The Halloween Creatures Book Tag

Rules:

Answer all prompts.
Answer honestly.
Tag 1-13 people.
Link back to this post. ( For me it was SnoopyDoo!)
Remember to credit the creator. (Anthony @ Keep Reading Forward)<
Have fun!

 

Witch

A Magical Character or Book

Terry Pratchett’s witches, particularly Granny Weatherwax. And DEATH (preferably in his Hogfather incarnation). No contest.

 

 

Werewolf

The Perfect Book to Read at Night

Any- and everything by Agatha Christie.

 

Vampire – A Book that Sucked the Life Out of You – and Frankenstein – A Book that Truly Shocked You

Joint honors in both categories to two novels chronicling civil war and genocide in two African countries, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun (Nigeria / Biafra) and Aminatta Forna’s The Memory of Love (Sierra Leone). Both of them are, in their own way, the literary equivalent of a gut punch that leaves you gasping for air in huge, big gulps. And both are, for that and many other reasons (characters, writing, the whole package) unforgettable in all the right ways.

The Devil

A Dark, Evil Character

Umm … the original blood sucker? (I don’t much go in for the sparkly variety.) And, of course, Tom Riddle aka Voldemort … and the dementors. Those creatures are vile.

 

Zombie

A Book that Made You “Hungry” for More

Dorothy L. Sayers’s Peter Wimsey & Harriet Vane tetralogy, particularly Gaudy Night. While I can totally see that (and why) for Sayers there really was no easy follow-up to Busman’s Honeymoon, I’d still have loved to see how she herself would have framed Peter and Harriet’s married life and continuing investigations … instead of having to rely on another author’s attempts to pick the bones of Sayers’s sketchy drafts.

Gargoyle

A Character that You Would Protect at All Cost

Hmm. This one was difficult, because one of the things that I like about my favorite characters — and pretty much any and all of them, and across all genres — is that they are perfectly capable of taking care of themselves, even in the face of adversity. But I guess if you’re up against evil incarnate and you’re looking at the one group / fellowship of people who actually stand at least a minute chance of facing up to it, a little extra protection can’t go awray.

Along the same lines, Harry Potter, Dumbledore’s Army, and most of the teachers at Hogwarts.

Ghost

A Book that Still Haunts You

I could easily have used Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun and Aminatta Forna’s The Memory of Love for this category all over again — as well as Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale (see below) and, to a minimally lesser extent its sequel, The Testaments. I didn’t want to do that, so I decided to go with Clea Koff’s The Bone Woman — not just for its content as such, though, but because I have seen cases related to the very ones that she describes up, close and personal … and short of actually being the victim of human rights violations yourself, there are few things as devastating and haunting as working with victims, or otherwise being involved in the aftermath.

Demon

A Book that Really Scared You

I reread Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale last year before moving on to The Testaments, and it scared the living daylights out of me; possibly even more than when I read it for the first time many years ago — not least because events in the past couple of years have shown just how realistic Atwood’s dystopia is, and how little it takes for society to slide down that particular slippery slope.

Skeleton

A Character You Have a Bone to Pick With

You mean other than each and every TSTL character ever created?

OK, let’s go with the two protagonists of what I’ve come to dub my fall 2017 headless chicken parade — Giordano Bruno in S.J. Parris’s Heresy (essentially for not bearing any demonstrable likeness to the historical Giordano Bruno, who would probably have sneared at his fictional alter ego in this particular book / series), and Albert Campion in Margery Allingham’s Traitor’s Purse, for losing not only his memory but also the better part of his essential character makeup as a result of being coshed over the head.

Mummy

A Book You Would Preserve Throughout Time

Well, the likes of Hamlet, Pride & Prejudice and Sherlock Holmes have already made their point as far as “timeless” is concerned, so it feels kind of pointless to pick a classic here.

That being said, I hope one day the time will come for people to scratch their heads and wonder what all the fuss was about, but right now — there hasn’t been a book in a long time that challenged stereotypes (gender, race, class, writing styles, younameit) in the way that Bernardine Evaristo’s Girl, Woman, Other has. It’s the reality check we all urgently needed, and a book that can’t ever possibly have too many readers … now and for the foreseeable future.

