Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Teaser Tuesday: The Man Born to Be King

Sponsored by The Purple Booker (click link for meme guidelines)

It's been a long time since I have participated in any of the long-standing bookish memes. Some of these are what guided me in the early days of book-blogging and I'd like to get back to them. Here's my contribution for this week's Teaser Tuesday:

ANNAS: Unfortunately, no; but something will have to be done about the man. He has a very bad influence.

~from The Man Born to Be King (p. 164), Dorothy L. Sayers play-cycle about the life of Christ.

It's been quite a while since I first read this and am looking forward to revisiting it this week.

Personal Challenge Commitment Complete: Resistance Reading

Even though Magic Resists decided not to host this one after all, I went ahead and used her Bingo card to guide my own little foray into resistance reading. And I set myself a goal of four books so I could go ahead and claim it towards my challenge tally for the year.

I may have fulfilled my personal commitment, but I may read a few more books before the year is out. If I manage to complete a Bingo while doing so, that will be a bonus!

My Book List:
1. Hitler's First Victims by Timothy W. Ryback (1/24/19)
2. Code Talker by Chester Nez w/Judith Schiess Avila (3/8/18)
3. Mr. Churchill's Secretary by Susan Elia MacNeal (3/23/19)
4. Becoming by Michelle Obama (3/27/19)

Becoming: Review

Now I think it’s one of the most useless questions an adult can ask a child—What do you want to be when you grow up? As if growing up is finite. As if at some point you become something and that’s the end.
~Becoming (2018) by Michelle Obama

Sometimes a work is so important that it becomes difficult to put into words what you thought and felt while reading it. Most often (for me, anyway) that happens with poetry. It has happened again with Michelle Obama's memoir. This is a powerful and moving story of her journey--a journey of becoming that is still going on. A process that doesn't stop as long as you are willing to keep learning and growing and changing when necessary.

Reading about Michelle's early years, I was struck by how similar our backgrounds were. A mother who was there, at home whenever we were home (though mine worked part-time in the school lunch room--she was there when I left for school in the morning and there when I got home in the afternoon). A father dedicated to hard work and supporting his family--a man who never let physical ailments stand in the way of his responsibilities to go to work and get the job done. A feeling as a student that it was unthinkable to not excel. And not because parents put out any kind of overt pressure that grades must be at a certain level--but knowledge that those parents had done everything they could to ensure their children would have a better life and knowing that we didn't want to disappoint them...or ourselves. 

It was inspiring to read her reflections on where she came from and where her journey had taken her. To have underlined the evidence that she and Barack Obama are good people who come from solid American families; who value the same things we all value (or should value if we don't). Unfortunately, it was also disturbing to read her personal experiences of what it was like to be on the receiving end of all the hate and racial diatribes and the down-right lies that confronted and followed them once her husband began his political ascent to the nation's highest office. Reading newspaper reports--even viewing it on television is one thing; reading about the personal toll it took on Michelle and her family is another. It reminds me how truly horrible some people are at being human. 

But--that's not the take-away that Michelle would want us to end with. She reminds us throughout the book that whoever we are and wherever we are, we can take what we're given and make the most of it. We are all in the process of becoming and where we have the power to do so we need to take control and become with a purpose--choose to become more than we are now, to become a better version of ourselves. And to encourage others to do the same.  ★★★★

Monday, March 25, 2019

Whose Body? Audio CD Edition

I know what you're going to say. Bev, haven't you read Whose Body? by Dorothy L. Sayers like a couple hundred times? Well...maybe. But I like to have audio novels to listen to when I run around in the car and it's helpful if they're stories that I've already read. 'Cause my middle-aged brain doesn't hold on to new stories so well when I just listen to them. Especially if I'm not in a position to take careful notes (that doesn't work so well when driving....). Also--up till now the only person I've listened to reading the Lord Peter stories has been Ian Carmichael and I thought I'd give this version with David Case a shot when I saw this version on my library's shelf. So--this review is of the audio novel performance and NOT a review of Sayers's work. My review of the story may be found HERE.

