The Perils of Porua 2012
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Hello everyone! After much wavering, here I am once again at the 75 Books Challenge Group. I look forward to seeing all my old friends. Hoping to make some new friends too.
Last year was the big year that I finally stepped firmly into the grown-up world. I started my first full time job as a lecturer at a university. Working full time, I had very little time left for myself. I did read around 40 books or so but I just could not read as many as I use to. I just didn’t know whether I should commit myself to reading any number of books let alone 75. But my friends here convinced me that numbers do not matter. So, here I am. I come here and stay here for the enlightening conversations and my LT friends. :-)
Some things about myself. I love to read mystery/detective stories (mostly cosy mysteries), plays and short stories. I don’t enjoy reading about any kind of romance. What I love most is reading classic books. Then again I may end up reading books from other genres if they happen to come my way.
I don’t know how many books I’d be able to read in 2012 but I wish to share my bookish adventures with all of you.
My 75 Books Challenge threads for 2011 can be found here,
Here is my Top 10 Books for 2011 with excerpts from my reviews. Click on the titles for the full reviews (excepting The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle).
Detective Stories. Philip Pullman -
The collection starts with The Speckled Band by Arthur Conan Doyle. The story was first published in the Strand Magazine in 1892. Panic grips a lonely woman when she starts to hear the same late night whistling noise that her twin sister spoke of in her dying moments…
Very Good, Jeeves. P.G. Wodehouse -
Jeeves and the Song of Songs (1929) has Bertie right in the middle of Tuppy Glossop’s tangled love life as he is forced to sing at a concert for Beefy Bingham. Anyone who has seen the 1990 series Jeeves and Wooster will appreciate this story even more. I recently watched a re-run of the show and thought Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry were absolutely marvellous in it!
Rebecca. Daphne Du Maurier -
For me, Rebecca is about Rebecca. Long after the book ends her laughing, beautiful, cruel face stays vividly alive. She wins, as always, even in death.
The Diary of a Nobody . George Grossmith -
I found several parts of the book quite funny. Like Lupin recklessly driving a pony-trap and causing general havoc in the streets while Mr. Pooter being seated at the back has to bear the wrath of ‘a gang of roughs in a donkey-cart’. Or Mr. Cummings becoming ill and being angry at his friends for not reading about his illness in ‘The Bicycle News’. And Mr. Pooter getting annoyed after having to eat the same blanc-mange repeatedly.
A Short History of Nearly Everything. Bill Bryson -
I really liked how Bryson talks of the people behind the science. The lives of known and unknown people behind some of the greatest discoveries come alive through Bryson’s narrative.
The Ninth Life of Louis Drax. Liz Jensen -
Louis Drax is an accident prone boy. Ever since he was a baby he has been involved in more than his fair share of near fatal accidents. But so far they have all been just that, ‘nearly’ but not wholly ‘fatal’. On his ninth birthday, however, things may change for the worse. Louis may never come out alive from this ‘accident’.
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. Haruki Murakami -
Sprawling, odd, complicated, scary, these are the words that come to my mind when I say the name, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. I tried to keep an open mind and take it all in. But still at times I had to stop and think,
‘What on earth is this?’
The Inimitable Jeeves. P. G. Wodehouse -
In Introducing Claude and Eustace and Sir Roderick Comes to Lunch, Bertie’s cousins, Claude and Eustace, come home with a top hat, several cats and a Salmon. Meanwhile, Sir Roderick Glossop, the noted nerve specialist, comes to lunch and questions Bertie’s sanity.
Mrs Lirriper’s Lodgings. Charles Dickens -
After Mrs. Lirriper’s drink loving husband perishes in an accident, Mrs. Lirriper starts to take in lodgers to make ends meet and also to pay off Mr. Lirriper’s debts. Mrs Lirriper’s Lodgings describes some of her experiences as a lodge keeper… I liked how Mrs. Lirriper keeps addressing the reader as ‘My Dear’, as though she knows us all and is having an ordinary conversation with us. It is sort of comforting somehow.
Mrs Lirriper’s Legacy. Charles Dickens -
Mrs. Lirriper’s Legacy is a worthy conclusion to the story of Mrs. Lirriper. The hopefulness of the first book comes to fruition in the second one.
It’s Only a Movie: Alfred Hitchcock – A Personal Biography. Charlotte Chandler -
I liked the cover of the book. It is striking. As I read this book en route to my workplace many people asked me what book I was reading and they seemed genuinely interested in it.
I love Shakespeare’s comedies. The witty dialogues, the general air of light heartedness and above all the wickedly funny plots suit my tastes quite well. A Midsummer Night's Dream is so far my favourite among these.
A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare was written sometime between 1590 and 1596. This is one of Shakespeare’s most popular plays. I myself have watched its many incarnations from the traditional to the modern, including at least two different modern versions and one animated version.
The rest of my review is here,
So glad you decided to join the 2012 group!
The Inimitable Jeeves was one of my favourite reads last year too, certainly one of the funniest! A short history of nearly everything had its very funny moments too, as well as sad ones, among the human stories behind the development of science.
And I love the Dream too - from way back when I played one of the mechanicals in a school production aged about 11. Lord what fools these mortals be!
PS, love your thread title!
Great to see you here again, Porua. I loved the summaries you've made for each book and agree with you about Rebecca!
*waves* I haven't read most of the books above... looks like that should change!
Hi Porua, great idea for the summaries of your favorite books for last year. I was lucky to get a list put up. I look forward to following your reading once again, no matter how little or how much you read!
The Perils of Porua needs to be a book!
And for me one of the greatest joys on LibraryThing is seeing what lovely painting you'll choose to headline your next thread. Great.
Hi, Porua! Glad you decided to come back, and it's true what they say about the 75ers: Numbers just do not matter! Less than 75, more than 75, it's all good. I've got you starred, so I can keep up with what you're reading in 2012.
# 4 gennyt, Thanks I am glad to be back!
I loved both Very Good, Jeeves and The Inimitable Jeeves! But Very Good, Jeeves wins out by a small margin. Because The Inimitable Jeeves focuses mostly on Bingo Little’s many love affairs, not solely upon Bertie and Jeeves’s shenanigans.
A Short History of Nearly Everything certainly had its sad moments. The stories about scientists and inventors dying unsung and in poverty were really poignant. The last chapter of really made me sad as it addressed some of the concerns I personally have about the environment.
One of the mechanicals on A Midsummer Night's Dream? Lucky you! They were so funny!
Ah yes, Puck’s speeches. He is one of my favourite characters from the play.
“Captain of our fairy band,
“PS, love your thread title!”
Thanks! It came to me in a moment of inspiration! ;-)
# 5 Soupdragon, Thanks! I tried to get the best from my reviews on the extracts. Hoping to get anyone else interested in these books that I have loved through my reviews.
# 6 drneutron Thanks!
# 7 dk_phoenix Hello! I love it if other readers get inspired to read one of my favourites! Hope you do get to read
some of these books and enjoy them as much as I have. :-)
# 8 PiyushChourasia, Thanks! :-)
# 9 Donna828, Thanks! Tried to put the best lines from my reviews here. Hoping someone will be inspired to read one of them.
Looking forward to following you reading too! Hopefully this year I’ll be able to keep in touch with my fellow LT’ers better than last year. I missed a lot of interesting conversations around here.
# 10 theaelizabet, Thanks! The title is a nod to the famous 1914 silent series, The Perils of Pauline and its animated homage, The Perils of Penelope Pitstop (1969-1971). The title is a clue to my secret life as a pop culture aficionado! ;-)
#11 “And for me one of the greatest joys on LibraryThing is seeing what lovely painting you'll choose to headline your next thread. Great.”
ncgraham, Thank you so much for the compliment! That means a lot to me! :-)
# 12 rosalita, Hello! It’s good to be back. This friendliness is what I enjoy the most about this group. Everyone is always so supportive. One feels safe here.
Hi! Looks liked you read some awesome books in 2011 - I also read Rebecca last year - and I remember so many odd little scenes from that book - it really stays with you! I assume you've seen the Hitchcock movie...what did you think?
Also - Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything is in my top five books of all time. I lend my copy to anyone I can convince to take it!
Looking forward to seeing where your reading takes you in 2012.......
# 16 Hi! I did have a relatively good reading year. Unfortunately, I haven't seen the Hitchcock version of Rebecca yet but I really want to! If for nothing else just to watch Sir Laurence Olivier play Maxim de Winter.
I loved A Short History of Nearly Everything. It took me quite some time to finish it but it was never boring.
Yesterday I posted about my Top 10 Books for 2011. But there were some bad ones too. Here are my Top 5 Clunkers of 2011,
Head Over Heels in the Dales. Gervase Phinn -
The personal side of the narrative I didn’t like all that much. Dr. Geraldine Mullarkey’s mysterious personal life, Mr. Phinn’s gushing musings on his stunning fiancée Christine with her big blue eyes and golden hair, Sidney Clamp’s mood swings, it was all so ‘fiction like’ and some of it was, frankly, irritating.
Spinning Wheel Stories. Louisa May Alcott -
The stories in Spinning Wheel Stories are, for the most part, very sugary. I am very fond of old classics but even I think that these stories are old fashioned. Some like Grandma’s Story, Tabby’s Table-Cloth, Eli’s Education, Onawandah are really way too sugary.
The Phantom Coach and Other Stories. Amelia B. Edwards -
The stories are terribly predictable. With each and every story it is obvious from the very first page what the conclusion is going to be.
Sailor's Knots. W. W. Jacobs -
I’m sadly disappointed at this collection. Sentence Deferred was the only story that I found to be clever and funny. Odd Man Out, Peter’s Pence and Keeping Up Appearances were okay. The horror story The Toll-House was only mildly scary.
The Crooked Hinge. John Dickson Carr -
I was disappointed by The Crooked Hinge. The entire book was so gripping and exciting! But the ending was far-fetched, overcomplicated and oddly dull.
I agree on the Gervase Phinn verdict. I read one of his - may have been the same one, I can't remember - and that was quite enough! The formula (new professional person in a rural area having lots of encounters with local people in situations that are meant to be interesting/amusing) has been done before by James Herriot, though that was about vets not school inspectors. I loved the Herriot books, but I read those when I was about 12-14 and I don't know if they would stand up to scrutiny now either.
# 19 Hi, Tammy! Glad to be here!
# 20 Thank you! Most people adore the Gervase Phinn 'Dale' books. I just don't see it. The stories are funny but the authors personal life is much too dramatic for my taste
# 21 Thanks! :-).
Twelfth Night, also known as What You Will, by William Shakespeare was written sometime between 1601 and 1602. It was written as a Twelfth Night's entertainment for the close of the Christmas season.
Viola and her twin brother Sebastian are shipwrecked off the coast of Illyria. Believing her brother to be dead, Viola disguises herself as a young boy. Now going by the name Cesario, she becomes the page of Duke Orsino. Duke Orsino is in love with Lady Olivia who doesn’t reciprocate his feelings. Matters get complicated when Lady Olivia falls for Cesario (who is actually Viola in disguise) and Viola secretly loves the Duke, who believes that she is a ‘man’.
