#WIPpet Wednesday – September 18, 2019

This week I’m joining WIPpet Wednesday again. WIPpet Wednesday is a blog hop wherein writers share an excerpt from their current WIP (Work in Progress) that somehow relates to the date.



What I’m sharing today

I have two WIPs going right now. I’m making final revisions to the first one, a medieval portal fantasy called Greenhaelan. That’s where my excerpt is coming from today.

As it’s the 18th day of the 9th month, I’ll be sharing 18 sentences from Chapter 9.

The final man was slim and dressed in black. His hand rested lightly on the hilt of a half-drawn sword. He looked Kelan over and grinned, sliding the sword back into its sheath.
“Put up your arms, friends. It’s only a little mouse hiding in the hay.” His voice was an amused drawl.
The other three obeyed him, but their expressions were still wary. They obviously didn’t share their companion’s sense of humour. The older man in particular was scowling like a bulldog.
The one in black stepped closer. “What’s your name, little mouse?”
After everything Kelan had gone through this morning, this was too much. It was one thing to be attacked or even killed; it was quite another to be laughed at and called a mouse. He knew he might be in danger, but he didn’t care. He lifted his chin and glared at the man.
“What’s yours?”
The stranger laughed. “So, the mouse has teeth.”

Kelan is only a secondary character in this novel, but he’ll be getting his own book later. From my point of view, he’s both the easiest character to write about and also the most fun. Seems like somewhere inside this middle-aged woman, a teenage boy is struggling to get out and be heard. Patience, Kelan. Your turn will come.

Mini Experiment: Eavesdropping in Cafes

I’ve been hearing quite a bit recently about a technique to help writers improve their ear for dialogue and gather a plethora of shiny new ideas for stories at the same time: eavesdrop on private conversations in public places.

Now, the first thing I want to make clear to you is that this whole idea goes against all my natural instincts. When I’m alone in a public place, I would prefer not to be able to hear other people at all. If there was such a thing as a portable cone of silence, it would be tucked away in my handbag right now. My usual first move when entering a cafe is to look for the table that is as far from the nearest actual human beings as possible. I don’t want my valuable coffee-drinking/reading/ writing/Twittering time interrupted by random bursts of conversation that have nothing to do with me.

However, never let it be said that I am not willing to suffer for my art. And therefore, I embarked upon another Writing Mini-Experiment this week, with the aim of visiting two cafes, listening to as many random conversations as possible and scribbling any interesting bits down. Here are my results.

DAY 1

The cafe: busy, old-fashioned, comfy, not the least bit trendy or edgy, but good service and a nice view of the park.

The time: 3.45pm

The order: Warm and Spicy Tea (apple, orange peel, rosehip, hibiscus, cornflower, clove, cinnamon, anise, pepper)

Notes: I chose a table between two already-occupied ones and almost immediately realised I had made a newbie error. Whitney Houston was warbling from a nearby speaker, asking me how she’d know if he really loved her. She was getting quite worked up about her dilemma and hers was the only voice I could make out clearly. I strained my ears and hoped the next selection would be a soft ballad, but alas, Dolly Parton seemed determined to put her case to someone named Jolene, and she wasn’t being quiet about it. I had also sited myself too close to both the kitchen and the coffee machine. Sounds were emanating from both.

While I waited for my tea, one of the grey-haired ladies at the table to my left momentarily raised her voice:

The hardest year I ever had was my first year here, and I kept thinking, I’ve been teaching for ten years, why is this so hard?

Teachers. I know all about teachers, having been one myself for decades. Nothing new for me to work with there.

I drank my pretty pink tea from my pretty floral cup (delicious, by the way, good choice) and kept my ears open, trying to tune into the conversation at the table to my right, which was occupied by a teenage girl in a school uniform sitting opposite two women (mother and aunt, perhaps?)

During a blessed break in the music, the teenager said, clear as a bell,

I’ve noticed when I’m feeling really nervous , really scared, you know, my feet cramp up.

Well, it was an interesting bit of information, but did it take me anywhere?

The music started again just as one of the two women answered her phone. She raised her voice slightly and I listened avidly to what seemed a promising beginning. Unfortunately, she lowered the volume again and all I caught were short snippets between lengthy pauses.

…why would he even say that?… why not just let me have a go and … awful place to be … it all comes back to … and then why did he lie to me … and then he said … I’ll stand back and …”

Now this sounded like the real deal – who was “he”? What had he lied about? Where was the “awful place”?

Could I do anything with this? Sadly, I concluded I could not.