Creepy Doll

A Cover too Scary to Look At

That of Stephen King’s Pet Sematary — because I really do NOT want to think about the possibility of my pets ever turning into zombies, revenants or the like, or otherwise taking on similarly murderous qualities. And that is precisely what this cover makes me do.

 

The Monster Mash

It’s Fun to Be with Friends on Halloween!
Tag Your Friends!

Anyone and everyone who wants to do this, I hope if you are reading this and have not done it you will. It’s fun, and outside of Halloween Bingo, nothing says bookish Halloween like tying a few of your reads to a roundup of Halloween creatures! 🙂

Halloween Bingo 2019 PreParty — Question for 08/09 (Day 9): Book Suggestions for the New Squares? Part 1: "Paint It Black"

Today’s prompt is for favorite horror reads; that not being much of my thing (outside, perhaps, the gothic classics and anything more edifying or funny rather than scary), I think I’m going to leave that prompt to Char, Bark’s Books (aka Bark at the Ghouls), and the site’s other horror fans.  Instead, I’m going to catch up on the prompt from the day before yesterday — I’m really, really excited about the new squares.

This is going to be another multiple-post reply … because come on, these covers are just too beautiful not to give them a space of their own!

                                                      

 

 

Original post:
ThemisAthena.booklikes.com/post/1934086/halloween-bingo-2019-preparty-question-for-08-09-day-9-book-suggestions-for-the-new-squares-part-1-paint-it-black

 

Halloween Bingo 2019 PreParty — Question for 08/05 (Day 5): Favorite Series with Supernatural Elements

Hmmm, are we talking “series” as in “including trilogies and quartets” here, or does it have to be more than that number?  Also, what about works that were intended as one (very long) book but are traditionally broken up into several parts that are published separately (like Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings) and books originally published in several self-contained parts but now frequently combined into one omnibus volume (like Stephen King’s Green Mile)?

Anyway, starting with the beasts that nobody can legitimately dispute are series and moving on from there, based on the assumption that it’s “yes” to all of the above:

MULTI-BOOK SERIES ( >5 INDIVIDUAL ENTRIES)
Terry Pratchett: Discworld
J.K. Rowling: Harry Potter
C.S. Lewis: The Chronicles of Narnia
Sheri S. Tepper: The True Game (all nine books, including the Mavin Manyshaped trilogy and the Jinian / End of the Game trilogy)

TRILOGIES / QUARTETS / MULTI-PART OMNIBUS VOLUMES
J.R.R. Tolkien: The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings
T.H. White: The Once and Future King
Tad Williams: Memory, Sorrow and Thorn
Mary Stewart: Merlin Trilogy
Stephen King: The Green Mile

JUMPED THE SHARK
Anne Rice: The Vampire Chronicles

Unsurprisingly, almost all of my favorite supernaturally-tinged series are fantasy — and I read both Green Mile and the Vampire Chronicles for pretty much everything but their horror contents.  That said, Rice jumped the shark for me when she insisted on using Lestat (of all characters) as a vehicle for exploring her rapidly altering expressions of faith … shortly before going BBA and thus earning herself a place on my no-go list once and for all.  I still like the first books in the series, though, especially the first two.

 

 

Original post:
ThemisAthena.booklikes.com/post/1930807/halloween-bingo-2019-preparty-question-for-08-05-day-5-favorite-series-with-supernatural-elements

Halloween Bingo 2019 PreParty — Question for 08/01 (Day 1): Mystery or Horror?

 

Mystery, definitely.

For one thing, I’m a total chicken — I can’t look at blood (not even, or rather, especially not my own, e.g. in medical procedures); and anything shocking, spooky, or otherwise unnaturally unsettling just has me running for the rafters.  That’s particularly true at night — which is when I’m doing a good deal of my reading — but basically, it applies 24/7.  So that not only rules out slashers and other forms of gory horror, but pretty much any and all forms of psychological horror as well.  The only stories typically classified as “horror” that I can go near are classics where I essentially know what’s going to happen from the word “go” (e.g., Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde), or ghost stories (mostly classics as well) where the appearance of the ghost(s) is (1) in itself not overly unsettling, at least not in the way in which it is presented to the reader, and / or (2) tied to a larger point that the author is trying to make.  (E.g.  most of Edith Wharton’s ghost stories, Charles Dickens’s The Signalman and — of course — A Christmas Carol and The Chimes, and Oscar Wilde’s hilarious send-up of the genre, The Canterville Ghost.)  Edgar Allan Poe is a special case … I do love some of his writing (e.g., The Masque of the Red Death and The Raven), but The Tell-Tale Heart creeped the hell out of me way back in high school, and that cat story (which shall remain unnamed in this post) … well, let’s just say once was once too often.