The rest of my review is here,
Great review of Twelth Night and I found your thoughts on the clunkers useful too. Gervaise Phinn is quite popular where I live as we're close to the Yorkshire Dales and I've sometimes wondered if I should try him especially as I used to be a teacher but something's always put me off. Thank you for confirming that his writing wouldn't be for me!
I often find Louisa M Alcott a bit sugary too so that's another one I can avoid, thank you!
I love Shakespeare's comedies too, Porua (my favorites probably being Much Ado About Nothing and The Tempest). I can't say I'm particularly fond of Twelfth Night, though, which is a shame because I know many people consider it the best of the lot. I read it a couple of years ago for a Renaissance Lit class and was unaable to connect with any of the characters. There's certainly some wonderful wordplay in there, though—but then, it's Shakespeare!
# 24 Thanks! I was really disappointed by Gervase Phinn. I had really hoped to like Head Over Heels in the Dales.
# 25 Yes there are some very good wordplay in all of Shakespeare's plays. I was surprised by how quotable Twelfth Night is. Right from "If music be the food of love, play on..." to "...some are born great, some achieve greatness, and others have greatness thrust upon them". It's all in this play.
I was very sorry that in my final year of English at Uni, the set paper we were all required to take was Tragedy (mainly Greek and Shakespearean). This was the required subject every year. It seemed to be based on the assumption that Tragedy is the highest art form, and it annoyed me that there seemed to be no room for Comedy (or Romance in the medieval sense) as worthy of serious study - they could have alternated the topics each year. I love the comedies, also the late plays of Shakespeare, including The Tempest (which I tend to think of as Romance).
Great thread going on here, Porua! Welcome back to the 75'ers; so glad you decided to stay on.
Nice reviews...distributed thumbs...excellent summary of The Crooked Hinge; I adored J.D. Carr in my younger days but now find his endings, as you say, just so far-fetched that they fall flat. Never been a fan of W.S.'s comedies, but your reviews are prompting me to give them another try...
Hope all is going smoothly in your life.
The Tempest is more of a Romance, or Tragicomedy, true, but it all depends on which classification system you use. For the uninitiated, Shakespeare's opus consists entirely of Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies. If I'm speaking generally, instead of just discussing a specific play, that's all I use.
# 27 gennyt, I agree with you. People tend to look down on comedies. Most view them as an inferior form of literature. Among Shakespeare’s tragedies I have read King Lear, Hamlet and of course Romeo and Juliet. I think I love reading the comedies more because life isn’t a bed of roses anyway. Why make myself even sadder? Not that I never read sad books or appreciate them, I do. I just prefer comedies.
#28 bohemima, Thanks! Glad to be here!
Thanks for the thumbs! I have read three John Dickson Carr books and so far at least two of them The Crooked Hinge and The Three Coffins (AKA The Hollow Man) have the same problem. The endings are so complicated and at the same time dull. I guess Carr’s books are just not for me.
Life is going okay. Right now I think I am coming down with a cold. I’ll be actually going away with a few of my colleagues for the weekend. So, trying to fend off the oncoming cold as best as I can. Wish me luck!
# 29 ncgraham, The Tempest and The Merchant of Venice are two I could never place in any particular category. I feel The Tempest is a Romance and The Merchant of Venice fits mostly in to the Comedy genre.
I'm certainly not a Shakespearean scholar, so this is likely already common knowledge (so please forgive me if it is), but I've always been fascinated that Romeo and Juliet is in fact a comedy (by Shakespearean terms) right up until the end.
I haven't read Twelfth Night, but I have seen a nicely-done production of it - good play.
Actually, traditionally comedy and tragedy were defined BY their ends. A comedy was a play with a happy end, usually a marriage; it need not be humorous.
Thus some of Shakespeare's comedies are dark and rather unfunny, such as The Merchant of Venice.
Hi Porua, I have you starred. I really enjoyed your Top 10 list.
I am late in saying 'Welcome Back,' but I am glad to see that you are rejoining us for 2012, Porua!
Coming back is an excellent choice, and you look to be right on track for 75 at the rate you're going. Anyway, no worries, and I'm glad to see you.
Whoops, I nearly missed you! Good to see you here - and to echo thea and Nathan (funny that I think like them, wonder why we're friends??) I too love the title of your thread (and got the reference right away) and always look forward to your 'girl reading' paintings. This one makes me think of Jane Eyre.
I am back after a rather tiring weekend trip with colleagues. The trip was good but it was marred by travelling blues, delays and all that. I came back at 2.a.m Monday morning and of course had to still come to work. I am yet to recover from the fatigue!
# 31 “...I've always been fascinated that Romeo and Juliet is in fact a comedy (by Shakespearean terms) right up until the end.”
Interesting thought, scaifea. But I think that it is the end that makes it a tragedy.
Twelfth Night is a pretty good play. I would like to see a good production of it.
# 32 ncgraham, yup that’s what I know too.
And I thought the same thing about The Merchant of Venice. It is dark and rather unfunny.
# 33 Hi, mbellerose! Thanks! Got to visit your thread too!
# 34 alcottacre, Thanks! Better late than never, I say! ;-)
# 35 LizzieD , Thanks! I love being back among my friends. :-)
# 36 Hi, Rena! Thanks! I always love pop culture references. They fascinate me. Maybe I should write a paper on the topic!
“This one makes me think of Jane Eyre.”
The painting made me think of Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw for some reason.
When Mrs. Drabdump fails to wake up her tenant Arthur Constant after hours of frantically trying, she seeks the help of her neighbour, retired detective George Grodman. Her worst fears come true when Arthur is found in his room with his throat slit open. But with the windows securely closed and the only door locked, how could Arthur have died? Is it a simple case of suicide? Or can there be a more sinister explanation?
As an avid mystery reader, I am interested in the origins of the genre. Locked room mysteries hold a certain fascination for me.
The Big Bow Mystery (1892) by Israel Zangwill is often considered to be the first ‘true’ locked room mystery ever written.
Israel Zangwill (1864 – 1926) was a political activist and humorist. Though not primarily a mystery author, his The Big Bow Mystery continues to be an influential work in the genre of crime fiction.
Zangwill was a humorist. His wit shines brightly in some of the dialogues of the story. For example, when Mrs. Drabdump muses about love and breakfast,
“…she bore the tea-pot downstairs with a mournful, almost poetic, consciousness, that soft-boiled eggs (like love) must grow cold.”
There is another hilarious passage about how people fight over the possibility that a monkey (à la The Murders in the Rue Morgue) could have committed the crime.
The detectives in the book are all too human and not the usual crime solving machines that generally populate stories like this. They seem more interested in stroking their egos than solving anything. Both George Grodman and Edward Wimp are not likable. I found this approach to be interesting.
The characters of Denzil Cantercot and Peter Crowl irritated me. Their conversations often seemed pointless to me.
The narrative is wordy and full of digressions. It is full of dull speeches on politics, the class system, the working man’s problem; etc. If all of this had something to do with the story I wouldn’t mind but they don’t. Israel Zangwill was a very politically conscious person and he was not really a mystery writer anyway so I do understand the reason behind such deviations. But just because I understand it doesn’t mean I like it.
The solution is simply bizarre. It is unique but at the same time it left me feeling kind of annoyed and disappointed.
The solution left me feeling unsatisfied and the wordiness does not help the book either. But I am glad I read The Big Bow Mystery as it occupies an important place in the origin of crime fiction. Overall, a so-so experience.
I'm sorry, I must not have made myself too clear (a habitual problem with me, I'm afraid): I know it's a tragedy, and I know that endings are, of course, a big part of what defines a Shakespearean tragedy (multiple deaths as opposed to multiple marriages are kind of a giveaway!). I'm just remembering what a professor of mine in college, teaching a Shakespeare course that I was in, said about the play: that Shakespeare was likely playing with his audience's expectations throughout the play, making them second-guess what was going to happen, since he follows several technical points to a comedy right up to that very tragic end. It's not actually all that surprising that he does this - he certainly wasn't the first to do so. Euripides, way way back in 5th century Athens, played with his audience's expectations all the time; he was know for shocking his audiences with the unexpected endings - his version of Medea (which has become our gold standard, and so we think of it as the original story (always a dangerous thing to do when dealing with myths)) was *not* the ending the audience was used to. Evidence points to versions before his play not having Medea kill her children at all...
# 39 scaifea, well explained. I couldn't explain things so well myself actually. :-)
# 41 dk_phoenix, Ah here I am sadly out of depth. I avoided reading the Greek Tragedies (I tend to avoid tragedies in general) so I haven't read any Euripides. :-(
#42: Then how about Aristophanes? Try The Frogs, in which you get to meet a version of Euripides, plus the best version of Dionysus there is.
Porua, your thread has gotten rather highbrow lately. Love the discussion on Shakespeare. I may try to take a class on him one of these semesters.
# 43 I am not very well-versed on the Classical Plays. I know of Euripides and of course who Dionysus is (although he is more familiar to me as Bacchus), I had never heard of Aristophanes. Thanks for the info!
# 44 Yes that's unusual for my thread, isn't it? ;-)
(Review may contain some mild *spoilers*.)
When I was 13-14 years old, I received Sherlock Holmes: The Complete Novels and Stories (Volumes 1 & 2) as a gift. I started reading Volume 1 and before long I was hopelessly hooked. Thus, began my lifelong love for the genre of Mystery.
Re-reading The Hound of the Baskervilles has reinforced one of my old convictions; I love the Sherlock Holmes stories but the novels? They leave me feeling quite underwhelmed.
The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was published in 1902. It was serialised in The Strand Magazine in 1901-1902.
Set in the year 1889, The Hound of the Baskervilles tells the story of a family haunted by the legend of a supernatural hound. The previous owner of Baskerville Hall is found dead under suspicious circumstances. His heir and the last of the Baskervilles, Henry Baskerville, is coming home after spending many years abroad. Apprehensive for his safety, family friend Dr. Mortimer calls upon Sherlock Holmes and urges him to take the case. Will Sherlock Holmes be able to keep Henry Baskerville safe? Or will the legendary hound claim another victim?
The setting of the novel, Dartmoor, is like another character of the book. The bleak but beautiful moor is both dangerous and inviting. The entire novel is centred around the mysterious moor. The chilling climax of the story would be nothing without its setting. The way Conan Doyle describes the surroundings is also brilliant. I could feel the atmosphere of the moor; the dampness, the rising mist and the falling rain.
The climax is very good. The description of the approaching fog really helps enhance the sense of suspense.
Holmes and Watson are their usual effervescent selves. I never feel dull when these two appear together in any of the pages. For much of the novel Sherlock Holmes remains behind the scene while Dr. Watson takes centre stage. Without the presence of Holmes we, the readers, are even more in the dark.
Henry Baskerville is a bland character. It was hard for me to feel any sympathy for him. In fact, that is the problem with The Hound of the Baskervilles. Most of the characters are like nondescript entities. I just didn’t care about them. As I read the book I found my mind wandering away from their predicaments.
