New Year, New Yuck: Resolutions Are Bollocks, If You Must Make One Make It About Books

new year reading

New Year, same old nonsense. My social media feeds are now overflowing with friends and family making ‘resolutions’ they’ll forget in a fortnight. Losing weight’s a popular one, as well as getting a new job. Some are wholesome and lovely, like my friends who vow to take up a new hobby, or give their kids more attention, or listen to their loved ones more often.

Most, however, are downright attention seeking, and I cannot stand them. However, I was surprised that I haven’t noticed many book themed resolutions this year or, now I actually think about, ever.

One of my friends at work is doing one, which is what made me actively think about. She’s doing a book a week challenge, and although she’s so far a little behind, she’s doing all right on it. It’s a pretty cool idea really; she’d been buying a lot of books and not reading them, so decided that reading a book every week was a good way to finally get round to them and have some fun at the same time.

This sort of thing seems like a great idea, as reading is a pastime often forgotten in today’s technological era, where many are engrossed in TV, films and games. Personally, owing to my blog and the fact that I have so many books if I didn’t read them and then give them to the charity shop I would be overrun, already read around a book every week, but this is a great way to encourage others to read more.

Another great New Years Resolution idea that isn’t complete cobblers is to read more widely, which is my own personal resolution. Traditionally, as a crime fiction and thriller fan I usually end up reading books by cisgender, straight white guys. Whilst there’s nothing inherently wrong with that, widening your reading is great for broadening your horizons. I do read some postcolonial fiction as a hangover from my university days, when that was my favourite module, but that’s not enough, so this year, alongside my usual reads by my favourite authors, I will be branching out, both in terms of writers and their books themselves. I don’t read a lot of non-fiction, so it’ll be great to find some memoirs, biographies and discussion books to expand my knowledge.

Don’t worry though- The Dorset Book Detective will still be a crime fiction and thriller focused blog! I’m lucky enough to work with loads of great authors and publicists who are always helping me discover great new talent in the genre, and for my own personal reading I was lucky enough to receive Michelle Obama’s autobiography Becoming for Christmas, so that will keep me going alongside Sophie Mackintosh’s The Water Cure. 

So, if you’re still on the fence about making a New Years Resolution, why not make it book based? From a book a week, two weeks or month challenge through to broadening your horizons, reading everything by a particular author or revisiting old favourites, there are lots to choose from and they don’t involve buying expensive, funny smelling diet tea or going through gruelling exercise based challenges, which is always a bonus!

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Happy New Year For 2019!

happy new year 2019 2

Happy New Year and thanks for supporting the Dorset Book Detective! It’s been great to share my thoughts for the past year and I’m excited to be doing it again in 2019. There’s a lot of great new books out this year and it’ll be great to review them for you! Happy Reading!

Christmas Christie: Controversy Is A New Tradition

BBC Agatha Christie Adaptation

As we edge swiftly towards the New Year, I am proud to present my thoughts on the Christmas Agatha Christie adaptation and the controversy surrounding the changes that the writers made to the plot and the protagonist’s backstory. Apologies for the lack of posts over the past week, I’ve been off celebrating the holidays. I hope you had a lovely Christmas and I’m very pleased to be back writing after my awesome trip back to Dorset!

During my stay with my family we were all united in wanting to watch this year’s BBC adaptation of an Agatha Christie novel, which is unusual as normally we only agree to watch children’s films together (not because we’re weird, but because children’s films are favoured by both my parents. My father, who is in his late fifties, adores Toy Story and got over excited when Monster’s University came on, but can’t stand any of my ‘grizzly nonsense’).

Agreed on something for a change, we all settled down happily to watch The ABC Murders, the first of the BBC’s adaptations to feature one of Christie’s established and renowned detectives, in this case her beloved Belgium sleuth, Hercule Poirot. However, it quickly transpired that, unlike the twee gentility of the novel, this show was to have a grimy, dark undertone, with deceit and dastardly dealings at its heart.

Personally, I have long advocated that Poirot is becoming a little overdone in the modern literary and cinematic spaces, and should be left in peace; this opinion was overridden this year, however, by my adoration of the Christmas Christies, which bring the chance to check out one of my favourite author’s works in a new light. In the end, I rather liked Sarah Phelps’ adaptation of this Christie classic, and found it an enjoyable and memorable addition to the various adaptations that the corporation has produced during the Christmas period.

Thanks to their quality and exceptional source material, over the years watching an Agatha Christie adaptation has become a festive tradition over recent years, and if a BBC option is not available there is usually something, such as the excellent Crooked House we were treated to last year. I have come to view as a necessity at Christmas, rather like receiving a Terry’s Chocolate Orange or having a fight with pieces of wrapping paper!

My favourite by far was the utterly stupendous And Then There Were None in 2015, which was shown on the BBC and featured Charles Dance in what was, undoubtedly, the best performance of the entirety of his illustrious career. This adaptation was not without its detractors, and many believed it to be too dark, with the key issue many critics took was its deviation from its source material.