And then — well, I became a mystery reader all the way back in elementary school, and that was probably the most formative reading experience of my entire life.  It started with a series of books specifically targeting elementary school kids, whose (idiomatic) title went straight to my little smarta$$ jugular, challenging me to demonstrate I had what it took to solve them.  From there, it was practically guaranteed I’d move on to and love the Three Investigators series — by which time my mom had caught on once and for all, too, and in short order presented me with my first Agatha Christie — After the Funeral, which for that reason alone will always be one of my personal favorites.  And the rest, as they say, is history!

I’ve long stopped looking “just” for clever puzzles in mysteries, although that is still at least one of the things I want to see — it takes a lot of other things in a book to work well for me if I’ve solved the mystery early on and still end up liking the book.  But on the other hand, I’ll be just as unhappy if I can’t connect, on some level or other, with the main character (or if not them, at least an important supporting character) — or if I’m presented with shallowly drawn, cardboard or just flat out boring characters, or if the plot just ties one trope onto the next or is otherwise devoid of originality.  In other words, a mystery that works for me will always be more than merely the hunt for a killer (or other criminal, as the case may be) — it will be a complex blend of well-drawn, individual characters and an intelligent plot, and ideally the characters will also have some other (e.g., personal) challenges to deal with on their journey to the mystery’s solution.

Since I also love historical fiction (and nonfiction), historical mysteries are a particular favorite — provided they’re well-researched, such as Ellis Peters’s Brother Cadfael series (a long-time favorite) and C.J. Sansom’s Shardlake series (my most recent “must-read” series) –, but I’ve never lost my love for the Golden Age classics — next to Christie, in particular Sherlock Holmes and everything Dorothy L. Sayers, as probably everybody here knows — and am thrilled to also see Golden Age crime fiction above and beyond the eternal great ones making such a huge comeback in recent years.  Martin Edwards, the current president (and chief archivist) of both the Detection Club and the Crime Writers’ Association, may not be everybody’s cup of tea personally, but there’s no denying that his lobbying for the revival of Golden and Silver Age crime fiction has a lot to do with this, and I think he deserves huge plaudits on those grounds alone.  That said, P.D. James’s writing (and her Inspector Dalgliesh) also has had a special place in my heart for longer than I can remember … and I’m inordinately happy to have discovered many more great women crime writers and women detectives in recent years; most recently, Joy Ellis’s Jackman and Evans series (*waves to Jennifer*).

Oh, and for the record, the “I can’t look at blood” thing applies to mysteries as well, of course — which is one of the reasons why as a rule I don’t read serial killer books; nor any other mysteries where I know, going in, that the corpse or the crime scene will be described in gratuitously graphic terms.   [She said, side-eying J.K. Rowling for the second Cormoran Strike book, which definitely should come with a warning label attached.]  However, I am not at all opposed to grit and grime in a mystery’s setting — in fact, I particularly enjoy both classic noir crime fiction (with Raymond Chandler a particular favorite) and modern crime fiction that takes a look at the state of society, such as Michael Connelly’s and Ian Rankin’s books.

 

 

Original post:
ThemisAthena.booklikes.com/post/1928863/halloween-bingo-2019-preparty-qestion-for-08-01-day-1-mystery-or-horror

Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling): Lethal White

Reading Status Updates

20  of 1350 Minutes

Slight change of plan … I guess I have a row to catch up on after all now!  (4th row on my card.)

Original post:
ThemisAthena.booklikes.com/post/1793461/reading-progress-update-i-ve-listened-20-out-of-1350-minutes

 

215 of 1350 Minutes

“‘I’ve heard … that there may be photographs.’

‘Photographs,” repeated Strike.

“Winn can’t have them, of course.  If he had it would be all over.  But he might be able to find a way of getting hold of them, yes.’  He shoved the last piece of tarte in his mouth, then said, ‘Of course, there’s a chance the photographs don’t incriminate me.  There are no distinguishing marks, so far as I’m aware.’

