What’s In A Name Challenge: Absent in the Spring…

4

So here we are again, Obstacle Number (insert accurate number here) in the What’s in a Name Reading Challenge: Absent in the Spring by Mary Westmacott (aka Agatha Christie)…

Taken from: the Christie Listie (as a late and rather sneaky replacement)

Category: Six – a book with lost or found (or it’s equivalent) in the title

So it turns out Agatha Christie, cheeky little dame that she is, penned some romance novels under the name Mary Westmacott, and thought we wouldn’t notice.  Well, I didn’t actually, until it was pointed out to me.  But I’m glad I found out because it gave me a bit of scope to widen out the Christie Listie for this challenge.

Absent in the Spring centres on Joan Scudamore, an upstanding citizen and all-round walking moral compass, who finds herself waylaid by a flooded track on her train journey home from looking after her sick grown-up daughter.  During this period of unwanted exile, she reflects on her relationships so far and discovers some not altogether pleasant home truths about herself and the way others see her.  But how will she use this newfound knowledge?  One never knows when Ms Christie is at the pen….

absent in the springThis Book’s Point of Difference:

I must say, I’m not really one to go in for romance novels.  Luckily for me, this novel has absolutely no romance in it at all.  It’s more of a psychological portrait of the main character and in that regard is gripping in a not too demanding way.

Pros:

– I was surprised at how engaging this book actually was.  Despite the fact that most of the book is essentially a one-woman show, the strength of old Joan as a character and her willful denial of the painfully obvious really drives the book along.  Having said that, it’s also the type of book that you can pick up and put down and is light enough to be a great choice for a beach read…although given my aversion to, and lack of experience with, beaches, perhaps you’ll have to make that call yourself

– The style and voice are typical Christie.  By the end of the first page I was comfortable in the knowledge that I was with an old friend and master storyteller

– The ending has a twist.  I wasn’t expecting one, given that this isn’t a mystery story, but there is one nonetheless and I think it really adds to the post-reading, thought-inducing factor of the book

Cons:

– The style and voice are typically Christie. So you may spend the first few chapters (or indeed the whole book, depending on the level of your fandom) expecting someone to be discovered having been horribly murdered.

– There are no Belgians in this one, detective-like or otherwise

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this book.  I will definitely make it a point to read more of “Westmacott’s” back catalogue at some point.

Until next time,

Bruce

Follow on Bloglovin

or on GoodReads

What’s In a Name Challenge: Creepy and Maud…

7

Obstacle Number 4+ in the What’s in a Name Reading Challenge: Creepy and Maud by Dianne Touchell…

Taken from: the Non-Christie Listie as a late replacement

Category: Five – a book with an emotion in the title

Once again, I’m making a bit of a tenuous link for this category, but I figure if it’s possible to “feel creepy”, then creepy must be an emotion.

Creepy and Maud is told from the alternating viewpoints of Creepy (not his real name…obviously) and Maud (not her real name….less obviously); teenage neighbours who conduct most of their interactions through the use of binoculars and messages flashed through their respective windows.  The story explores how the friendship – if you can call it that – develops amidst the daily dramas of life in the teens’ less than idyllic family settings.

 

 

creepy and maud

This Book’s Point of Difference:

Well. I suppose this one differs from most YA stories in that while it focuses on the relationship between teenagers of the opposite sex, there is no reference to romance. Not even a hint of it.  It’s not really that kind of book.

Pros:

– Once again, this book has that lovely familiar feeling common to many Australian stories. Well, familiar if you are an Australian anyway.

– There’s a lot to keep you interested in the content here – intriguing relationship dynamics abound.  Creepy’s parents communicate almost solely through the medium of shouting (and on occasion, acts of irate dog), Maud resorts to speaking only in French with particular irksome people in her life and the mothers of the two teens are engaged in a titanic struggle over the etiquette involved in borrowing and loaning casserole dishes. 

– The book doesn’t pull any punches. If you like your YA fiction gritty and realist, then you’ll probably take to this one like a duck to duck-friendly wetland environments.

Cons:

– Along with the lovely sense of familiarity common to Australian stories, Creepy and Maud delivers a standard dose of that depressing sense of realism and un-sugar-coated discomfort also common to many Australian stories. There is a bit of humour to lighten the load, but for some I fear this book may come off too dreary to really enjoy.

– I’m not sure whether it was just me and my cold, stoney heart, but I didn’t really feel overly sympathetic towards the two main characters.  I’m not sure whether I was supposed to. But this was a bit of a con for me, if only for the fact that it would prevent me bothering to re-read this title.

Overall, I found this a slightly uncomfortable reading experience, although I can see why it was shortlisted for a Children’s Book Council of Australia Award for Older Readers (a high accolade indeed!).  I felt there was something missing in the connection between the characters that stopped it from really reaching the “must-buy/must-re-read” category for me.  On the other hand, Touchell’s debut is a solid read if you enjoy YA books that explore themes of unconventional friendship and the ugly repercussions for those who insist on being a square peg in a round hole (or indeed, vice versa) in certain environments.

Until next time,

Bruce

 

What’s In A Name Challenge: A Murder is Announced…

7

Well, here it is: the first obstacle in the What’s In A Name Reading Challenge (hereafter to be known as the WIAN? RC)!

