short Introduction to Classics links a haunting temple on a lonely mountainside to the glory of ancient Greece and the grandeur of Rome, and to Classics within modern culture – from Jefferson and Byron to Asterix and Ben-Our.

Review

This is not the first A Very Short Introduction book that I have read as I had to read and review the Music one for one of my modules in my Music Degree about ten years ago and I must admit I did enjoy it and found it interesting and I am pleased to say the Classics one did not disappoint.

I read this book as part of the set preparatory reading before my Masters started and I found it to be a great introduction into the field of Classics. The first thing I enjoyed was that the book was all linked to the Temple at Bassae and the frieze panels that are now found at the British Museum. I must admit it left me desperate to visit the British Museum and view the frieze. However I would have liked a little bit more knowledge of other classical elements.

The other element that I really enjoyed was the travelling through time of famous peoples’ encounters with the classics and the Temple of Bassae. I really enjoyed this little book and thought it was an excellent introduction to the classics.

The only reason I gave this book 4 Dragons instead of 5 was that I would have liked a bit more about Classics in general than just a focus on one element which was the temple. I highly recommend this little book to anyone who is intrigued and wanting to learn a little about classics.

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