Reviews & Rants - Blogging about books, authors, and generally
Harriet was silent. She suddenly saw Wimsey in a new light. She knew him to be intelligent, clean, courteous, wealthy, well-read, amusing and enamoured, but he had not so far produced in her that crushing sense of utter inferiority which leads to prostration and hero-worship. But she now realised that there was, after all, something godlike about him. He could control a horse.
This is brilliant. I love how much fun Sayers was having with her characters.
Even if she might have been serious about Harriet's epiphany, the scene just before where Peter and Harriet are scouring the beach for clues was hilarious (and was obviously meant to be funny by Sayers).
Harriet: (after a long and unproductive pause, meeting Peter with a sodden Gold Flake packet in one hand and half a Bible in the other): Dr Livingstone, I presume. Do murderers read the Bible?
Peter: Any book had served as well, Any book had stopped the bullet – that may be; I cannot tell.
Harriet (reading): ‘Last of all the woman died also’ – probably from backache.
Peter: My back aches, and a drowsy numbness stills My brain, as though of hemlock –
Harriet (suddenly practical): Look at the cigarette-card.
Peter: It belongs to the new series.
Harriet: Then it may be quite recent.
Peter (wearily): All right; keep it; we’ll call it a clue. How about the Holy Writ?
Harriet (in a marked manner): You can keep that; it might be good for you.
Peter: Very well. (In a still more marked manner) Shall we begin with the Song of Songs.
Harriet: Get on with your job.
Peter: I am. How far have we come?
Harriet: How many leagues to Babylon?
Peter: We have walked a mile and a half, and we are still in full view of the Flat-Iron.
Peter: I just wanted to ask whether you’d given any further thought to that suggestion about marrying me.
Harriet (sarcastically): I suppose you were thinking how delightful it would be to go through life like this together?
Peter: Well, not quite like this. Hand in hand was more my idea.
Harriet: What is that in your hand?
Peter: A dead starfish.
Harriet: Poor fish!
Peter: No ill-feeling, I trust.
Harriet: Oh, dear no.
‘Ass! Oh, it’s not fair. You always make me laugh. I can’t fight – I’m so tired. You don’t seem to know what being tired is. Stop. Let go. I won’t be bullied. Thank God! there’s the telephone.’
‘Damn the telephone!’
‘It’s probably something very important.’
She got up and went to the instrument, leaving Wimsey on his knees, looking, and feeling, sufficiently absurd.
Damn. That was one tense romantic crisis. More please!
Oh, and it is entirely impossible to picture Wimsey and Harriet as anyone else but the characters portrayed by Edward Petherbridge and Harriet Walter.
I meant to write an update last night but was way too tired to type.
This Wimsey/Vane story is delightful so far, especially after the let-down that was The Five Red Herrings.
It funny and charming, and still involves a potential murder.
Harriet and Peter crack me up, not only because Peter seems to throw in proposals of marriage in almost every interaction they have. This might be creepy if it wasn't Peter, but luckily this is Peter:
In spite of the horrors she had witnessed, which ought to have driven all sleep away from the eyelids of any self-respecting female, Harriet slept profoundly in her first-floor bedroom (with bathroom, balcony and view over Esplanade) and came down to breakfast with a hearty appetite.
She secured a copy of the Morning Star, and was deep in the perusal of her own interview (with photograph) on the front page, when a familiar voice addressed her:
‘Good morning, Sherlock. Where is the dressing-gown? How many pipes of shag have you consumed? The hypodermic is on the dressing-room table.’
‘How in the world,’ demanded Harriet, ‘did you get here?’
‘Car,’ said Lord Peter, briefly. ‘Have they produced the body?’
‘Who told you about the body?’
‘I nosed it from afar. Where the carcase is, there shall be eagles gathered together. May I join you over the bacon-and-eggs?’
‘By all means,’ said Harriet. ‘Where did you come from?’
‘From London – like a bird that hears the call of its mate.’
‘I didn’t—’ began Harriet.
‘I didn’t mean you. I meant the corpse. But still, talking of mates, will you marry me?’ ‘
‘I thought not, but I felt I might as well ask the question. Did you say they had found the body?’
Telegram from Lord Peter Wimsey to Miss Harriet Vane: following razor clue to stamford refuse resemble thriller hero who hangs round heroine to neglect of duty but will you marry me – peter.
Telegram from Miss Harriet Vane to Lord Peter Wimsey: good hunting certainly not some developments here – vane.
Once again the Auditor managed to retain a shape for a few seconds, and managed to say: you cannot do this, there are rules!