Strike’s imagination frankly boggled.  He yearned to ask, ‘Distinguishing marks on what, Minister?’, but refrained.”

Bwahahaha — don’t tell me Rowling has somehow anticipated l’affaire champignon (mushroom)?  Well, of sorts, anyway?  Not that Britain doesn’t have a rich history of its own as far as these, um, situations are concerned …

Original post:
ThemisAthena.booklikes.com/post/1793493/reading-progress-update-i-ve-listened-215-out-of-1350-minutes

 

1000 of 1350 Minutes

“Geraint was representing me at that event and it will go the way it always goes in the press when it all comes out.  It will have been my fault, all of it.  Because men’s crimes are always ours in the final analysis, aren’t they, Mr. Strike?  Ultimate responsibility always lies with the woman — who should have stopped it.  Who should have acted.  Who must have known.  Your failings are really our failings, aren’t they?  Because the proper role of the woman is carer, and there is nothing lower in this whole world than a bad mother.”

Well, well, Joanne.

Original post:
ThemisAthena.booklikes.com/post/1793705/reading-progress-update-i-ve-listened-to-1000-out-of-1350-minutes

 

1025 of 1350 Minutes

Well, good for you, Robin.  This was long overdue.  I hope this time you’re going to really go through with it.

Original post:
ThemisAthena.booklikes.com/post/1793709/reading-progress-update-i-ve-listened-to-1025-out-of-1350-minutes

 

1350 of 1350 Minutes

Wow.  What a book.


Totilas

Original post:
ThemisAthena.booklikes.com/post/1793952/reading-progress-update-i-ve-listened-to-1350-out-of-1350-minutes

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Addendum:

On BookLikes, I had the following exchange with my friend Moonlight Reader regarding Robin’s story arc in book 3 of the series (Career of Evil) and book 4 (Lethal White):

Themis-Athena’s Garden of Books
When you were praising Robin in your review for book 2, that made me really curious how you were going to respond to this book. Because you’re not the only one who wanted to slap her more than a few times in this one … I spent the better part of the book being furious at her. — That said, I never thought of Michael as a suspect … just a major irritation (and a completely unnecessary complication in Robin’s life).

Moonlight Reader
My thinking of Matthew as a suspect was extremely brief, and didn’t make any sense. It was just one of things where I was like “could it be Shanker?” “could it be the police officer?” “could it be Matthew…” and then I immediately rejected it.

I was mad at Robin, but I can’t deny that her behavior represents a certain reality – young women get carried along into first marriages that they know will be a disaster pretty regularly, because they can’t figure out how to jump off the train that has left the station. [….]

Themis-Athena’s Garden of Books
There’s no question that Rowling has RL down pat in her characters — first and foremost, both Robin and Strike (and now I *really* want to see your response to book 4, in turn). I was chiefly mad at Robin because of her irresponsible behavior on the job — allowances for past history included; still, her whole set of expectations of Strike, of herself, of what she thought was due to her and what she could accomplish were so wildly off the mark and, more importantly, a serious risk to the whole operation, and to both her and Strike’s lives. But, yeah, of course I was yelling at her to get rid of Michael as well.

[…] And you’re right of course; there’s frequently a whole lot of (well-intentioned, but in fact fatal) social pressure going on in these types of situations. The way Rowling portrayed that was part of what I really liked about this book.

Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling): Career of Evil

Anger Management


Soooo … turns out I listened to book 3 almost straight on the heels of book 2 after all, because I’ve had some fairly major anger and sadness issues to go through lately, and nothing helps in that process like a really dark-hued book, right?

As a matter of fact, it turns out that yours truly wasn’t the only person in need of some healthy dose of anger management here.  I knew going in that this is a serial killer novel (that much is clear from page one); actually, though, the person ultimately revealed as the killer is only one of several seriously sick and violent bastards, all of whom have a major personal gripe with Strike and therefore pretty much auto-suggest themselves as suspects — I mean, who other than someone pretty obviously out to make Strike’s (and Robin’s) lives hell would send them body parts and go stalking Robin, intent on ultimately killing her, too?  (No spoiler here btw.; this, too, is obvious right from the beginning.)

