Tag Archives: Agatha Christie

Books Read, September & October 2011

NON-FICTION

World War II

A Summer Interrupted – 1939, The Remarkable Story of An Evacuee/G. Michael Burns, 2011

FICTION

Mysteries
Death of a Chimney Sweep/M.C. Beaton, 2011. Latest in the series about the village constable, Hamish McBeth.

Death of a Dreamer/M.C. Beaton, 2006. Twists and turns as Scottish constable Hamish McBeth solves the murder of Effie Garrand, an Englishwoman very proud of her art and her daydreams.

Murder in Three Acts/Agatha Christie (1935) – also published as Three Act Tragedy. Who killed the kindly vicar and why? Noted actor, Sir Charles Cartwright and his two friends endeavor to solve the mystery.

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Books Read in August, 2010


Until We Reach Home/ Lynn Austin (2008). Historical Fiction.

This Christian novel is the story of 3 young Swedish women who immigrate to the United States in 1897. Although it took about 2 chapters for me to get into the story, after that I could hardly put it down.

Highly Recommended.

The Man Who Loved Books Too Much: The True Story of a Thief, a Detective, and a World of Literary Obsession/Allison Hoover Bartlett (2010). Non-Fiction.

Apparently Bartlett expanded her magazine article on book thief, John Gilkey, into a book.

Rarely do I buy books that I know nothing about. Too many times in the past I’ve been burned and ended up with something fit only for paper projects.

However, the title grabbed me. I stood in Sam’s and flipped through it. The subject matter was very intriguing to a book-lover so I bought it.

It’s a partial account of a contemporary man who very boldly steals books. And not just the run-of-the-mill books. Rare ones. Very valuable ones.

Did the author intentionally leave the readers wanting more; or was it that she just didn’t know how to end it (because the saga continues) or maybe she just didn’t know how to flesh out the story?

Gilkey is relentless and unrepentant. The Man Who Loved Books Too Much is a fascinating read, but it would’ve been helpful had Bartlett spared us her political and world views. Personally, I don’t care what she thinks.

I just wanted to know more about John Gilkey.

Recommended.

The Body in the Library/Agatha Christie (1942). Mystery.

Mrs. Bantry of Gossington Hall is awakened by her hysterical maid who has just discovered the body of a stranger on the rug downstairs. How satisfying for the Bantry’s to have Miss Marple as a close friend at such a time and so the fluffy spinster is called in to speed up the investigation.

So typically Agatha Christie and a very satisfying read.

Highly Recommended if you like cozy mysteries.

D.E. Stevenson

Celia’s House/D.E. Stevenson (1943). Fiction.

Publishers must think that book buyers judge a book by it’s cover. Nothing else explains the swill they print on them.

Celia’s House is a lovely, cozy read. The back cover of the edition I read had some utter nonsense about the younger generation trying to carry on and being at odds with their elders. There’s absolutely nothing like that in the book – at all.

It’s just a nice story set in the early part of the 20th century, about a Scottish family and their ancestral home. Of course, everyone isn’t nice. There are a couple of ne’er-do-well characters who give it a little literary tension.

I have several D.E. Stevenson paperbacks that were reprinted in the mid-70s and they have the most atrocious cover art. Here is an example of one edition of Celia’s House (not the one I read but I want to post it just as an example).

Please don't judge this book by the cover.


It was just last week that I read this book, and my memory is fresh and I don’t think a goat was ever mentioned.

Goodness.

So, ignore the cover and if you like cozy reads, this one is Highly Recommended.

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Books Read, February 2011

Non-Fiction
*Strength in What Remains by Tracy Kidder (2009). This is the story of Deogratias, a Burundi refugee to the United States. Geography is not one of my strong suits, and I began reading this book not even knowing what continent Burundi was on. Rawanda and Burundi were both part of the Belgian Congo and have had similar … what? Struggles doesn’t even begin to describe the horror of the genocide.

Deo arrived at JFK with $200 and no contacts and no support system in 1994. He didn’t even speak English. A few years later he had graduated from Columbia University and enrolled in medical school at Dartmouth. By 2008, his lifelong dream of a medical clinic in his African village was realized.

