At Bertram’s Hotel by Agatha Christie

I’m on an Agatha Christie kick so I picked this up at the library.

At Bertram's Hotel (Miss Marple, #11) Stats: The books was first published in January, 1965 (she died in 1971). In print it’s 223 pages. In audio form it’s only 2 discs – 2’20”. I listened to the BBC version, which is a dramatization, so there are multiple people involved, all playing their own character and sound effects – like a radion drama. Always enjoyable to listen to.

Blurb: An old-fashioned London Hotel is not quite as reputable as it makes out! When Miss Marple comes up from the country for a holiday in London, she finds what she’s looking for at Bertram’s Hotel: traditional decor, impeccable service and an unmistakable atmosphere of danger behind the highly polished veneer. Yet, not even Miss Marple can foresee the violent chain of events set in motion when an eccentric guest makes his way to the airport on the wrong day!

What I like: Mostly I liked the presentation of the story in drama form. I didn’t figure out who was the mastermind behind the chain of robberies, but Christie makes it easy to see who is at least partially involved. She has her usual trick of having many people involved in the story itself to keep you guessing on how they all fit in.

What I didn’t like: Miss Marple is hardly part of the story. I read another of Christie’s Miss Marple stories that was the same way. I suppose an old lady can only be in the center of so many murders, but when she isn’t, the stories just aren’t as enjoyable to me. You don’t get a feel for the other characters in a way that you care enough what is going on. And this was very short too.

Rating: 3/5  Not one of her better stories. I would rate the drama a 4/5.

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Published in: on February 1, 2018 at 11:26am02  Leave a Comment  
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Death on the Nile – Agatha Christie

Death on the NileI am writing a mystery (the third book in the Agnes Kelly Mystery Adventure) so I want to listen to good mystery novels and who is better than Agatha? – Not many 🙂

Stats: First published Nov. 1, 1937. Audio book is 8 hours (7 discs). This audio books was narrated by the actor David Suchet.

Blurb: (Goodreads) Linnet Doyle is young, beautiful, and rich. She’s the girl who has everything–including the man her best friend loves. When Linnet and her new husband take a cruise on the Nile, they meet brilliant detective Hercule Poirot. It should be an idyllic trip, yet Poirot feels that something is amiss.

What I liked: I really didn’t have a clue to “who done it” until the very end even though the murder took place on a moving boat. And I think the only reason I figured it out before Poirot announced it was I think maybe I have read the story a long time ago but don’t remember that I read it. But I didn’t remember the surprise at the very end. I wonder why Christie decided to add that last bit. It is interesting as a writer how there is quite a bit of setup before the murder even takes place. That would never fly in a story written today. And not only does the murder kill once, but three times before Poirot figures out who did it. I always enjoy Christie’s portrayal of Poirot – he does think highly of himself.

What I didn’t like: There was a bit too much background information to my liking and it got a little confusing about who was who, because there has to be many different characters since the murder happens on a moving boat and there has to be various people to suspect of the crime. David Suchet does a wonderful job creating the different characters.

Rating: 4/5

 

Published in: on January 14, 2018 at 11:26pm01  Leave a Comment  
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Death of a Chimney Sweep by M.C. Beaton

Death of a Chimney Sweep (Hamish Macbeth #26)I was up for a mystery. I wanted to listen to Agatha Christie but the library I was in didn’t have her in audio (unheard of!) so I picked this up. I’d never read Beaton (aka Marion Chesney) before. It’s not the first dead body I’ve read about in a chimney, however. I wonder if this is mostly a writer’s fantasy or do murderers really stuff bodies in chimneys? Sounds difficult to me!

Stats: published in 2011, print is 247 pages, audio book is 5 discs or 5′ 37″, narrator is Graeme Malcolm.

