Mini-Review: A Murder is Announced (Miss Marple #5) by Agatha Christie

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If you’ve read any of my prior Christie reviews, you will know that I absolutely love Poirot but feel ambivalent towards Miss Marple.  Her stories do not resonate with me and I find them significantly less enjoyable.

A Murder is Announced isn’t a bad book but there really is nothing special about it.  Miss Marple titters around talking about human nature and how so and so in the village did X so it must mean that the killer did Y.  They really are all that same formula.  And, don’t think I’m being dismissive of a female led series.  It simply is what it is.  Christie calls Miss Marple an old woman and generalizes that all old women in these villages are the same.

Having said that, some of the mysteries are better than others.  Unfortunately, in this case, I figured out a good portion of the big reveal pretty early on.  That’s always a disappointment because I expect Christie to trick me.  Here it was pretty clear what would be a “big shock” for the denouement.

Lastly, just as a note…I cannot determine if Christie herself hated anyone who wasn’t English or if she just wrote many characters who were xenophobic.  I have a tendency to give her the benefit of the doubt since Poirot was Belgian and experienced discrimination for being a foreigner.  I always felt that Christie intended for us to be sympathetic towards him.  But, sometimes, I’m not quite sure.  There are so many negative references to foreigners (well, honestly, anyone different whether it be nationality, race or social status).  Books should reflect the times in which they are set and I’m not a fan of revisionist history.  So, if this is accurate for ‘society in England’ at this time so be it.  It is, however, rather jarring to read with today’s sensibilities.

2.5/5 stars.

Review: One Fell Sweep (Innkeeper Chronicles #3) by Ilona Andrews

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While I’ve enjoyed the Innkeeper Chronicles from the beginning, I always felt that the Kate Daniels series would remain as my favorite Andrews.  With One Fell Sweep, the IC has begun to give Kate a run for her money.  (In fact, if I look at all of the Andrews’ books, OFS is second only to Magic Bites on my favorites list.)

If you aren’t familiar with the Innkeeper books, here’s what you need to know.  Dina is an Innkeeper who is magically connected to the Inn that she runs.  Her B&B is basically a safe haven on Earth for alien travelers.  She takes her role as their protector very seriously.  Her love interest, Sean, is a werewolf (though the specifics of wolf-ism are different in this world).  In OFS, she receives an urgent message from her sister (who we’ve never met) and Dina enlists the help of friends to rescue Maud and her daughter, Helen.  Then they are all pulled into a holy war against a dying race, the Hiru, who offer Dina a bargain – help us and we will give you a tool to assist you in finding your lost parents.

The main reason this works is the blend of humor, action and heart.  OFS made me laugh out loud and cry multiple times.  It is that good.  Plus, Helen is one of my new favorite characters.  If I had a child who was half-vampire, I’d want them to be just like her.  And, the fight scenes are on-point.

One other thing that I just need to note is the Andrews’ creativity.  In building the Innkeeper world, they’ve allowed for other series characters to make appearances.  Thus far we’ve only seen George and Jack from the Edge series.  BUT…If you think about it, there is room for the Kate Daniels world, etc. to coexist and still make sense.

I cannot recommend the Innkeeper series enough.  You do want to start with book one, Clean Sweep.  Don’t delay.  It’s worth every penny.  5/5 stars.

Mini-Review: Death in the Clouds (Hercule Poirot #12) by Agatha Christie

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Death in the Clouds in a fairly standard Poirot mystery – which still rates a 3.5-4 star result. Working my way through the series, I have become enamored of the character. He has many idiosyncrasies and personality quirks which make him one of the most iconic characters in not only classic mysteries but literature in general. One of my favorite traits is his affection for women of a certain type. He seems to favor strong, sassy and formidable women. I like that. A lot! In Death in the Clouds, his femme choisie is Jane Grey – a hairdresser who is drawn into helping him solve the murder.

Ce que c’est drôle.

Review: Throne of Glass (Throne of Glass #1) by Sarah J. Maas

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Hi, my name is Mary and I am a middle-aged woman who occasionally reads YA fantasy series and *gasps* enjoys them.

There really are three age groups in fantasy literature.  There are books/series that are clearly Young Adult.  The characters are teenage or younger, the subject matter isn’t quite as advanced (violence, sexual content, etc.) and it’s typically a little easier to read (see: Harry Potter, The Mortal Instruments, etc.).  Adult fantasy has primarily adult characters in adult situations and can be a more difficult read for those that aren’t longtime fantasy readers (see: Game of Thrones).

Then there is the third category of ‘somewhere in the middle’.  And, I guess, my question is who decides which category a book fits into?  Hear me out.  In Throne of Glass, the female protagonist is 18 years old.  She is an assassin and has been in prison for over a year.  She was beaten and barely survived. Book one, Throne of Glass, is fairly violent with Celaena beating the crap out of someone or someone beating the crap out of Celaena in many scenes.  I know that in future books she has sex with several different characters.  This is categorized by everyone as YA.  (I’m not questioning this; just making a point.)

In Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn trilogy, the female protagonist is a teenager (I can’t recall her exact age but I believe she was younger in book one than Celaena is here.)  She is a street urchin with special powers but isn’t a killer.  Spoiler alert: she does have sex in the books but only after she is married and it all happens off the page.  While I have in rare cases seen someone classify Mistborn as YA, it is almost always considered an adult fantasy and the bookstores shelve it as such.