The bland characters and motivations that are shaky at their best (vague promises of marriage, roundabout ways of getting an inheritance; etc) is what makes me merely like but not love The Hound of the Baskervilles.
The Sherlock Holmes mysteries have a special place in my heart. These are what got me curios about mysteries in the first place. I read them as an adolescent and they captured my imagination like nothing else. I do like The Hound of the Baskervilless but I still prefer the stories to the novels.
One, I've read two books in my life that made my tear up a little bit. Not very manly but there it is. Where the Red Fern Grows as a youngster (It's Old Yeller-ish, boy whose dog dies) and Euripides' Trojan Women. What a scathing commentary on the barbarism of war from the perspective of the women of Troy after the defeat of their city. Grandmothers lamenting as their grandchildren are thrown over the walls and daughters dragged off as slaves, that kind of stuff. And written/performed during the darkest hours of Athens' war against Sparta. If everybody in the world read it we might have a bit less violence in the world, but I doubt it.
Two, there exists a book called Sherlock Holmes Was Wrong: Reopening the Case of the Hound of the Baskervilles which goes into detail about the Hound of the Baskervilles and how AC Doyle grew to despise his creation. Not a bad pickup on a visit to the local library.
# 47 I have heard of Sherlock Holmes Was Wrong: Reopening the Case of the Hound of the Baskervilles. But the thought of anyone proving Sherlock Holmes wrong really doesn't sit well with me. ;-)
On a more serious note, Trojan Women remains timeless because of its stark portrayal of people's (especially women's fate) when they are at the losing side of a war. Of course, some say that nobody wins a war.
I rarely tear up while reading a book but Goodbye, Mr. Chips really made me bawl!
DirtPriest//Porua: Some of the ancient Greek tragedies are unbelievably powerful, and knowing under what social/political circumstances they were performed makes them even more amazing. I would recommend Aeschylus' Persians for that reason: the only Athenian play (extant) written about an historical - and recent at that - event (as opposed to mythology), it tackles the subject of the defeat of the Persians in the 2nd Persian War, and even more shocking is that it is from the Persian perspective. There is a description of the naval battle and Persian defeat at Salamis that gives me goosebumps every time I read it, and then to imagine that the Athenians who first saw the play performed only had to turn their heads and look up at the Acropolis just behind them to see the still-yet-unrepaired ruins that were caused by those Persians that they went on to defeat so spectacularly. Goodness. It's incredibly powerful stuff.
Porua: I recommend Aristophanes because he is a writer of comedies, not tragedies, and his stuff is absolutely hilarious.
Measure for Measure by William Shakespeare was written in 1603 or 1604.
The duke of Vienna leaves the city for a short while and puts Angelo in charge in his absence. Isabella, a novice nun, goes to plead with Angelo for the life of her brother, Claudio, who is accused of ‘fornication’. Angelo, taking advantage of the situation tries to blackmail Isabella into sleeping with him. But the Duke, who is observing everything in disguise, comes to the rescue. With his help the virtuous Isabella saves the life of her brother and keeps her honour intact.
Measure for Measure reads like a comedy but many think of it as a ‘problem’ play. I guess it may be classified as a problem play as it shows the rampant licentiousness and the appalling corruption of the rich.
The rest of my review is here,
Hi Porua, thanks for that reminder that I must get back to my Sherlock Holmes books. I think Shakespeare is going to be on my side burner for quite awhile. I seem to have "lowbrow" taste in books.
# 51 Hi, Donna! You're welcome! I think I need to read at least one Sherlock Holmes book soon (story collection, not novel) to refresh my memory of them.
I also will be placing Shakespeare on my side burner for a while. I need to focus on other books for now. Will try to come back to him later because I do love reading his plays!
Hi Porua!!! I always love your reviews. They make me want to run out and find the book. I haven't ever read Sherlock Holmes, so now I'll see what I've been missing!
#53 tjblue, Hi, Tammy!
"I always love your reviews. They make me want to run out and find the book."
Thank you so much! I hope my reviews always live up to your praise. :-)
I love Sherlock Holmes stories! Hope you try some soon and enjoy them!
55 gennyt, Boy did Goodbye, Mr. Chips made me bawl! I've never cried so much after reading a book! But it was a beautiful story.
Oh, how did I miss your thread until now? Hope you're having a good year -- you're already off to a good reading start! I enjoyed your 2011 top-ten list. I'd never heard of the Mrs. Lirriper books, but they sound wonderful, and I'm adding them to the wish list.
# 57 AMQS, Hello! Thanks for visiting! Better late than never I say. :-)
I loved reading the Mrs. Lirriper books. They are old fashioned and sugary but I do love Dickens. The books are worth it.
At the Villa Rose by A.E.W. Mason was published in 1910. It features Mason’s creation Inspector Gabriel Hanaud.
A wealthy widow lies gruesomely murdered at her home with all her jewels gone. Her young companion has gone missing and is under suspicion. Inspector Gabriel Hanaud reluctantly agrees to investigate at the request of a friend.
Hanaud reminded me of Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot. I feel Christie must have been influenced by Hanaud while creating Poirot.
At the Villa Rose is quite polished when compared to other early detective fiction works. There are, of course, plot holes. Like an important document arriving just at the nick of time that clinches the case for the detectives. Why would the person in question even send this document to the detectives in advance, I wondered.
What I really didn't like about the book was the concluding chapters. The story effectively ends at Chapter XIV. I feel one or two more chapters would have been sufficient to conclude the story but the ‘extremely’ detailed explanation takes up not one or two but seven full chapters. By the time the story, which was exciting to begin with, reaches its conclusion I felt exhausted.
The book is pretty exciting overall. The first few chapters are interesting in particular because not everyone’s motivations are clear. By the mid point when most of it becomes clear the excitement is still there. But after the Chapter XIV, I found excitement in only a few places like the final séance scene, which was eerie and kind of scary.
Celia Harland is the typical blonde, ‘damsel in distress’ type heroine. I have no patience with this type of heroines. Harry Wethermill was interesting. Julius Ricardo starts off as a suave gentleman but soon transforms into a stupid side kick with nothing much to do. I found this transformation jarring.
At the Villa Rose is a good read marred by a bad story structure. It would have worked better without the last few chapters.
Porua, here are some chocolates to perk up your day. Eat as many as you want...no calories in these virtual treats.
# 60 Donna828, Oh yum! The chocolates look absolutely scrumptious! I have bought some rather expensive chocolates as a Valentine's Day gift for myself but nothing beats receiving chocolates, real or otherwise, from another person. Thank you! :-)
Before starting Gilead I had no idea what the book was about. The only reason I even picked this book up is because I needed something to read for Orange January and Gilead happened to be long listed for the 2006 Orange Prize for Fiction.
Gilead by Marilynne Robinson was published in 2004. It won the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. The book is named after the fictional town of Gilead, Iowa, where the story is set.
The year is 1957 and Reverend John Ames is slowly dying. Afraid of leaving behind his young son with no memory of who his father was, Reverend Ames begins to write his memoire.
The rest of my review is here,
62: I had never heard of this one before. I particularly liked the quote you mentioned in your review.
# 63 Oh yes the quote! This is one of the passages that managed to jolt me out of my apathy. Such powerful (and true) emotions expressed in it!
62: Thumbs up on Gilead, Porua. Marilynne Robinson is one of my favorite authors. You are right that it isn't a book for everyone. We did a group read at my church and some members vehemently disliked the book. They thought it was boring.
Gilead has been near the top of my to be read pile for a year or more, but it keeps getting pushed down by other things. I will get to it soon, but I suspect it will be April!
# 65 Hi, Tammy! I did enjoy Gilead but it took me a long time to read it. It is not a long book but it is certainly a heavy one. I had to wade through a lot to get to the end. Hope you enjoy it when you read it!
# 66 Hi, Donna! I could see why some people may find Gilead boring. The narrative is not taut enough. But I see a reason behind that. This book is essentially an account of Reverend Ames's own thoughts. So of course there are bound to be digressions because our own thoughts are not always linear or cohesive.
# 67 Oh the same thing would have happened to me if it had not been for Orange January! Give me a mystery and I'll gobble it up. So, I have made a point to myself to read the books that I know will get pushed down the TBR pile if I let myself go. :-)
As a mystery addict and a movie buff, I have always known of the Charlie Chan mysteries. I have heard much about the 1930’s series of Charlie Chan movies and Warner Oland’s legendary portrayal of the detective. As a result, I was quite curious about this detective series.
Behind That Curtain by Earl Derr Biggers is the third book in the Charlie Chan series. It was published in 1928.
Sir Frederic Bruce, the former head of Scotland Yard, is a man obsessed with the past. For fifteen years he has been searching for the answers to only two questions, “Why was Hilary Galt wearing a pair of Chinese slippers when he was found murdered in his own office?” and “How did young Eve Durand vanish without a trace from the hills of Peshawar?”. But before he can finally reveal the answers to these questions he is found dead and the Chinese slippers he was last seen wearing have mysteriously disappeared.
I loved the way Biggers manages to create a sinister picture of the past crimes. The description of Eve Durand’s disappearance was particularly creepy. It is easy to understand how Sir Frederic Bruce can become so obsessed with the unsolved murder and mysterious disappearances.
I liked Charlie Chan, despite him being portrayed as the stereotypical calm Buddha like ‘oriental’ man. I would like to read more of his adventures.
The character of Barry Kirk irritated me. The romance between Barry Kirk and June Morrow was boring and unnecessary.
I found Biggers’s treatment of his characters to be a bit strange. He makes Charlie Chan his main detective at the height of the ‘Yellow Peril’. Chan is portrayed as a gentleman and as a force of good. Of course, Chan is a stereotype who keeps spewing ancient Eastern adages but that’s not a major irritant. He had also made a deputy in the district attorney's office, June Morrow, a woman, quite unusual for the novel’s era.
However at the same time, many of the book’s characters keep insulting them. Charlie Chan is called names and is belittled. I guess he tries to show how deeply racist people of that era were and how Chan rises above all of that. Miss Morrow is frequently lectured (a lot of the times by Charlie Chan himself) on the ‘proper’ place of a woman and of her ‘womanly’ duties. Barry Kirk and Kirk’s grandmother at first refuse to believe that a pretty girl could be a lawyer,
"Calm yourself. Miss Morrow is a very intelligent young woman."
Everyone laments how she is ‘wasting’ her youth. It is indicated at the end that she would give up her ‘wicked’ ways and settle down. It is kind of like if someone wrote a book on differently abled people and used derogatory terms to describe them. Or if someone wrote a book on racism but used the ‘N’ word throughout the book. Why do all of the characters constantly have to remind the readers that Charlie Chan is a man of Chinese origin and that Miss Morrow is a woman? This undermines whatever good Biggers may have done by creating Charlie Chan and Miss June Morrow.
The actual solution is a bit disappointing. The link between the mysteries is weak to say the least. Why would anyone go to such great lengths to protect a rather lame secret is beyond me. Thankfully, at least one of the happy conclusions appealed to me. Otherwise it would have been a total bust.