YES. THERE ARE RULES. BUT YOU BROKE THEM. HOW DARE YOU? HOW DARE YOU?
The scythe blade was a thin blue outline in the grey light. Death raised a thin finger to where his lips might have been, and suddenly looked thoughtful.
AND NOW THERE REMAINS ONLY ONE FINAL QUESTION, he said. He raised his hands, and seemed to grow. Light flared in his eye sockets. When he spoke next, avalanches fell in the mountains.
HAVE YOU BEEN NAUGHTY . . . OR NICE?
HO. HO. HO.
Yup, this is still one of my favourite books, and definitely a must-(re-)read for end of the year.
It was a big drink. A very big and a very long drink. It was one of those special cocktails where each very sticky, very strong ingredient is poured in very slowly, so that they layer on top of one another. Drinks like this tend to get called Traffic Lights or Rainbow’s Revenge or, in places where truth is more highly valued, Hello and Goodbye, Mr Brain Cell. In addition, this drink had some lettuce floating in it. And a slice of lemon and a piece of pineapple hooked coquettishly on the side of the glass, which had sugar frosted round the rim. There were two paper umbrellas, one pink and one blue, and they each had a cherry on the end. And someone had taken the trouble to freeze ice cubes in the shape of little elephants.
After that, there’s no hope. You might as well be drinking in a place called the Cococobana.
The God of Wine picked it up lovingly. It was his kind of drink.
‘You mean you have actually devoted time to considering how to inhume the Hogfather?’ he said weakly. ‘You’ve actually sat down and thought out how to do it? You’ve actually devoted your spare time to the problem?’
‘Oh, yes, sir. And the Soul Cake Duck. And the Sandman. And Death.’
Downey blinked again.
‘You’ve actually sat down and considered how to—’
‘Yes, sir. I’ve amassed quite an interesting file. In my own time, of course.’
‘I want to be quite certain about this, Mister Teatime. You . . . have . . . applied . . . yourself to a study of ways of killing Death?’
‘Only as a hobby, sir.’
Still one of the best conversations on a Pratchett novel. :)
And I apologise in advance: I love quoting from this book and there are just so many quotable paragraphs.
Here we go...
"EVERYTHING STARTS SOMEWHERE, although many physicists disagree. But people have always been dimly aware of the problem with the start of things. They wonder aloud how the snowplough driver gets to work, or how the makers of dictionaries look up the spelling of the words. Yet there is the constant desire to find some point in the twisting, knotting, ravelling nets of space-time on which a metaphorical finger can be put to indicate that here, here, is the point where it all began . . ."
This is a re-read for me, and it's not the first re-read. This is one of the books that I love reading around this time of the year. It's perfect - when the saccharine mush of festive cheer gets going, I like to be reminded of the darker side of festive legends.
No, not the auditors.
I do mean the verruca gnomes!
To anyone else reading The Hogfather this month,
Have fun All!
I have not thought of markers, yet, but just wanted to make a start on how I will keep track of this game. Tasks completed will be marked with a Jingle Sheep, additional tasks will be festive baubles. I'll re-post this post whenever there is an update, will list the tasks/books completed below, and will link to the relevant task/book post.
Task 1: Tell us: What is the mother of all writerly sins in your book (tropes, grammar mistakes, telling instead of showing, etc.)?
There have been a lot of great posts about this task already and a lot of the "sins" that have been mentioned are ones that would put me off a book, too, such as the book being boring.
The mother of all writerly sins for me, however, is when an author comes across as arrogant, patronising, biased, stupid, or revelling in his/her own greatness.
That for me is the worst.
And for clarity, I understand when a character is written to come across as any of these things. That is different. I get the point of why an author may create a character like that. No, what I am talking about is when the author him/herself shines through the writing.
Task 2: Do you have a favorite Mothers’ Day memory that you are happy to share? Photos welcome but optional.
I don't have a favourite Mother's Day memory because, for some reason or none, Mother's Day was not something we did in my family. I have no idea why or why not, it's just that we didn't...
Task 3: Perhaps the best-known scene in the James Bond novel and film From Russia With Love is 007 being poisoned by Russian agent Rosa Klebb with a venom-laced blade hidden in her shoe. Tell us: Have you ever owned any particular / outrageous / funny / best-beloved or otherwise special pair of shoes? Post a photo if you should still own them.
Yes! No picture as I don't have the shoes anymore, and there was nothing all that special about the shoes, but I once owned pair of Vans that I bought in Liverpool during Beatleweek (a time when comfy footwear is essential) and that I loved so much that I wore them to the point that they literally fell apart.
