Reviews & Rants - Blogging about books, authors, and generally 

Reading progress update: I've read 10%.

The Scapegoat - Daphne du Maurier

"Sometimes a fourth drink can have the temporary effect of clearing the confusion caused by the previous three, [...]"

My favourite quote so far. I wonder if the author penned this from experience? 

Von der Erde zum Mond / From the Earth to the Moon

Von der Erde zum Mond - Jules Verne

As for the Yankees, they had no other ambition than to take possession of this new continent of the sky, and to plant upon the summit of its highest elevation the star- spangled banner of the United States of America.


Yup, this is still my favourite quote. Simply because I cannot get over Verne daring to imagine that iconic tv image from 1969 in 1865.


There were a lot fun points that Verne picked up in this novel and made fun of, but sadly a lot of the satire in this novel is at the expense of the US, who is pretty much represented only by the characters of the Baltimore Gun Club, who out of boredom following the end of the Civil War, attempt to build a cannon that can reach the moon. 


I enjoyed the poking fun at gun enthusiasts, I did not enjoy the poking fun at whole nation. There were some other stereotypes, too, French and German, but the majority of Verne's mockery was pointed firmly at the US.


Still, apart from the blatant stereotyping, this was a romp and fun, fun, fun diversion into imagining the impossible and then backing it up with science. Of course, we know now that the science was iffy, but it is conceivable that the readers in 1865 did not meet the book with our modern scepticism but with wonder and marvel. And I just love Verne's work for that. I would really love to know if anyone involved in space exploration was inspired by this book because I can totally see this being the case.


So, why not 5 stars? The sheer amount of maths and hypothesising about maths and physics, was just too much for me. 


Oh, and, the cat ate the squirrel. I'm just not ok with that.

A Bit of Tuesday Night Fun at the Park


Picnics at the ready!

BL-Opoly - 4th July Extra Book

Happy 4th to all!


I have a lot of books going on at the moment but given the chance to add to the pile, I'll do just exactly that. :D


So, of all possible choices for these squares,



I'll go with Daphne du Maurier's The Scapegoat. 


This qualifies for the #11 task - the plot seems to take place between 1945 and 57 (year of publication) and, of course, Du Maurier was born in 1907. 


Reading progress update: I've read 23%.

Von der Erde zum Mond - Jules Verne

(From the Earth to the Moon by Jules Verne - I'm listening to the audiobook in German.)


This is pure satire! I had no idea Verne was into satire! I'm loving it but Verne's observations are hilariously accurate:

There remains but the third class, the superstitious. These worthies were not content merely to rest in ignorance; they must know all about things which had no existence whatever, and as to the moon, they had long known all about her.

And scarily prophetic:

As for the Yankees, they had no other ambition than to take possession of this new continent of the sky, and to plant upon the summit of its highest elevation the star- spangled banner of the United States of America.


Not bad bearing in mind that this was written in 1865.

So this happened... (Invention of Nature Buddy Read)

I got an email from my library this morning: Apparently, the copy of The Invention of Nature was returned early, which meant that I could pick it up today.


The sad news is that it is not the edition with the fabulous black cover. :(



Btw, this book is huge. (But it does have a few pictures. :D )



Measuring the World - Daniel Kehlmann

"German Gymnastics" was all about exercise equipment. The author expounded at length on this or that piece of apparatus which he had invented for swinging oneself up or around on. He called one the pommel horse, another the beam, and another the vaulting horse.

The man was out of his mind, said Gauss, opened the window, and threw the book out.

Hehe. I remember many a P.E. class where I would have agreed with Gauss.

Dame Agatha - Reading List Update

Update - Jul. 2017: 35 of 66 books read. I think most of the clangers are out of the way now.


Update - Jan. 2017: 28 of 66 books read. Looking forward to more.


Update - Jun. 2016: A few more of the reads and re-reads taken off the list.


Update - Dec. 2015: I'll repost this every now and then to keep track of titles and reviews.


I have read most of Dame Agatha's books in my teens (though mostly in translation) but as am in the process of a re-read, I need a list to keep me right. 