Behind That Curtain has a great build-up that ends up disappointing a tad bit but overall the book is enjoyable.
Friedrich de la Motte Fouqué (1777-1843) was a German writer. His works mostly belong to the genres of romance and fantasy. Undine (1811) remains Friedrich de la Motte Fouqué’s most enduring work.
Fouqué’s writing influenced many. Louisa May Alcott and Robert Louis Stevenson were among those influenced by him. In her novels Little Women and Jo’s Boys, Undine is mentioned. In Jo’s Boys, there’s even an entire chapter called Aslauga's Knight.
Aslauga's Knight is an archetypal Friedrich de la Motte Fouqué story. Froda, a model knight, reads the century old legend of Lady Aslauga and falls in love with her. Soon he receives a visit from a spectre that is revealed to be the legendary Aslauga and he is bound forever with her.
The story has all the elements of a fairy tale. The brave knights, the fair princess, the wicked witch but at the same time this reads more like a horror story. Froda is in love with a dead woman, Aslauga. The vision of a ghostly Aslauga appears at every opportune moment. Sometimes it is loving but most of the time it seems a bit malevolent. The spectre both aids and hinders Froda. As long as is toiling for honour it helps him but as soon as he has any thoughts of a personal nature it thwarts his plans.
The ending is also, in keeping with the mood of the rest of the story, slightly dark.
The story is very short. It took me less than an hour to finish it. But somehow it didn’t seem short and I don’t mean that in a negative way. The story, despite its shortness, had so many different elements packed into it. Proclamations of love and friendship, songs, warfare, dark magic, ghosts and witches, all the ingredients of romance and fantasy, are abundant among its 50 or so pages.
The characters of young Edwald and the fair Hildegardis are unimpressive. Edwald comes across as a bit of a wimp.
The friendship between Froda and Edwald irritated me at times. It is overly romanticised. The flowery exchanges between them got on my nerves.
I enjoyed reading Aslauga's Knight and would recommend it to classic lit lovers, even though it is not really like what I had expected it to be. It is darker than I had anticipated. At times the over-righteousness of the characters annoyed me. But overall Aslauga's Knight is a good, short read.
The Agony and the Ecstasy is the title of the book but for me it has been mostly agony.
The Agony and the Ecstasy by Irving Stone is a biographical novel about Michelangelo, the inimitable Renaissance sculptor, painter, architect and engineer. It was published in 1961.
The rest of my review is here,
73: I'm sorry to hear The Agony and the Ecstasy was a bust. I've had that book on my shelves for a long time, but never seem to get to it. Now I don't feel so bad about it.
# 74 Yeah The Agony and The Ecstasy was a bust alright! The length of the book didn't help matters either. So much bad writing! The 'teeny tiny' print of my edition was an additional pain. :-(
>73: Hi Porua, I remember the agony of reading The Agony and the Ecstasy years ago. I read it for an art appreciation group I was in. It was dry, but the payoff was in the discussion with my group and learning more about Michelangelo. That was in 2004 when we traveled to Detroit on business and some friends took us to the Detroit Institute of Arts to see the Medici Exhibit. I was so impressed that I gave A & E a 4-star rating! But I haven't been tempted to pick up the much shorter Lust for Life in the intervening 8 years. ;-)
# 76 Hi, Donna! In my head I was calling The Agony and The Ecstasy 'The Agony and The Agony'! The book is basically Stone's research material, only slightly novelized. Sure makes for some dull reading. I would rather read a straight-up non-fiction book on Michelangelo.
Hmmm...The Agony and The Ecstasy, Lust for Life... Stone's writing's dullness notwithstanding, he sure had a knack for catchy titles!
Great opening line for the I. Stone review, Porua! Several thumbs for a variety of your reviews, which I've finally caught up with...my fault, not yours; thread managing is hard for me this year.
I came by to say hello, and to recommend an author who may be new to you: H.R.F. Keating. I just read Death of a Fat God and loved it; a very funny mystery. Also, just finished today a book called The Kentish Manor Murders by Julian Symons, which is an homage to Sherlock Holmes and A.C. Doyle. It's really very good; Symons is quite a writer.
And...hope everything is going fairly smoothly for you?
# 78 Thanks! You are too kind! I have a hard time maintaining my own thread and I am so lax with my visits to other threads. I cannot imagine how you do it all! Your courage never fails to amaze me. :-)
H.R.F. Keating is new to me and as you know a new mystery author is always a treat for me. So, thanks for the recommendation!
I am doing okay. Personal front hasn’t been that great but I manage. On the work front, the spring semester students have been quite a handful. My workload will increase in the near future so I am bracing myself for that. I am so afraid that it may mean less reading time! :-(
I know what you mean about barely having time to visit other threads! I do my best, but it never seems to be enough. Thankfully we're all very patient people around here and don't seem to hold "not checking in" against anyone. :)
# 80 Yes that's one of the best things about LT. The people here are great! That's why I have been hanging around for the past two and half years. :-)
Lately I have been making up for lost time. Growing up, I have missed out on a lot of children’s classics. The Railway Children is one of them.
The Railway Children written by Edith Nesbit was serialised in The London Magazine in 1905. It was published in book form in 1906.
After their father is sent to prison, siblings Bobbie (Roberta), Peter and Phyllis along with their mother move into a house near a railway station. The railway station soon becomes the focus of the children’s lives as they become friendly with the local people and the mysterious ‘Old Gentleman’ who always rides the 9:15 down train.
The rest of my review is here,
I missed out on this as a child as well apart from seeing the film but last year we saw a really good production of it at the old Waterloo Eurostar terminal in London featuring a real steam train. It definitly hit the spot as far as my son was concerned as he was going through a steam train phase at the time.
A terrific Nesbit book is Five Children and It, which illustrates, in delightful fashion, the old adage "Be careful what you wish for." Lots of fun and a quick read.
# 83 Wow a production of The Railway Children with an actual steam train! I would've loved to see that! I'm sure your son enjoyed it very much.
# 84 Thanks!
The Boxcar Children is a series of books while The Railway Children is a stand alone. The Railway Children has a distinctive 'Britishness' to it. The Boxcar Children is of course an American book and the tone is, as far as I know, different. That's how I remember them. :-)
# 85 Hi, Gail! You are the second person who has recommended Five Children and It to me. So it goes to the ever burgeoning wish list!
I have read one of the books in the Railway Children series, something with a Phoenix and a Flying Carpet, and I must admit I quit liked it.
#86 > Well, when you spell it out like that, it's hard to imagine I ever got them mixed up! I think it's because I remember reading "The Boxcar Children" series when I was a kid but I've never read "The Railway Children." I think I'd quite like it, though; I should see if any libraries around here have it on the shelf.
87> The Phoenix and the Carpet belongs to the same series as Five Children and It, not The Railway Children. Those first two titles are fantasies, whereas The Railway Children is devoid of magical elements.
E. Nesbit was one of my favorite authors when I was young, Porua—so glad you've discovered her!
# 91 Oh I always enjoy it when one work of literature refers to another! I have found a lot of my favourite reads that way. Will seek out The Story of the Treasure Seekers too. Thanks!
I enjoyed your review of The Railway Children. Somehow, I missed Ms. Nesbit's books growing up, too. We read The Enchanted Castle aloud a few years ago, and while my children liked it, and have reread it many times since, I didn't love it as much as I had hoped I would. Perhaps I would have enjoyed it more if I hadn't read it aloud -- the children spend a lot of time bickering, which is easy to read right over, but is not as much fun to read aloud. Funny how some books work like that, and some others are much, much better if read aloud, in my opinion. Hope you're having a good weekend.
#89 and #90 Ah, thanks for clarifying that for me, it was one of those books I caught hold of during a long train journey and read it without much hope, but as you can imagine, was pleasantly surprised with the simplicity yet effectiveness of the writing as well as the story.
# 93 Thanks! My weekend was okay.
Being an unmarried, non-mom I don't really have that much experience with reading aloud. I read aloud only a small number of times as a teen when my baby sister would wail for my mom if she ever went anywhere without her. She would immediately calm down if I read stories to her. But reading to more than one child sounds trying.
# 94 Welcome, PC! I love pleasant surprises like that too, starting a book without much hope but then ending up liking it.
>95 Oh, I meant that the children in the story were bickering, not my own :) They do, of course, but not when I read to them.
Oooh I love Nesbit, and second Nathan's recomendation of The Story of Treasure Seekers. There are two sequels to it as well, also exceedingly good: The Wouldbegoods and New Treasureseekers.
If you like audiobooks, there are some fairly good free ones of these on Librivox.org. I really enjoyed listening to them a while back.
# 96 Ah that's a relief! Siblings do tend to bicker a lot in my experience. My baby sister is nearly a decade younger than me but we still get into some fairly loud squabbles.
# 97 Glad to see another Nesbit fan! All the recommendations make me want to read her books even more. Thanks!
Porua, I very much enjoyed your review of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?. That is one classic book I have always wanted to read. I even got as far as checking out the ebook from the library, but sadly the library took it back before I got to it. :(
Time to put it back on the wishlist!
# 100 Thanks! I had always wanted to read Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? too and when I finally got to it about two years ago, I couldn't believe that I had waited this long to read it! It is, of course, a rather bleak book but I still enjoyed it. Hope you enjoy it too when you eventually do read it. :-)
Porua, it is a very good review, yet you rated the book with only 3 stars?
I read it 2 years back too and I quite enjoyed it. This book, however, is one of those rare books which loses out to the movie based on them, in this case, sometimes rated as the best sci-fi movie ever, Bladerunner.
# 102 From my profile,
If I give a book any stars at all that means that the book is (in my opinion) worth reading.
* Above average
** Nice and enjoyable
*** Stands out
**** Nearly perfect
***** A perfect book
No stars means I do not think it is worthy of a rating. It could also mean that I have not read the book yet.
Oh it has been ages since I have had to explain my rating system to anyone! At first I got a lot of flack for it. But now almost everyone around here knows about my 'quirks'. ;-)
I haven't watched Bladerunner as I rarely watch adaptations of books. Those that I have watched I did so before knowing that it was based on a book. Also, Harrison Ford does not match my mental picture of Deckard. That's another thing that puts me off from watching Bladerunner.
#103 Ah, that explains the 3* you accorded to the book, I should have checked if there is a rating system explanation in place on you profile, which many LTers do.
Bladerunner is very loosely held on the book, that is why my use of the term "based on the book" rather than "movie adaptation".
The movie is definitely worth a watch. even if you choose to disassociate it with the book.
99: Gulp...was that two years ago? That is one of the first titles on my LT wishlist, Porua, and I well remember your excellent comments that put it there. One of these days...
I agree about Bladerunner. It's so different from the book that it's essentially a different story. And it's visually and musically quite stunning. It's worth watching. Just forget about its origins.