Kidder won a Pulitzer Prize for Strength in What Remains, and deservedly so. It was hard to put down, but that’s exactly what I should’ve done hours before bedtime, because I couldn’t get to sleep until 4:00 a.m. Descriptions of the violence are graphic. If this sort of thing bothers you (it does me), you can skip over those passages when you see them coming.

Even so, I HIGHLY RECOMMEND it.

Fiction – Mystery

*Cards on the Table by Agatha Christie (1936). Vastly superior to the film version with David Suchet, this is the story of a crime committed in the presence of 3 other people, but who saw nothing. Or did they?
RECOMMENDED

*Death of a Macho Man by M.C. Beaton (1996). A mysterious swarthy newcomer to Lochdubh has been done in and Highland police constable Hamish MacBeth solves the crime.
ENTERTAINING

*Death of a Scriptwriter by M.C. Beaton (1998). Narcissism in television personalities, supporting staff and mystery writers are featured in this Hamish MacBeth volume. Miss Beaton writes with clarity and humorous insight about people who think a lot of themselves.
ENTERTAINING

Fiction – Juvenile

*When the Sirens Wailed by Noel Streatfeild (1974). While this book shares a common theme with the Shoe books (children who are separated from their parents), it’s a bit harder hitting and tells the story of World War II from a child’s viewpoint, i.e. the evacuation of London’s children to the countryside, the Blitz and the blackout. One of the things that surprises me about this book is it’s classification as juvenile fiction. It sits on the library shelf with lighter tomes such as the American Girl series. The American Girl series are lovely, interesting books, but geared to a younger audience. Many adult books are not as well-written as When the Sirens Wailed.
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

*Party Shoes by Noel Streatfeild (1944). Also published as Party Frock. Streatfeild’s love of theater comes through in this story of a large family of children and their cousin during World War II. The cousin has been sent a party dress and shoes by an American godmother but under the bleak social conditions caused by the war, she won’t have an opportunity to wear it. So they brainstorm a suitable event and plan a historical festival with each child focusing on a different era. It reminds me of the Andy Hardy idea of “let’s put on a show!” and just reading it made me want to put one on, too. The problems of production are very true-to-life, including the director’s arrogance, prima donas, costuming, blocking and lots more. If you love theater, this is a fun book, even for adults.
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

*Clues in the Shadows: a Molly Mystery by Kathleen Ernst (2009). War weariness on the homefront during World War II is the focus in this later edition in the American Girl series. Molly and her friends participate in a scrap drive and learn about combat fatigue and how the absence of fathers caused reduced circumstances in many of families. Some tough issues are focused on and give an opportunity to discuss what our military families experience, even now.

Go here for historical background information and some good photos.
RECOMMENDED

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15 Authors


This idea came from Brenda’s post at Coffee, Tea, Books and Me. She got the idea from Sarah, at Thoroughly Alive.

 

 

How enjoyable to read another person’s list of favorite authors or books! When visiting in others’ homes, I’m always interested to see what’s on their bookshelf. Does it tell us anything about people to see what they read? Probably. Actually, I’m sure it does.

Several years ago our younger son (an adult at the time) told us that his friends were offended at the books in our living room. I doubt he was referring to the craft, gardening or music books. Surely he meant the ones on conservative politics and Christianity.

It seems that I’m always searching for someone who likes the same books that I love, because I so want to discuss them. However, I don’t think I have one single friend that shares an interest in very many of my favorite books or authors.

It’s funny because when I find a friend who likes to read, we seldom read the same books, even though we might have lots of other things in common. My friend, Patti, is a dedicated Christian, likes antiques and stories of the old days, tea cups, family history, card making and scrapbooking and southern gospel music. We share all of those things.

However, she also likes talk shows, loves country music (this one still has me shaking my head because she’s from New Jersey and I’m from the south. If it’s country and it’s not Johnny Cash or Patsy Cline, I’m probably not happy); Patti can’t stand Sara Palin and Dick Cheny (I love them both). She voted for Ralph Nadar and likes Mitt Romney. If they were the only choices, I’d be staying home on election day.

So, despite the fact that we’re both voracious readers, Patti and I rarely read or enjoy the same books. The only 2 exceptions I can think of (yes, yes, I know… of which I can think or something like that) are “

and

.