As previously mentioned, I have decided to complete this challenge in two parts – the Christie-listie, which is comprised entirely of books by or about Agatha Christie, and the Un-Christie-listie, which is comprised of books that are not in any way related to the Dame herself….Clearly, this first title is from the Christie-listie, and specifically relates to Category 3 – a book with a party or celebration mentioned in the title.

murder is announcedSo where is the party/celebration in A Murder is Announced?   Well, according to our good friend Professor Wikipedia, “a party is a gathering of people who have been invited by a host for the purposes of socializing, conversation, or recreation“…..and a subcategory of this, the suprise party, is “a party that is not made known beforehand to the person in whose honor it is being held”.  It is therefore abundantly clear that the murder in the title, which has been announced, will involve a gathering of people (who necessarily, on seeing each other, will socialise, converse or engage in some form of recreation).  Further to this, the person to be murdered will, most likely, not have prior knowledge of their status as the guest in whose honour the event is being held.  Clearly then, a murder is a sort of surprise party. I rest my case Your Honour.

Given that the Christie-listie is a very specific sub-category of the crime genre, I have devised a special rating system for use in reviewing these works.  It consists of 5 criteria against which a star rating (of which 5 stars is the highest) will be applied.  The book will then be summarised in a rhyming couplet.

The criteria are as follows:

Rate of Moustache-Twiddlage (for Poirot novels) or Stitch-Droppage (for Marple novels): This refers to the expected level of engagement with the plot as measured by the extent to which anxious body language emerges in the reader…

Red Herring Haul: relating to the level of mis-clues present…

Butler-osity: which refers to the complexity of the revelation at the end (based on the foundation level of non-complexity in which the Butler is identified as the one who did it)…..

Common-or-Garden-ness: the formulaity of the plot set-up, cast of characters and reveal. Otherwise known as the Retired-Colonel-Ometer…

Rate of Contextual Controversy: or the extent to which racist, sexist or other generally a-bit-off-by-today’s-standards references are casually scattered about the text

marple kitteh

A Murder is Announced – WIAN? RC REVIEW

Plot summaryThe residents of Chipping Cleghorn are aghast/delighted/upset by an announcement in the local paper stating that a murder will take place at the big house at a given time.  Said nosey residents turn up to see what goes down, only to be shocked/dazzled/terrified when the lights go out at said given time.  Shots are fired, a body is discovered….enter Miss Marple (in a casual and nondescript fashion) for the usual highjinks after local constabulary assess that the situation is a bit iffy.

Stitch Droppage:  2stars   While the premise looked promising, I would be lying if I said I was totally gripped from beginning to end.

Red Herring Haul: 2stars A few tricksy traps were left out to trip up the unwary, but I didn’t feel these were of the calibre of red herrings in other Christie offerings.

Butler-osity: 3_stars_svg Quite a complex ending – worthy of both eyebrows being raised and the uttering of an appreciative “Mmmm!”

Common-or-Garden-ness: 5-Stars  Retired Colonel who served in the colonies? Check.  Quiet rural village with a spectacularly silly name? Yesiree!  Oodles of live-in hangers-on with shady backgrounds? You bet your sweet bippy!! It’s a veritable feast for all those Christie-capers we know and love.

Contextual Controversy: 5-StarsRacial stereotypes abound! It’s almost a Blyton-esque parade of casually related remarks about the general unsavoury nature of “foreigners”.

Plot in a Poem:

If you’re game to earn a shilling,

the stage is set to make a killing!

Overall Rating: Meh.  Not her best work, but a reasonable enough read for a rainy day.

So, that’s one down, many to go….

Until next time,

Bruce

 

 

Decisions, decisions: 2013 Reader’s Challenge Prep…

13

Afternoon all.  No doubt some of you are still sleeping off some recent gut-busting feast-related behaviour, so I thought I would make this a fairly gently post out of respect for your continuing processes of digestion.  To that end, I thought I would float my current ideas for responding to Beth Fish’s “What’s In A Name” Reading Challenge.  Given that the challenge only has six categories, and given that I am perfectly capable of reading at least 25 times that number of books in a year (probably), I have decided that I will attack this challenge twice.

But why, Bruce, why?  What benefit could there be in submitting yourself to the same challenge twice? Well frankly, I’m glad you asked.  And I’m touched by your concern….thank you dear reader!  I have decided to respond to this challenge with a regular, run-of-the-mill, list of books that meet the requirements…..and then repeat this feat with books by or about Agatha Christie!! Brilliant! Long-time readers of this blog will be aware of my Christie fandom, and this seemed like a perfect excuse…ahem….opportunity to get some more Christies under the belt.

So here are my choices (at present) for each category, for my Christie Listie, and my Christie-less List.

Category 1: A book with Up or Down (or its equivalent) in the title

death in the cloudsblue jay

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Category 2: A book with something you might find in your kitchen in the title

curtainJam

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Category 3: A book with a party or celebration in the title

 

murder is announcedjanuary first

I should probably point out that while there are other Christie titles that more obviously fit this category, such as Halloween Party and After the Funeral, I have already read them.  So I had to be a bit obscure instead (insert evil laugh here).

Category 4: A book with fire or its equivalent in the title

 

chimneys

smoke and mirrors

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Category 5: A book with an emotion in the title

sad cypresshopeless maine

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Annoyingly, Sad Cypress seems to be the only Christie title with an emotion in the title I can find.  If anyone can find another, please feel free to let me know – I like to have options!

Category 6: A book with lost or found or its equivalent in the title

missing daysarchived

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m being a bit cheeky in this category too: see, if something is archived, it is to allow it to be FOUND easily and prevent it from being LOST…..

Well, if anyone has any suggestions or feedback about these lists feel free to chime in.  They aren’t set in stone (heheee, geddit? Gargoyle? Set in stone? Ahh, I crack myself up…..heheeeeeee! geddit? Stone? Crack Up?  Ah, excuse me while I wipe the tears of mirth from my eyes….)

Until next time,

Bruce