I have to say that Ian Carmichael spoiled me. He was the first Lord Peter I ever heard on CD and he was the first Lord Peter I saw on screen. I love his performances in both media. I dearly wish that he had been able to convince someone to do the Sayers stories when he first brought it up (and was young enough to really be appropriate for the earlier stories). His experience playing Bertie Wooster would have made him perfect as a screen version of Lord Peter in Whose Body? (an episode that never got televised btw). He manages a perfectly splendid Bunter and Parker in the audio novels too. 

I'm afraid that David Case had a very tough act to follow and he did a poor job as LPW. His snobbish, superior tones are perfect for Sir Julian Freke who seems to think he is above everybody and everything. But he gives Lord Peter, Bunter, and Parker none of the humanity that makes them people that their fans would want to know. Lord Peter, though his tones are differentiated from Freke's, still has an air of looking down his nose on folks--even his good friend Inspector Parker.

One positive note on the performance--whenever my son was in the car with me and I had it playing, he was endlessly amused. Though, whether it was just from the comic episodes he wandered into (such as the Dowager Duchess conversing with the American railway tycoon Milligan) or enjoyment at the audio novel performance in general, I'm not entirely sure. But the audio novel definitely entertained my son. I never did quite settle down with Case's voice, but I did enjoy the chance to visit with Lord Peter again--even if he didn't sound quite right.  ★★

All Challenges Fulfilled: Virtual Mount TBR, Just the Facts, PopSugar Challenge, Craving for Cozies, Cruisin' Thru the Cozies, World at War, Cloak & Dagger, Brit Crime Classics, Outdo Yourself, How Many Books, Medical Examiner

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Murdered: One by One, An Analysis in Letters

I am just certain that you all have been waiting with bated breath to see what fascinating things my good blogging buddy Brad [ahsweetmysteryblog] and I would have to say about Francis Beeding's Murdered: One by One when we finally got a chance to chat. Well, you need wait no longer. We are prepared to reveal all....Brad will have his version of events up shortly.

Given that the plot of the novel is set in motion by a set of spurious letters, Brad and I thought that it would fun to do our joint analysis in the form of a letter correspondence of our own. Please be aware that there are spoilers in our last few letters (marked off clearly with "SPOILERS AHEAD"), so continue past the roped-off area at your own risk....IF you happen to click on the picture of the letter (the better to read by...) and scroll through the pictures as you read, then you will want to stop with the one where Brad ends with "Shall we get to the spoilers??????"






Saturday, March 23, 2019

Mr. Churchill's Secretary: Review

Mr. Churchill's Secretary (2012) by Susan Elia MacNeal follows the war-time adventures of Maggie Hope who has just landed a job as a typist at 10 Downing Street under the brand-new Prime Minister Winston Churchill. Maggie is a British girl--but spent most of her life in the United States with her aunt after her parents were killed in an automobile accident. Her aunt, also British, had accepted an academic position in the States and taken the young Margaret with her. Maggie, all grown up with a mathematics degree under her belt, returned to England to sell the aunt's house and when she found it impossible to sell in the current market she decided to stay in England. 

She had hopes of doing more important war work than just typing--after all, with her degree she felt she could manage a high-level private secretarial position just as well as her good friend David who works at Downing Street. But she found that door closed--tightly shut as an all-boys club. David convinces her to take the typist's position when her predecessor is murdered--stabbed in what is officially being called a mugging, but there are rumors that it may have been more serious. It isn't long before Maggie's flair for intricate problems and remarkable code-breaking ability plunges her into more difficult situations than typing fast enough to keep up with Churchill. She finds herself in the middle of a plot that involves her very much alive father, a threat to the Prime Minister, and bomb hidden somewhere in St. Paul's Cathedral. She has some very important war work to do after all.

This is a nice introduction to a new series. MacNeal has invested a lot in historical research and it definitely shows--although there are moments when Maggie uses certain phrases that sound very 2012-ish rather than 1940-ish. Not often enough to really jar, but momentarily distracting. I enjoyed getting to know Maggie and her friends very much and felt that this book was really a "getting-to-know-you" effort rather than a total immersion in Maggie's world. I look forward to Maggie finding her feet and settling down to her work in future installments. And perhaps when she is more settled, the reader will be as well.