Task 4: Make a traditional Russian dish like borscht, blintzes, pirogi or solyanka soup, and share a picture with us. Find recipe suggestions here: https://www.expatica.com/ru/about/Top-10-Russian-foods-and-recipes_108678.html
Book: Read a book set in Russia, or involving a story within a story / play within a play (like the Russian matryoshka dolls stuck inside each other), or where a key character (not necessarily the protagonist) is a mother.
Update - 04 Dec.: Tasks 3 & 4 completed.
Task 1: Make a paper boat and post a picture of it. Instructions, if needed: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hiAWx8odStA
Task 2: If you’ve ever attended a procession or an event involving festively decked out boats, post a picture and tell us about it.
This is another challenge that is trickier than I thought. Despite living on the coast and having a couple of boat festivals close by, I don't think they involved much festive decoration of the boats. Even the local university boat race, which I try and watch each year (because some friends of mine are involved with one of the boat clubs and there is usually a picnic going) is not keen on decorating the boats as they need to be as lightweight as possible.
The one event I think that came close to meeting the decoration task was the Inter-Company Regatta this year, which is also organised by the boat club (hence I happened to meet one of my friends there and watch the goings on from the upper deck of the boat house, i.e. the bar). I say this event came close because it wasn't actually the boats that were "dressed up".
(source - I don't seem to have taken pics of the race)
Task 3: Bon Om Touk celebrates the end of the rainy season. Tell us: What’s your favorite type of rainy day book – and do you have a favorite drink or snack to go with your rainy day reading? Photos welcome!
One with words, preferably, good words in a kind of sensible order. I know, it's not much to ask for. But then I don't tend to lean towards a particular kind of book on a rainy day.
Also, I live in Scotland. We have a lot of rain.
Tho, whatever the book, tea or coffee always make for great reading drinks.
Task 4: Which are your 3 favorite books where a key character is “moonlighting”?
1. Sherlock Holmes - There are too many stories to list, so I'll only designate one entry to Holmes' moonlighting variably as a priest, a plumber, a dying man, a vagabond, a down-and-out bookseller, ... So.Many.Fun.Adventures!
2. Edmond Dantes as The Count of Monte Cristo.
3. Hercule Poirot as his own twin brother. I know. This was one of the stupidest plots Christie ever came up with. The Big Four is, you may be surprised to learn, my favourite of the "bad Christies", because it is just so bad, that it does make me laugh. A lot.
Book: Read a book that takes place at sea or on a river OR with water on the cover OR where the plot involves a festival or the moon plays a pivotal role in the plot.
Update - 04 Dec.: Task 1 and 2 completed.
Task 1: List the 3 books you’ve read this year you’re most “thankful” for (your favs) or the one book you’ve ever read that changed your life for the better.
Jane Wagner's - The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe
I have not written a review for this, yet, but I found this book (which was also a Broadway show starring Lily Tomlin) rather thought-provoking and moving, and there is one scene, where the "crazy" lady takes the aliens to the theatre that is just hard to forget. It is seriously beautiful, and, like much of the book, makes the reader question perspectives that we take for granted.
Marc-Uwe Kling's - Das Känguru-Manifest (and the rest of the trilogy)
I believe non-German-speaking readers are missing out here. I loved everything about this book (and its sequels). So much so, that the audio-versions accompanied me and mum on our trip to Berlin (where the book is set). Seriously, I could not belive that I would grow so fond of a communist kangaroo and it's struggle against it's nemesis - the penguin from across the hall.
Ursula K. LeGuin's - No Time to Spare
It may be that reading this book shortly after LeGuin's passing added to the book's impact on me, but it brought home so many things about Le Guin, her attitude to life, to readers, authors, as well as my attitude towards her work and so much more. I really loved this one.
Task 2: Describe your perfect meal. What would you cook for the perfect celebration, or, what would you have your imaginary personal chef cook for you?
I thought about this one long and hard, but I don't think I have a favourite meal, and to move along further in the task's description, I don't think there is anything I would ask a chef to cook for me. The reason for this is that my favourite meals have probably been the ones prepared by of for and shared with friends and/or family.
I think I mentioned it in a comment somewhere, but my gran's potato salad was one of those meals. She didn't use a recipe, and it was simply the best. My mum and I have tried for decades to recreate it, but come only marginally close (tho my mum has created her own outstanding version in the process...).
I am fairly convinced that no chef could ever even come close.
Task 3: Name a book you’ve read this year that you thought was full of “stuffing”.