Title Detectives
1920 The Mysterious Affair at Styles Hercule Poirot
Arthur Hastings, Inspector Japp
1922 The Secret Adversary Tommy and Tuppence
1923 The Murder on the Links Hercule Poirot
Arthur Hastings, Monsieur Giraud
1924 The Man in the Brown Suit Colonel Race
Anne Beddingfeld
1925 The Secret of Chimneys Superintendent Battle
Anthony Cade
1926 The Murder of Roger Ackroyd Hercule Poirot
Inspector Raglan
1927 The Big Four Hercule Poirot
Arthur Hastings, Inspector Japp
1928 The Mystery of the Blue Train Hercule Poirot
1929 The Seven Dials Mystery Superintendent Battle
Eileen "Bundle" Brent
1930 The Murder at the Vicarage Miss Marple
Inspector Slack
1931 The Sittaford Mystery
also Murder at Hazelmoor
Emily Trefusis
Inspector Narracott
1932 Peril at End House Hercule Poirot
Arthur Hastings, Inspector Japp
1933 Lord Edgware Dies
also Thirteen at Dinner
Hercule Poirot
Arthur Hastings, Inspector Japp
1934 Murder on the Orient Express
also Murder in the Calais Coach
Hercule Poirot
1934 Why Didn't They Ask Evans?
also The Boomerang Clue
Bobby Jones
Frankie Derwent
1935 Three Act Tragedy
also Murder in Three Acts
Hercule Poirot
Mr. Satterthwaite
1935 Death in the Clouds
also Death in the Air
Hercule Poirot
Inspector Japp
1936 The A.B.C. Murders
also The Alphabet Murders
Hercule Poirot
Arthur Hastings, Chief Inspector Japp
1936 Murder in Mesopotamia Hercule Poirot
Captain Maitland, Dr. Reilly
1936 Cards on the Table Hercule Poirot
Colonel Race, Superintendent Battle, Ariadne Oliver
1937 Dumb Witness
also Poirot Loses a Client/Mystery at Littlegreen House
Hercule Poirot
Arthur Hastings
1937 Death on the Nile Hercule Poirot
Colonel Race
1938 Appointment with Death Hercule Poirot
1938 Hercule Poirot's Christmas
also Murder for Christmas/A Holiday for Murder
Hercule Poirot
1939 Murder is Easy
also Easy to Kill
Superintendent Battle
Luke Fitzwilliam
1939 And Then There Were None

Sir Thomas Legge
Inspector Maine
1940 Sad Cypress Hercule Poirot
1940 One, Two, Buckle My Shoe
also An Overdose of Death/The Patriotic Murders
Hercule Poirot
Chief Inspector Japp
1941 Evil Under the Sun Hercule Poirot
Colonel Weston, Inspector Colgate
1941 N or M? Tommy and Tuppence
1942 The Body in the Library Miss Marple
Inspector Slack
1942 Five Little Pigs
also Murder in Retrospect
Hercule Poirot
1942 The Moving Finger
also The Case of the Moving Finger
Miss Marple
1944 Towards Zero
also Come and Be Hanged
Superintendent Battle
Inspector James Leach
1944 Death Comes as the End Hori
1945 Sparkling Cyanide
also Remembered Death
Colonel Race
Chief Inspector Kemp
1946 The Hollow
also Murder After Hours
Hercule Poirot
Inspector Grange
1948 Taken at the Flood
also There is a Tide...
Hercule Poirot
Superintendent Spence
1949 Crooked House Charles Hayward
Chief Inspector Taverner
1950 A Murder is Announced Miss Marple
Chief Inspector Craddock
1951 They Came to Baghdad Victoria Jones
1952 Mrs McGinty's Dead
also Blood Will Tell
Hercule Poirot
Ariadne Oliver, Superintendent Spence
1952 They Do It with Mirrors
also Murder with Mirrors
Miss Marple
Inspector Curry
1953 After the Funeral
also Funerals are Fatal
Hercule Poirot
Inspector Morton, Mr. Goby
1953 A Pocket Full of Rye Miss Marple
1954 Destination Unknown
also So Many Steps to Death
Mr. Jessop, Captain Leblanc
1955 Hickory Dickory Dock
also Hickory Dickory Death
Hercule Poirot
Inspector Sharpe
1956 Dead Man's Folly Hercule Poirot
Ariadne Oliver
1957 4.50 from Paddington
also What Mrs. McGillicuddy Saw!/Murder She Said
Miss Marple
Chief Inspector Craddock, Lucy Eyelesbarrow
1958 Ordeal by Innocence Arthur Calgary
Superintendent Huish
1959 Cat Among the Pigeons Hercule Poirot
Inspector Kelsey, Adam Goodman
1961 The Pale Horse Inspector Lejeune
Ariadne Oliver, Mark Easterbrook
1962 The Mirror Crack'd from Side to Side
also The Mirror Crack'd
Miss Marple
Chief Inspector Craddock
1963 The Clocks Hercule Poirot
Det. Inspector Hardcastle, Colin Lamb
1964 A Caribbean Mystery Miss Marple
1965 At Bertram's Hotel Miss Marple
Chief Inspector Fred "Father" Davy
1966 Third Girl Hercule Poirot
Ariadne Oliver, Chief Inspector Neele, Mr. Goby
1967 Endless Night Sergeant Keene
1968 By the Pricking of My Thumbs Tommy and Tuppence
1969 Hallowe'en Party Hercule Poirot
Ariadne Oliver, Superintendent Spence
1970 Passenger to Frankfurt Stafford Nye
1971 Nemesis Miss Marple
1972 Elephants Can Remember Hercule Poirot
Ariadne Oliver
1973 Postern of Fate
Last novel Christie wrote
Tommy and Tuppence
1975 Curtain
Poirot's last case, written 36 years earlier.
Hercule Poirot
Arthur Hastings
1976 Sleeping Murder
Miss Marple's last case, written 36 years earlier
Miss Marple





Read: 35/66


The Big Four

The Big Four - Agatha Christie

‘But Poirot— why?’

