Agatha Raisin and the Potted Gardener (Book 3) by M.C Beaton

The Potted Gardener

Author: M.C Beaton
Rating: 3/5
Protagonist: Agatha Raisin
Other Character(s): Mary Fortune, James Lacey, Bill

Synopsis: Agatha returns to her small town from a holiday to find James, her neighbor and secret crush, having a relationship with the newcomer, Mary Fortune. Much to Agatha’s dismay, it seems that everyone loves her and she too eventually grows fond of her. As the Garden Day competition slowly comes to the little village, small petty crimes has been occurring: Roses being uprooted, fishes dying, etc. Then a body is found hanging upside down in a potted vase. The village is left shocked and uncertain of who could have done such a heinous act of violence.

Review: The first time I read Agatha Raisin I fell in love with the characters, the setting and the narration. So far I’ve been only listening to the audiobook, and I love every minute of it. I especially enjoyed the first two since it’s the BBC radio drama special. The third book, however, is just regular audio, but I’m not complaining since the narrator is the same person, just minus all the special sound effects.

Now onto the actual story. As most cozy books, I usually get to tell who the murderer is before the final reveal, here I’m sad to say I was clueless. I’m not really sure if the reason is because the killer is well hidden, or I just listened to the audio while partially asleep and exhausted from travelling. Either way, the killer was unexpected in my part.

Leading up to the actual climactic part of the story, meaning the death of the victim, I really enjoyed reading about the small stories of the different characters that Beaton introduces in this book. I always enjoy cozies that dig deeper into the stories of other characters besides the protagonist. I’m not saying that Agatha is not a worthy one, but learning more about her neighbors and her surrounding is just as enjoyable. Speaking of protagonists, Agatha is fast becoming one of my favorites. She’s spunky, and easy to voice out her opinions but at the same time she is kind and willing to defend her friends. She’s very temperamental, but that just adds to her charm. I especially like how the narrator makes her sound standoff-ish and yet she’s being kind to people, giving them gifts from her travels. The one character that did standout in this book is Mary, not in a good way. In all honesty, she is way too nice for a real person that it can’t all be genuine. Plus, the readers really do get to see her true colors when Beaton adds small tidbits of the other characters thoughts.

As for the whole killing ordeal in this book I think it’s very interesting how the author wrote it. The way the victim was killed off was really creepy and a little disturbing. There’s no gory details, but to put someone’s body in such a humiliating way is a little uncalled for. It’s an interesting read, but just a little different from the common deaths of other cozy mysteries.

I think in terms of ‘cliched cozies’, Beaton’s Agatha Raisin is trying to veer away from it. There are instances that are similar to other cozies, but the differences is very much apparent and obviously welcomed. This series, for me, is getting better and better. Hopefully its standards will be continuous and not conform to the other cozies.

***********************SPOILER ALERT!!*********************

Ending: I’m not sure if it’s evident in my review, but the person who gets killed is obviously Mary Fortune. Although she appears to be a saint, upon her death stories arise of her actually being a cruel person. At one point she told one of the villagers that they are dull and dowdy. When trying to better themselves, Mary laughed at her face. Those that preyed victim to her verbal abuse kept it hidden because it seems like everyone loves her and so they kept their mouth shut.

After her death we also learn that she was suffering from depression and could have been the cause of her vile actions. Nothing was confirmed, but only speculated.

Not so obvious to me, the killer was the guy who’s fishes got killed. Unfortunately, I forgot his name, blame it to old age. Falling victim to Mary’s charm, she flirted and ‘seduced’ him, only to be shut down when he asked her to dinner. It is also believed that Mary was the perpetrator that inflicted the small crimes in the community. Therefore, the killer of the goldfishes is none other than Mary, who’s fishes belongs to the said man. So, to avenge both himself and his goldfishes, who he treated as family, he killed Mary without remorse.

