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Mini-Review: Murder in the Mews (Hercule Poirot #18) by Agatha Christie

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Murder in the Mews is a collection of four short stories/novellas featuring Hercule Poirot.  Overall, they are enjoyable but I believe that Christie is at her best with full length novels.  The first story, Murder in the Mews, was the star of this bunch.  Is it suicide?  Is it murder?

Now that I’ve seen all of the BBC Poirot adaptations (with the exception of Curtain which I don’t think I will ever be prepared for mentally), it’s interesting to match the written story with the screen story.  I vividly recall the details of the MitM adaptation and it actually made reading this more interesting, which is rare.

3.5/5 stars and a must read for fans.

Review: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (Illustrated) by JK Rowling and Jim Kay

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The first Harry Potter illustrated book has a 4.9 average rating on Goodreads.  That should tell you something.  We all know the story (and if you don’t love it, well then, move along) so I’m rating this based on the illustrations themselves.  And, they are freaking gorgeous.  Honestly, they couldn’t be better.  Jim Kay, I bow down to you.

For this post, I’ve captured a few of my favorites to share with you.  In a perfect world, I would go out, buy a second copy of the book, cut out the pictures and hang them all around my office.  I’m obsessed.  Can you tell?  Anyway, enjoy these collages of my favorite illustrations.

 

Mini-Review: Cards on the Table (Hercule Poirot #15) by Agatha Christie

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Cards on the Table has an interesting twist – Christie gave us a finite number of suspects (4) and it’s clear from the start that the killer is one of that group.  This results in a tighter net for Poirot and more focus on a limited number of characters.  Overall, COTT is a strong addition to the series.

However, three things kept me from giving this 5-stars.  First, the casual use of ethnic slurs may have been common at the time but it’s still disconcerting for a modern reader.  In this case it’s the use of a slur against Italians.  I’ve mentioned before that it’s hard to tell if Christie herself felt superior or if she is making a point that her characters feel superior to certain nationalities, races or social strata.  Either way, it pulls me out of enjoying the reading experience.

Second, and I believe this is the first time I’ve had this complaint with Christie, it’s a personal pet peeve of mine when an author ‘learns’ a new word and overuses it.  In this case the word is “Mephistophelian” to describe the look and demeanor of the victim.  Use it once, okay.  Use it twice, twitch but okay.  Five plus times and I’m rolling my eyes.  Just say devilish for goodness sake.

Lastly, the ending.  While I am a fan of the red herring, this one didn’t quite work for me.  I recognized the device and waited for the big reveal.  There were too many conveniences and coincidences for my liking.

Okay, this sounds like I didn’t like it, but really, I did.  4/5 stars.

Review: Life is Short by Jennifer Arnold and Bill Klein

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This isn’t my normal read but my Mama enjoyed so gave it to me.  And, I have to admit that it was not only interesting but also informative, funny and poignant.

The book’s structure worked well to tell their story.  Jennifer and Bill alternated chapters that basically gave their life history during the same time periods.  From their childhood surgeries, high school, college, work and then meeting and falling in love.  I immediately clicked with Jennifer’s story.  Her description of her medical struggles was very well done. She was able to describe some pretty horrific experiences without sounding sorry for herself (which she would have right to be).  Dr. Arnold is one tough woman.  She excelled in college, graduated medical school with honors and is a successful pediatric doctor.

It took a little longer for Bill to grow on me but once he did I became a big fan.  His descriptions of being bullied and, in one case, threatened remind us how important it is for us to have empathy and teach our children the same.  His love for Jennifer was what ultimately won me over, though.  And, his love for his children.

Overall, I liked this much more than I expected and highly recommend if you are interested in learning more about their story and some of the issues that little people put up with every day.

4/5 stars.

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

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Before I get started, I do want to mention the beauty of the edition that I read.  I received several Barnes and Noble gift cards for my birthday and decided to buy this collectible edition.  The cover is soft and buttery feeling.  The pages are a thick stock and have a purple edge.  It is just gorgeous.

You will notice that I didn’t title this post as a review.  You can’t really review a book like Wuthering Heights.  The last time I read it was in high school…many, many years ago.  At the time I remember thinking “why is this so great?” and scoffing at the old-fashioned phrasing and actions of the main characters.  Now, I recognize the beauty of the writing and the story that is so loved and hated.

Many people consider WH to be a favorite.  I can’t say that I’m in that camp although I did rate it 5/5 stars.  The characters are unlikable (which is a death knell for many readers).  But, really, that’s the point.  Right?  We aren’t supposed to like them.  They are, for the most part, horrible, emotionally manipulative users.  There are glimpses of light here and there but as soon as you think “oh it’s going to be okay”, Bronte turns a corner and everything falls apart.  This book is the literary example of someone enjoying a good cry for no reason other than an emotional release.  Or, going through a haunted house to be scared out of your wits.  Sometimes you don’t want to read about flowery, successful love stories.  Instead you want to feel the obsession, pain and, ultimately, the destruction of Heathcliff and Catherine.

I thought it might be interesting to put together a playlist of songs that could provide background music for a first time Wuthering Heights reader.  Here are my suggestions (let me know if you can think of any other songs that would create the atmosphere of WH):

“Come To My Window” by Melissa Etheridge
“Crazy” by Patsy Cline
“Crazy” by Gnarls Barkley
“My Immortal” by Evanescence
“Possession” by Sarah McLachlin
“You Oughta Know” by Alanis Morrisette
“You Give Love a Bad Name” by Bon Jovi
“Don’t You Want Me” by The Human League

 

Review: Dorothy Must Die (Dorothy Must Die #1) by Danielle Paige

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I bought Dorothy Must Die for my 13-year old niece for Christmas.  Then, I decided to add a second copy to my basket so I could read it as well.  She’s been busy with school so I’m sure she hasn’t gotten to it yet but I finished it a few days ago.  And, well…I have a few thoughts.

If you read my reviews you know that I sometimes have questions about the Young Adult classification of several series.  Overall, DMD has a definite YA feel.  However, I was somewhat shocked at the language in the first third of the novel.  I’m not talking about a few but many of the granddaddy curse words that I’d still get in trouble for saying in front of my Mama and I’m 45-years-old.  When I took a second to analyze, it did make sense for the character but it was shocking.

The idea for this story is stellar.  Dorothy couldn’t handle being normal when she got back to Kansas at the end of The Wizard of Oz so she finds her way back to Oz.  Then, as it does, her power started going to her head.  The residents of Oz need someone to save them from her tyranny.  Paige also did a pretty decent job of the good vs. evil/wicked trope.  Who gets to  decide what is evil?  And, is it wicked to do a bad thing for a good reason?

But, I have to say that I was fairly disappointed.  The writing wasn’t that great and felt stunted and forced in some sections.  It’s also full of all the things that adult readers tend to hate in YA.  Insta-love (or in this case insta-attraction for no good reason).  Female MC who is pretty dang stupid when it comes down to it.  And, the cliched ‘good girl’ who lives in a trailer park with her alcoholic mother and just can’t catch a break.  How many times do we have to read about this?

My rating for DMD is 2/5 stars but I have to admit that I am tempted to read book two.  I’d really like to know what happens next.  Is that normal?

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.