This is the case this year, and also in previous years. Although it missed the Christmas slot thanks to Ed Westwick’s sexual assault allegations, Ordeal by Innocence was another adaptation which proved divisive when the BBC aired it at the beginning of the year because the ending was completely changing from the original novel. In the case of The ABC Murders, the changes to the source text were less obvious and overriding, however they involved key elements of Poirot’s backstory, such as the idea that, instead of being a former policeman as he is in the novels, he is instead portrayed as a Priest, who fled to England when German soldiers burnt his church, in which a number of children were hiding, to the ground.

Despite this fundamental change, I personally feel that this is in no way disrespectful to the author, and it enhances rather than detracts from her legacy. These adaptations are allowing a whole new generation to experience Christie’s work, and although her novels were often twee and genteel, at their heart was the human experience and the cruel, vile side to humanity that lurks within even the most respectable and revered members of any community. Embracing this darker side to Christie’s work does not detract from it, and going a little off-piste to make your own mark on a book is nothing to be ashamed of, at least not in my book.

After all, the changes did not make the adaptation any less watchable, and John Malkovich’s performance as an ageing, withered Poirot was as mesmerizing as we all knew it was going to be the moment his casting was announced. Nursing a pain he keeps secret from even his closet friend, this version of the character is multi-dimensional and truly fascinating. Whilst he is not entirely canonical, he is certainly more so than many, such as Kenneth Branagh’s unique yet ultimately un-Poirotish portrayal, which sees the actor strutting about like a peacock rather than actually doing any thinking.

That being said, I am hopeful that Malkovich will resist the urge to return as Poirot. Let it remain in our memories as an excellent performance, as opposed to dragging it out until we hate it. Also, I rather like seeing new actors perform Christie each year, and whilst Malkovich and Rupert Grint, who starred as his reluctant link to officialdom as Inspector Crome, were both truly brilliant, it would be great to see someone new take on a role in 2019.

At the end of the day, if you’re a Christie fan that hasn’t already checked out the BBC’s version of The ABC Murders then please don’t let the negative reviews and publicity about the changes to the source material put you off. This is a magnificent reimagining of a classic Poirot story, and although it is not an exact replica of the novel, that’s for the best. The world would be awfully boring if filmmakers and TV producers were made to replicate novels word-for-word with no creative input of their own, and this version enhances the book and the Christie cannon far better than some imitations of other works, such as the latest Sherlock Holmes film, which has literally had viewers walking out of the cinema. Bring on next year’s BBC Christie is all I have to say!

A Quick Christmas Message From The Dorset Book Detective

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Merry Christmas! This is just to let you know that I will be taking a lovely festive break to return to Dorset and have lovely food, nice company and, of course, great books! I’ll be back in the New Year so don’t worry- there’s much more to come! Have an incredible time yourselves and I hope you all have a well-earned rest!

Now’s A Great Time To Catch Up On The Best Books Published In 2018

many old books

Look, I know that 2018’s not been the best for most things, what with Trump still in power (how?!) and Brexit still a farce, but there is one upside- lot’s of awesome books were published this year!

So as the year draws to a close, now has never been a better time to seek out all of those brilliant books published over the past 12 months and have a good read. After all, most people will have some time off over the festive period, and so you’ll have plenty of time to really get stuck in and catch up before 2019 rolls around and there are even more new books to check out.

Many of the books published earlier this year will already either be on your shelf waiting, or else in charity shops or discount bookshops such as the Works, so you can pick them up cheaper than before and se what all the fuss was about. The past year has been a great one for readers, with top-class authors such as Stephen King, Lee Childs and Peter James all releasing one or more new tomes to keep you entertained.

There were also some exciting new surprises, such as the acclaimed This Is Going To Hurt, a former Junior Doctor’s perspective on the NHS, which is as funny as it is heart-breaking, and which I would thoroughly recommend you read if you haven’t already.

Among the other awesome releases earlier this year were Feminists Don’t Wear Pink, Stephen Hawking’s final offering Brief Answers to Big Questions and Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, and all of them deserve you’re attention as the year quickly reaches its conclusion.

So what are you waiting for? Fill your online shopping cart, run to the bookshop or just steal off your friends- whatever you do read some 2018 treasures before the New Year brings you new books to add to your TBR pile.

Christmas Gifts For The Bibliophile In Your Life That Aren’t (All) Books!

rare birds books

Christmas is a time for giving, and so I decided to check out an array of gifts for book lovers that aren’t just adding to their collection.

Among these gifts is an innovative book subscription service called The Rare Birds Book Club. Designed for those who want to broaden their literary horizons. Focused on contemporary women’s fiction, the club sends out one book per month which offers readers scintillating stories, courageous heroines and fulfilling endings.