The Book of Ivy by Amy Engel

book of ivy
Author: Amy Engel
Genre: Dystopia
Rating: 3/5
Protagonist(s): Ivy Westfall
Other Characters: Bishop Lattimer, Erin Lattimer, President Lattimer,
***Warning: Book includes physical abuse***

Synopsis: Ivy has one job as a Westfall, to kill the president’s son. Coincidentally enough, he is also her soon-to-be-husband. As she start to get to know him, she no longer know who to believe, her father with his talk of a revolution, or Bishop who wants only to see the ocean.

Review:I actually wasn’t planning on reading this at all. I’ve heard about it from youtube and goodreads, but I never really had the urge to pick it up. The only reason I actually picked it up was because the audiobook was available in my library and I needed something to read. Since I was waiting for my other books to arrive, I decided to give this a try. I’m pleasantly surprised to say I enjoyed the book. It’s not a WOW-er, but a nice read nevertheless. My thoughts are all muddled up in one huge pile, so I think this review will be in point forms.

The Bad
– The world building wasn’t all there. The author kept stating that earth suffered a third wold war, but as to why or how, we don’t really get to understand. I understand that their ‘nation’ survived because of Ivy’s grandfather, but that’s the only information that Engel was willing to give us. I really was curious as to why this third war devastated the world, but we don’t get an answer in this book. We also don’t get to find any information about any other villages. As if this is the only town that survived. I understand that people are scared to even venture out of the fence, but someone would have stumbled onto them somehow, right? This really frustrated me because Engel made the world such a mystery.
Ivy. I’m not saying that she’s an awful character, I just couldn’t handle some of her decision making. There are just too many things that was too obvious, but I feel that she turned a blind eye to them. I do have to say that its understandable why she made those decisions in the end, but they were both frustrating and heartbreaking to read.
– I feel that almost all the characters, besides Ivy and Bishop, are grey. What I mean about this is, there were too many characters that didn’t fit the stereotype of good and bad. I know some people enjoy these sorts of mystery, but I like knowing who the villain is off the bat. Engel made it seem like its ‘us against the world’ with the two protagonists. I would have enjoyed a more clear cut of black and white. This tho, is a personal preference.

**There really isn’t much that I didn’t like about this book, to be honest, the one thing that stood out for me is the world building. The fact that it’s almost non existent is a bit frustrating. Other than that I really have no qualms on it.

The Good
– I know I complained about Ivy and the choices that she made in the end, but at the same time her faults are understandable. The decisions that she made are all believable and this made me relate to her. Her internal struggles regarding Bishop and her family are exactly things that I would question myself. I don’t know if the end result would be my decision, but it is something entirely plausible. I think Engel did such a great job in creating situations for her that made her choose her path in a realistic outcome.
– I love the relationship between Ivy and Bishop. I understand that there is arrange marriage going on in this book, but I don’t care. The development of the relationship was believable. There was no love at first sight or even an attraction, but Engel handled the progression of their feelings realistically. I’m really happy on the way Ivy and Bishop gradually evolved into their role as husband and wife. Although, I really don’t approve on any type of physical abuse I’m really glad that Engel included this scene. It shows that not all relationships are perfect and you cannot always get a ‘Happily Ever After’, even in books.
– Not an exact replica, but this book reminds me of These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman. It’s not the story that is similar, just the seclusion of the couple. I understand that they aren’t totally alone, but there is that similarity that they are forced to be together and learn about each other. I really enjoy that in These Broken Stars, and this similarity made me enjoy this book as well.

Like I said before, I really enjoyed the book. There are moments when I disliked it, for obvious reasons, but in the end I’m really glad I picked it up. Hopefully, the next, and last book, will answer some of the questions I have.

Audiobook Review: The first few chapters I listened to, I felt that the voice was very monotone. Then as the book progress the narrator’s voice attained emotions as she develops into her life as a wife. I realize that this tone is evident when her life seemed meek and as she start to develop a relationship with Bishop, the voice of the narrator becomes warmer. I would actually recommend the audiobook to those who enjoys reading this type of format.

