Monday, September 30, 2013

4.50 from Paddington (Miss Marple #8) by Agatha Christie

Description: For an instant the two trains ran together, side by side. In that frozen moment, Elspeth witnessed a murder. Helplessly, she stared out of her carriage window as a man remorselessly tightened his grip around a woman's throat. The body crumpled. Then the other train drew away. But who, apart from Miss Marple, would take her story seriously? After all, there were no suspects, no other witnesses . . . and no corpse.

Stats: Historical Mystery, 351 pages, First Published in 1957, Edition Published by HarperCollins, March 2002.

My Rating: 3.5 STARS

Sitting in the middle of an autumn thunder storm with the heat cranked up and a whodunit by the fantastic Agatha Christie really is the perfect scenario.

Although 4.50 from Paddington was a slow build the end result was just wonderfully murderous. By half way through I was thoroughly puzzled by who it could possibly be, both the murderer and the murdered. The hows and whys and who were simply fantastic as one unlikely scenario after another is brought to attention with no simple explanation in sight.

Something I've always loved about Agatha Christie, especially concerning Miss Marple is just how wonderfully unique it is. As a lover of crime-dramas and murder mysteries you've seen it all after some point. There are plenty of detectives out there and more often than not there's something undeniably special about them, like a superhero. But when it comes to Miss Marple and the people she ropes into her mysteries, there are no supernatural abilities here. She's just a intelligent older lady with an eye for murder. She could just as easily be your grandma and that's not something you could say about someone like a Sherlock Holmes.

The historical aspects of the book are also worth noting. There just something so quaintly sinister about the upper class English in this time period. This book takes us away from Miss Marple's village and to a manor, built on a snack food fortune, filled to the brim with resentment and family complexities.

What really brings it all together is Lucy. Lucy is Miss Marple's younger eyes and ears in as she works to help sleuth out a dead body. It was her character and her interactions with the family that really brought out the human and not so human side of each character. I was just as eager to know who she would be romantically involved with by the end of the book as I was figuring out who murdered the girl.

Now all I have to do is figure out which book in the series I should read next. I have a feeling I'll be reading a lot of Agatha this season. Autumn is just too perfect for mysteries.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Review: OCD, The Dude, and Me by Lauren Roedy Vaughn

OCD, the Dude, and MeDescription: With frizzy orange hair, a plus-sized body, sarcastic demeanor, and "unique learning profile," Danielle Levine doesn't fit in even at her alternative high school. While navigating her doomed social life, she writes scathing, self-aware, and sometimes downright raunchy essays for English class. As a result of her unfiltered writing style, she is forced to see the school psychologist and enroll in a "social skills" class. But when she meets Daniel, another social misfit who is obsessed with the cult classic film The Big Lebowski, Danielle's resolve to keep everyone at arm's length starts to crumble.

Stats: Debut Young Adult Contemporary, 240 pages, First Published by Dail, March 2013

My Rating: 5 STARS - A Reading-Robyn Favourite!

“You are living far too much in the realms of your head. That is an ugly, mean, scary place to be. I am not just saying your head is nasty, everyone's head is. You need to vacate that premise immediately and start living in your heart. Your heart is a much nicer social venue.” - Page 75

I'll admit that I had a very superficial idea of what I would be getting from a book with a cover and title like OCD, the Dude, and Me. I mean, the girl is holding up a bowling ball over her face and "DUDE" takes up at least a third of the entire cover. All those expectations were very wrong. I almost feel like I should apologize they were so wrong.

What I expected was a book like Sean Griswold's Head. It's cute, it's quirky, it's a contemporary romance that also has an emotional center, but is still comprised of all-american YA fluff. OCD, The Dude, and Me was not that. Instead it was an honest, sometimes heartbreaking look, at what it's like to be inside the mind of a teenage outcast as she hates herself and struggles to understand other people. Danielle is a lot like me. I don't have OCD, but I do have capital A, Anxiety. So reading her journals and assignments it all felt very familiar, which was very much a part of why I loved this book so much.

Danielle is over-weight and socially inept. She hates the color of her hair; She doesn't know how to accept her damaged self. She loves to read, and write, and journal every little bit of her life. However, I, Jessica-Robyn, am also all these things. I was surprised how emotionally connected I became to this book. It's like that one book that speaks directly to you in that weird, person to fictional person, sort of way.

A lot of the book is about emotions and high school. As Danielle experiences her last year of high school primarily though her English class we experience things with her. Danielle goes through a lot of normal high school experiences, like a class trip to England and a school car wash, but through her worry and obsessive nature she finds it difficult to cope among her classmates. She is a wall builder, a with-holder, and she has, as we learn, a pretty good reason to be that way. ... That I can't talk about.

There are so many aspects of the plot I want to discuss and so many things I want to say to try and make a case for this book, but the honest truth is that I can't talk about my favourite moments because it would spoil it. I'm not even willing to use spoiler tags because I know you people, you'll be too tempted.

I don't know how this book is going to fly for other people, but I ended up loving it. Will other people also love it? I really don't know.

So, here I am, between a rock and a hard place. I want to recommend this, but I don't know if I can. So let me just lay it all out there.

I woke up late today at 4PM (yes, PM) because I haven't been sleeping well. When I joined my mother in the living room I sat down and decided to read because nothing good was on TV. It's been a very long time since I read a good book, I didn't expect this one to break the losing streak. But then I started reading OCD, the Dude, and Me, and did not stop until I was finished.

As a word of warning this is written in journal format. There's a lot of emails, Grade 12 English essays, and letters that ramble, meander, and leaves things out. With that said, this is the sort of story that should be written that way. It didn't come across as stiff or withholding, it felt like a very real person was laying all out there in her personal, private, record keeping space, fueled by her OCD, that sometimes crossed over into more public spaces. It made sense for her character and for the characters around her, which made it all work it a strange and wonderful, not patch-worky, sort of way.

I would recommend this book to psychology lovers and people looking for a very "inside-the-mind" coming-of-age story that reveals itself gradually with a lot of humour and a lot of heartbreak. OCD, the Dude, and Me made me feel that contradictory happy/sad that just leaves me wanting to keep this book and not give it back to the library. No seriously, I know there would be a fine, but how much would that really be? ... guys?

Also, note to self, see what this The Big Lebowski is all about.