This is possibly the most appropriate quotation I can choose to describe the book. 


The Big Four has one of the silliest plots of Christie's books which is based on Poirot and Hastings engaging in international crime and espionage - much in the same way that Holmes and Watson do,just in a more believable way. Where Holmes is reserved enough to carry off disguises and under-cover work, Poirot's flamboyance has him stick out like a sore thumb all over the place, and Christie's attempts at making us believe that Hastings, or indeed anyone else, does not recognise him are just ludicrous.


The book was written in 1927 and is the first of Christie's novels that show her making an attempt at writing an espionage / crime thriller with an international setting. As ludicrous as this book is, it is still better than some of the other attempts that were to follow (I'm looking at you Passenger to Frankfurt!), but it is surprising that the book did not turn readers off Christie altogether. 


Not only does the plot not hold any water, the writing is just unbelievably bad - culminating in an ending that is just ... wow, so ridiculous. Apparently, Dame Agatha got stuck and basically just hit the big red button. That is all I'm going to say about that (just in case someone really wants to read the book).


For the rest, ... Oh, boy. How many times can Hasting's get knocked out? Or knocked around by Poirot?


Seriously, for many parts of the book, I rooted for Hasting's shoving Poirot of a cliff.

Reading progress update: I've read 205 out of 228 pages.

The Big Four - Agatha Christie

‘This is Captain Harvey, Hastings, one of the most famous members of your Intelligence Service.’

‘Not famous at all, I’m afraid,’ said the young man, laughing pleasantly.

‘Not famous, except to those in the know, I should have said. Most of Captain Harvey’s friends and acquaintances consider him an amiable but brainless young man— devoted only to the trot of the fox or whatever the dance is called.’

We both laughed.

Please, please, somebody make this stop. 

Reading progress update: I've read 47 out of 228 pages.

The Big Four - Agatha Christie

‘The Big Four are for themselves— and for themselves only, M. le Capitaine. Their aim is world domination.’

The American burst out laughing, but broke off at the sight of Poirot’s serious face.

This book is pure slapstick so far.


Reading progress update: I've read 40 out of 228 pages.

The Big Four - Agatha Christie

‘Damned ingenious!’ cried Ingles approvingly.

‘Yes, he is clever, Number Four.’

‘As clever as Hercule Poirot?’ I murmured.

My friend threw me a glance of dignified reproach. ‘There are some jests that you should not permit yourself, Hastings,’ he said sententiously. 

Gee, Poirot really does not cut his friend any slack.

Reading progress update: I've read 22 out of 228 pages.

The Big Four - Agatha Christie

‘Oh, come,’ I protested, ‘isn’t that a bit far-fetched? How would a Chinaman cut any ice in Russia?’ Poirot frowned at me irritably.

‘For you, Hastings,’ he said, ‘everything is far-fetched that comes not from your own imagination; for me, I agree with this gentleman. But continue, I pray, monsieur.’

Poor Hastings. This is the third or fourth time in 20 pages that he is shot down.



Impromptu Buddy Read

The Big Four - Agatha Christie

I am not sure that I would be able to make it through this book without the moral support of a friend - and Lillelara is currently suffering through this book, too.


I am only re-reading it because I remember little else about the book other than it was pretty horrible. 


Oh, what lengths we go to for a book project...


Squall - Sean Costello

Fast-paced action with little substance or humour is not my bag, but Squall also proved once again that swearing is not substitute for said substance or humour. And its not like I don't appreciate a good swear-fest. 


I know that this may not need to be a funny book, but there are some scenes that are trying to be a Fargo-esque comedy, it's just that it doesn't balance right with the action elements and it makes the book feel like it is lacking direction.


On the bright side, this was a very quick read and I can finally take it off the TBR. 

BL-Opoly Free Friday Read #2: Measuring the World

Measuring the World - Daniel Kehlmann

In all the excitement about finding a copy of The Invention of Nature for our upcoming Buddy Read, I noticed that my library also held a copy of Kehlmann's book about the explorer and naturalist Alexander von Humboldt and the mathematician Carl Friedrich Gauss. 


I have no idea what to expect from the book, but I am looking forward to getting to know more about both characters and about that interesting era that was the Enlightenment.


The only gripe I have right now is that the cover of my library edition is (once again) a bit of a let down. I much prefer the BL database one to the actual non-descript mustard-yellow copy that I ended up with.


Currently reading

A Single Man by Christopher Isherwood
Progress: 6%
Angels in America by Tony Kushner
Progress: 22/289pages
Der Kämpfer im Vatikan: Papst Franziskus und sein mutiger Weg (German Edition) by Andreas Englisch
Progress: 77/374pages
Das Wunder des Baums by Annemarie Schwarzenbach
Progress: 19/295pages