Archive | May 2016

Mini-Review: They Came to Baghdad by Agatha Christie

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They Came to Baghdad is a stand alone mystery originally published in 1951.  It’s a story full of espionage and full of twists and turns.  It’s a lot of fun and a great rainy afternoon read.

What struck me most is that in 1951, people were still traveling so freely through the Middle East.  One of the travelers is a young, single woman, Victoria Jones.  She’s a bit of a nitwit but you do come to like her by the end.

Not destined to be in my top 5 Christies but still a great read.  4/5 stars.

Review: Murder at the Vicarage (Miss Marple #1) by Agatha Christie

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Murder at the Vicarage is the first written (and my first read) in the Miss Marple series.

While it was an okay read, it won’t go down as one of my favorites. I think my biggest issue is that Miss Marple is really a secondary character. It is written in the Vicar’s POV and the reader follows him in the search for the killer. Jane Marple isn’t investigating — instead she is just a nosy neighbor who says that she is interested in ‘human nature’ and has theories about the murderer’s identity. My guess is that in future books she does play a larger role but here it just didn’t quite work.

Also, I know some readers consider the Christie mysteries to be cozies. For the most part, I haven’t agreed and thought them to be more robust and, well, deeper than a modern-day cozy. However, Murder at the Vicarage fits into that genre pretty well as an enjoyable read without a lot of depth.

3/5 stars – required reading if working through Christie’s library but not one of her best.

Mini-Review: The Highwayman (Walt Longmire) by Craig Johnson

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A Longmire novella to hold us over until the next full length book? Yes, please.

The Highwayman highlights some of my favorite details of this series. The entire story is based around an off-the-books investigation Walt and his BFF, Henry Standing Bear, take on for a friend. It’s well written with a story that flows like a river through the canyon.

What’s great about Johnson’s novellas and short stories is that you can read them in or out of order. Most do not include any spoilers for the major plot lines of the series. Plus, he uses the opportunity to delve into details about tertiary characters that we barely know but that have piqued our interest in some way.

Fantastic. 4/5 stars.

Mini-Review: Murder in Mesopotamia (Hercule Poirot #14) by Agatha Christie

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My journey through the library of Agatha Christie mysteries continues.  Murder in Mesopotamia is another fine example of what she does best.  It’s a fairly simple, straightforward mystery.  But there is sometimes comfort in ‘simple’.  You know what you are going to get and there is nothing wrong with that.

4/5 stars.  Ready for another.

Review: Matilda by Roald Dahl

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If I were a kid, this would probably be my favorite book ever and I’d give it all the stars in the world.

But, I’m not a kid and, as an adult, this book is kind of…not suitable for kids? Is that right? Anyone who knows me can attest that I think children should read anything and everything. However, I do think parents have to be careful about knowing what they are reading and talking to them about it.

Matilda is the story of a 5-year-old girl who is intelligent well beyond her years. She is surrounded by adults who are nasty, hateful people. From her parents to the headmistress of her school. And, therein lies my major issue with Matilda. If a child reads this in a vacuum, they may believe that:

– It’s okay to defy your parents if you don’t like them.
– Bored because you are being ignored? Then just walk all over town and explore on your own. As a 5-year-old.
– Wanna get back at your parents? Put dye in your father’s hair tonic. Or, put glue around the edge of his hat so it gets stuck to his head.
– If the headmistress at your school is a complete be-yotch then just use your superpowers to scare her so badly that she faints.
– Don’t want to move out of town with your parents? Just get the teacher that you’ve known for a few weeks to agree to take you in. (No danger in that right?)

I know, I know. I’m reading way too much into this. My concern lies that there are really no repercussions for Matilda’s actions. Yes, all these people are horrible. But…this just seemed like a child getting revenge. If she got away with this at 5-years, what is she going to do at 13 when she doesn’t agree with her caretaker? Or at 20 when she’s in college and angry with her professor? Even at 40 when she has a major disagreement with her spouse? If you take the moral of this story, she should get back at them in the worst possible way.

Is this what we should teach our children?

3/5 stars because I do think that I would have been like “heck yeah” as a child.

Review: The Beautiful Mystery (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #8) by Louise Penny

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The Beautiful Mystery is a fantastic installment in the Armand Gamache series.  Penny went in a different direction with the story this time and didn’t take us to the small village of Three Pines.  Instead Gamache and his second in command, Beauvoir, investigate a murder at a Benedictine monastery.

This had all the ingredients for a winning mystery novel and for that alone it deserves 5-stars.  But, its’ specialness comes from a surprising angle – the parallels between the friendship of the abbott and his prior (2nd in command) and Gamache and Beauvoir.  Fans of this series know of the father/son relationship that they have built.  Seeing cracks in the foundation is heartbreaking.

Penny also spent a good bit of time on prescription drug addiction.  I’ve had very little personal experience (thankfully) but know that it has the potential to change everything and ruin lives.  And, in The Beautiful Mystery it has done just that.  You know that a book is special when you immediately want to pick up the next in the series to see what happens with your favorite characters.

I think I will go do that right now.