Blurb: In the south of Scotland, residents get their chimneys vacuum-cleaned. But in the isolated villages in the very north of Scotland, the villagers rely on the services of the itinerant sweep, Pete Ray, and his old-fashioned brushes. Pete is always able to find work in the Scottish highlands, until one day when Police Constable Hamish Macbeth notices blood dripping onto the floor of a villager’s fireplace, and a dead body stuffed inside the chimney. The entire town of Lochdubh is certain Pete is the culprit, but Hamish doesn’t believe that the affable chimney sweep is capable of committing murder. Then Pete’s body is found on the Scottish moors, and the mystery deepens. Once again, it’s up to Hamish to discover who’s responsible for the dirty deed–and this time, the murderer may be closer than he realizes.

What I liked: I especially liked the narration. Malcolm does a wonderful job with the various characters so that you can almost picture them. I don’t know the man, but he’s got to be from England or maybe even Scotland, where the story takes place. I liked the town folk of Lochdubh (what a wonderful town name – I wonder if it’s real?). Beaton/Chesney does well in playing up the local flare. The lady spinster giving the bad guy bleach with his tea was a particularly nice touch! And the Hamish character is very lovable – a practical man (gets rid of a dead body rather than have his cat implicated), smart and quirky. I’m not surprised she has more books around him.

What I didn’t like: The author has an odd writing style – bouncing around from one character to another to tie up loose writing end no matter what was going on. It threw me at first but by the end, I was used to it and could just take it in stride. I wonder if all her Hamish mysteries are written this way?

Rating: 4/5 – A fun read/listen

The Rooster Bar by John Grisham

The Rooster BarThe newest book by John Grisham – why not?!

Stats: Published in October of this year. Print is 352 pages. I’m not sure how many discs in the audio book, which is what I listened to. I couldn’t get past #3.

Blurb: Mark, Todd, and Zola came to law school to change the world, to make it a better place. But now, as third-year students, these close friends realize they have been duped. They all borrowed heavily to attend a third-tier, for-profit law school so mediocre that its graduates rarely pass the bar exam, let alone get good jobs. And when they learn that their school is one of a chain owned by a shady New York hedge-fund operator who also happens to own a bank specializing in student loans, the three know they have been caught up in The Great Law School Scam.

But maybe there’s a way out. Maybe there’s a way to escape their crushing debt, expose the bank and the scam, and make a few bucks in the process. But to do so, they would first have to quit school. And leaving law school a few short months before graduation would be completely crazy, right? Well, yes and no.

What I liked: Nothing but the narration (and sorry, I took the audio book back to the library before I wrote down who did the narration, but he did a fine job). I couldn’t get past the third disc. There was no reason for me to continue. Oh, and the cover is nice.

What I didn’t like: Most everything. The characters were so ignorant and they had no goal by disc 3 expect to stop school before their final (yes, final) semester (I told you they were ignorant) to make money illegally in order to try and get out the large college dept they all held. This lack of a story goal this far into the story despite the death of their close friend. But you have to take John’s word on the fact that they’re close, because until you meet him in disc 2, you don’t even know he’s around. (Obviously, this was going to be the goal – avenge their friend’s death. A guy who, like themselves, was swamped in school dept, among other things, so he kills himself. No big mystery there either.) What was Grisham thinking with this book? What was his editor thinking?! And how does this book have an average of 4/5 on Goodreads?!

It’s nice that he is talking about sad story of student dept in this country – and the people who pray on those students, including our very own Sally Mae! But if he doesn’t write a story that makes a person care about the characters, how are they going to care about the dept they are carrying?

Is this a case of the Emperor’s new clothes?!

Rating: 1/5  I wouldn’t bother.

Published in: on November 21, 2017 at 11:26am11  Comments (7)  
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Nevertheless by Alec Baldwin

34647681I like Alec Baldwin so I thought it might be interesting to read his memoir.

Stats: Published in April of this year. I listened to the audio book. Alec is the narrator. It is 7 discs and 8.5 hours long. The print book is 288 pages.

Blurb: In Nevertheless, Baldwin transcends his public persona, making public facets of his life he has long kept private. In this honest, affecting memoir, he introduces us to the Long Island child who felt burdened by his family’s financial strains and his parents’ unhappy marriage; the Washington, DC, college student gearing up for a career in politics; the self-named “Love Taxi” who helped friends solve their romantic problems while neglecting his own; the young soap actor learning from giants of the theatre; the addict drawn to drugs and alcohol who struggles with sobriety; the husband and father who acknowledges his failings and battles to overcome them; and the consummate professional for whom the work is everything. Throughout Nevertheless, one constant emerges: the fearlessness that defines and drives Baldwin’s life.