# 104 & 106 "Just forget about its origins."
Oh but I can't! You see I have such a hard time with things like this! Once I have read a book I cannot dissociated the movie version of it from the book, especially if it happens to be a favourite of mine. That's why I steer clear of movies based on books (if I know it that is). And also why I love versions that stay true to the original work (i.e. the 1995 BBC version of Pride and Prejudice was mostly true to the original and hence I love it!).
# 105 Umm...nearly. It was on the 1st of December 2010. Nearly one and a half would be more appropriate, I guess. ;-)
Yes, I struggle with picturing Ladislaw from Middlemarch the 'right' way ever since I saw the movie. So disappointing.
# 108 Oh yes. But on rare occasions that could be a good thing. For example, Dr. Aziz from A Passage to India. It is because of Victor Banerjee's portrayal of him that I liked the character of Dr. Aziz better. If I had read the book before watching the movie, I don't think I would have liked Dr. Aziz as much as I did.
Well that's very timely, because I am reading that right now, and have bought the DVD, which I was specifically going to watch AFTER reading. Actually, I think I still will. I like Aziz anyway, as is. (lol, get it? 'as is')
#107 Did I by mistake give an impression that Bladerunner is based on some book? My bad! It is an independent story, non-fiction too, based on real life story in an alternate universe, (by some accounts), so go ahead and watch the movie without any reservations. Any similarities with any book you may or may not have read would be purely coincidental!
In the Fog (1901) is a mystery novella by Richard Harding Davis. Richard Harding Davis (1864-1916) was an American journalist and popular fiction writer at the turn of the century.
At the exclusive Grill Club, five strangers have gathered. In order to prevent the mystery loving Sir Andrew from making a speech in the parliament, the other four hatch an ingenious plan. They will give Sir Andrew a real life mystery to deal with, a mystery that has even the Scotland Yard baffled. Each member will provide a piece of the puzzle, the final piece of which will ultimately lead to the solution.
In the Fog, quite obviously, reminded me of the Arabian Nights. The aim of the stories is to keep Sir Andrew occupied much like it was Scheherazade’s intention to keep King Shahryār occupied. Also, a lot of the tales from the Arabian Nights are framed like this where one person tells one part of the story with another one filling in with another part.
I am kind of surprised with how much I have enjoyed this. I usually do not enjoy early detective fiction. Most of them feel disjointed to me but In the Fog has a definite structure to it. The story managed to keep me engrossed.
The description of a house where most of the occupants lay dead as an impenetrable fog engulfs the entire city was creepy. If you are lost in the fog and accidentally find yourself in such a house keeping your nerve steady must be one of the toughest things ever!
The end also did not disappoint me. The final twist worked for me.
The novella is really short and as I was totally gripped by the narrative, it took me under an hour to finish it.
On the whole, I can say that I enjoyed reading In the fog much more than I thought I would. Recommended for all mystery buffs.
# 110 "I like Aziz anyway, as is. (lol, get it? 'as is')"
Oh clever pun!
# 111 Nice try! ;-)
# 112 Hi! So glad to see you after such a long time! Hope everything's well. :-)
The After House written by American mystery writer Mary Roberts Rinehart was published in 1914.
Ralph Leslie, a young doctor, is recovering from a bout of Typhoid. Partly to earn some money and partly to stay close to a girl he has espied through his hospital window, he gets a job on board a yacht named Ella. What promised to be a tranquil voyage soon turns into a nightmare as three of Ella’s passengers are found hacked in to pieces. With land nowhere in sight, the crew of Ella do all they can to reach the nearest port before the unknown assailant strikes again.
I read Mary Roberts Rinehart’s The Circular Staircase (1908) a while ago and was not impressed. I still decided to give Rinehart another chance. I must say that I enjoyed The After House more than The Circular Staircase.
The atmosphere created by Rinehart is perfectly chilling! After the multiple homicides occur, I could totally feel the fear felt by the crew and the passengers.
I also loved the supernatural touch Rinehart added to the story. Floating in the lonesome sea on an isolated boat with dead bodies on board, people are bound to be more than a bit inclined to believe in the paranormal. It was quite effectively scary.
I read a lot of Classic literature, Mystery and Detective novels especially Golden Age Mysteries. By now I should get used to the attitudes from a different era. But for some reason I can’t. Racism and sexism bother me to no end. It gnaws at my brain until I cannot see straight. A lot of good and some very good mysteries are ruined by this problem of mine. The same problem plagues The After House.
In the story the protagonist treats the women like some sort of dumb dolls who should be protected from the ‘horrors’ of the crime at any cost. Most of the crucial evidence is cleared away so as not to offend their ‘delicate’ senses. They are ordered about and herded together like animals. They are portrayed as pigheaded individuals who see only one thing at a time and act accordingly. All of them want to protect one person it seems and they try to accomplish that by any means (destroying evidence, perjuring themselves, using their ‘feminine wiles’). I could understand if one of them was like that but nearly half a dozen women all acting alike is a bit too much to take.
And don’t even get me started on the racism! George Williams, the coloured butler, is used as a punching bag (both metaphorically and literally). He is portrayed as a cowardly snivelling fool. The ‘N’ word and ‘d…y’ are commonly used to describe him. This made me really uncomfortable and at times angry.
The romance, as usual, annoyed me. Well, at least the heroine wasn’t some pretty as a doll blonde who just says sweet things and faints. The conclusion of this romance is also unnecessary and irritating.
The court room scenes were pointless. They basically repeat everything we already know. I have seen Rinehart do this before in The Circular Staircase where the rather thin plot is stretched to the breaking point. She liked using fillers to draw out her stories it seems.
I enjoyed The After House more than The Circular Staircase but the two books share some common problems. Rinehart creates some really amazing spine chilling situations and parts of the books are great fun to read. But she also tries to extend her stories through tedious repetitions and needless twists, a practice that ultimately leaves the reader exasperated. I only wish her books stayed taut and thrilling throughout without all the superfluous parts. Then I definitely would have wanted to read more books by her.
I read tons of Mary Roberts Rinehart books in the 1970s, and I remember liking them. I read one three or four years ago, and I didn't really enjoy it -- I think it was The Circular Staircase. I decided after reading that book that I preferred to live with the illusion that the other books were better than to go back and re-read books I'd forgotten and find I didn't enjoy them.
>107: I find I like a movie adaptation better if I let some time go by. That way the characters and plot aren't quite as fresh in my mind and I'm not as disappointed.
>115: Lol, Porua, at least you are consistent in your dislike of romance...at least the way it's portrayed in many books.
# 116 *Blushes* Thanks for the compliment, Rena!
# 117 I really disliked The Circular Staircase!
I am afraid to re-read some of my old favourites too. What if they are not as good as I remember them to be? I have become a lot more jaded and cynical since my teens, you know.
# 118 Ah yes that could work for me too!
I do dislike most romance especially if they are a part of a mystery. Most mystery book romances tend to make me feel irritated and impatient ('Stop the love fest and get on with the sleuthing already!', I mutter to myself). All I want is 'mushy' romance and damsel in distress free mysteries! ;-)
*The following review may contain spoilers.*
The Lodger was published in 1913. It is arguably the most well known work of its author Marie Adelaide Belloc (1868 – 1947). The Lodger famously became the basis for Alfred Hitchcock’s silent classic The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog (1927), although the movie differs somewhat from the book.
The new lodger at the Buntings’ home is a dream come true. So generous with money and such a gentleman! He is just what Robert and Ellen Bunting needed. So what if he is a little ‘eccentric’? Surely, he means no harm. Or does he?
The Lodger strangely oppressed me. It’s not so much the crimes but just the unbearable suspense of it all. Is the lodger the serial killer everyone is looking for? Will some harm come to the Bunting family?
I don’t understand Ellen’s attitude. Why does she become so agitated? Why does she want to know for sure and yet tries to ignore the possibility of her lodger being a serial killer & tries to cover for him? If it was fear, I would have understood. If it was pure sympathy for the lodger, that could be explained too. But she shows both repulsion and compassion. All her life she had maintained her distance from ‘crudities’ such as murder. She wouldn’t even let her husband talk about them. But her tenderness for the lodger contradicts all that. She forgets her scorn for crimes & criminals and becomes unhealthily obsessed with the ghastly murders in spite of herself.
The characters of Robert and Ellen Bunting are interesting. The way they both react to their forebodings about the lodger was interesting to read. Their dilemma also stems from the fact that the lodger had brought them the financial security that they needed so badly. But surely no amount of money can ever make up for the fact that they are harbouring a possible serial killer?
The characters of Robert’s pretty but vacuous daughter Daisy and his young friend Joe Chandler seemed promising but nothing comes of them. I thought the young policeman Chandler would turn out to be useful somehow but he simply spends his time wooing Daisy, who in her turn contributes very little to the story.
The book builds up the suspense and keeps building it up until I felt as jumpy as Ellen Bunting! The part that really creeped me out was when Robert Bunting bumps into his lodger in the streets after midnight.
The book got on my nerves after a while. It stretches on and on and Ellen keeps getting worse and worse. How much more of that could I take? I longed for the conclusion.
After so much nerve-wracking suspense nothing really comes of it. The ending felt very abrupt. I kept anticipating some terrible ending to Ellen’s unfounded sympathy for her lodger but that never comes.
Overall, reading The Lodger was a weirdly unsatisfying experience. The suspense quotient of the story was so high at times that I couldn’t breathe but in the end it was all rather hastily wrapped up. The book made me feel strangely depressed and discontented. I don’t think I will be re-reading this one.
Interesting, Porua. A pity about the disappointing ending - the rest sounds well worth reading. Well, not the wooing part, lol. But Ellen's attitude sounds disturbingly fascinating.
120: You always write such lovely reviews, even if the book you're reviewing ended up being disappointing. I wish I had that talent. If I found the book boring I have a hard time making myself wrote more than a paragraph about it, ha ha. Have a great Sunday!
# 121 Hi, Rena! The Lodger was worth reading just by being the basis for one of Hitchcock's early movies. The suspense is at times unbearable so I totally understand why Hitchcock would want to film it. The ending just sort of dampens it all though.
Ellen Bunting's attitude disturbed me more than the actual killings and the killer. She seemed to have this strange affection towards the lodger that lasts till the very end. It's like being fascinated with something deadly like a ticking bomb or a tarantula. Totally unhealthy and weird!
# 122 Oh thank you! I always feel shy about compliments but it does mean so much coming from fellow LT'ers. From my 3 years at LT I can say that this place is home to some of the nicest people! Hope you had a great Sunday too! :-)
Today Baroness Orczy is mostly remembered as the creator of the Scarlet Pimpernel but she also wrote quite a few mysteries. The Old Man in the Corner (1909) is possibly the best known among her mysteries.
Polly Burton, a young reporter, encounters a strange old man at a tea shop. He offers simple solutions to the most perplexing of unsolved mysteries. All the while the man toys with a piece of string, making knots and unravelling them. Annoyed by the man’s smugness but at the same time fascinated by his solutions Miss Burton keeps visiting the tea shop, as a new mystery is unravelled each time.
