Another Agatha Christie book, this is from a series of ten that Penguin published that she chose herself as favourites. I already reviewed Death on the Nile, another from this series, and this has the same green cover that the Penguin Crime books do. It’s The Labours of Hercules by Agatha Christie, a book of twelve short stories about Hercule Poirot. Each one is inspired by one of the Labours of Hercules, the classic book about the Greek myths of Hercules.
This edition was published in 1955 (it’s the reprint, he original Penguin was in 1953) but as it’s one of the more well known Agatha Christie books and part of the Poirot series it has been published many times over the years. Hercule Poirot is one of Agatha Christie’s more famous characters and there are TV adaptations of all of the stories, though I don’t remember all of these being made. Each of the stories is short, ranging from around 15 to 30 pages, and covers a wide range of mysteries from dog kidnapping to murder.
I don’t know why but in the past when I’ve tried to read Agatha Christie books I haven’t got on with then, despite loving the TV and movie adaptations I’d seen, or maybe because of them. However, I started reading some of the ones my parents have last summer and have loved reading them so I thought I’d try one of the ones I know better from TV now that the weather has improved and is better for sitting outside reading.
Hallowe’en Party is a Poirot story, I think he’s probably the most well known of Agatha Christie’s characters though I don’t know how well known her books are outside of the UK. It also has another recurring main character from the Poirot series in Ariadne Oliver, a crime novelist who comes up with unlikely answers to solve the crimes and is pretty much the opposite of the quiet, methodical Poirot when it comes to questioning. The book revolves around the murder of a young girl at a Halloween party whete Ariadne is a guest and so she brings Poirot in.
Title: Five on Brexit Island
Author: Bruno Vincent
Year written: 2016
Publisher and year: Quercus, 2016
ISBN Number: 978-1-78648-384-3
I think I first heard of this book on a livestreams the Yogscast did in December and wanted to get it since then so, as I was already making a Paperchase order, it ended up in my bag. It’s £7.99 from Paperchase (though I found it for under £4 on Amazon) and a hardback which surprised me as most of the Famous Five books I grew up with are paperback. It’s the latest in the Famous Five for grown ups series, at least I’ve seen it called that even if it’s not the official name, and it’s Five on Brexit Island by Bruno Vincent.
I’m not sure how much of a thing the Famous Five, or Enid Blyton in general, is outside of the UK and if it’s even something that people still read here but I grew up reading them. It’s a very British series of books, I think Enid Blyton books are in general, where four children and their dog Timmy go for adventures. I think they’re fairly tame by today’s standards for adventure stories, they’re set in the fifties I think or maybe the sixties, and they always seem to find a friendly farmer who gives them free food and drink. One of them, a girl called George has an island off the coast of England, the kind with a nice ruin and plenty of secret tunnels and caves for adventure, which is where this story is set.
The book I’m reviewing today is one I actually was recommended on a design course. I’m sure about 90% of books from degree courses that are more specific to the topic get sold in or donated to charity shops after the course, I know that’s what I’ve intended for mine, but I found myself picking this one up when I was thinking about getting rid of it and reading through it all again. It’s the Bumper Book of Unuseless Japanese Inventions by Kenji Kawakami with a foreword by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.
I think it’s the kind of book that’s actually interesting and entertaining for a variety of reasons, probably one of the ones that will draw people in is that wtf Japan? side of it that the internet seems to love. This book is full of 200 unuseless inventions, it combines two books that were originally published separately, and has photos alongside a bit of an explanation on what everyday problem they are trying to fix. These are all inventions designed to fix something, however they do end up causing more problems or embarrassment through using them, that is what makes them unuseless. It’s what makes them Chindogu, which is essentially a unuseless product and a word I had never heard of before this book.
I’ve recently been making my way through a list of classics I’ve always wanted to read but never had but I decided to start off 2017 with one that I loved when I read it before to see if I still enjoyed it ten years later. Great Expectations is that book that you studied at school, the one you pick apart and analyse every other word so if it survived that and made me want to read it again in the past I thought it would be worth reading again, especially as I got the Penguin Clothbound Classics version last year. This has an RRP of £14.99 though it seems to vary in price, WH Smith currently have a lot of the Clothbound Classics at £10.49.
One thing I like about these Clothbound Classics is the little extras added in that add context, whether it’s the author’s life or what was happening at the time in the world in general. I know these aren’t necessary to enjoy the story but I think of them a bit like those extras you get in DVDs that are fun to read if you want but can also be ignored. If you want the ISBN number and details of this exact edition I’ve put them at the end.
I realise that this year I haven’t actually done that well when it comes to actual book reviews, I will admit my first book of the year has proved a longer read than I expected. Today’s book review is kind of a mix of a notebook and a colouring book and has been sold in TK Maxx in partnership with Comic Relief with a portion of the money going towards the charity as with the rest of the range. This product donated £2 of the £5.99 to the charity.