And now Leo Sayer was declaring that I made him feel like dancing. I finished my second cup of tea and left him to it.

Result: disappointed but still hopeful about tomorrow’s foray.

DAY 2

The cafe: quirky, arty, a slightly younger, professional crowd.

The time: 10.30 am

The order: a Flat White Coffee on Almond Milk and a late breakfast of Zucchini and Haloumi Fritters with Labneh (hey, it’s for science, all right?)

Notes: This was more like it. I settled onto a banquette seat in a corner, surrounded by closely packed tables, three already occupied. The music was appropriately subdued and the kitchen and coffee machine were far, far away.

A man and a woman in their thirties were chatting right in front of me and I could hear every word. I took out my notebook. The man was speaking.

When they get into that situation, don’t get me wrong about this, the thing is, like, that’s the thing, you know, that happens.”

Okay, real dialogue, unscripted, sure. But not otherwise terribly useful. I stopped taking notes and kept listening. They were work colleagues,  having  a conversation about arranging shifts, rosters and break times. And yes, it was every bit as boring as that sounds.

I turned my attention to a second couple, middle-aged, wearing workout gear. They were talking animatedly, in tones too low for me to hear a single word. Why did people have to be so considerate of others, I thought with irritation. Where were the colourful loudmouths when you needed them?

My order arrived. The fritters looked a little overdone, but in fact weren’t. They were delightfully crispy on the outside, moist and tasty inside. Sharp, garlicky labneh, perfectly oozy poached egg, delicate sprinkling of dukkah… but I digress.

Work-out gear woman stood and walked out. Had they had an argument? Or  was she simply on her way to do a little shopping? I would never know. Casually glancing over my shoulder, I saw her erstwhile companion take out his phone and begin scrolling.

The occupant of the table diagonally opposite me was alone and typing on his laptop. A fellow writer perhaps. I wished him well, but he was useless to me.

Ah, now, someone was being led to the final unoccupied table in our little enclave. An elderly man. Perhaps he was waiting for someone. Perhaps his advancing years had resulted in partial deafness and they would both have to shout. But no. He gave his order to the server and unfolded a newspaper. I may have sighed.

I finished my food and drank my coffee, both excellent, and my only consolation for another fruitless hour.

Result: an even more promising start, but in the end a washout.

 

CONCLUSIONS

1.Overhearing other people’s private conversations is harder than you might expect

2. Even when you can hear them, they are mostly boring

3. In the unlikely case they are even slightly interesting, you won’t be able to hear them properly

4. Warm and Spicy Tea is the bomb and Zucchini and Haloumi Fritters are an outstanding choice for breakfast

RECOMMENDATIONS FOR FURTHER ACTION

When visiting cafes alone in the future, embrace previously preferred option of sitting in splendid isolation and pretending no other humans are present. Alternatively, invent portable cone of silence.

What I read in August 2019

I read six books this month, with an average rating of 4.25, probably my highest average ever. As a reading month, August was all about quality over quantity. Here are the books, from lowest to highest rated.

MOM’S PERFECT BOYFRIEND

By Crystal Hemmingway

Genre: Romantic Comedy

RATING: ⭐⭐⭐ 1/2

A smart romantic comedy about mothers and daughters, and the hilarious consequences of a white lie. 

I received this novel as an Advanced Reader Copy through LibraryThing. I don’t read many romances, but I was in the mood for something light, fun and even a bit silly and I thought this might fit the bill.

Well, it did and it didn’t. My full review is here, but briefly, it’s a bit of a mish-mash with a lot going on, some of it quite odd and a lot of it unbelievable. But it’s original, a quick and easy read and I had fun with it, even staying up past my bedtime to finish, so 3.5 stars seems fair.


EMBERS OF WAR

By Gareth Powell

GENRE: Science Fiction

RATING: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

The warship Trouble Dog was built and bred for calculating violence, yet following a brutal war, she finds herself disgusted by conflict and her role in a possible war crime. Seeking to atone, she joins an organisation dedicated to rescuing ships in distress.When a ship goes missing in a disputed system, Trouble Dog and her new crew of misfits and loners are assigned to investigate and save whoever they can. Quickly, what appears to be a straightforward rescue mission turns into something far more dangerous.If she is to survive and save her crew, Trouble Dog is going to have to remember how to fight.

I’m a bit embarrassed that as a keen reader of sci-fi and someone partial to the occasional space opera, I had never read any of Gareth Powell’s work until now. This one seemed like a good place to start, being the first book in his current trilogy. And it was. I am completely hooked on this story and I can’t wait to read the next volume, Fleet of Knives.