But speaking of Robin, in this installment she is having to deal with some pretty substantial anger management of her own in turn, and she’s unfortunately not doing all that brilliantly … in fact, for the better part of the novel she’s behaving more like a sulking teenager than like a grown up woman.  We learn a lot about her background here, and about the reasons why she gave up university and kept on clinging to Matthew, her boyfriend of nine years, despite his obvious dislike of her work as Strike’s assistant — and up to a point I can empathize with her insecurities (she’s a rape victim and developed agoraphobia as a consequence, which it took her a full year to overcome and even so much as venture out again at all).

However, I have decidedly more of a problem empathizing with her for throwing a major fit every time Strike doesn’t go to the end of the world to treat her as a full-fledged partner — and for her coming within an inch of fatally jeopardizing both her own and Strike’s lives, not to mention his work, on several separate occasions as a result; not least towards the very end.  For an army / MP veteran with 15+ years of experience on the job as an investigator to accord that kind of equality to an untrained temp secretary who’d started in his office barely over a year earlier would be a ludicrous expectation under any circumstances, but even more so after she had repeatedly failed to follow his orders, thinking (wrongly) that she knew better, with disastrous consequences every single time. And no, Robin, you don’t get to chalk that one up to your experience in university, horrific as it doubtless was.  Because this isn’t a matter of anyone denying you your basic, inviolate human dignity — it’s a matter of (un)realistic expectations, plain and simple; and if you did have even the most marginal claim to the position to which you aspire on the job, this would be the first thing you’d realize.  I don’t doubt that your experience created major insecurity issues, but if those are truly still overwhelming to this degree, Strike is even more justified than he is, anyway, on the basis of your lack of training and repeated misconduct, in not treating you as an equal partner.  For him to be able to do that — and trust you with the blind assurance that true partnership in a dangerous job such as the pursuit of violent criminals would have to entail — you would have had to demonstrate that such trust on his part would be justified.  You, however, have demonstrated the precise opposite.

And I can empathize even less with Robin for her petty bit of revenge on Strike at the very end, getting married to Matthew after all — not because she’s determined she really loves him and he is the man in her life now and forever, but simply to get back at Strike for sacking her … for what had been her most blatant act of stupidity and professional misconduct yet.  I hope by the time we get to the beginning of the next book, which it turns out is due to be published sometime soon now, she’s got a grip on herself.  And if her marriage had gone to hell in a hand basket in the interim, I wouldn’t feel particularly sorry for her — you don’t marry for revenge, period.  Even less so a guy who you’ve realized is the wrong guy for you to begin with and to whom you’re only clinging for sentimental reasons now (as you’re very well aware, too).

So anyway, minus one star for Robin’s temper tantrums, but full marks, as always, for the writing and for Strike’s character development — as well as for introducing us to a guy named Shanker, who I very much hope is going to make a reappearance or two in the future.  The serial killer plot isn’t of the ingenious, never-seen-before-new variety, but more than merely competently executed, and I’ve also had quite a bit of fun touring Northern England and the Scottish borderland with Strike (and, in part, Robin) on the hunt for the killer.

 

Original post:
ThemisAthena.booklikes.com/post/1656814/anger-management

Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling): The Silkworm

Jacobean Revenge Tragedy Has Got Nothing on This


Jesus H. Christ, where did that come from???   Oh man, talk about “leagues from Harry Potter” … more like, in a different galaxy.  And I mean content-, not quality-wise.

It’s no coincidence that every single chapter of this book is prefaced by a quote from a different 16th / 17th century revenge tragedy: This is not a book for the faint of heart, dealing as it does with (1) a seriously twisted, depraved book [whose content is laid out in some detail] and (2) that book’s author, who weeks after having disappeared is found murdered, with his now rotting corpse having been made the sick centerpiece of a [graphically described] scene that exactly replicates the end of his final book.

I have to confess it was at this point that I almost stopped listening, and it was only the author’s s skill as a writer that pulled me back into the story and made me care about what happened next at all.

