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

The Wonky Donkey

I am so glad that The Guardian has picked up on this. A friend shared the video featured in the article on Facebook yesterday and I was in stitches watching it.


It is unlikely that I will try and source the book, but some of my other bookish friends with kids might love this, too.


(Click the header for a link to the Guardian article.)


Reading progress update: I've read 160 out of 299 pages.

Clouds of Witness - Dorothy L. Sayers

‘He said what he thought,’ said Mary. ‘Of course, Lord Mountweazle, poor dear, doesn’t understand that the present generation is accustomed to discuss things with its elders, not just kow-tow to them. When George gave his opinion, he thought he was just contradicting.’ ‘To be sure,’ said the Dowager, ‘when you flatly deny everything a person says it does sound like contradiction to the uninitiated. But all I remember saying to Peter was that Mr Goyles’s manners seemed to me to lack polish, and that he showed a lack of independence in his opinions.’

‘A lack of independence?’ said Mary, wide-eyed.

‘Well, dear, I thought so. What oft was thought and frequently much better expressed, as Pope says – or was it somebody else? But the worse you express yourself these days the more profound people think you – though that’s nothing new.

Hear, hear, Duchess.


Reading progress update: I've read 148 out of 299 pages.

Clouds of Witness - Dorothy L. Sayers

PARKER’S first impulse was to doubt his own sanity; his next, to doubt Lady Mary’s. Then, as the clouds rolled away from his brain, he decided that she was merely not speaking the truth.

Hahaha. Oh, Parker you poor man.

The Sunday Post ... Doors Open Day

Happy Sunday All!


I am taking this break from spamming your feeds with reading updates to summarise my Sunday (today): I have been knackered and have, for the most part, not done very much at all apart from a little cooking, reading, and napping. 

I did intend to go for a walk at some point but I got as far as finding a new pair of socks, then went for a nap. It has been this kind of a day. 


Now you may ask: Why are you so tired out, BT? Is it from staying up late so many times last week to finish off a few more chapters in your Halloween Bingo reads? 


Well, ... perhaps, but my reason is much better: Every year the city holds a "Doors Open Day" when a lot of buildings that are either closed on the weekends or just usually closed to the general public opens their doors for visitors. This year, we had over 50 venues to choose from including the fire station, the town house, various churches and museums, the marine laboratory, the old advocates library, etc. Anyway, all of that happened yesterday.


There was a lot to do. Even if I decided to take it easy and focus on Old Aberdeen, which is in walking distance to me but it is just so damn beautiful.


The day started with a leisurely walk down to the old High Street. The Confucius Institute opened its doors at 10am and it fun to poke my nose in for some tea and a wander about to find out what they do.



At 11am I joined a tour by one of the university historians which included several sights along the High Street and the old King's College and chapel, which, as I learned, is the oldest collegiate chapel in Britain and the oldest pre-reformation chapel in Scotland. Impressive,  eh? 

The structure of the interior and ceiling is still largely original, from what I gather, and the tomb at the from of the picture is that of Bishop Elphinstone (1431 - 1514), the founder of the university, who seemed to have been an interesting character. (I am adding a link to Elphinstone's bio on Wiki here...but the article contains some errors, such as the description of the picture of the memorial to Elphinstone as his "tomb". It is not.)


Sadly, the rest of King's College has been modernised over time to look like the more famous colleges in Oxford and Cambridge. Still, I like the place. It's accessible all year round and I do spend a fair  amount of time around there - a couple of friends live close by and a favourite independent coffee haunt is there, too. 



After that, I grabbed a sandwich and went for a picnic in the Botanical Gardens. Again, these are open to the public on most days, but hey, I needed a quite place to have sit down and enjoy what is probably the last of the summer. 


The gardens were nice. I should probably come back in spring to see the some of the other plants in bloom. 



Just along from the gardens was my next stop: St. Machar's Cathedral. 

Again, this was not a new stop for me but it is a site that I really like. It is both an impressive building and so far, whenever I have been there, I have met some really nice people. 



St. Machar's was serving tea to visitors and had organised music recitals every hour. 


Let me tell you: I have been to musical performances in here before (I heard Jacqui Dankworth perform a tribute to Duke Ellington in here during the Jazz Fest and am a regular at the Christmas concerts), this is one fabulous place for music. The acoustics are just perfect!


On top of all that, I met up with a friend that I hadn't seen since 2003. He's just moved back to the city and we had a lot to catch up on, so after my visit to the cathedral we went to the pub to rehydrate from all of the walking around town.   


And that, people, is why I have been uselessly tired today. 

Reading progress update: I've read 123 out of 299 pages.

Clouds of Witness - Dorothy L. Sayers

But, bein’ a wily old bird, you see, she kept her eyes on the looking-glass, and nipped round just in time to catch Mary stimulatin’ the thermometer to terrific leaps on the hot-water bottle.’

‘Well, I’m damned!’ said Parker.

‘So was Thorpe. All mother said was, that if he wasn’t too old a bird yet to be taken in by that hoary trick he’d no business to be gettin’ himself up as a grey-haired family practitioner.