Told with his signature candor, astute observational savvy, and devastating wit, Nevertheless reveals an Alec Baldwin we have never fully seen before.

What I liked: It is a candid memoir – as the marketing material proposes, and so you get to see the inside world of a struggling and then not so struggling actor. One thing that struck me was how gracious Alec (born in 1958 as Alexander Rae Baldwin III) to his ex-wife, Kim Basinger, who pulled him through a 5 year court battle over their daughter (or was it 7). Alec has a bit of a temper it seems – as he describes some encounters with reporters or photographers trying to go where normal people would not (and should not) go – so I’m sure that didn’t help in with the court battle. But what normal person could go through that and not come out scared and angry in some way. The book is mostly chronological, so you get to see how he grew up in Massapequa, New York, which I think is a Long Island community, and his round-about way into acting. I’m also impressed by Alec’s writing skills. He did a wonderful job writing about himself and keeping it interesting, which I think would not be an easy thing to do, even if your life is more interesting than most, as in this case.

What I didn’t like: Strangely enough, I wouldn’t have picked Alec to narrate this story. His normal voice is a bit too monotone for an audio book. But otherwise, it’s an interesting read, if you like memoirs.

Rating: 4/5

Published in: on November 13, 2017 at 11:26pm11  Leave a Comment  
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Death Sucks Life Doesn’t Have To by Brea Behn

Did a book swap with the author of this book (one of hers for one of mine). This is my honest review.Death Sucks, Life Doesn't Have To

Stats: Published in 2015, 86 pages.

Blurb: (Goodreads) Grief is a normal reaction to the loss of a loved one. However, when not handled properly, grief can lead to depression and poor health. Death Sucks, Life Doesn’t Have To is the inspirational story of how author and speaker Brea Behn lost her twin at the age of fifteen to an accident with a handgun. The loss of her twin spiraled her into depression and resulted in serious health problems.

In her fifteen year journey she has healed to find peace, joy, and happiness. Brea will share with you how she accomplished this and some great tips and suggestions on how others can too. Also included is a great resources chapter full of suggested books, lists, and websites to help readers personalize their journey of healing.

What I liked: The author doesn’t skirt around the issues she faced and still faces. She is honest about how she dealt with things, which leads more weight to how she made her way out of the situations that faced her. It’s a very honest account of dealing with very difficult and even life threatening issues. The resources in the back of the book are very good and divided up for easier access. Behan admits it’s not an all-encompassing list, but it’s a good start for anyone trying to help themselves or others in similar situations. I think her advice is sound.

What I didn’t like: Not much. As a book editor, there were some editing things that could be addressed but that doesn’t dampen the overall positive appeal.

Rating: 4/5

Published in: on November 6, 2017 at 11:26pm11  Leave a Comment  
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The Ghost of the Mary Celeste by Valerie Martin

19084471I bling library pick and I was truly blind when I picked it out.

Stats: Audio book is 10 discs – 11′ 47″, read by Susie Berneis, published in 2014

Blurb: In 1872, the American merchant vessel Mary Celeste was discovered adrift off the coast of Spain. Her cargo was intact, but the crew was gone. They were never found. While on a voyage to Africa, an unproven young writer named Arthur Conan Doyle hears of the Mary Celeste and decides to write an outlandish story about what took place. This story causes quite a sensation back in the United States, particularly between sought-after Philadelphia spiritualist medium Violet Petra and a journalist named Phoebe Grant, who is seeking to expose Petra as a fraud. These three elements – a ship found sailing without a crew, a famous writer on the verge of enormous success, and the rise of an unorthodox and heretical religious fervor – converge in unexpected ways.