In terms of the technique(s) of crime writing and character development, this is even better than the first Cormoran Strike novel, The Cuckoo’s Calling; and I admit one other factor that kept me glued to the book until the end was the very skillfully unraveled backstory of Strike and his ex-fiancée Charlotte, or rather, their final breakup.  If there had been one thing that had left me mildly unsatisfied at the end of the first book, it was not having learned what precisely was behind Charlotte’s explosive exit from Strike’s office, with which the first book opens, and the specific reason for which — and the reason for their final dispute and breakup — was at best hinted at in book 1.  Well, curiosity satisfied now, and boy is it ever. — Now if Robin would finally get rid of Michael … (That being said, I’m not sure I want Strike to be her next boyfriend, even though that seems to be where we are headed.  They work increasingly well together as a team, but Strike is carrying a heck of a lot of baggage, and I’m not sure at all that their professional relationship would benefit from a change of dynamics that would bring all of that baggage AND emotions into the mix as well.)

So, 4 stars with a golden ribbon on top for the writing and character development (not only of Strike and Robin, but also of this story’s supporting cast of murder suspects and their respective entourage), and extra kudo points for the sheer chutzpah of ditching every last expectation that readers coming to this book straight from Harry Potter might be bringing, and for taking a full-blown, unflinching dive in the opposite direction instead.  That self-same latter dive is, however, also the reason why I’m subtracting a half star from my overall rating.  It’s going to take some time and a considerable amount of mind bleach to rid my brain of the images of that murder scene … and the imagery of the [fictional] book inspiring it.

 

Original post:
ThemisAthena.booklikes.com/post/1655036/jacobean-revenge-tragedy-has-got-nothing-on-this

My KYD Reads … or: Harry Potter, and What Else I read in March 2018

A big thank you to Moonlight Reader for yet another fun, inventive BookLikes game!  I had a wonderful time, while also advancing — though with decidedly fewer new reads than I’d origianlly been planning — my two main reading goals for this year (classic crime fiction and books written by women).

 

Harry Potter – The Complete Series

This was a long-overdue revisit and obviously, there isn’t anything I could possibly say about the books that hasn’t been said a million times before by others.  But I’ve gladly let the magic of Hogwarts and Harry’s world capture me all over again … to the point of giving in to book fandom far enough to treat myself to the gorgeous hardcover book set released in 2014 and, in addition, the even more gorgeous Gryffindor and Ravenclaw anniversary editions of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.


That said, particular kudos must also go to Stephen Fry for his magnificent audio narration of the books, which played a huge role in pulling me right back into to books, to the point that I’d carry my phone wherever I went while I was listening to them.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone - J.K. Rowling, Stephen Fry Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets - J.K. Rowling, Stephen Fry Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban - J.K. Rowling, Stephen Fry Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire - J.K. Rowling, Stephen Fry Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix - J.K. Rowling, Stephen Fry Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince - J.K. Rowling, Stephen Fry Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - J.K. Rowling, Stephen Fry

As for the rest of my KYD books … roughly in the order in which I read them:

Ngaio Marsh: Death at the Dolphin
(aka Killer Dolphin)

Killer Dolphin - Ngaio Marsh Death at the Dolphin - Ngaio Marsh

Also a revisit: One of my favorite installments in Marsh’s Roderick Alleyn series, not only because it is set in the world of the theatre — always one of Marsh’s particular fortes, as she herself was a veteran Shakespearean director and considered that her primary occupation, while writing mysteries to her was merely a sideline — but because this one, in fact, does deal with a(n alleged) Shakespearean relic and a play based on Shakespeare’s life, inspired by that relic.

The Hog's Back Mystery - Freeman Wills Crofts, Gordon GriffinFreeman Wills Crofts:
The Hog’s Back Mystery

Part of Crofts’s Inspector French series and my first book by Crofts, who was known for his painstaking attempts to “play fair” with the reader; which here, I’m afraid, hampered the development of the story a bit, in producing a fair bit of dialogue at the beginning that might have been better summed up from the third person narrator’s point of view in the interest of easing along the flow of the story, and in holding French back even at points where a reasonably alert reader would have developed suspicions calling for a particular turn of the investigation.  But I like French as a character, and as for all I’m hearing this is very likely not the series’s strongest installment, I’ll happily give another book a try later.