Indeed, you know,’ said Peter, ‘I think if any of them start getting inquisitive, they’ll have mother down on them like a ton of bricks.’




“My dear child, you can give it a long name if you like, but I’m an old-fashioned woman and I call it mother-wit, and it’s so rare for a man to have it that if he does you write a book about him and call him Sherlock Holmes.”

Lord Peter's mum, the Dowager Duchess, is brilliant. She much reminds me of the aunts in the Jeeves and Wooster stories.

Reading progress update: I've read 87 out of 299 pages.

Clouds of Witness - Dorothy L. Sayers

Behind Riddlesdale Lodge the moor stretched starkly away and upward. The heather was brown and wet, and the little streams had no colour in them. It was six o’clock, but there was no sunset. Only a paleness had moved behind the thick sky from east to west all day. Lord Peter, tramping back after a long and fruitless search for tidings of the man with the motor-cycle, voiced the dull suffering of his gregarious spirit. ‘I wish old Parker was here,’ he muttered, and squelched down a sheep-track. He was making, not directly for the Lodge, but for a farmhouse about two and a half miles distant from it, known as Grider’s Hole.


A country house, a murder, a missing motorcycle, a moor, and a solitary farm house.

What could possible go wrong?


Well, if literary precedent is anything to go by, we should brace ourselves for either




Or this...



(show spoiler)


I am not sure which one is scarier. ;)

Reading progress update: I've read 69 out of 299 pages.

Clouds of Witness - Dorothy L. Sayers

‘Well, he’d be wrong, then,’ said Ellen, with an engaging toss of the head, ‘because it’s bird’s blood, and not rabbit’s at all, because her ladyship told me so; and wouldn’t it be quicker just to go and ask the person than get fiddling round with your silly old microscope and things?’

‘Well, I only mentioned rabbits for an example,’ said Mr Bunter. ‘Funny she should have got a stain down there. Must have regularly knelt in it.’

‘Yes. Bled a lot, hasn’t it, poor thing? Somebody must ‘a’ been shootin’ careless-like. ’Twasn’t his grace, nor yet the Captain, poor man. Perhaps it was Mr Arbuthnot. He shoots a bit wild sometimes.

LoL. I almost feel sorry for poor Arbuthnot. First my reading buddy takes a dislike to him on account of another character by the same name in an Agatha Christie novel, now the poor man in accused of being a poor shot, which is not a great thing to be called when the victim has been shot. ;D

Reading progress update: I've read 29 out of 299 pages.

Clouds of Witness - Dorothy L. Sayers

Finished Chapter 1 of this re-read: The introduction to the story doesn't lead you in gently at all. After a couple of pages with Wimsey and Bunter, we're right in the middle of the initial inquest. 


Some of the statements are showing the story's age, which is not something I noticed much on the last read. 

"In the kind of society to which the persons involved in this inquiry belonged, such a misdemeanour as cheating at cards was regarded as far more shameful than such sins as murder and adultery. Possibly the mere suggestion of such a thing, whether well-founded or not, might well cause a gentleman of sensitive honour to make away with himself. But was deceased honourable? Deceased had been educated in France, and French notions of the honest thing were very different from British ones. The Coroner himself had had business relations with French persons in his capacity as a solicitor, and could assure such of the jury as had never been in France that they ought to allow for these different standards."

And yet, we know this is representative of the age but not representative of the main characters, so in a way it is Sayers showing up a mirror to her own time perhaps, too?


I guess this is where one book leads to another again, as the Sayers bio on my kindle my move up the TBR after this book.

Halloween Bingo - Country House Mystery

Clouds of Witness - Dorothy L. Sayers

So, in a typical Halloween Bingo twist of looks like Lillelara and I are setting out on another impromptu buddy read. 


I have read Clouds of Witness before and remember really liking it. It might also be just the ticket to provide that Wimsey feeling that I didn't quite get from Five Red Herrings...because Sayers decided to distract me with way too many wild goose chases of trains and missing bicycles.  Gah!


Bring on the Wimsey clan and Bunter!


I'll read this for the Country House Mystery square.


Halloween Bingo - Fear the Drowning Deep

Fatal Passage - Ken McGoogan

From the book's description:


The true story of the remarkable John Rae - Arctic traveller and Hudson's Bay Company doctor - FATAL PASSAGE is a tale of imperial ambition and high adventure. In 1854 Rae solved the two great Arctic mysteries: the fate of the doomed Franklin expedition and the location of the last navigable link in the Northwest Passage.

But Rae was to be denied the recognition he so richly deserved. On returning to London, he faced a campaign of denial and vilification led by two of the most powerful people in Victorian England: Lady Jane Franklin, the widow of the lost Sir John, and Charles Dickens, the most influential writer of the age. 


Fatal Passage will be my nomination for the Fear the Drowning Deep square.

I have some travel coming up next week and needed a non-fiction book to read on the trip. For some reason, I prefer non-fiction when travelling.



Halloween Bingo - A Grimm Tale

Six Gun Snow White - Catherynne M. Valente

Even tho my last experience with Valente's books (Radiance) has been underwhelming, I am still intrigued by her writing. Also, I just love this cover.