What I liked: The narrator did a wonderful job with all the voices – male and female alike. It helped to have Susie to listen to. The writing was good in and of itself but the story…

What I didn’t like: Most everything else. The story was laid out in the most odd way. You’d just be getting into a part of it and Ms Martin would pop off somewhere else. One could get used to that if it made sense, but where she popped to rarely made sense, only in that it was chronological. Then there is the story itself. It was obviously taken from a few true events – yes, there was an abandoned ship in 1872, and yes, the young Arthur Conan Doyle did write a fictional telling of the story, but I think (though I can’t be sure from my only online investigation of this vessel) the addition of the spiritualist – Violet Petra is pure fabrication. This is fine, of course, but it’s hard to figure out why. Spiritualism was probably was a big thing in the 1800s but why add it to this story – because of the idea of ghosts? Maybe, but it takes a reader down a path with character you care about only to drop you (and the characters) off a cliff, just as in the main fictional story of the Mary Celeste – a very unsatisfying ending to the main story and the substory alike.

Rating: 2/5  I’d have given it a 1/5 if it wasn’t for the very good writing and wonderful narration.

Published in: on October 26, 2017 at 11:26pm10  Leave a Comment  

Go Set a Watchman – Harper Lee

Go Set a WatchmanHad to listen when I saw this at my local library.

Stats: Audio book was 8 CDs (I think – can’t remember now) – 6′ 57:, narrated by Reese Witherspoon , print is 278 pages, published in July 2015

Blurb: Twenty-six-year-old Jean Louise Finch–“Scout”–returns home from New York City to visit her aging father, Atticus. Set against the backdrop of the civil rights tensions and political turmoil that were transforming the South, Jean Louise’s homecoming turns bittersweet when she learns disturbing truths about her close-knit family, the town and the people dearest to her. Memories from her childhood flood back, and her values and assumptions are thrown into doubt. Featuring many of the iconic characters from To Kill a MockingbirdGo Set a Watchman perfectly captures a young woman, and a world, in a painful yet necessary transition out of the illusions of the past–a journey that can be guided only by one’s conscience. Written in the mid-1950s, Go Set a Watchman imparts a fuller, richer understanding and appreciation of Harper Lee. Here is an unforgettable novel of wisdom, humanity, passion, humor and effortless precision–a profoundly affecting work of art that is both wonderfully evocative of another era and relevant to our own times. It not only confirms the enduring brilliance of To Kill a Mockingbird, but also serves as its essential companion, adding depth, context and new meaning to an American classic.

What I liked: The writing was wonderful, just wonderful, I think better than To Kill a Mockingbird (TKAM) . I loved listened to these well-known characters and Lee hasn’t skipped a beat. They are so rich and believable, I can tell Lee took much time constructing them. I particularly like the Uncle, until he slaps Jean Louise – twice! The story itself is interesting. I can see how some didn’t like the much-loved protrayal of Atticus in TKAM. I’m not sure why Lee took Atticus’ character the way she did- protecting his white privilage, other than to portray in very dramatic terms, the thinking of many at that time (1950s). It shocked current readers as it shocked Jean Louise. It was a masterful way of illustrating the point. Reese Witherspoon was also masterful in her narration. Loved every minute of it and would highly recommend the audio version of this book, even if you’re read it.

What I didn’t like: I didn’t think it followed Calpurnia’s character from TKAM. She was too cold to Scout for someone that brought her up for so many years, knowing that Jean Louise was truly colorblind. Calpurnia would have seen that and softened Scout’s angst at their meeting. I think Lee also overdid the wonderful tea that Aunt Alexandra had for Jean Louise, when she repeated multiple times and mixed snippets of their meaningless gossip. It was done so well and with great humor, but unfortunately over done.

Rating: 5/5 even despite the things I didn’t like. It wasn’t enough to decrease my enjoyment of this story and Lee’s writing.

The Orphan Mother by Robert Hicks

This was a new historical fiction audio book in my local library, so I snatched it up.

29214753Stats: Published September, 2016, print 320 pages, audio books: 9 discs read by Adenrele Ojo.