So, then, why didn’t I give this book 5 stars? If I was judging it only on the plot, I would have. The concepts? Tick. And if I was rating it on how much I enjoyed the final hundred or so pages, again, yes. Such a satisfying conclusion.

Here’s the thing. The story is written in first person, from multiple points of view. No problem, but if you do this, the points of view should be distinct. This was the case with Trouble Dog and Nod, but the voices of the three human characters were just too similar to each other. They had terrific backstories that differentiated them, but their voices didn’t reflect this, which gave their narration an inauthentic feel, leaving me wanting more.

Still, a solid 4 stars and a guarantee I’ll be reading the next book very soon.


MISS MARPLE’S FINAL CASES

By Agatha Christie

GENRE: Crime/ Detective/ Short stories

RATING: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

A collection of Miss Marple mysteries, plus some bonus short stories…First, the mystery man in the church with a bullet-wound…then, the riddle of a dead man’s buried treasure…the curious conduct of a caretaker after a fatal riding accident…the corpse and a tape-measure…the girl framed for theft…and the suspect accused of stabbing his wife with a dagger.

Mission Marple is over. This was the final volume, the last stories Christie ever wrote about Miss Marple, her elderly village lady sleuth. It’s been a truly enjoyable journey and I’m so glad I joined in.

This was a perfect way to complete the mission. I really like the variety of the stories, some more successful than others, of course. It was also a sort of reunion collection of many characters from the Marple novels and I had a great time meeting some of my favourites again. I devoured the whole book in one sitting. 



THE BEE FRIENDLY GARDEN

By Doug Purdie

Genre: Non-fiction/ Gardening/ Wildlife

RATING: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

The Bee Friendly Garden is a guide for all gardeners great and small to encouraging bees and other good bugs to your green space..

Ever since I read Kate Bradbury’s book last month, I’ve been plotting and planning ways to make my garden more wildlife-friendly. I borrowed this book from my library and thoroughly enjoyed learning all about Australian native bees: their variety, usefulness, requirements to thrive and the kinds of garden additions that will encourage them to visit my patch and to stay long-term. It’s more a reference book than one to read cover-to-cover. So, of course, I read every page.😁 The illustrations are lovely, too.

FIGHT WRITE

By Carla Hoch

Genre: Non-fiction/ Writing

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

In Fight Write you’ll learn practical tips, terminology, and the science behind crafting realistic fight scenes for your fiction. Broken up into “Rounds,” trained fighter and writer Carla Hoch guides you through the many factors you’ll need to consider when developing battles and brawls.

My full review of this very useful handbook is here. The short version is that I was only a quarter of the way through the digital ARC before I ordered a paperback copy. I’ve already referred to it twice in the last two weeks. A keeper for my Writing shelf.



WALKING ON WATER

By Madeleine L’Engle

GENRE: Non-fiction/ Essays/ Christian/ Writing

RATING: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

In this classic book, Madeleine L’Engle addresses the questions, What makes art Christian? What does it mean to be a Christian artist? What is the relationship between faith and art? Through L’Engle’s beautiful and insightful essays, readers will find themselves called to what the author views as the prime tasks of an artist: to listen, to remain aware, and to respond to creation through one’s own art.

Madeleine L’Engle’s middle grade fantasy novels delighted me so much as a child and teenager. I loved her settings, her characters and the emotion she was able to convey to me as a reader. I didn’t know she was a Christian and the books aren’t overtly Christian in any way, although they are spiritual. Now that I’m an adult, a Christian myself and a fantasy writer, I was really interested in what L’Engle has to say about the connection between her faith and her writing.

And what she has to say is absolutely brilliant and inspiring. I made copious notes as I went through this small volume and I know I’ll be re-reading it. Here are just two gems:

If it’s bad art, it’s bad religion, no matter how pious the subject.


Each work of art, whether it is a work of great genius or something very small, comes to the artist and says, “Here I am. Enflesh me. Give birth to me.”

But the whole book is a casket of precious stones, almost every line worth quoting.

I hope September will be able to live up to August in the reading department!

Your turn! What did you read in August? Any 5-star recommendations?

Review: Mom’s Perfect Boyfriend

By Crystal Hemmingway

Genre: Romance/ Science Fiction/ Comedy

Publisher: Galbadia Press

Edition: Paperback

Release date: June 2019

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐ 1/2

Crystal has trouble saying no to her lonely, single mother. For 25 years, it wasn’t a problem. But when one small mistake leaves Crystal jilted, homeless and unemployed, she has to move back in with the one person who caused it all: her mother.