***********************SPOILER ALERT!!*********************

Ending:Since I started this review in point forms, might as well end it on the same note.
– Ivy was sent to kill Bishop in order for her father to step up against the Lattimer. Without Bishop, they will kill the rest of the Lattimers and the Westfall will create a democracy. One that they have always wanted since the end of the war
– Ivy fell in love with Bishop. When it was time for her to kill him, she decided to confess to it before actually proceeding with the plan.
– With the confession, she is to be sent out of the town, beyond the fence. Those who leave the safety of the town is usually killed.
– She finds out that her father and sister literally abandons her by telling the Lattimers that Ivy was mentally unstable. Her decision to kill Bishop is entirely her decision because she was against the law of arrange marriage.
– Bishop does not believe them, but Ivy admits to wanting to kill him in order for her family not to be incriminated for crimes.
– The end of the book is Ivy realizing that she needs to be strong to save herself in the outside world.

Review for Book 2: The Revolution of Ivy by Amy Engel

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

HarryPotter
Author: J.K Rowling
Narrated By: Jim Dale
Genre: Fantasy

As stated on the title of this review, its not the actual book I’m going to talk about, but rather the audio version. Since most, if not all, have read the book or at least has seen the movies, I won’t go into details regarding the synopsis of the novel. Yes, I know the book is not the same as the movie, but you get the main idea. This is my honest thoughts and opinions on the audio version of J.K Rowling’s best selling series, so please, if I said anything bad or things that you didn’t like, don’t hate me for it.

I have read this particular book more times than I can remember and every time I pick it up I can’t help but fall in love with Hogwarts and the wizarding world all over again. Many have told me that the audiobook is fantastic and Jim Dale, the narrator, does justice to the voices of the characters and he brings even more life to Rowling’s already vivid world. With such high praises, I can’t help but give in to peer pressure and even if I don’t end up liking it, I at least get the chance to re-read Harry Potter all over again. So its a win, win situation.

Now, if you have never listened to an audiobook in your whole entire reading life, I feel that this is a good place for you to start. I can see why many enjoy Jim Dale’s narration. He gives each character life in his many voices and you will be able to identify each of the characters in the book. If you have watched the movie as much as I have, then the voices might be a hit or miss for you. There are some that I enjoyed and some where I just thought it didn’t suit the character and there are others that made me chuckle each time I hear it. I know that the audiobook was released way before the movies, but I can’t help compare them. I think that Professor Dumbledore and Hagrid’s voices are dead on to Richard Harris and Robbie Coltrane’s. The first time I heard it, I almost thought that maybe they lent their voices to Jim Dale for the book (hahaha!). I did have problems with Hermoine’s voice. I love, love Emma Watson, so when I heard the voice that was used for her, it slightly broke my heart. The audio version sounded very whinny and high pitched, I get that she’s suppose to sound like a know-it-all, I just can’t accept that’s how she sounds like. I would rather keep Emma’s voice in my head. The two that really stood out for me, and made me hold my stomach in laughter, is Mr. & Mrs. Dursley. Just thinking about it makes me laugh. Mr. Dursley sounds like a cross between Marvin the Martian, from Looney Toons, and Mr. Bean. Yea, you heard me right, Mr. Bean! I really can’t describe Mrs. Dursley’s voice, but I think her voice is only hilarious because it sounds very much like Mr. Dursley’s, in a feminine way. That being said, I did enjoy the overall narration of the book. I love the magical sounding voice of Jim Dale and to be honest, it kinda sounds like Professor Dumbledore is reading the to me. I think he did a stupendous job in this audiobook.

Even with the misses on some of the voices, I didn’t really mind it that much. I liked it enough that I would actually listen to the second book, but it’s not the best I’ve heard. There are some books where their audio is so great that I can’t help but associate the voices to the character when I’m actually reading the physical book. For me, this is what makes an audio very good. The problem is, I feel that I’m biased, only because I love the movie actors that plays our beloved characters so much, that I associate those people and their voices to their counterparts. That being said, I still highly recommend the audio, because it’s a different way to “reading” the Harry Potter books. I feel that when I’m listening to the audio, I find bits and pieces that I missed when actually reading the physical book. So, if you’re a Harry Potter fan, and are planning on re-reading the series all over again, maybe you can keep the audiobook in mind. Try it out. Like I said, like it or not, its a win, win situation.