Blurb: In the years following the Civil War, Mariah Reddick, former slave to Carrie McGavock–the “Widow of the South”–has quietly built a new life for herself as a midwife to the women of Franklin, Tennessee. But when her ambitious, politically minded grown son, Theopolis, is murdered, Mariah–no stranger to loss–finds her world once more breaking apart. How could this happen? Who wanted him dead?
Mariah’s journey to uncover the truth leads her to unexpected people–including George Tole, a recent arrival to town, fleeing a difficult past of his own–and forces her to confront the truths of her own past. Brimming with the vivid prose and historical research that has won Robert Hicks recognition as a “master storyteller.”

What I liked: I liked the idea of the book. I was looking forward to leaning about how Mariah Reddick acquired her fortune – the setup in the first chapter of the book. For a woman born into slavery, it is an intriguing question.

What I didn’t like: Sorry to say, Mr. Hicks but most of what came after that first chapter. I don’t know if this fictional story is based off a true story or a fictional story set in a historic post-civil war background. I think Hicks portrays the times and the people (white and black) well, but not so that I care much about any of them. I try to want to find out about Mariah and Mr. Tole’s story, but it is so slow and so poorly edited, that I can’t get past disc 4. I tried, I really did. It just seems like Hicks tried to weave a much smaller story, much larger and the suit doesn’t fit. Adenrele Ojo’s voice as narrator works well, but it’s a bit sing-songie too much of the time for my taste.

Rating: 2/5, though I do like the cover!

Published in: on August 10, 2017 at 11:26pm08  Leave a Comment  
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The Care and Management of Lies by Jacqueline Winspear

18655870I saw the author name on this audio book at my local library and enjoyed the one mystery I had read of hers and my daughter really likes her Maisie Dobbs series, (Maisie Dobbs – the first in her Maisie Dobbs series) so I thought this was worth a go.

Stats: Published in 2014, print is 319 pages, audio is 8 discs – 9.75 hours read by Nicola Barber

Blurb: (Goodreads) By July 1914, the ties between Kezia Marchant and Thea Brissenden, friends since girlhood, have become strained—by Thea’s passionate embrace of women’s suffrage and by the imminent marriage of Kezia to Thea’s brother, Tom, who runs the family farm. When Kezia and Tom wed just a month before war is declared between Britain and Germany, Thea’s gift to Kezia is a book on household management—a veiled criticism of the bride’s prosaic life to come. Yet when Tom enlists to fight for his country and Thea is drawn reluctantly onto the battlefield herself, the farm becomes Kezia’s responsibility. Each must find a way to endure the ensuing cataclysm and turmoil.

As Tom marches to the front lines and Kezia battles to keep her ordered life from unraveling, they hide their despair in letters and cards filled with stories woven to bring comfort. Even Tom’s fellow soldiers in the trenches enter and find solace in the dream world of Kezia’s mouth-watering, albeit imaginary, meals. But will well-intended lies and self-deception be of use when they come face-to-face with the enemy?

What I liked: It was well written and does a good job portraying the life of those in England and somewhat at the French front in WWI. Winspear does a good job with the bad guy in the book – the sergeant who has singled out Tom as his whipping boy. Nicola Barbar does a wonderful job with the narration.

What I didn’t like: Winspear didn’t really get me to care about most of the characters or their lives, except maybe Tom – the farmer and the main protagonist’s wife. Kezia is a wonder in that she takes to farm life like a duck out of water despite not having set foot in a kitchen before this. I think this is possible, but it’s just too tiddy – she really hardly has any hiccups with this new roll, even when she does it without her husband, hitching up the horse and everything!  (Not likely!) And Winspear uses a nice device of connecting with her husband in France through the recipes she makes (or pretends to) but it is way over used. I found myself fastforwarding through the 3rd and 4th and 5th time she uses this device. I won’t give away what happens at the end, but the sergeant does something that seems extreme even for the nasty man he is. It is supposed to be shocking bu just isn’t believable. She also lets you in on the life of their neighbor, who ends up being Tom’s superior, but she ends is participation in the book in a odd way, I think.

Rating: 2.5/5 If you want to read Winspear, stick to the Maisie Dobbs books.

Published in: on July 5, 2017 at 11:26pm07  Leave a Comment  
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