Again, I keep thinking about how The Hunchback of Notre Dame was full of weird descriptions of architecture, but this had a purpose and I really liked it, so I can't nominate that book for this task.
Steve Brusatte's Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs on the other hand, ... now there was a book the content of which could have been halved if the unnecessary detail had been removed.
It would still have been a painful (read "cringe-inducing") read, but at least it would have made for a short book.
Task 4: Show us your 2018 book “harvest” – the books you newly acquired this year, regardless whether bought, received as gift or in whichever other way.
Skipping this. There are too many books to face here, and I didn't exactly keep a record.
Book: Autumnal covers, set in New England, or a turkey shows up in the story.
(searching for book)
They had been profitable years, with Ava earning enough money for the condo and the car and an impressive investment portfolio. But the best thing about the jobs she and Uncle did was the ride getting to the money - it was never the same twice, and though it taxed her emotionally, it also forced her to expand her senses and her thought processes. Then there were the clients. Although she complained about them sometimes, especially those who in utter desperation were far too clinging and demanding, she also accepted Uncle's conviction that they were simply lost souls looking for redemption. "When we get them their money back, what we are really doing is saving their lives," he would say. Ava believed that, too.
Ava Lee is a forensic accountant, but we learn very little about what forensic accountants do in this book, because right from the get-go, Ava Lee turns into this shady figure tracking down people and information by using any means necessary - deception, coercion, chloral hydrate, but very little accounting.
Oh, I am so conflicted about this book. I really wanted to like this a lot. I was really hoping to find a new series that would fill that silly void left by other series about action-packed espionage. And this one looked good because the idea of a Bond-like figure written as a woman sounded too good to pass by.
However, the execution of the book didn't live up to my expectations at all. There are silly plot elements that required me to suspend disbelief just a little too much, like when Ava calls up a shipping company out of the cold and they remember every single detail about a one-off, very ordinary, transaction from 8 weeks earlier, and they didn't even have to consult their files? I found that hardly credible.
There were other elements of the writing that also grated on me: the use of brand names instead of descriptions, was a major annoyance. I find this so lazy. Even if we get to learn that someone wore Adidas pants, it still doesn't tell me what colour or style or whether they were tracksuit bottoms or the more fashion-conscious kind. All I know is that they may have stripes down the sides (tho not all of them do...).
So lazy. Yet, this book is full of this. Brand names appear so often that I once even laughed at how the multitude of product placement compared to a James Bond film, which is famously full of the same advertising.
There was one particular scene where the author has Ava decide between two hotels in Hong Kong (or was it Macao), and I literally had to skip the page because I was not going to put up with reading an advertising leaflet for the Mandarin Oriental. Still, as we can see, the advert worked as I will forever remember the name of the hotel. Gaaaahhh...
I'm so annoyed about this. And I haven't even mentioned Ava's addition to a particular kind of Starbucks coffee sachet...
In all of this, what I can only describe as an exercise to replace descriptive writing with consumerist imagery, the plot and character development gets left behind.
In the first half of the book, Ava does little else than answer phone calls and jump on planes to exotic locations.
In the second half of the book, the plot thickens. Or rather, Ava breaks out her martial art skills to kidnap someone...
Ironically, this is where I should have really gotten into the book and just didn't. It took me a lot longer to finish the book than I thought, because I just could not face the tedium of reading about Ava's attempts to restore money to a company account. I think I'd have been more interested in it if the underlying purpose had not been quite so ... transactional, and if there had been more emphasis on the characters involved.
Prompted by Themis-Athena's post about the 24 Festive Tasks stats, it dawned that we're approaching Hogswatch!
So, in the spirit of the season, who's in for a Hogfather buddy read?
All through December 2018.
Right here! Please comment below if you fancy to join the buddy read, so we all know who is reading, and can make sure to follow everyone to see and comment on update posts.
Whether you're taking part in the 24 Festive Tasks or not,
Anyone and everyone is welcome to join in!
I suggest we use "Hogfather Buddy Read" as a tag.
I should be able to finish this book today, as I am having up to 2 hours of uninterrupted reading time while my car is getting new winter tyres put on.
The gent at the garage told me I could wait or I could leave and he'd give me a call when they have finished. Even he smiled when I pulled out my book asking him to point me to their waiting room.
So, reading the heck out of this book while fuelled by garage coffee. :)
As for the book, I'm still interested but there are elements that really annoy me.
For example, I find it a stretch to believe that a shipping company would remember the details of a one-off job from 8 weeks ago, that was a normal job, without consulting its files.
That does not happen, and yet, this happened twice already.