Unnatural Death: A Lord Peter Wimsey Mystery - Dorothy L. Sayers, Ian CarmichaelDorothy L. Sayers:
Unnatural Death

Not my favorite Lord Peter Wimsey book by Sayers, but virtually the only one I haven’t revisited on audio recently — and as always, I greatly enjoyed the narration by Ian Carmichael.  That said, here again Sayers proves herself head and shoulders above her contemporaries, in devising a particularly fiendish, virtually untraceable method of murder (well, untraceable by the medical state of the art of her day at least), and perhaps even more so by hinting fairly obviously at two women’s living together in what would seem to be a lesbian relationship.

The Red Queen - Margaret DrabbleMargaret Drabble:
The Red Queen

Ummm … decidedly NOT my favorite read of the month.  ‘Nuff said: next!

 

 

A Red Death: An Easy Rawlins Mystery - Walter Mosley, Michael BoatmanWalter Mosley: A Red Death

I’d long been wanting to return to the world of Easy Rawlins’ mid-20th century Los Angeles, so what with Mosley’s fiction making for various entries in the KYD cards, including at least one book by him in my reading plans for the game seemed only fitting (… even if I ended up using this one for a “Dr. Watson” victim guess!). — This, the second installment of the series, deals with the political hysteria brought about by the McCarthy probes and also makes a number of pertinent points on racial discrimination and xenophobia, which make it decidedly uncomfortable reading in today’s political climate.

One, Two, Buckle My Shoe - Hugh Fraser, Agatha ChristieAgatha Christie:
One, Two, Buckle My Shoe

Another revisit, and in no small part courtesy of Hugh Fraser’s narration, I liked the book a good deal better than I had done originally.  This is one of several entries in the Poirot canon where we learn about Poirot’s phobia of dentist’s visits, which obviously makes for the high point of the book’s humour … and of course it doesn’t exactly help that it’s Poirot’s dentist, of all people, who turns out the murder victim. — The plot features several clever slights of hand, and you have to play a really long shot to get the solution right in its entirety (even if strictly speaking Christie does play fair).  Well, that’s what we have Monsieur Poirot’s little grey cells for, I suppose!

Imperium - Robert HarrisRobert Harris: Imperium

The first part of Harris’s Cicero trilogy, and both a truly fast-paced and a well-researched piece of historical writing; covering Cicero’s ascent from young Senator to Praetorian and, eventually (and against all the odds), Consul.

The first part of the book deals at length with one of Cicero’s most famous legal cases, the prosecution of the corrupt Sicilian governor Verres, and Harris shows how Cicero employed that case in order to advance his own political career.  Notably, Cicero quite ingeniously also ignored established Roman trial practice in favor of what would very much resemble modern common law practice, by making a (by the standards of the day) comparatively short opening statement — albeit a supremely argumentative one — and immediately thereafter examining his witnesses, instead of, as procedural custom would have dictated, engaging in a lengthy battle of speeches with defending counsel first.  As a result of this manoeuver, Verres was as good as convicted and fled from Rome in the space of the 9 days allotted to Cicero as prosecuting counsel to make his case.

The second part of the book examines Cicero’s unlikely but eventually victorious campaign for consulship, and his exposure of a conspiracy involving Catiline, generally believed to be the most likely victor of that year’s consular elections, who later came to be involved of conspiracies on an even greater scale, and whose condemnation in Cicero’s most famous speeches — collectively known as In Catilinam (On, or Against Catiline) — would go a great way towards securing both Cicero’s political success in his own lifetime and his lasting fame as a skilled orator.

Murder is Easy - Agatha ChristieAgatha Christie: Murder Is Easy

Another Christie revisit, and I regret to say for the most part I’m down to my less favorite books now.  This isn’t a bad book, and the ending in particular is quite dark … but the middle part, much as I’m sorry to have to say this, simply drags.

The Distant Echo - Val McDermid, Tom CotcherVal McDermid: The Distant Echo

Holy moly, how did I ever miss this book until now?!  Even more so since the Karen Pirie series is actually my favorite series by Val McDermid … OK, Pirie herself has little more than a walk-on role here; we’re talking absolute beginning of her career, and the focus is decidedly not on her but on her boss and  on a quartet of suspects involved in a 25-year-old murder case — in fact, the whole first half of the book is set 25 years in the past, too, describing the immediate aftermath of the murder and its consequences for the four main suspects, chiefly from their perspective.  But still!  Well, I sure am glad I finally caught up with it at last … definitely one of the best things McDermid ever wrote.