Then, what makes Throne of Glass fit YA and Mistborn fit Adult?  I honestly don’t know.  But I have a guess.  Let’s talk world building first.  Brandon Sanderson is a genius world builder and the world he created in the Mistborn series is unbelievable.  Exceptional.  Unsurpassed.  Maas’ world in TOG isn’t as well built.  But, you know what?  There are a lot of ‘adult’ fantasy series that cannot touch Sanderson’s world building and Maas does at least as well as many of them.  So, I don’t think it’s the world building.

Also in Mistborn, there also isn’t a love triangle in sight.  Pretty much from the start it’s clear that Vin and Elend will be together eventually and there are no other real viable love interests for her.  TOG has a pretty clear love triangle beginning to form.  Does this make it YA – the dreaded love triangle trope?  Maybe.  I do think it has something to do with this but let’s be fair and honest.  Many adult books also have love triangles.  It is a tried and true method of drawing in a certain readership.

So, why is TOG classified as YA?  I’m still left in the dark.  My guess is that it’s a combination of the love triangle, the young female lead character and the female author.  But maybe I’m wrong. Tell me what you think in the comments below.  I’d love to understand.

(P.S. I gave Throne of Glass 4/5 stars.  While I can see the problems some people had with a few things, I thoroughly enjoyed it and found Celaena to be an interesting character.  I’ve already ordered book two.)

Review: In God We Trust (All Others Pay Cash) by Jean Shepherd

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Each Christmas I re-read A Christmas Story by Jean Shepherd.  It is a collection of short stories on which the movie is based.  I recently decided to purchase the author’s three full collections of short stories.

In God We Trust (All Others Pay Cash) is the first of those three.  (Eleven of the fifteen stories were new to me.)  Shepherd had an interesting way of pulling everything together.  He starts in Chapter 1 by going back to his hometown as a middle-aged adult.  In a local bar, he finds Flick, his childhood friend, as the bartender.  They start reminiscing and Shepherd tells stories.  Between each they reminisce some more.

If you enjoy Americana or are just a major fan of the movie, you will love this collection.  It would be easy to say that the best stories are those used in the movie but the others are just as interesting.  And, you will find scenes throughout and minor occurrences that you will think “aha, that’s where it came from”.

Shepherd’s voice sang through each story.  I read them with his rhythm and cadence.  Even though he is describing a childhood a few generations before my time, it still rang true.  From the childhood guilt you would feel if you got away with something or the joy of getting a “free” gift with purchase (my favorites were the Smurf glasses we got at Hardees.)  There is a lot of laughter to be found in the stories but also the heartfelt reality of hard times.

This was originally published in 1966 and read through today’s eyes, it would be easy to bristle at some of his language and his references to women.  But, the truth is, I was able to give him a pass here.  Getting a sense of who he was, I feel he deserves it as there really was no negative intent.  Others might disagree and that’s fine.  For me, though, I think you do have to look at the period in which a book was written and make some allowances.

Anyway, I wanted to include a snippet so that you can understand what a genius Shepherd was at articulating something that you’ve always felt but have never been able to put into words.  In this scene Ralph has repeated a very inappropriate joke with very inappropriate language to his neighbor.  When his Mom finds out, she confronts him and he admits telling the joke but she knows that he didn’t ‘get it’ when he says that one of the words he used was related to hockey (this continued to make me laugh even as I typed this).  Ralph is afraid that the hammer is about to drop when she goes to talk to the neighbor.  Enjoy:

“About half an hour later I hear her out in the back, talking over the fence to Mrs. Wocznowski.  And I am frantically trying to hear what she is saying.  I’m out in the kitchen, next to the icebox.  This is terrible, because I know I have done something awful, and yet I don’t really know.  You know what I mean? You don’t really know, you just know that what you have done is unspeakable.  Unspeakable! You not only feel that it was unspeakable, you feel untouchable.  I mean, you’re just really rotten!  To the core.  You are never going to make it up the ladder of human virtues. You are never again going to be accepted into the race.  Ever.  You know that sickening feeling? It takes a hundred years to grow out of that one, if ever!”

Ralph’s Mom proceeds to explain to Mrs. Wocznowski that they boys didn’t understand the joke.  Mrs. W is crying and upset.  Ralph’s Mom is trying to hold back laughter.

4/5 stars.

January 2017 TBR

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2017?!?!?!?!?!

January is usually a strong reading month for me so I’m looking forward to many great books.  Here is my list of hopefuls:

  • A Murder is Announced by Agatha Christie
  • Cards on the Table by Agatha Christie
  • Death in the Clouds by Agatha Christie
  • Life is Short by Jennifer Arnold and Bill Klein (this is way outside of my normal reading preferences but my Mama read it and enjoyed so gave it to me)
  • One Fell Sweep by Ilona Andrews
  • Royal Assassin by Robin Hobb
  • Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
  • Firefight by Brandon Sanderson
  • Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige

What is on your TBR list for January?

2016 Year-In-Review

Check out my Year In Books On Goodreads!

103 books

35914 pages

The longest book I read was The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson at 1008 pages and it was probably also my favorite book of the year.  (Maybe my favorite book ever but it will need to stand the test of time before I’m willing to say that confidently.)

I also spent a good portion of the year working my way through part of Agatha Christie’s catalog. In 2016, I read 25 (of the bazillion) and primarily focused on the Poirot and Marple series.  I also listened to two Poirot audiobooks and found them unexpectedly enjoyable.

While my page count and books read are actually down from previous years, I’m pretty happy with my year in reading overall.  I did a better job of choosing what to read and when.  So, I count that as success.

Lastly, 2016 was the year I finally got my built in bookshelves that I’ve always wanted.  My fellow readers will understand that bookshelves are always a work in progress.  But, here are a few current pictures to show my babies.

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