Sunday, 12 May 2019

Some Recent Reads (Short Reviews)

The American Agent
by Jacqueline Winspear (2019)

Read on Kindle + Audible
Audible narration by Orlagh Cassidy (11 h)

The 15th installment in Jacqueline Winspear's series about private investigator Maisie Dobbs. In this novel Maisie investigates the murder of an American war correspondent in London during the Blitz. She is asked by police authorities to work on the case together with Mark Scott, an agent from the US Department of Justice whom she previously met in connection with a case in 1938 which took her to Munich in Germany. Nowadays, Maise also has to balance her professional life with her responsibilities for a young evacuee that she has come to love and care for, and wants to adopt.

As usual, my impression is that Winspear does a good job with reflecting the wartime atmosphere that she's writing about. (In the early books, post-WWI - in the later books, WWII.)

Wishes & Wellingtons
by Julie Berry, narrated by Jayne Entwistle

(9 h 29 min)

Wishes and Wellingtons is an Audible original--i.e. only produced as an audio book.
There is no print version. As
Audible member this was one of my monthly
free 'extras' recently.

This is a middle-grade fantasy adventure. Maeve Merritt is a student at  the London boarding school Miss Salamanca's Boarding School for Upright Young Ladies, and not at all happy about that. One day, as punishment for something, she is forced to sort through the trash, and finds a sardine tin that turns out to contain a foul-tempered djinni - who in turn is not at all happy to find his new "master" to be a mere schoolgirl... 

A strange mix of adventures and troubles follows for Maeve, her room mate at the school + and an orphan boy from the orphanage next door, before the story comes to a close. A kind of mix of Charles Dickens and Arabian Nights; with a rather headstrong girl as the main character. I liked the audio narration, but have to say I was less impressed with the plot. But then I suppose I'm not really in the target age group (even if I do still like to read children's and YA books sometimes).

A Girl Called Justice
by Elly Griffiths (2019)

Read on Kindle

I was curious to read this because I like Elly Griffiths crime novel series about the forensic archaeologist Ruth Galloway (11 books so far, I think). I also liked her recent stand-alone novel The Stranger Diaries. 

This time, she is trying her hand at a book for younger readers, and lovers of for example the Enid Blyton mysteries.

While I remember the children in Enid Blyton's stories as always being on holiday, this is another book set in boarding school environment. Not quite as grim as Miss Salamanca's Boarding School for Upright Young Ladies (see Wishes and Wellingtons above!), and missing the magic of Hogwarts - but still reminding a little bit of both... 

But then the heroine, Justice Jones, is kind of set on finding mysteries to solve right from the start when she arrives at
Highbury House Boarding School for the Daughters of Gentlefolk. The story is set in 1936.

Her father, a widower, is a barrister specialising in murder trials, and Justice is sent off to boarding school after her mum died.  Before that, she had been home-schooled by her mum; so coming to live at a boarding school is quite a shock. And when one of the first things she hears about is the suspicious death of chamber maid, Justice at once takes it upon herself to make her own investigations into the mystery. Along the way, she also makes some new friends. But when a winter storm cuts the school off from the rest of the world, the plot thickens...
In an  afterword, Elly Griffiths writes that the school is entirely fictional, but "It is, however, loosely based on ... the school attended by my mother, Sheila, in the 1930s. Like Justice, Sheila was brought up by her father ... and she too heartily disliked boarding school."
For my own part, I prefer the author's adult books; but back in my Enid Blyton days of youth, I would probably have loved this one.


Speaking of boarding schools, I'm also currently in the process of spending my monthly Audible credits on collecting the Harry Potter series in Swedish narration by actor Bj√∂rn Kjellman. 
When I first started reading/listening to Harry Potter, back around 2000, it was in narration by another Swedish actor, and recorded on cassette tapes. (Anyone remember cassette tapes?!) 
Since then, I have also read and listened to them all in English (several times); read by both Jim Dine, and Stephen Fry (my favourite). But it's also nice to keep up with the Swedish translations. 

(For some reason, I never seem to outgrow the Potter books. I think it is because they're so full of details, and with so many hidden or half-hidden references to all kinds of other stories that there's always something new to discover.)


  1. I think A girl Called Justice might be my favorite. Have you read any of the Harry Potter associated books, like Something...Beasts And Where To Find Them?

    1. Ginny, neither 'Fantastic Beasts' nor 'The Crimes of Grindelwald' was ever a novel to start with, but were both written by JKR directly as screenplays. But the manuscripts were also published in print in connection with the release of each film. And yes, I have read those: the first one in print, the second on Kindle. I also have both the films on DVD. (I did not go to see them at the cinema but waited for the DVD releases.) I also have the small booklet 'Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them' from 2001 (published for charity). I read or heard somewhere that three more films are planned in this series. The events in these films take place before Harry Potter. - I also have the printed manuscript of the stage play 'The Cursed Child' which takes place after HP.

  2. I have have have to read Harry Potter books. My grandgirl has been insisting I read them. She has read them all two or three times herself. Thanks for the book reviews!

    1. If you have grandchildren, you should probably at least see the films ;) But the books do have more details - and one has more time to "think" while reading!

  3. Can anyone really hold a candle to Stephen Fry? He's the best!
    The "Justice" book sounds very much like my kind of thing.

    1. Meike, I do agree with you that Stephen Fry will be hard for anyone to beat! :) But I started out getting acquainted with Harry Potter by listening to the first four in Swedish (with a different narrator than the one I'm collecting now), because it was those that I first found in the bookshop and library here. It was after book No 4 that I got really 'hooked' on the series (beginning to see the complexity)... So with the last three, I bought each of them in print on their respective day of publication (in English). And I also bought the first four in paperback.
      Then at some point I also got hold of them as audio books in English.

      But quite recently, they were released in Swedish on Audible (I think the first audio books in Swedish that I've seen there so far) - and it struck me that I never read the last three in Swedish. So I decided to buy No 5 in Swedish, to see how I liked the translation, and the narration by that actor. And then I went on to buy No 6 and 7 as well - and then No 1... So now of course I want to continue until I have the series complete with the same narrator. :)


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