Goodreads blurb

I received an early reviewer’s copy of this from Galbadia Press, via Librarything. Romance is not my usual genre-of-choice, but I was intrigued by the structure, so I applied for a copy.

Look, I need to say up front that this is a very silly story with more than one unbelievable plot thread. But it’s meant to be lighthearted and a little comical, so I’m not holding the silliness against it.

The novel is written in the form of emails, text messages, letters, journal entries and snippets from the protagonist’s fiction stories. As with “Illuminae”, this format took a little while to get used to, but after that I liked it. There is a lot going on here – a broken engagement, family drama, career changes, androids (!) and the protagonist’s forays into writing not one but two novels: a fairytale retelling and an erotic tale about dinosaurs (yes, really). To be honest, I could have done without the dinosaur erotica, but I quite liked the rest. It’s a bit of a mish-mash, but at least I was never bored.


My main problem is that while the novel as a whole is written competently enough, the excerpts from the protagonist’s “novels” are very amateurish, which was an odd choice, especially given the ending.
It’s a very quick and easy read and an original set-up, although quite predictable after that. And if you’re looking for a romantic hero to swoon after, you won’t find him here. The romance element is actually pretty slight.

I was wavering between 3 and 3.5 stars, but in the end, I had a fun time with this, actually staying up an hour past my bedtime to finish it, so 3.5 stars seems fair.

Names and Labels

I’ve taken the title of this post from one of the chapters of Madeleine L’Engle’s book Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art.

L’Engle makes a distinction between naming something or someone, and labelling them. Naming, she says, gives us wholeness and freedom to be who we are; labelling reduces us, controls us, limits us. “If we are pigeonholed and labelled we are unnamed.”

It is a profound chapter in a thoughtful and inspiring book and it got me thinking about naming. Or, rather Naming. The capital letter is important. The first story I ever read about this kind of Naming, what you might call true Naming, was The Riddle-Master of Hed by Patricia A. McKillip, way back in the 1970s when it first came out. I absolutely adored the idea that if you know the true name of someone or something, you fully understand it. Or, to put it another way, if you fully understand it, you already know its true name. Then I read A Wizard of Earthsea by the wonderful Ursula Le Guin. Written even earlier, it took the concept to a whole new level. I’ve read many other fantasy stories based around the idea of true names having power in the decades since then. Every one of them has brought me joy. Another exceptional one, of course, is The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss.

I like to think that when God tasked Adam with naming the animals, it was this kind of naming. He Named them truly, because he saw and understood them as they really were, fully themselves, in a way none of us have ever been able to do since. Somehow I doubt he gave them labels such as pest or livestock or invasive species.

So what does all this have to do with writing? Back to L’Engle:

To write a story is an act of Naming; in reading about a protagonist I can grow along with, I myself am more Named.

As writers, if we want to truly Name our characters, we need to know them. Not just their appearance, their personality or their abilities, but their deepest hopes and fears, their strongest motivations, the values at the very heart of them. This takes time and work, as our characters slowly reveal themselves and their stories to us. But it’s essential work if we want our readers to fully engage, to “grow along with them”, as L’Engle says. And it’s deeply satisfying work, too, I might add.

The opposite of this is to simply label the people who make up our stories: the Hero, the Villain, the Love Interest, the Comic Relief. These labels are useful shorthand when we’re thinking about the broader sweep of our tales, but if we reduce our characters merely to their labels, if they’re not real, true, living, breathing, fully formed people to us, their creators, they won’t move and transport our readers, either.

A final word from L’Engle:

Stories are able to help us to become more whole, to become Named. And Naming is one of the impulses behind all art; to give a name to the cosmos we see despite all the chaos.

As a writer, I want to Name each and every one of my characters, even the minor ones, because they don’t know they’re minor. And as a reader, I want the characters whose worlds I enter to be fully Named by their creators, too, so that as I grow along with them, I too will be more Named.

Review: Fight Write

How to write believable fight scenes

By Carla Hoch

Publisher: Writer’s Digest Books

Edition: Kindle, Paperback

Release date: 11 June 2019

Source: Netgalley digital ARC / paperback purchased by me

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐


In Fight Write you’ll learn practical tips, terminology, and the science behind crafting realistic fight scenes for your fiction. Broken up into “Rounds,” trained fighter and writer Carla Hoch guides you through the many factors you’ll need to consider when developing battles and brawls.

