Book blogger hop: challenges and readathons

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This week, I’m once again joining in with Billy at Ramblings of a Coffee Addicted Writer‘s book blogger hop, where they post a question which you and other bloggers answer, hopping from blog to blog to see people’s answers. This week, the question is…

 

Do you participate in readathons and/or reading challenges?

The answer is I do – well, at least for the reading challenges part and I did – for the readathon part.  I stopped the latter because I found something would always come up after I had said I would participate and then I either wouldn’t get any reading done at all or the amount I would do would be pitiful and I’d be almost embarrassed posting updates at the end.

Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death by M. C. Beaton

imagePutting all her eggs in one basket, Agatha Raisin gives up her successful PR firm, sells her London flat, and samples a taste of early retirement in the quiet village of Carsely. Bored, lonely and used to getting her way, she enters a local baking contest: Surely a blue ribbon for the best quiche will make her the toast of the town. But her recipe for social advancement sours when Judge Cummings-Browne not only snubs her entry–but falls over dead! After her quiche’s secret ingredient turns out to be poison, she must reveal the unsavory truth…

Agatha has never baked a thing in her life! In fact, she bought her entry ready-made from an upper crust London quicherie. Grating on the nerves of several Carsely residents, she is soon receiving sinister notes. Has her cheating and meddling landed her in hot water, or are the threats related to the suspicious death? It may mean the difference between egg on her face and a coroner’s tag on her toe…

For the high summer read-a-thon, I decided to step outside of my comfort zone and regular reading patterns and read my first ever cozy mystery.  It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a while as, when I see them on other blogs, they always sound like fun and – most times – the titles alone make me smile.  Both were the case for the Quiche of Death, which was a fun book, though with plenty of twists and turns worthy of Agatha Christie too.

There were a whole host of quirky characters, all slightly stereotypical but not in a mean way, who inhabit the village of Carsley and who eye incomer Agatha with suspicion, no more so than when they discover she didn’t cook her own quiche. At the same time they seem to accept each others quirks without so much as a second thought, including cheating (jam making this time), philandering and bingo. I enjoyed learning about each of them and thought that, for sometimes minor characters, they were all well drawn and engaging.

Agatha is a little harder to like, at least until I understood how much came from insecurity rather than superiority, and M. C. Beaton did a good job changing my mind from the start to the finish of the book.  I got that this was Agatha’s life long dream and how disappointed she must have felt when reality didn’t quite live up to expectations.

However, there is a reason I rarely read books where I have seen the film or TV first and this is a perfect example.  I chose this book because I wasn’t sure where else to start on my cozy adventures and I have been watching and enjoying the TV show.  The Agatha of the show though, played by Ashley Jenson, and all of the other major characters are different to the book.

Agatha is dark haired and “solid” in the book, whilst in the show she is blond and stylish; her cleaner is older and wiser in the book; Bill the police office chubbier in the book and Roy, her best friend, a lot more personable in the show.  They seem more of a gang than they are in the book, which I like – a bit like a grown up famous five. Even the pub has a different name.  I couldn’t help comparing and the TV show probably came out on top for me because I was already attached to that version of the characters.

That said, I did enjoy the Quiche of Death and would recommend it to others, perhaps others who had not seen the show.  It is funny and clever but also a lighter read, perfect for these hot summer days.  Enjoy!

Emma

Carrie by Stephen King

Iimage‘m not much of a one for horror stories (or so I say because given my love of all things vampire-related, I probably read more horror-ish books than I think) but that didn’t stop me signing up for the Spring into Horror read-a-thon organised by Michelle at Seasons of Reading. It’s a low pressure read-a-thon (one of the things I like about participating) and you only had to commit to reading one horror. Because I have never read any Stephen King – an author I immediately associate with horror – I decided he was the man to read.

After much humming, haa’ing, and attempting to read some of his lengthier novels, which left me daunted, I settled on Carrie – his first book and one that came in at just around 200 pages so it also felt manageable to read in a week (well less by the time I made the decision). After taking so long to settle on a book, I wasn’t feeling too positive when I started. That changed pretty quickly and I ended up really enjoying it.

Published in 1979, Carrie is almost as old as me and I imagine a story most people know. Carrie White is a teenager who has spent her entire live being bullied, by her schoolmates and her mother, a religious fanatic who locks her in the closet whenever she needs to be taught a lesson. What no one knows is that Carrie has telekinetic powers, powers she uses to deadly effect on the night of the high school prom and after a particularly nasty prank is played.

The book is in three parts, before prom, prom night, and the aftermath. It’s told through a mix of perspectives including Carrie’s, other students, her mother, and then excerpts from reports, scholarly articles and court transcripts written after the fact. It sounds confusing but it isn’t and it gives what is actually a very simple story more depth than it might have had otherwise. The changes in perspectives were also quite short, sometimes only a paragraph or two so it kept the story moving and me interested. Once I got used to the way the story flowed and the language, which had a bit of a stream of consciousness to it in some places, I found I couldn’t put it down.

I also found that I felt really sad for Carrie, despite the lives she took in the end. I didn’t blame her because there is only so much a human being can take and her classmates were cruel and her mom pretty evil for a God fearing woman. I didn’t feel bad for anyone she took revenge on, other than Tommy who took her to the prom and was a pretty decent guy.

I was surprised by what happened to Carrie at the end though. For some reason I had been expecting a different ending, not that I’m sure what it could have been. Despite this though, I wasn’t disappointed but actually pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the book. I may even go back to some of those meatier novels…liked this a lot.

Emma

Springing Into Horror

imageStarting next Sunday, I’m joining in with Michelle at Seasons of Reading Spring into Horror Read-a-thon. I’ve joined in with them before and always enjoyed them because there’s been the chance to find new blogs to follow and new books to read.

They are also very low key…there is only one rule – to read one horror book during the week. This can be a thriller, mystery, Gothic novel, or similar for those who are faint of heart). The rest of the week…anything goes!

I rarely read horror so I’m going to try for two books. I have also never read any Stephen King. I’m thinking he would be the ideal pick…but which book – any suggestions? Or should I avoid the mainstream and go for something else? Again, any suggestions would be gratefully appreciated…answers on a postcard or in the comments box below 😄

Emma