I'll be reading Six Gun Snow White for the Grimm Tale square.



The Five Red Herrings

Five Red Herrings - Dorothy L. Sayers

In the meantime, a constable had rounded up the undertaker, who arrived in great excitement, swallowing the last fragments of his tea. A slight further delay was caused by its occurring to somebody that the Fiscal should be notified. The Fiscal, fortunately enough, happened to be in the town, and joined the party, explaining to Wimsey as they drove along to the mortuary that it was the most painful case he had handled in the whole of his experience, and that he had been much struck by the superiority of the Scots law to the English in these matters, ‘For,’ said he, ‘the publicity of a coroner’s inquest is bound to give much unnecessary pain to the relations, which is avoided by our method of private investigation.’

‘That is very true,’ said Wimsey, politely, ‘but think of all the extra fun we get from the Sunday newspapers. Inquests are jam to them.’

The Five Red Herrings started off strong and I loved the setting and some of the scenes - like Bunter being a few steps ahead of Lord Peter, retelling his adventures in the fashion of The Castle of Otranto, and then caring for Lord Peter by having the Arnica oinment at the ready for Lord Peter's bruises. 


However, ... for most of the book, I wished Sayers had spared us the details of doggedly chasing down every single train connection and what is more every single - it seemed - damned bicycle in the country only to find out that it was not the bicycle in question. 


Not one of my favourite Wimseys.

Halloween Bingo - Free Square

Get Well Soon: History's Worst Plagues and the Heroes Who Fought Them - Jennifer   Wright

Just before I forget, I'm using Get Well Soon, our current Flat Book Society read, for the Free Square (as I don't have the Doomsday square on my card).


Get Well Soon: History's Worst Plagues and the Heroes Who Fought Them - Jennifer   Wright

I'm just about to start the last Chapter on Polio.


So, these are some of the things I have noticed so far: 


1. I liked the second half of the book better than the first, even tho the discussions are not even trying to explore the causes of different diseases. Not in a depth or scientific way, anyway. I want to say that that ship has sailed, but hoestly I don't think that particular ship was ever launched.


2. There are some scary stories about medical conditions in this book - not epidemics(!), this book is really not about epidemics at all - but I appreciate Wright's style in that I needed that uplifting reference to Fraggle Rock at the end of the chapter on lobotomies. That was one scary chapter. 

Reading progress update: I've read 32%.

Five Red Herrings - Dorothy L. Sayers

What a pity he had now just missed the 6.20 to Girvan. (Sergeant Dalziel gritted his teeth.) Well, it couldna be helped.

Let him take the 7.30, getting in at 9.51, and a car would be sent to meet him.

The Sergeant replied, with a certain grim satisfaction, that the 9.51 only ran on Saturdays and the 9.56 only on Wednesdays, and that, this being a Thursday, they would have to meet him at 8.55 at Ayr.

The Inspector retorted that in that case he had better hire a car at Ayr. Finding that there was no help for it, Sergeant Dalziel abandoned all hopes of a comfortable night of dinner, talkie and bed at Glasgow, and reluctantly retired to the refreshment-room for an early supper before catching the 7.30.

Haha. Public transport hasn't changed much. I've spent hours this week trying to find a way to go to a place in Norfolk next week without having to spend an extra night somewhere. It was a challenge.

Reading progress update: I've read 20%.

Five Red Herrings - Dorothy L. Sayers

Wimsey on bicyclists:

‘Just so. Nothing is so virtuous as a bicycle. You can’t imagine a bicyclist committing a crime, can you? – except of course, murder or attempted murder.’

‘Why murder?’

‘Well, the way they rush about in gangs on the wrong side of the road and never have any brakes or bells or lights. I call it murder, when they nearly have you into the ditch. Or suicide.’

Gangs of cyclists? Really, Peter? LoL!


And on bike safety:

‘Have you been borrowing push-bikes?’ asked Wimsey, with interest. ‘You shouldn’t. It’s a bad habit. Push-bikes are the curse of this country. Their centre of gravity is too high, for one thing, and their brakes are never in order.’

I can't quite see Wimsey having any first-hand experience with this, can you?


But as bicycles are mentioned quite a lot and there is a bike on the cover of the book, I'm guessing that the missing bicycle may be important. Or, you know, be one of the five red herrings.... Gah!


On a different note, I'm enjoying the book. Probably more so than I would already because the audiobook I have to accompany my reading (narrated by Patrick Malahide) features a bit of an oddity:


The Scottish parts are narrated in a north-eastern accent - Doric - which is quite different to the accent where the story is set (south-western Scotland). It works a treat, but it cracks me up every time the word "night" (pronounced in Doric as "nicht") is used - as it is sooo local. Anyway, this one is a lot of fun.  



Currently reading

The Red Power Murders by Thomas King
Fatal Passage by Ken McGoogan
Progress: 163/327pages
Teller Of Tales: The Life Of Arthur Conan Doyle by Daniel Stashower
Sherlock Holmes: The Definitive Collection by Arthur Conan Doyle, Stephen Fry
Progress: 79%