I was only a quarter of the way through the digital ARC of this book when I went online and bought a paperback copy for myself. I already knew this was a reference book I wanted on my shelves. I imagine I’ll be dipping into it often.

I know nothing about fighting in real life and up until now I haven’t included many physical fights in my novels. This is partly due to my ignorance and partly because I don’t find long descriptions of battles and fights very interesting to read. But when this book came up on Netgalley, I thought it might be of some use on those occasions when I just couldn’t avoid writing about an aggressive physical encounter. I didn’t really have any expectations beyond that: a few tips to help me avoid looking stupid when I was writing fight scenes. I certainly didn’t expect to be blown away by what Carla Hoch has done here.

She has combined knowledge from the fields of physiology, psychology, sociology, statistics, language, as well as martial arts, battle strategy, and even law, into a handbook specifically tailored to the needs and concerns of fiction writers. And if that makes the book sound dry and academic, it isn’t. Hoch writes in an easy-to-understand style, with plenty of examples to illustrate her points. In fact, her tone is so casual, and at times even jokey, that it grated on me occasionally in the beginning. But this is a very minor criticism and doesn’t diminish the usefulness of the book in any way.

And that usefulness goes beyond fight scenes. There is good information here for deepening characterisation in all kinds of situations. For instance, one chapter, entitled Pre-Incident Indicators, details behaviours that can signal predatory intent and lead to an aggressive incident. This was gold. My mind went immediately to the villain of my current novel in progress, a manipulator who does end up perpetrating violence. I was pleased to realise that I had instinctively included some of the behaviours mentioned by Hoch in early appearances of the character. But I noted down a few other gems to sprinkle through relevant scenes. It was at this point that I bought the book.

The remaining three quarters of the volume contains detailed information about Fighting Styles, Weaponry and Injuries. I’ve never felt the desire to know how it sounds/looks/feels to be stabbed, but some day, I may need to know exactly that to write a realistic scene. Carla Hoch has my back.

Hoch doesn’t restrict herself to describing human conflict either. In the section on Fighting Styles, alongside many forms of martial arts, she includes points to consider if your character is fighting a robot, an alien or a mythological creature. There is even a short section on Psychological Warfare.

I unreservedly recommend Fight Write to writers in any genre who want to create vivid, realistic, heart-pounding fight scenes that also add richness both to plot and characterisation.

What I Read in July 2019

A Month of Murder and Gardening

I only put four books on the reading list for July and I ended up reading three of them, plus three others. I only read in two genres: crime/thriller novels and gardening books. My ratings range from one star all the way up to four. No five-star reads this month. Hopefully August will deliver at least one. Here’s what I read in July.

INTO THE WATER

By Paula Hawkins

Genre: Thriller

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

In the last days before her death, Nel called her sister. Jules didn’t pick up the phone, ignoring her plea for help. Now Nel is dead. They say she jumped. And Jules has been dragged back to the one place she hoped she had escaped for good, to care for the teenage girl her sister left behind. But Jules is afraid. So afraid. Of her long-buried memories, of the old Mill House, of knowing that Nel would never have jumped. And most of all she’s afraid of the water, and the place they call the Drowning Pool . . .

This was a difficult book to rate. In the end, I had to give it four stars because it is very well-written, structured and plotted. And yet…

Here’s the thing. I didn’t enjoy it. In fact, it left me feeling quite down and a bit depressed. This is not the result I want from reading fiction, especially on holiday.

And so, it’s a hard book to rate. Honestly, I think the quality of the writing deserves a full five stars, but my enjoyment level, apart from revelling in the prose, was probably closer to two.

THE BUMBLEBEE FLIES ANYWAY

By Kate Bradbury

Genre: Non-fiction – Memoir- Gardening

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Finding herself in a new home in Brighton, Kate Bradbury sets about transforming her decked, barren backyard into a beautiful wildlife garden. She documents the unbuttoning of the earth and the rebirth of the garden, the re-wilding of a tiny urban space.

Honestly, this was a cover pick. I was in my library, returning a few books and not intending to borrow any more (ha ha) when I spotted this sitting face forward on a shelf. I walked past and then stopped and turned back. I think it was that bumblebee, glowing so golden on a wintry grey July day. Although it was the cover image that caught my eye, the subtitle made me pick it up: A year of gardening and wildlife. I absolutely love any kind of gardening memoir. Add wildlife and it’s even more alluring. This one came on my winter holiday with me.

