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Archive for the ‘review’ Category

two by marsh


Ngaio Marsh, and Agatha Christie, and John Dickinson Carr, occupy a special place in my childhood history of reading. Sometime in between The Hobbit and Foundation, I went on what can only be described as a British mystery reading spree and attempted to read everything these people had ever written. Along with,of course, everything Arthur Conan Doyle had ever written. Ngaio Marsh, though she had the smallest number of books (and, well, is technically a New Zealander), outshines everyone on pure quality of her writing.
Two of my favourites are Vintage Murder and Death of a Peer, and, as I wend my way through my library, I picked them up to read during our recent snow storm.
Vintage Murder is an early, and fun, book in the Roderick Alleyn series. This one takes place as he is travelling through New Zealand and recovering from some unspecified operation. It is early in the canon as he is not yet married or dreaming of his future wife. There is a rugby-hooligan type incident on a train that ends with a bruised backside on one of the characters and a theft before the main murder even occurs. This book has a number of characters, and following every movement of each person can get baffling at times; however, Marsh never makes the reader feel as if Alleyn knows something special or has super-powers, merely that his powers of deduction are sharp and that all of the information is there that is necessary to solve the mystery along with him.
It is interesting to note that the translations of the book all mention the murder weapon, but lose the pun inherent in the original title.
Death of a Peer, though, contains at its heart one of Marsh’s best creations, the Lamprey family. Dotty, eccentric, lovable, they form the center of a locked room mystery–and distract the reader from the horror of the crime itself. They nearly distract the detectives as well, but as Marsh’s Inspector Alleyn can always be relied upon to re-center himself, the distraction does not prove fatal and all of the clues are neatly laid out in the narrative itself. One of the characters even appears in a later book (Night at the Vulcan) and the quiet romance is dealt with deftly. Very well-plotted, very “British”, very enjoyable.

If you enjoy Christie, or even more recent incarnations such as Anne Perry, Ngaio Marsh would be well worth giving a try.

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I’ve got a new review up at bookgeeks on David Peace’s Tokyo Year Zero. It was a difficult review to write. The first time I read the book, I found myself distracted (and occasionally confused) by Peace’s oblique writing style. The second time around, I had an easier time of it, but the book still seemed to fall apart in my hands.
I don’t want to repeat the review…(bookgeeks is a cool site to visit!), but I think it’s interesting how books are labelled. When I originally picked Tokyo up, it was at least partially because it had been labelled as crime fiction, and, although there is a crime at the heart of it, that really has little to do with the experience of reading the book. It’s almost like calling Huckleberry Finn crime fiction–sure there’s a few crimes, but that’s not the point…Still enjoyable, though. (Both of them)

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The Penguin Book Blog is doing a fun “around the world in 80 books” journey through literature. It started with Great Expectations, and I must admit that it caused me to pause and wonder whether my dislike of that book was born of a not-so-great teacher and if I shouldn’t read it again. The post is definitely worth checking out. I posted one suggestion, and I then spent the next half-hour mumbling things like “Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court to Bloodsucking Fiends to Hard-Boiled Wonderland” in my attempts to circle the world reading fun books.
Oh, and, also?
There’s a review I wrote of P.C. Hodgell’s Godstalker Chronicles to be found here. Thanks bookgeeks!

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The legend that is Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along-Blog is now for sale on DVD (region free). If you missed it when it first appeared on the web, get it now. And make sure to check out the official website as well.
Just in case you may need further convincing; here are a few reviews that speak to how amazing this entire project was.
Review in which the DVD is lauded
Review in which the DVD is lauded although the reviewer is possibly suspect

Have fun. And, trust me, if you have anyone you are at a loss as to a gift this holiday season, this will fit the bill.

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While perusing one of the random book oriented websites I sometimes read, I came across this article on the availability of some free books on an iPhone e-reader. Immediately, (after my heart-rate had gone down at the thought of free books), I checked out the Stanza application on the iPhone and downloaded this book. I have two things to say.
One: the Stanza application (from Lexcycle) is one of the better ebook readers I’ve sampled. I actually like it better than the Kindle, partially because the “tapping” element now feels innate to me after iPhone use; partially because the pages load quite quickly once you are into the book, and I didn’t feel that there was as much dead time as with other ebook readers. The screen was clear and the typeface easy to read (although the ability to flip to a place within a book wasn’t as easy as with a physical book to deal with). The available books (I only checked out the free ones) are decent–although obviously a lot are missing (even of those books out of copyright). Every time I come across one of these readers, I start hoping that all of my favourite out of print books will be available. I found one or two here. So thumbs up from this picky (format-wise although not subject-wise) reader.
Two: I was right. Anything with the title “Free Range Chickens” had to at least be a little funny, and this was a lot funny. My favourite part so far? Some of the missing commandments. Including:

If it takes a man a long time to lead his people out of the desert and into the Promised Land, everyone should just be patient with him and learn to chill out a little.

Snort. For those who keep an eye on such things, a quote from the book appeared on reddit earlier this year (the one about the dissections from a frog point of view). Funny stuff.
Also, of course:

Everyone has to give Moses five dollars.

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Well, if you haven’t just received Fable II and Oblivion as birthday gifts, and you are me, you read. If you have received the above mentioned Xbox 360 games, you read and play the games. Sometimes simultaneously.
But for now, the books. I’ve been on a British mystery kick. Possibly inspired by my current location–and at least partially inspired by the fact that I now have access to my books again after six months of separation, and we are getting to know each other again. I thought I might put some of my reviews up here, as I realize that not everyone automatically gravitates towards these books, and they really do have something to offer.

The first book I read was Vintage Murder. An early, and fun, book in the Roderick Alleyn series. This one takes place as he is travelling through New Zealand and recovering from some unspecified operation. It is early in the canon as he is not yet married or dreaming of his future wife. There is a rugby-hooligan type incident on a train that ends with a bruised backside on one of the characters and a theft before the main murder even occurs. This book has a number of characters, and following every movement of each person can get baffling at times; however, Marsh never makes the reader feel as if Alleyn knows something special or has super-powers, merely that his powers of deduction are sharp and that all of the information is there that is necessary to solve the mystery along with him.
It is interesting to note that the translations of the book all mention the murder weapon, but lose the pun inherent in the original title.
I’ll get to the rest of the books (and the Xbox games) in later posts, but I highly recommend Marsh. Even if you find Agatha Christie too “stuffy”, Marsh is a lively and entertaining writer. Of course, this is coming from someone who loves most of Christie’s work, so your mileage may vary.

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Do you know everyone?

Probably because I have a habit of connecting two people who need similar things (in this instance, I think it was a friend who needed somewhere to stay and another friend who needed someone to rent)–and I do know quite a few people–one of the results of having moved a lot–jobs, houses, countries–you end up with a number of acquaintances.
I am however several orders of magnitude away from Katharine Graham in the “do you know everyone” question.

I picked up her autobiography on a whim–more because “All the President’s Men” is one of my favorite books than because I felt any sort of driving need to learn her life story. Her life story (so far, I am only up to when she and her husband have just taken over the Washington Post) is turning into a fascinating read though.
So far, she has met Einstein (rowing a boat), several presidents (Roosevelt, Wilson), a scattering of important artists (Rodin, Brancusi), and a number of names I had to write down to look up later. She has done all of this while being increasingly charming–for all of her privileged upbringing, she portrays herself as someone who was both ignorant of the extent of her privilege and uncomfortable with what she did realize she had. That, coupled with the upbringing that insisted that all of her family make active contributions to the public good, make this book a fantastic read so far. It’s a fascinating way to watch history unfold–I can’t wait to get to Watergate.

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