This year’s Red Nose Day collection at TK Maxx is based around photographs by fashion photographer Rankin. They’re all photos if abimals, though they’re either dressed up or have a red nose added in afterwards. The majority are black and white with one in colour, which lends itself to a colouring in book as you can give them the traditional colours or go pop art and bright colours. These are all available exclusively at TK Maxx, though I think the books and other more home products are also available at Home Sense, their home and lifestyle stores, and is available online here or in stores.
All images copyright Piatkus publishing, used for review purposes
I recently did a post on starting the Low GL diet and a couple of the books I bought for it, if you want to read that post it’s here and explains a bit about the ideas behind it. This is a bit of a different book review on that, as these two are so similar, I thought I’d do a bit of a comparison between them. The two books are The Low-GL Diet Made Easy (Holford, P. 2006) (RRP £15.99) and The Low-GL Diet Cookbook (Holford, P. And McDonald Joyce, F., 2014) (RRP £12.99). I’ve included more information on each at the end if you want the ISBN number and publisher information.
Title: Escape to Christmas Past: A Colouring-book Adventure
Author: Good Wives and Warriors
Year written: 2015
Publisher and year: Puffin Books, 2015
ISBN Number: 978-0-141-36676-0
Earlier this year I did a review of the Shakespeare’s World colouring book from this series, the Puffin Classics colouring books that are based on classic books or authors. This
Escape to Christmas Past uses themes and phrases from A Christmas Carol, a classic Christmas story, so it has a seasonal theme and seemed a good one for this time of year. This was actually the first of this series I saw and I loved the look of it.
As this is an adult colouring book the pictures are mainly made of smaller patterns and pictures within the scene so they’re small areas to colour and it’s pretty relaxing. As this one is so detailed I would say it’s more of a fine liner colouring book as the pencils I have got too blunt to fill in the finer details very quickly so you’d have to sharpen them very often. This series of colouring books in general is a lot smaller than the majority of adult colouring books so it’s a great one for travel if you like to colour on journeys or take it away with you, it’s small enough to fit into most larger handbags I think.
Title: The Last Human
Author: Doug Naylor
Year written: 1995
Publisher and year: Penguin Books, 1995
ISBN Number: 0-14-014388-2
This is the third Red Dwarf book, and as far as I know it’s the last written, though this time just by Doug Naylor rather than writing it with Rob Grant. It does continue from the second book, Better Than Life, but I had this for years before I read the other two and it stood up on its own. The beginning is slightly confusing that way but there is a bit of a ‘previously on’ type beginning that does explain it to new readers.
If you haven’t heard of Red Dwarf the basic idea of the TV series, and the books, is that Dave Lister is the last human being alive, hence the title of the book. He was put into stasis on board a space ship as punishment for having a cat and while he was frozen in time there was a radiation leak that killed the crew. 3 million years in the future the ship’s computer, Holly (who doesn’t actually feature in this book) woke him up when the radiation was safe and the human race is extinct. On board the ship Dave Lister, the last human, is joined by a hologram of his bunk mate, Rimmer, a lifeform that evolved from the ships cat, simply called Cat, and a cleaning android called Kryten.
As this is based on the TV series, and written by the same person, it is probably written for fans of the show and this one does go further away from the episodes and dialogue within them than the previous books. The characters from the TV show are in it, with some added extras, and they do stay true to their on screen versions so fans of the show would probably enjoy that, though like the other books there’s parts of this book that build on the whole lore of the Red Dwarf universe and some parts that rewrite it which could make this both interesting and frustrating if that bothers you.
Title: Red Dwarf Omnibus (Red Dwarf and Better Than Life)
Author: Grant Naylor
Year written: 1989 (Red Dwarf) and 1990 (Better Than Life)
Publisher and year: Penguin Books, 1990
ISBN Number: 0-13-017466-4
This is another older book and one I’ve had for a year or so now, though it was bought second hand on eBay for quite cheap with some other books. It seems to be one of those that’s available from a few sellers on there so if you want it it’s probably the best place to look for a good deal. With the recent series of Red Dwarf finishing it made me want to revisit the older ones (again) and I thought I’d give these a read too. This review is of both parts of the Omnibus, Red Dwarf and Better Than Life, I did consider doing them separately but as I read them as one and they’re basicaly a continuation of each other it made sense to do them both. If you want to skip to the review of the specific book then I’ll do the titles in bold when I start, though they’re very similar in tone so there’s not much to differentiate them apart from the plot, though I have avoided anything spoilery aside from mentioning a few episode titles.
This book, or rather two books, are based on the characters and plot of the TV series Red Dwarf. When this was published in 1990 the latest series was series 3 so anything after that in the TV universe isn’t necessarily canon with this, and vice versa. It’s a sci-fi comedy that pokes fun at sci-fi, has a lot of typically British humour in it and has the odd poke at society as a whole, or parts of it anyway.