The blurb doesn’t really describe this book very well. It’s true as far as it goes, but there is a lot more here, from many passionate denunciations of the way we’re treating the planet and the wild things that share it with us, to detailed descriptions of the private lives of bumblebees, various birds and other wildlife, to accounts of the author’s own private life and difficulties during the time she was re-wilding her garden. I would have preferred a little more gardening and a little less about Kate’s personal struggles, but overall I thoroughly enjoyed this and it has really inspired me to do a little re-wilding in my own backyard, Australian style.

THE IMMORTAL PRUDENCE BLACKWOOD

By Stephanie Grey

Genre: Historical Murder Mystery/ Thriller

Rating: ⭐

This was a digital ARC from Netgalley and I was looking forward to it. It’s the story of a search for a serial killer in Washington DC in 1947, with a twist: one of the detectives is Prudence Blackwood, an immortal who seeks vengeance for those murdered by history’s most notorious serial killers.  That sounded like a terrific premise and should have made for a really fresh take on the thriller genre. Sadly, it didn’t work for me at all. It reads like a second or third draft rather than a polished novel. The story covers several timelines, and in each case it felt like I was reading a detailed outline rather than being thrust into the action. My emotions were never engaged with the characters either. And on a line-by-line basis, the phrasing is often quite awkward. A disappointment.

THE COLOUR OF BEE LARKHAM’S MURDER

By Sarah J Harris

Genre: Murder Mystery/Thriller

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐1/2

Jasper is not ordinary. In fact, he would say he is extraordinary…Synaesthesia paints the sounds of his world in a kaleidoscope of colours that no one else can see. But on Friday, he discovered a new colour – the colour of murder.He’s sure something has happened to his neighbour, Bee Larkham, but no-one else seems to be taking it as seriously as they should be. The knife and the screams are all mixed up in his head and he’s scared that he can’t quite remember anything clearly.

I had high expectations of this novel, and for the first third, Harris more than met them. I was confident I was reading a five-star book. I loved the character of Jasper and the way he sees the world. His relationships with his mysterious neighbour and his struggling father were interesting and unpredictable. The slow revelation of information was intriguing, the writing immaculate.

And then somehow the novel just bogged down. And it stayed mired through the entire middle section. There was too much repetition, too many scenes where nothing happened and we didn’t even learn more about the characters.

I persevered in the hope that it would get better. And it did. The final quarter was great, and I stayed up way past my bedtime to finish it. Looking at the novel as a whole, I think at least eighty of its over four hundred pages could simply be cut, and should have been. The novel would be much stronger and nothing important would be lost.

I’m not sure if the final revelation is meant to come as a surprise but if so, it was too heavily flagged, at least for an experienced reader of mysteries. I didn’t mind that, though. I just wish the novel as a whole had lived up to the promise of its first hundred pages.

SLEEPING MURDER

By Agatha Christie

Genre: Murder Mystery

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Miss Marple’s last case, Sleeping Murder, was written over 30 years before it was published and sees Miss Marple solve her final mystery.

Soon after Gwenda moved into her new home, odd things started to happen. Despite her best efforts to modernise the house, she only succeeded in dredging up the past. Worse, she felt an irrational sense of terror every time she climbed the stairs. In fear, Gwenda turns to Miss Marple to exorcise her ghosts. Between them, can they solve a crime committed many years before? 

Well, it’s a Christie novel, so of course they can. I thoroughly enjoyed my re-read of this one, devouring it in one day! The first part is so much fun, following Gwenda as she arrives in England and finds the house, etc. Things have certainly changed a lot since the forties – a seven bedroom house is “not too big” (just average I guess. 😉) 
There are co incidences galore, but the novel is just so charming, I don’t care. It also gets so complicated at one point that I remember when I first read it I started making notes to try to get my head around it. But Christie irons it all out beautifully in the end as usual. One of my favourites, and a real treat for the final novel of Mission Marple.

GARDENING IN TIME

By Caroline Boisset

Genre: Gardening

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

This was a charity shop find while I was on holiday: a hardcover gardening book for $2, a bargain I wan’t going to pass up. It was a very fast read, with more illustrations than text, and not much of the information was new to me. But it was enjoyable and did give me a few ideas and things to think about when planning future plantings. It gets four stars because I think it would be really useful for someone who hasn’t had much experience with planning for seasonal effects and hasn’t already read thousands of pages on the subject.

So that’s my month of Murder and Gardening. Not too bad overall: an average rating of only 3 stars, but with four 4-star books. What did you read in July? Any 5-star recommendations?