I really love the idea of a book club, but my ideal would be a cozy book group or at least a cozy mystery one.

Anyway, my list of most read or beloved authors goes something like this:

NON-FICTION

Emily Barnes
Peg Bracken
Priscilla Buckley
William F. Buckley
Emily Kimbrough
Norman Longmate
Corrie ten Boom

FICTION
Jane Austen
M.C. Beaton
Elizabeth Caddell
Agatha Christie
Erle Stanley Gardner
L.M. Montgomery
Miss Read
Laura Ingalls Wilder

A few words about authors
I love Miss Read’s books so much that I probably should’ve listed her twice.

And even though I’ve enjoyed the writings of Jan Karon and John Grisham, they’re missing from this list for different reasons. Even though parts of the Mitford books are wonderful, and I think that Karon is a very talented writer, there are parts of her books that I really don’t like. And I disliked her

so badly that I didn’t get past the first chapter. I intensely dislike whining (it’s one of my own and unloveliest traits) and that book is one big whine.

Up until about 5 years ago I had read about everything that John Grisham had written. In fact,

is one of my all time favorite books. So, he would be on my B list, along with Jan Karon, Harper Lee, D.E. Stevenson and several others.


If I were less truthful, I’d list C.S. Lewis because I have tremendous respect for his work, but his works are so hard to read. Countless times, I’ve started reading Mere Christianity or The Screwtape Letters, then give up when the going gets deep. But I hope someday to read not only them, but also other volumes of his that I’ve collected over the years.

And Charles Dickens: I’ve read parts of A Christmas Carol, Oliver Twist, The Old Curiosity Shop and a considerable part of David Copperfield. The only one of his that I’ve actually finished was Bleak House. My interest was piqued in the story after I began watching the BBC version. The book was incredibly better.

Dickens was an amazing writer.

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Books Read in November, 2009


Mary of Plymouth (1910), by James Otis
An absolute gem. If you like the American Girl series, or Dear America, you will probably like Mary of Plymouth. It is the fictional story of a girl who undertakes the journey on the Mayflower with her parents and their first few years in the New World.

While not exactly a diary, the writing is more that style than story form with plot, rising action and climax. Otis did his research well, and the book is a treasure trove of daily practices of what the Pilgrims did and how they used what was available to survive in a new land with nothing prepared for their arrival.

Highly Recommended.


Home to Harmony (2000), Phillip Gulley
First in the series of Harmony novels, it is the story of Sam Gardner’s return to his home town.


Just Shy of Harmony (2002), Phillip Gulley

Set in Midwest farm country, this book series focuses on the Quaker church in the little town of Harmony. This is entirely fitting, since the author is actually a Quaker minister himself. Just Shy of Harmony is the second book in the series and the main plot-line follows the pastor’s crisis of faith. A better description would be the wearying of his faith. He despairs over the lack of real Christianity in his church. Gulley is a clever writer because the character and plot developments seem real. Sam’s Christianity is not perfect, his congregants are not all fleshly.

“Cozy” is a good classification of this story with one startling exception: Asa Peacock has a very disturbing nightmare concerning his job at the chicken factory. I had to skip a couple of pages. It was a troubling scene and my desire is to diminish my own nightmares, not add to them.

Other than that, it is a charming book.

Why do authors do that?

Christmas in Harmony (2002), Phillip Gulley
Perhaps, familiarity is breeding contempt but some of the plot devices in the Harmony series are getting a little irritating. Dale Hinshaw is the political conservative and the out-of-place evangelical in the Quaker congregation and the butt of Gulley’s humor and a gross caricature. As I am not a pacifist, this overwriting of buffoonery for his philosophical opponents is getting tiresome. The books are okay, and a whole lot better than much of what’s being printed. Perhaps I need a break before continuing with the others.

Postern of Fate (1973), Agatha Christie
One of Dame Agatha Christie’s last books, it’s a tale of retired Tommy and Tuppence. Upon moving to a small village and buying an old house, complete with some furniture and lots of books, Tuppence stumbles upon an aged mystery and sets off to solve it. This is an absolutely delightful book, one not only for mystery lovers but book lovers as well. Later, I’ll do a post on it alone.

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