I had read The Fenchurch Street Mystery a long time ago in a mystery anthology. I wasn’t much impressed with it as I found it kind of dull. As a collection, Baroness Orczy’s mysteries, with an interconnecting central narrative, work better.
The Old Man in the Corner contains twelve short mysteries, The Fenchurch Street Mystery, The Robbery in Phillimore Terrace, The York Mystery, The Mysterious Death on the Underground Railway, The Liverpool Mystery, The Edinburgh Mystery, The Theft at the English Provident Bank, The Dublin Mystery, An Unparalleled Outrage, The Regent's Park Murder, The de Genneville Peerage and The Mysterious Death in Percy Street.
Most of the mysteries are easy to figure out once you’ve read the first few stories. After a while I managed to pin point the culprit pretty easily. I read on only to find out how they did it.
Many of these mysteries are rather twisted. I say twisted because none of the criminals are caught or punished by the authorities. The eponymous old man’s sympathies lie mostly with the criminals and he shows unconcealed delight as the criminals get away with their crimes. Also, there is something gruesome about many of the stories. For example, the murders in The Fenchurch Street Mystery, The Dublin Mystery and The de Genneville Peerage. Some of the perpetrators, like those in The York Mystery and The Edinburgh Mystery, are abnormal people with a warped view of love and loyalty.
Among the stories The Fenchurch Street Mystery, The York Mystery, The Mysterious Death on the Underground Railway, The Edinburgh Mystery, The Theft at the English Provident Bank, The Dublin Mystery and The de Genneville Peerage are pretty good. Mysteries like The Robbery in Phillimore Terrace, The Liverpool Mystery, An Unparalleled Outrage and The Regent's Park Murder are pretty bland. The last story, The Mysterious Death in Percy Street, left me surprised.
The end of the central narrative left me fairly shocked. I really didn’t see this coming.
Overall, I enjoyed The Old Man in the Corner. I would definitely want to read more of Baroness Orczy’s mysteries.
Well, that's very interesting, Porua. Like you say, I only knew about the Scarlet Pimpernel books by the Baroness. I never knew she wrote more. Sounds like these ones are just as dramatic (though in a different way) to the Scarlet Pimpernel books.
Orczy also created another detective, Lady Molly, and put together a similar book Lady Molly of Scotland Yard about a noble lady who works for the police somewhat incognito. I don't think it's quite as good as the Old Man in the Corner stuff, but it's fun. Also, Agatha Christie parodied the Old Man in the Corner as one of the Classic Detectives whose methods Tommy and Tuppence borrow in Partners in crime
I've made a note of the Orczy collection for a time when I'm in the mood for some short stories on my Kindle.
Exellent reviews as always, Porua. As Rena said, there are times when your reviews are much better than the books reviewed!
I must add The Old Man in the Corner to my e-reader as well; often short stories are the perfect antidote for difficult times when concentration on a longer work would be impossible.
Oh, and I'm very intrigued by The Lodger, both the book and the film. I've avoided the film because too much suspense can make me crazy, but it seems to be worth a look...
# 125 Hi, Rena! Interestingly, I knew about Orczy's detective stories before I knew about Scarlet Pimpernel. Guess who is a mystery buff? ;-)
# 126 Bjace, yup I know about the lady Molly stories. They are very similar to the old man in the corner stories, I understand. I have been meaning to read Partners in Crime for ages. What could be more fun than my favourite mystery author taking on other famous mystery writers?
# 127 thornton37814, Hope you like Orczy's detective stories!
# 128 Hi, Gail! And thank you! :-)
Yes Orczy's short stories are perfect for times that you don't really want to think too much and just want to relax.
From what I know (I haven't watched the movie) I think that The Lodger, the book, is a tad better than the movie. But the movie is by THE Alfred Hitchcock so that's something to be taken into account too.
I just listened to an Orczy story and a Father Brown story in the past few days as I was driving to various appointments. They were both great...no strain but holding one's interest. The Chesterton was quite funny.
There are four (I think) film versions of The Lodger and none of them are much like the book, except for the central premise of the mysterious stranger in the house. Hitchcock's is probably the least like its source because it is set in contemporary (i.e. 1926) times rather than the Victorian or Edwardian era.
# 130 bohemima, Glad you enjoyed the Orczy and Chesterton stories. Humour is one of the main reasons I like reading Chesterton. Hope you read more of them in the future!
# 131 lyzard, I don't like it when film adaptations tamper with the original book. Movie versions of books are just not for me.
I am not much into contemporary books. I am just not comfortable with modern fiction though I do try to read at least one or two each year. Also, this novel belongs to a genre that I am not much of a fan of, Young Adult or YA lit.
No, I didn’t need a boxful of tissues as many of my fellow readers said that I would. Books rarely make me cry (Goodbye, Mr. Chips being one of the very few exceptions). So, it’s not really the book’s fault. But yes I liked The Fault in Our Stars much better than I thought I would.
The Fault in Our Stars, published in 2012 (thus making it the most current book I have ever read!), is John Green’s fourth novel.
The rest of my review is here,
# 134 You mean Richard Ford cried over something he 'himself' has written? I wonder if the book is really that good or if it's just a case of sheer narcissism.
# 136 In today's world of Facebook, Twitter and reality shows, when everyone wants to put themselves out there for their 15 minutes of fame, nothing really surprises me. I wouldn't be surprised if this was just to get publicity for his book. Sigh!
Death And The Dancing Footman by Ngaio Marsh was published in 1942. It is the eleventh book in Marsh’s Inspector Roderick Alleyn series.
The mischievous owner of Highfold Manor has been busy planning the ultimate weekend party. He hopes to bring together a group of people who, at best, have an uneasy relationship with each other, then sit back and enjoy the fireworks. What he doesn’t know is that it’s going to be an extremely long weekend, a weekend no one will ever forget.
I enjoyed Death And The Dancing Footman much better than my last Marsh novel, Opening Night. The women in Death And The Dancing Footman are, for one, much less stupid. Also, the dialogues are much better.
Death And The Dancing Footman is set in Highfold Manor at Dorset. As the party is all assembled there a terrible storm starts, leaving the roads deep in snow and the mansion is totally cut off from civilization. I am very fond of cosy mysteries set in isolated places with no way out. Christie’s And Then There Were None, Evil Under the Sun and Cyril Hare’s An English Murder come to mind. But somehow I didn’t enjoy the atmosphere of Highfold Manor as much as I should have.
The mystery is good. I suspected almost everyone by turns.
The narrative does go a bit slowly. I do get that they are stuck in a snowbound mansion in the middle of nowhere. But still the time between the beginning & the crime and from the crime to its solution feels like an eternity.
Among the characters I found Jonathan Royal to be really irritating. He is childish, selfish and even harmful at times. Why would anyone want to be his friend is beyond me. Aubrey Mandrake was another childish, whiny sort of character. All the members of the Compline family are uniformly bland.
Detective Roderick Alleyn doesn’t really do much. He shows up after more than half of the book is over. He asks a few questions and solves the thing pretty easily. I’m still not sure how he hit upon the solution to the mystery.
As I have mentioned earlier the women in this book are not stupid, which is a relief for me. Almost all of them are strong characters, whether good or evil. Although I was annoyed by everyone falling in love with Chloris Wynne just because she is blonde and beautiful. She does however admit that she is not a natural blonde, which made her more likeable.
I don’t like too much romance in my mystery. One of the romances did begin to annoy me mostly because of the man but the woman sort of redeemed it.
The ending was satisfying but I do have a few qualms about the character of the murderer. I feel that the motive behind the crime abruptly changes the character of the murderer. It doesn’t really make sense.
Even though I did have some problems with Death And The Dancing Footman, I overall enjoyed the book. It is a nice, satisfying cosy mystery.
I have been meaning to try to read all the Ngaio Marsh books in order of publication. (I've read some of them before, but not all of them.) Maybe I'll eventually get started on that project!
Would it be best to start with the first of the Inspector Roderick Alleyn series do you think? I've been meaning to try Ngaio Marsh for ages too. Though your criticisms sound fair and make the book not terribly inviting, really. Great review as always.
# 139 I do the same with Agatha Christie's Miss Marple series. I love to see the growth of Miss Marple as a character. Noticing all the recurring characters like the inhabitants of Miss Marple's village St. Mary Mead is an added bonus.
# 140 Thanks! I have read only two books from the Inspector Roderick Alleyn series so I can't say if you should read it from the start. Personally I am not a fan of Ngaio Marsh. I want to like her but I don't.
Hi Porua. I also hadn't realised that Baroness Orczy wrote some mysteries. I'll look out for The Old Man in the Corner.
I've got a copy of The Fault in Our Stars reserved at the library (although it's a long queue). I cry at everything unfortunately so I will make sure I have the tissues handy for that one!
# 142 Like I've said before I knew about Orczy's detective stories before I knew about Scarlet Pimpernel. From what I've read I'd say The Old Man in the Corner is much more my style than Scarlet Pimpernel.
I think most readers would cry (or at least become teary eyed) after reading The Fault in Our Stars. Stocking up on those tissues is probably a good idea.
Death and the Dancing Footman was pretty good, imo. The plot was very much similar to a Georgette Heyer book (don't want to say which one, as don't want to be a spoiler for anyone hereabouts). Having re-read that particular Heyer shortly before reading the Marsh, the perpetrator was easier to see.
Haven't been reading too many mysteries this year, but they're out there tempting me, always. I'd love to sit down and just read four or five Marsh's all at once.
And how are you?
# 144 Thanks for visiting, Gail! I have been (and still am) mind numbingly busy with work! My eyes are constantly burning with lack of sleep. Luckily, in just two days time I'll be taking a much needed break from what has proven to be a most trying time both professionally and personally. I cannot take a vacation from my personal life but at least I can sleep!
I have been reading books but reviewing them is another thing altogether. Currently I have at least three reviews pending.
I have read only two Heyer mysteries. I enjoyed the second one, the first one not so much.
At the edge of the estate of The Beckoning Lady there lies a dead man. The timing couldn’t be worse as it is just before Minnie and Tonker Cassand’s big party. It’s a good thing that Albert Campion is a friend of the Cassands. Campion investigates while the preparations for the party of the year go on in full swing.
The Beckoning Lady by Margery Allingham was published in 1955. In the US the book was published under the title The Estate of the Beckoning Lady.
Starting smack in the middle of a series is never a good idea. The Beckoning Lady is the fifteenth novel in Allingham’s Albert Campion series. I know I am probably missing a lot of the background information. Besides I am not used to Allingham’s style of story telling. But I always read what I can find. When I found this book I decided to read it because the book synopsis intrigued me.
Margery Allingham’s writing style doesn’t suit me well. I found her writing kind of confusing. It was as if I were in a dream, where the people were speaking in a language I knew and yet I couldn’t understand them.
The plot felt thin and at the same time bewildering. All the details about tax, property, ominous little men, dead elderly relatives, sending signals through flower bouquets; etc, etc left me feeling bored and puzzled.
I didn’t enjoy the relationship between Minnie and Tonker Cassand. They fight a lot and their fights left me feeling irritated. Tonker is responsible for a lot of the trouble in Minnie’s life and to top it all off he beats her on more than one occasion. Now maybe beating your wife was okay back in the 50’s but I am still not okay with it.