Overall, the story is absorbing and highlighted the fact that the Irish unrest was more of a factor during the war years than I realized. I didn't know how much damage was done on the home front by the Irish radicals even during the time that the Blitz was going on. That thread gave the plot an extra depth and a slight twist at the end. A good read for a Saturday afternoon. ★★

Friday, March 22, 2019

Books to Die For: Review

The subtitle for Books to Die For (2012) by John Connolly & Declan Burke is The World's Greatest Mystery Writers on the World's Greatest Mystery Novels. I felt from the first that I wasn't sure that I ought to take the word of a book that claims as "the World's Greatest Mystery Writers" a whole slew of people I've never heard of. Not just haven't read...but haven't actually heard of OR seen their books on shelves when browsing. I do not recognize about 80 out 120ish names. [I may have inadvertently counted some twice--some authors submitted more than one novel.] That's quite a lot. Now, granted, I don't read a lot of modern crime fiction--but some of my blogging friends do and I should have at least seen these names go by--If they really are the "World's Greatest." One of the contributors's work is described as "glamorous thrillers/bonkbusters/chick lit...Tart Noir" Not exactly a recommendation in my book. I didn't want to be snobbish about this, really I didn't. But seriously?

So...I wrote the above as I was starting the book. I've now finished it. And, I must say, this is quite the disappointment for a mystery reader. A large percentage of the books recommended are noir, hard-boiled, spy/espionage, or thrillers. Not true mysteries. Some of the recommenders even say that straight up and they themselves are not authors of true mysteries. Fine. But don't be advertise your book as being recommendations on mystery novels by mystery writers. At best, you might say that it's a book of recommendations on crime novels by crime writers. It was a huge disappointment to see how few true vintage mystery novels were mentioned for years representing the Golden Age--one Christie, one Sayers, one Crispin, one Allingham, and one Tey. That's it. And of the later books just a handful would count as mysteries rather than noir and all the rest. 

My final take: most of these seem to be books I'd be just fine with having died without having ever read.....I can't say that I'd recommend it for those of you who consider yourself a mystery lover. But--if noir, hard-boiled, spy/espionage, suspense, and/or thrillers are your thing, then this may just be the reference book for you. ★★

Monday, March 18, 2019

Challenge Commitment Complete: World at War

World At War Reading Challenge
Host: Becky's Book Reviews
Sign up here
Duration: January - December 2019
Goal: Get at least one bingo! (more are welcome, of course!)

Go to Becky's post for links to book suggestions.

I committed to just one bingo to claim the challenge as complete--and have now claimed that bingo across the bottom of the card. I will keep on the lookout for more books to use in the challenge as I read this year. Any other bingos will be bonus!

Books and Categories Completed:

_ Any book published 1918-1924: The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie (1920) [1/18/19]
_ Any book published 1925-1930: Blind Corner by Dornford Yate (1927) [1/27/19]
_ Any book published 1931-1938: Blood of the North by James B. Hendryx (1938) [2/15/19]
_ Any book published 1939-1945: The Murder of a Quack by George Bellairs (1943) [1/14/19]
_ A nonfiction book about 1930s: Hitler's First Victims by Timothy W. Ryback (1/24/19)
_ A nonfiction book about World War II: Code Talker by Chester Nez w/Judith Schiess Avila (3/8/19)
_ A fiction book set 1918-1924: Murder on the Links by Agatha Christie (3/9/19)
_ A fiction book set during World War II: The Dead Shall Be Raised by George Bellairs (1/13/19)
_ A book set in the United States or Canada: The Lucky Stiff (1945) by Craig Rice [US] (3/1/19)
_ A book set in England, Ireland, or Scotland: Night of the Fox by Jack Higgins (2/19/19)
_ A book set elsewhere: Died in the Wool by Ngaio Marsh [New Zealand] (1/10/19)
_ Watch any movie about either war: The African Queen (WWI) --I just rewatched this, but have not written anything new.  I've attached my previous review of book & film. (1/21/19)