Unterleuten: Roman - Juli ZehJuli Zeh: Unterleuten

A scathing satire on village life, on post-Berlin Wall German society, on greed, on the commercialization of ideals … and most of all, on people’s inability to communicate: Everyone in this book essentially lives inside their own head, and in a world created only from the bits they themselves want to see — with predictably disastrous consequences.  The whole thing is brilliantly observed and deftly written; yet, the lack of characters that I found I could like or empathize with began to grate after a while … in a shorter book I might not have minded quite so much, but in a 600+ page brick I’d have needed a few more characters who actually spoke to me to get all the way through and still be raving with enthusiasm.  If you don’t mind watching a bunch of thoroughly dislikeable people self-destruct in slow motion, though, you’re bound to have a lot of fun with this book.

Von Köln zum Meer: Schifffahrt auf dem Niederrhein - Werner BöckingWerner Böcking: Von Köln zum Meer

Local history, a read inspired by conversations with a visiting friend on the history of shipping and travel by boat on the Rhine. — A richly illustrated book focusing chiefly on the 19th and 20th centuries, and the mid-19th-centuriy changes brought about by diesel engines and the resulting disappearance of sailing vessels (which, before the advent of engines, were pulled by horses when going up the river, against the current): undoubtedly the biggest change not only in land but also in river travel and transportation, with a profound effect on large sectors of the economy of the adjoining regions and communities.

And last but not least …

"A Brief Discourse of Rebellion and Rebels" by George North: A Newly Uncovered Manuscript Source for Shakespeare's Plays - Dennis McCarthy, June SchlueterDennis McCarthy & June Schlueter: “A Brief Discourse of Rebellion and Rebels” by George North — A Newly Uncovered Manuscript Source for Shakespeare’s Plays

The lastest in Shakespearean research, also a read inspired by conversations with the above-mentioned visiting friend, and a February 7, 2018 New York Times article on a possible new source text for passages contained in no less than 11 of Shakespeare’s plays.  The story of the discovery itself is fascinating; the research methods applied are in synch with modern Shakesperean scholarship … and yet, for all the astonishing textual concordance, unless and until someone proves that Shakespeare not only had the opportunity to see this document but actually did (at least: overwhelmingly likely) see it, I’m not going to cry “hooray” just yet.  According to the authors’ own timeline, Shakespeare would have been about 11 years old when this text was written, it was kept in a private collection even then, and there is no record that the Bard ever visited the manor housing that very collection — which collection in turn, if the authors are to be believed, the text very likely at least did not ever leave during Shakespeare’s lifetime (though it was undoubtedly moved at a later point in time).  And Shakespearean research, as we all know, has been prone to a boatload of dead-end streets and conspiracy theories pretty much ever since its inception …

 

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Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling): The Cuckoo’s Calling

J.K. Rowling Does “Mystery”


… and really, is there anything she can’t write?

This may not be the most ingenious of plots (supermodel with “issues” falls to her death from the balcony of her high rise apartment; after the police have declared her death a probable suicide and closed the case, her brother shows up at the office of a down-and-out P.I. with a somewhat checkered past and pleads with him to reinvestigate; P.I. has a new temp secretary who gradually and reluctantly becomes his sidekick), but as always, it’s all in the execution, and here, Rowling delivers on all fronts; from tone of voice to attitudes to every other aspect that’s indispensable to creating well-rounded characters … and what a cast of characters she’s come up with, too.  She has an impeccable ear for dialogue, for the snazzy, street-wise language that few mysteries can do without, especially those published today — all the more those set, like this one, in the demi-monde of fashion, film, rock (music, meth / cocaine, and whisky-on-the), modeling, moguls, and money both old and new — and for endowing her characters with entirely credible human emotions.  All of her characters, that is, regardless how important they are to the story.  Even today, there are few mystery writers who manage that sort of feat.

And honestly, can you possibly think of a greater name for a protagonist, a run-down P.I. at that, than Cormoran Strike?

Count me in for book 2 of the series soon — I wonder what took me so long to get to it in the first place.

Oh, and never mind that she published this under a male pen name (nice try, Joanne) … the cat was out of the bag within weeks, if not days IIRC, and I am SO counting this book towards the “R” square of the Women Writers Bingo / Challenge.

 

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