The preparation for Tonker and Minnie’s extravagant party takes up most of the narrative, the details of which left me exhausted. Why must the party go on despite multiple deaths is beyond me.
The actual crime, criminal and the motive behind it left me feeling unsatisfied. After spending so many dreary days reading a rather disjointed narrative with characters I didn’t really care about the solution seemed inadequate.
The book’s conclusion is odd. People casually forging evidence and letting things slide is just a bit too much.
Overall, I didn’t enjoy my first Margery Allingham. The narrative was disjointed and the solution unsatisfactory. I don’t feel to eager to continue with the adventures of Albert Campion.
I remember telling someone once that I found Allingham impenetrably English. I read a lot of Allingham at one time and never quite got over the feeling.
# 147 That could be it. Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers were also British but their works didn't leave me feeling like this. Allingham's prose has a dreamlike quality to it and I am not saying that in a good way. I felt kind of confused by it.
I don't think beckoning lady is one of her best, but her style is not everyone's taste certainly. I prefer her to Christie, but not many share my opinion.
# 149 That seems to be the general opinion about The Beckoning Lady. I couldn't get into her writing style. I, as you know, prefer Christie.
I'm nowhere near that particular series entry, but the Campion novels do have a lot of back story and character development, and might be better read in order?
Of course, starting right at the beginning encompasses the publisher-imposed switch of Campion from "eccentric supporting character" to "central figure". :)
#146 Sorry your Allingham read was a disappointment. I haven't read that one yet so I can't really comment about how it holds up to the others in the series. As Liz says, it's difficult to know where to recommend starting because the early Campion books seem to have quite a different feel to the later ones.
# 151 Yeah I know about that rather odd switch too. But my problem is with Allingham's language and the way she pieces together her narrative. It just left me with a headache!
# 152 I'm sorry too. I love finding new mystery authors to love and every disappointment saddens me.
I guess in every series, more or less, the characters evolve. But from what I've heard Campion's change was not really subtle.
Oh, I was never too crazy about Allingham, either. You express it well.
Dh and I were talking about how mysteries have a sense of order and completion, with the guilty usually being punished. And of course the older series are missing much of the blood and gore--and often the murdered person so richly deserved it. I know that's why I like them: they are the ultimate comfort reading.
Glad that you had at least a few minutes to spend hereabouts and read a bit as well.
# 154 Oh you are so right! The older mysteries had such a sense of, I guess I can call it, morality. The wicked got what they deserved and the good lived happily ever after. And the lack of blood and gore was also a factor. These are the reasons I prefer the older mysteries.
In Strong poison Lord Peter Wimsey was trying to defend Harriet Vane to his sister-in-law and he said that detectives stories were the "purest" literature around. (Maybe those aren't the exact words, but it's the gist.
# 156 "...he said that detectives stories were the "purest" literature around."
I'll drink to that (even though I don't drink!)!
A wife goes missing. A husband is blamed. Fingers are pointed all around. Every little gesture, every little moment, every bump on the road is minutely analyzed. And in the end what are we left with? A place where almost all relationships reach a dead end, where psychotic maniacs are a dime a dozen and no one is really likeable.
Published in 2012, Gone Girl is the third offering from author Gillian Flynn after Sharp Objects and Dark Places.
The rest of my review here,
A thumb from me on your review of GG, Porua. Once again, you tell it like you see (read) it. I enjoy your reviews for that reason. "But at least it’s not banal or straight out stupid." What a great line!
Enjoy the extra day off from work. I hope you get to do something fun! It's yard work for me. ;-(
# 159 Thanks for the thumb! I am not really good with words in the real or the cyber world. So I just tell it like it is. I often get in trouble for that. ;-)
HI Porua!! Thumbed our review of Gone Girl. I always find your reviews interesting. Telling it like it is is a good thing!!!
# 161 Hi, Tammy! Thanks for the thumb!
I too think that as long as you're not hurting anyone telling it like it is is a good thing. But sometimes I unintentionally blurt things out and regret it later. I don't meant to hurt anyone but one can't always be careful. Such is life. :-(
Great review. The ups and downs of a bestseller. Still considering it. If it eventually will come to my library.
A thumb for your review, Porua, but I think I'll give this book a miss. Too many others on the shelves.
Don't know why I haven't read many mysteries this year. Maybe I need fall weather, with its rain, fog, and slight chill to get me in the mood. My most recent were two re-reads of the first two Ladies' Detective Agency series, which I can't recommend highly enough.
# 163 ctpress, Thanks! This is one of my rare ventures into the 'bestseller' territory. ;-)
# 164 Hi, Gail! Thanks for the thumb! I can say you can safely give Gone Girl a miss. It's nothing earth shattering. The way the book basically tells us that dating and marriage are big scams is just plain sad and at times scary.
Ah yes mysteries definitely are better when read during the perfect season. For me rainy days are always a good time to read mysteries.
# 165 alcottacre, Nice to see you around here! Which Gillian Flynn book do you own?
Hi Porua! I enjoyed your review of Gone Girl - I might read it at some point when I'm in the mood for an easy read but it's not high on my list.
# 167 Tammy, yup saw it and tagged it (I rather shamelessly tag each of my 'Hot Reviews' books as, you guessed it, 'Hot Review'!). ;-)
# 168 souloftherose, Hi! Thanks for reading the review! It is an easy read. I'm going through another spate of breathless work/personal life period so Gone Girl was a perfect read for me.
Well I have been more than usually quiet these past few weeks. Basically a bunch of work, family and health issues cropped up and kept me pretty busy. Some issues have been resolved, some still very much persist. But I’m still standing. From today I’ll try to be a bit more regular with my postings around here. :-)
A desperate group of men want to eliminate one of the most influential leaders of the world. An elusive killer waits for one last big hit before retiring from his dark calling. When their paths cross disaster is undoubtedly around the corner.
Published in 1971, The Day of the Jackal’s heady mix of fact and fiction makes it a pioneer of the thriller genre.
The rest of my review is here,
#171 I read this one just a couple of months back as well. You seem to have liked it and yet only 2 stars?
#170 Sorry to hear about work, family and health issues Porua :-) It's good to see you back again.
I enjoyed your review of The Day of the Jackal - it's one of my husband's favourite comfort reads so I probably give it a try at some point.
#172 Piyush, if you look at Porua's profil page you can see her explanation of her rating system. 2 stars is a nice, enjoyable book that doesn't stand out.
Welcome back, Porua. You were definitely missed. I hope the rest of your troubles resolve themselves soon with a minimum of difficulty.
I've never read Day of the Jackal, which surprises me. I need to look for it at the library.
Yes, indeed, welcome back, Porua; so glad you're able to join in again.
Loved your review of Day of the jackal. I thought it was absolutely on point. It's a pretty good movie as well.
Hope that your problems continue to resolve themselves. Like you, I count every day standing as a good day.
# 172 Piyush, what Heather said! :-)
# 173 Thanks! I’m always surprised that there is anything that you haven’t read! I really envy the speed at which you read and of course I love the books you read. Following your reading is one of the things I do regularly. :-)
# 174 rosalita, thanks! I’m just taking one day at a time.
The Day of the Jackal is pretty good. Not much thought is required to read it but that doesn’t mean it is dumb or anything. It’s pretty good.
# 175 Thank you, dear Gail! Some issues like ill health are resolving themselves. I am feeling much better now than I was last week. Family and work related issues are harder to solve. I’d just have to take a deep breath and keep working on them.
I would like to see the movie version of The Day of the Jackal. They seem to have changed a few things but I like the changes.
# 176 Thanks, Rena! :-)
Glad to hear you are still standing, and I hope the unresolved issues get resolved soon. I've seen the film of the Day of the Jackal but not read the book.
#177: Glad to hear that the health issues are subsiding. I hope that the other issues are resolved soon too.
I've missed you on LT, Porua. Sorry about the rough patch you've been having. Hang in there!
Hi Porua! Glad to see your posts. I was thinking about you, glad to see you're doing ok and hope things improve faster!!!
# 178 gennyt, Thanks! My health is quite back to normal now. Thank heavens for that! Other issues I'm still working through.
# 179 alcottacre, Thanks! I hope so too. :-)
# 180 Thanks, Donna! I've missed being around LT too. It sure is therapeutic to drop in on all the book related chatter around here!
# 181 Hi, Tammy! Thanks for thinking of me! I do hope to be around more. :-)
So, any reading going on, or is it all too crazy? I've read some great books this year, but some real stinkers as well.
Here's hoping for an extra good week for you!
# 183 Hi, Gail! So glad to see you around!
I've finished Ghost Stories of an Antiquary by M. R. James, a Halloween special read. Review pending. I've nearly finished The Plague by Albert Camus. Finishing that has been a task. It's not an easy read by any means. I am yet to review Bleak House which I finished ages ago. Overall, some reading has been done but not much in the way of reviewing. :-)
# 185 I have about 30 pages left and I'm still not sure how I feel about The Plague. Hope things clear up a bit once I finish it.
M. R. James (1862–1936) was a scholar on the medieval period. He was the Provost of King's College at Cambridge. Ghost Stories of an Antiquary (1904) is a collection of eight supernatural tales by him.
The edition I read contains only the original eight stories. Some editions of the book combine James’ 1911 book More Ghost Stories with it under the same title.
The book opens with Canon Alberic's Scrap-book. A man is persuaded to buy a strange manuscript volume with an odd looking illustration. Soon he finds out why the sellers were so keen on getting rid of the book.
In Lost Hearts, a young boy is disturbed by visions of two children in terrible distress, looking for their missing hearts.
The Mezzotint is the story of a painting that reveals a dark secret about a country house’s past.
The Ash-tree is a morbid tale of witchcraft and vengeance from beyond the grave.
In Number 13 a man staying at a hotel decides to investigate the mysterious, and apparently non-existent, room number 13.
Count Magnus recounts the unfortunate story of a traveller who in his mischievousness sets free a terrifying monster from the past.
In 'Oh, Whistle, and I'll Come to You, My Lad' an academic finds a strange whistle on the beach and ends up questioning his long held scepticism.
The final story of the collection is The Treasure of Abbot Thomas. A priest goes in search of the hidden treasure of Abbot Thomas but what he finds is more than he can handle.
I cannot really pinpoint my favourites but I liked Number 13 and 'Oh, Whistle, and I'll Come to You, My Lad'. Some stories like Lost Hearts, The Ash-tree and The Treasure of Abbot Thomas were rather sickening.
Most of the stories are very, very similar. A lonely scholar goes to visit a rural area; he finds ‘something’, foolishly tampers with it and unleashes some kind of dreadful being in the process. In some stories his friends come to his rescue, in others he has to face his doom. In other words, the stories are predictable. You've read one, you've read them all.
Having said that it doesn't mean I was not spooked by the stories at all. Some like The Mezzotint, Count Magnus and 'Oh, Whistle, and I'll Come to You, My Lad' were fairly creepy.