Challenge Commitment Complete: 52 Books in 52 Weeks--Agatha Christie Perpetual Challenge

photo credit

When I saw 
Robin's Agatha Christie Perpetual Challenge over at 52 Books I knew I ha to join. I had been thinking for quite some time that I would like to reread (and read for the first time a couple that I've missed) the mysteries of Agatha Christie. Robin's challenge is a low-pressure, on-going challenge that simply asks the challenger to read three novels per year.  I decided to try to read them in chronological order. And I modified the original challenge a bit--I will only be reading Christie's work. I most definitely will NOT be reading Sophie Hannah's version of Poirot and it is unlikely that I will read those by Charles Osbourne. If his novelizations of Christie's actual work are readily available to me, then I might. But I do not consider them part of my commitment for the challenge.

I have now finished my third book. I'll most likely read at least three more before the year's out--but I've met my commitment.

1. The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie (1/18/19)
2. The Secret Adversary by Agatha Christie (1/25/19)
3. Murder on the Links by Agatha Christie (3/9/19)
Commitment Complete! Still Reading.

Challenge Commitment Complete: Medical Examiner Mystery Reading Challenge

Rick Mills plunged into the reading challenge fray for the first time this year--with a vengeance! Putting together two nifty little mystery-oriented challenges that I just couldn't resist. I immediately signed up for both and have now completed my personal quota for the Medical Examiner Mystery Reading Challenge. Rick didn't set any participation levels--but I decided that I would fill out 20 Medical Examiner Reports (read at least 20 books) in order to count it for my reading challenge tally sheet. 

I've now completed 20--but never fear, Medical Examiner Bev is still on the job and will be filling out reports for the remainder of the year.

List of Books Read and Deaths Recorded:
1. The Winter Women Murders by David A. Kaufelt (3 murders: 1 shoved down staircase; 2 strangled) [1/5/19]
2. Died in the Wool by Ngaio Marsh (1 murder = strangled/asphyxiated) [1/10/19]
3. Clouds of Witness by Dorothy L. Sayers (1 death = shot) [1/12/19]
4. The Dead Shall be Raised by George Bellairs (4 deaths = 2 shot and 2 poisoned)
5. The Murder of a Quack by George Bellairs (2 deaths = one strangle and one drowned in the well) [1/13/19]
6. A Whiff of Cyanide by Guy Fraser-Sampson (2 deaths = one poisoned; one hit on the head) [1/15/19]
7. The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie (one poisoned) [1/18/19]
8. The Secret Files of Sherlock Holmes by June Tomson (4 deaths = 2 fell from great heights; 2 drowned) [1/25/19]
9. The Secret Adversary by Agatha Christie (2 deaths, both poisoned) [1/25/19]
10. Blind Corner by Dornford Yates (2 deaths = one stabbed; one shot) [1/27/19]
11. A Death in the Night by Guy Fraser-Samspon (one death = smothered) [1/30/19]
12. Final Curtain by Ngaio Marsh (2 deaths = poisoned) [2/14/19]
13. Blood of the North by James B. Hendryx (4 deaths = one drowned; three shot) [2/15/19]
14. Where the Snow Was Red by Hugh Pentecost (3 deaths = one hit on the head; 2 poisoned) [2/16/19]
15. Night of the Fox by Jack Higgins (4 deaths = 2 shot; 1 stabbed; 1 drowned) [2/19/19]
16. No Patent on Murder (one death = strangled) [2/21/19]
17. Monsieur Lecoq by Emile Gaboriau (five= two shot; one hit on head; one poisoned; one stabbed)
18. The Lucky Stiff by Craig Rice (eight = six shot; two blown up) [3/1/19]
19. Murder on the Links by Agatha Christie (two = one stabbed; epileptic fit) [3/9/19]
20. A Wreath for Rivera by Ngaio Marsh (one = stabbed) [3/11/19]
Commitment Complete! Still Reading.