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Portable Magic

Reading, for me, is entertainment and an escape from the real world. But it can also inform and stretch the boundaries of the life I live.

Currently reading

A Wizard of Earthsea (The Earthsea Cycle, #1)
Ursula K. Le Guin
Whisper Network
Chandler Baker
Progress: 54 %
Invisible Man
Ralph Ellison
Progress: 28 %
The Mystery at Lilac Inn
Carolyn Keene
100 Hair-Raising Little Horror Stories
Gary Raisor, Richard Chizmar, Al Sarrantonio, Avram Davidson
Progress: 70/512 pages
Leading Change
John P. Kotter
Peanuts Classics
Charles M. Schulz
Progress: 66 %
The Bungalow Mystery
Carolyn Keene
Progress: 192/192 pages
The Bungalow Mystery #3
Carolyn Keene
Progress: 192/192 pages
The Mystery at Lilac Inn
Russell H. Tandy, Mildred Benson, Carolyn Keene

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie ★★★★☆

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie - Alan Bradley

I’ve had several false starts in trying to write a review of this book, because every time I try to explain why I enjoyed it, I drew a blank. In trying to dissect it, I can only enumerate its flaws. As lame as it sounds, all I can really say is that this story is adorable and I loved that it was set in the 1950’s, an era that isn’t found much in contemporary fiction. There is a cast of characters who are just one step away from the stereotypes I see on BBC America sitcom reruns. But it works. The writing is rich and evocative, but it’s written from the 1st person POV of an 11 year old girl, which gives her a ridiculously precocious maturity more suited to an aging, cosmopolitan divorcee than a midcentury preadolescent who has spent her entire sheltered life confined to a country estate and adjoining village. But it works. The narrative is stuffed with similes, seemingly at a rate of one per paragraph, and some of them so awkward that I had to pause to ponder them and how an 11 year old would have the life experience to make them. But it works. The MC is just a lot of fun. She’s a borderline sociopath who gleefully poisons her sisters and is able to lie and manipulate with ease. But she’s also a lonely little girl who yearns for her emotionally absent father and dead mother. My biggest complaint, though, is the mechanism of murder at the heart of this mystery story, where

the diabetic murderer uses his insulin syringe to inject a deadly chemical into the victims’ brainstem. Implausible, because even in the 1950’s, insulin syringes did not hold 10cc of fluid, nor did they have a needle long enough and sturdy enough to navigate past the bone structures at the top of the neck to reach the brain stem.

(show spoiler)


This was the audiobook version, borrowed from my public library. I suspect that Jayne Entwistle’s fantastic performance contributed much to my liking this book in spite of its flaws.