M. R. James’ brand of horror is very subtle. The supernatural events and beings, barring a few exceptions, are fully revealed. However, the effect of the events on the characters’ minds is vividly portrayed in each of the stories.
On the whole, I can say Ghost Stories of an Antiquary is a good Halloween read. It may not be ‘blood curdling’ scary but it provides a few good chills along the way.
#187 Nice review of Ghost Stories of an Antiquary Porua. I like my ghost stories chilled but not blood curdling too :-)
I read lots of those M R James stories many years ago (I think it must have been round about the time I was starting to be a manuscript scholar myself) - not sure if it was the same collection or the longer one, but I remember the title of Canon Alberic's scrap book. I can't remember the details of any of the stories, but I do seem to recall the similarity between them which you mention. But they are indeed good chilling tales - and about as scary as I care to go.
# 188 Heather, Thanks! I prefer subtle horror too. Too much blood and gore makes me all squirmy! :-)
# 189 gennyt, Hi! Thanks for the visit!
I felt Canon Alberic's Scrap-book was the weakest of the lot. The stories are very similar to one another but I would like to read more stories by James in spite of that.
Dropped by to say hello Porua. I am also in the group that would place The Plague as his/her favourite Camus. Maudlin it is certainly and I would grant a tad heavy going but the story did capture me when I read it about 18 years ago.
My goodness--The Plague! whew! I haven't takcled any Camus at all.
Adding the M R James book to the WL. I don't like lots of gore, and I usually read one short story, then a novel, then a story, or some such mix-up so that I don't become bored with the sh. st. by the same author. It takes longer to get through the book that way, but it works for me :-)
>193: Really? I like Kafka, he's so bizarre.
*adds Camus to enormous TBR listings*
# 191 PaulCranswick, Hi and thank you so much or dropping by! Note to self: 'Got to finish The Plague.'
# 192 Hi Gail! The Plague is my first Camus.
I think you'll like M. R. James' ghost stories. They are kind of repetitive but the horror is subtle and some of the stories (Oh, Whistle, and I'll Come to You, My Lad' being a good example) were quite scary.
# 193 & 195 I haven't read any Kafka yet but I'd like to read his The Metamorphosis.
And as you know I liked Murakami's The Wind-up Bird Chronicles when I read it last year.
The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson is often considered to be one of the finest horror stories ever written. Published in 1959, it has left an indelible mark on the genre of horror.
The Hill House is famous for driving its inhabitants away. A house with a sordid past, no one who comes in touch with it is left untainted. Is Hill House haunted? Dr. John Montague intends to find out. But at what price?
The rest of my review is here,
Read and thumbed your review of The Haunting of Hill House, Porua. I've not read it yet, but I remember seeing the movie years and years and years ago and being totally creeped out by it. I like Jackson's work anyway, so will be adding this to the TBR list.
I loved Murakami's Wind-up Bird Chronicle, which was, you're right, Piyush, completely weird. A friend kindly gave me another of his works--After Dark--saying, "Oh Gail, you'll love this, it's *so* weird." I do believe people are catching on to my book tastes. I note that there's also Kafka On the Shore: would you recommend that as well?
I read the Plague years ago, it was one of my set texts for French A Level. I remember reading it on a very hot beach in the south of Spain, some nice light holiday reading! Presumably I was reading it in French too, though that now seems like a feat I'd have difficulty pulling off! But it has certainly left a strong impression on me.
Added another thumb to your review of The Haunting of Hill House Porua. It sounds like the sort of horror I could cope with and I've grown to love those sorts of unreliable narrator stories over the last couple of years so I'll look out for it.
# 198 Hi, Gail! Thanks for the thumb! After The Wind-up Bird Chronicle, I have thought about reading more Murakami but I tend to chicken out every time. Guess I will wait until I am in a more stable place.
# 199 gennyt, I want to be on a very hot beach in the south of Spain! The weather has been rainy and chilly around here for the past few days. I am so sick of coming to work in this weather! What with all the mud and stuff. Blegh!
# 200 Thanks for the thumb, Heather!
I love unreliable narrators (for example, The Killer Inside Me and The Ninth Life of Louis Drax) but I like to have at least some idea about what the truth really is. In The Haunting of Hill House I wasn't really sure what was going on.
#198 Dear Gail, I haven't *yet* read Kafka on the Shore, though I doubt you would go wrong in choosing that one.
The ones I have read, lets see, Pinball, 1973, After Dark, A Wild Sheep Chase, Dance Dance Dance, Blind Willow Sleeping Woman and Norwegian Wood, I don't think I have missed any; and they are all excellent reads.
#203 Hello Ms. P, quite rude of me to talk to other people on your thread, without even greeting you; and for that I sincerely apologise.
# 204 Oh no no need to apologize at all! I am just glad at least some of you keep coming back to my thread even though I don't do much posting. :-)
Porua The Haunting of Hill House looks a smash and I will have a look for it during the weekend. Have a lovely weekend yourself.
Bleak House by Charles Dickens was published as a serial during 1852-1853 and as a book in 1853.
Bleak House is the story of Jarndyce v Jarndyce, a cripplingly long case running at the Court of Chancery. Young lives wither away, people lose themselves and their lives but Jarndyce v Jarndyce drags on. It is also the story of Esther Summerson and the secret behind her birth that ultimately brings about the ruin of a noble family.
I love Charles Dickens and I really wanted to read Bleak House for a long time. But I kept putting it off because I was afraid of lugging around this mammoth of a book. At over 1036 pages, this is now officially the longest book I have ever read. But the book didn’t feel long. I enjoyed reading it and didn’t notice how long it was taking me to finish it.
The rest of my review is here,
What an achievement Porua! Both reading the mammoth, and reviewing it. It's definitely on my 'one day' list. I recently started Our Mutual Friend, which I'm enjoying so far (though a bit distracted by other things).
Nice review of Bleak House, Porua; thumbed.
I put The Haunting of Hill House on the nook where it takes no space and will patiently wait until some evening when I'm in the mood for being scared.
Right now I'm reading The Painted Veil by Maugham; I just discovered his work with the last couple of years; very good. And yesterday I finished The Small House at Allington by Trollope; I think you'd really like that one; it's an excellent picture of Victorian times, although from a more modern point of view, the heroine seems just a bit foolish.
Hope things are going well with you.
# 209 Hi, Rena! Oh boy was it a long read! Even though I loved Bleak House, carrying it around was such a pain! It actually managed to break a bag of mine. Our Mutual Friend is one I haven't read yet. I do eventually plan on reading every Dickens book out there.
# 210 Hi, Gail! Thanks for the thumb! Hope you enjoy The Haunting of Hill House.
I have read only one Trollope so far, Barchester Towers and I can't say I really enjoyed it. There is something about Trollope that puts me off. I am planning on giving him a second chance though with Framley Parsonage. Hopefully I will like this one.
I only mildly enjoy most Trollope, but I thought The small house at Allington was one of his best.
Porua, I loved Bleak House when I read it in 2008. Once I got the many characters straight in my head, it moved along quickly -- unlike the court case. Some things never change.
i'm going to try to get to Framley Parsonage by the end of the year, Porua, which leaves only The Last Chronicle of Barset in that particular series. Funny, I find Trollope actually more enjoyable than Dickens, even though I admire Dickens and have read and loved many of his works. Perhaps because Trollope's characters seem to me to be more realistic, overall, than those in Dickens. Who knows?
What are you reading now?
# 212 Same here, Rena. I also only mildly enjoy Trollope.
# 213 Hi, Donna! Glad you read and loved Bleak House. Oddly enough I didn't have that much trouble keeping the characters straight with this book. Books like The Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Plague gave me a lot of trouble in this regard.
You're reading some of my favorites, Porua. I also liked Bleak House a lot (and much more than I expected to with what I knew of the story before reading it), and I'm a big Murakami fan. I echo the Kafka on the Shore recommendation. To me, that's still his best. Although all of them are really good, IMHO.
Somebody probably mentioned it, but BBC did a nice version of Bleak House a couple of years ago.
I had a similar reaction to Barchester Towers, and haven't read more Trollope after that one.
# 214 Hi, Gail! Somehow missed you the last time around. That's what happens when I miss a meal!
I too want to get to Framley Parsonage by this year. Must get to it soon if I want to finish it before the year ends! I, obviously, love Dickens more than Trollope.
Right now I am slowly cruising through my free copy of English Country House Murders, an anthology edited by Thomas Godfrey. Pretty good so far.
# 216 Hi, Joe! Glad you liked Bleak House too. I have caught glimpses of the BBC version but somehow I have a hard time picturing Gillian Anderson as Lady Dedlock.
My Name Is Legion (1976) is an anthology of three stories by Roger Zelazny.
A central narrative featuring an unnamed protagonist ties the stories together. A worldwide database containing every last detail on every human being on earth has been created. Involved with its creation is an unnamed young programmer who decides to drop out of the system and erase his existence for good. The downside to it is that now that he ‘no longer exists’ he cannot make a living, at least not in a legal way. To survive he must now depend on his skills and act as a freelance trouble shooter.
The first story is The Eve of RUMOKO. In it our unnamed hero must find out who is trying to sabotage a project which plans to create new habitable lands for an ever-growing population by using nuclear explosives. I found it to be dull despite the fact that it had some ‘action movie’ like elements.
In ’Kjwalll’kje’k’koothaïlll’kje’k the protagonist tries to find out if a group of dolphins is responsible for the death of a man. Intriguing as the premise sounded to me this was actually the dullest among the stories. The whole smuggling angle and the musings on religion made it all a confusing jumble.
Home Is the Hangman is the last story of the collection. After being missing for several years a space-exploration robot has returned to earth and one by one its creators start to die. Is the robot responsible for these deaths? A hunt for the robot starts but everything may not be what it seems. This Hugo Award winner is by far the best story of the book.
The idea of a worldwide database feels very contemporary. Imagining it in 1976 shows Zelazny’s ingenuity. But other than that part most of the book has a dated feel to it.
I went into this book expecting a collection of science fiction stories. Barring the last story, Home Is the Hangman, the other two stories do not feel like science fiction stories.
The book can at times be rather dull. The philosophical inner musings of the ‘man with no name’ bored me to no end. Towards the end I skimmed through most of it.
It had some really good parts, for example the final moments between the Hangman and the narrator in Home Is the Hangman, but it had some oddly written dull patches which really slowed the narrative down.
Overall, I have mixed feelings about My Name Is Legion. A read that is good and mediocre at the same time.
I had looked and this and thought about it, but based on your assessment, it's a no-go for me. Thanks for doing the heavy lifting on this one!
# 223 Hope you like Hard Times. People I know have had extreme reactions to it. They either love or hate it. I liked it. :-)
>217 Gillian Anderson is surprisingly good in Bleak House, Porua. She was enough of a hit that they brought her back to play Mrs. Havisham in Great Expectations, although for me she was a little young for that part.
I had a similar mixed reaction to My Name is Legion, and I'm generally a Zelazny fan, including the Amber stories.
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