Those subscribed to the book club will receive a surprise book at the start of every month along with a personal introduction to the book from Founder and Avid Reader Rachel Wood, as well as an explanation as to why she thinks it’s special. After completing the book, they can then log on to the Rare Birds digital book club where they can chat about the book with others as well as access members-only bonus content.

british library

For those who fancy giving something a bit more interactive, and which gives back to the wider community, then membership to the British Library could be the answer you’ve been looking for. For just £80 a year members get unlimited access to the library, as well as a range of additional perks such as free entry to exhibitions, listing guests, 20% the library’s restaurants, cafes and shops, as well as entry to the Knowledge Centre Bar and daytime Member’s Room.

Supporting a non-profit like the British Library also means that you are helping to advance and develop as the world’s largest document delivery service, providing millions of items a yea to customers all over the world. It’s always great to give gifts that are more than just indulgences at Christmas, and this is a great one as the receiver gets something too!

maigret three volumes

If you really must give books, at least give your loved ones beautiful ones! The Folio Society produces stunning illustrated versions of classics. There’s something for everyone, and they’re all beautifully crafted, making them a gift that your loved ones will truly cherish.

As a crime fiction fan, my top tip is always going to be the beautiful set of illustrated Maigret novels, with a sumptuous three-volume set introduced by Julian Barnes and illustrated by Harry Brockway. Beautiful woodcut illustrations show the Parisian detective with his trademark pipe, hat and overcoat, set against a grey backdrop to elude to the seedier side of the French capital that Simenon portrays in his dark and insightful novels. The three offered here Maigret and the Calame Report, Maigret and the Saturday Caller and Maigret and the Wine Merchant, are all classic examples of this exceptional writer, and make for great reading.

If you’re not sure of the genre to go for and fancy giving a classic gift, then there are a selection of fine books to choose from exclusively available from the society. For example, there is the beautiful Middlemarch, illustrated by Pierre Mornet. George Eliot’s rich realist work telling the tale of a manufacturing town and the lives of its inhabitants is bought to live in this colourful edition which showcases the true beauty of this evocative story.

Modern fiction loves will be entranced by Paolo Coelho’s The Alchemist, which features an afterword and note by the author as well as colourful illustrations by Jesus Cisneros. An intoxicating and deeply powerful story of humanity, love and spirituality, this beautiful edition of Coelho’s classic will brighten any booklover’s shelves.

With such a selection of treats, I wouldn’t be surprised if you ending up picking out a book or a membership for yourself too- don’t worry, I won’t tell! Happy Shopping!

Can’t Keep Up With La Carre? That’s Kinda The Point

The-Little-Drummer-Girl

The first few episodes of the BBC’s adaptation of John Le Carre’s The Little Drummer Girl, adapted for TV by the same team who did the astonishing The Night Manager a couple of years ago.

Many watchers who fancied seeing something similar have since switched off, but for those that really enjoy a good spy drama from Director Park Chan-wook. There are some truly awesome performances, particularly from Hollywood favourite Michael Shannon, whose slimy spymaster is equal parts hilarious and intense, with his regular yells of ‘Shimon’ and his disconcertingly fraught and changeable conversations.

Alright, so you do have to suspend disbelief at times, but still The Little Drummer Girl is an exquisite drama. However, many watchers on Twitter have complained about how complicated the show is. To this I say: If you want something easy, go watch Pingu. The Little Drummer Girl is a spy drama; spies, by their very nature, live complicated lives, and portraying these is bound to be a little confusing.

Also, you have the issue of creative licence. I’ve just bought the book of The Little Drummer Girl, as I’ve never read it before and the series has wet my appetite, but having been a fan of Le Carre for years I know that he often uses characters with multiple identities and pseudonyms, as well as narrative devices such as flashbacks and swift transitions between time and place. In televising the novel Chan-wook has utilised a number of filming techniques to keep his viewers entranced. This can confuse some, but it’s designed to keep you watching and make you really pay attention.

That’s the key problem, in my opinion: in a world of easy watching, where shows can be paused and re-joined quickly and easily, viewers are turned-off by the idea of having to really pay attention. You can’t go off and call your sister, make yourself a snack or check Facebook before returning to The Little Drummer Girl. By the time you get back they’ll be using different names, in a different country and they’ll be a completely different threat.

Previously there was also a film version, and I’ve not seen this, but I suspect that the issues remain largely the same; this is a grown up drama that you cannot tune in and out of easily.

Look at the end of the day, I reckon a big part of the problem is that there’s no Tom Hiddleston equivalent in this adaptation. Alexander Skarsgård is no substitute, and as such viewers can’t stare at his arse whilst not following the plot. Let’s face it, both dramas were equally confusing and deceptive, but the introduction of a Hollywood star made many keep watching The Night Manager long after they lost interest in the plot. The Little Drummer Girl does not have this benefit, but as a stylish, beautifully crafted adaptation there’s nothing currently on TV that can hold a candle to it.