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

Reading progress update: I've read 169 out of 288 pages.

The Great Fortune - Olivia Manning

A barrel-organ stood at the street corner. A white-bearded peasant, bundled up in a sheepskin, was turning the handle, producing a Rumanian popular tune of the past, haunting and sad. Harriet had heard the same organ playing this tune several times before and no one had been able to tell her what it was called. Now, as they stood in a doorway sheltering from the cold she asked Clarence if he knew.

He shook his head. “I’m tone deaf,” he said.

Harriet said: “That’s the last barrel-organ in Bucharest. When the old man dies and there’s no one to play it, that tune will be lost for ever.”

Clarence stood silent, apparently reflecting, as Guy would never reflect, on the passing of things. “Yes,” he said and as he smiled down on her his rare and beautiful smile, they touched, it seemed, a moment of complete understanding.

There is no plot to the story exactly. It's more of a record of a time and place and the people who inhabit it. It's not the kind of story I usually enjoy, but this beautiful in parts.


Reading progress update: I've read 103 out of 341 pages.

People Who Knock on the Door - Patricia Highsmith

Eddie opened his briefcase. ‘I’d like you to read two things I brought with me this evening,’ he said, producing two magazines of different sizes, laying them gently on the coffee table. ‘Can you do me that courtesy? Promise me?’

Why should he promise? Shove them, Arthur wanted to say, and if his grandmother hadn’t been present, he might have. Twits such as Eddie Howell were anti-Darwin, Arthur reminded himself; in fact they spat on Darwin. This thought gave Arthur fortitude, even a sense of advantage. ‘Yes, sure,’ Arthur said, and stood up with an air of calling the visit over. His mother rose also, but drifted to the kitchen. His father beckoned Eddie Howell into his study and closed the door.

‘You did very well, Arthur,’ said his grandmother. ‘Kept your temper. Good for you.’

Oh, just in case anyone is looking for an update on a crime or murder or something, nothing of that so far, but that does not mean that this is not a work psychological terror. It is. 


Arthur's ordeal makes for very frustrating and rage-inducing reading. And in a way, the focus of the story on religious zealots ruining a young person's life reminds me of The Miseducation of Cameron Post. Tho with a different underlying reason to the story. Kinda different, anyway.

Reading progress update: I've read 71 out of 341 pages.

People Who Knock on the Door - Patricia Highsmith

Well, well, I'd hate to predict a Highsmith novel because it is impossible, but I think I can see where this is going. 


I believe that so far everything that has happened to Arthur is Highmith being a vengeful goddess, who loves messing with her characters, and making him regret a moment when he felt contentment on page 13. 


Now, Arthur's life is unraveling like that of Job.


I'm kinda hooked.


Rage, Arthur, rage against the author!

Reading progress update: I've read 27 out of 341 pages.

People Who Knock on the Door - Patricia Highsmith

His father might as well not have heard, and his smile was dreamy.

‘You’ve been in a daze for a week or more. A girl. More important than your brother or a human life.’

That was not true. Or was it? At any rate, Arthur took the remark as a rebuke, which was plainly the way his father meant it. He wasn’t going to say that he loved Maggie and loved his brother too. Now he was sorry that he had uttered Maggie’s name.

‘I don’t know why you’re – scolding me.’

‘Because you’re selfish – thoughtless about the things that matter in life.’

Since Arthur felt that his eyes had been opened to life in the last week or so, he shook his head and remained silent.

Arthur's dad, Richard, is truly living up the abbreviation of his name.

Halloween Bingo: International Woman of Mystery

People Who Knock on the Door - Patricia Highsmith

HOORAY, THE WEEKEND! ... made even better by the start of a planned buddy read with Lillelara of Patricia Highsmith's The People Who Knock on the Door.


It's been a long and crazy week, and I am looking forward to reading what messed up characters Highsmith came up in this one...then, hopefully, find some comfort in the fact that, as cray-cray as my week has been, it was not Highsmith cray-cray. Nobody got eaten by snails. 


I have no idea what the book is about, but am very much intrigued by the first paragraph:

Arthur flung the stone with calculated aim. It skipped six, seven times over the water before it sank, making golden circles on the pond. As good a throw as when he had been ten years old, he thought, ten being the age at which he had been more proficient at certain things, such as roller-skating backwards. Now he was seventeen.

He picked up his bike, and rolled on toward home. Today was different. This afternoon had totally changed him, and he realized that as yet he was afraid to think hard about it.


Halloween Bingo - Diverse Voices...Transfiguation Card # 2

I was originally planning to read Beloved for the Diverse Voice square of the game but I need to be in a frame of mind to approach this particular book, and I just don't have the right frame of mind at the moment. 

It would not do the book any justice to try and force myself to read it just so I can tick off a Bingo task. 


So, I'll be changing "Diverse Voices" to "Genre: Suspense".


I'm not entirely sure what I will read for this, but Joanna Cannan's The Taste of Murder, recommended by @Tigus sounds like a top contender.


She Died a Lady

She Died a Lady: A Sir Henry Merrivale Mystery - John Dickson Carr

This book had such a promising start but once the main plot event happened and the police investigation gets under way, the story becomes ridiculously convoluted and stops making sense. 

It was almost as if Carr had a really novel idea and then suddenly balked at executing it. Instead of a well-thought-out plot with a sound motive and fleshed out characters, we get caricatures and snippets of plot that seem to be formulaic. The only characters that I felt were truly well crafted were the two victims. 


The ending was a let-down, too, I felt. There are certain similarities in the structure of this book with one Dame Agatha's and even tho I suspected the Carr had not copied the entire idea, it gave me enough pause to suspect the culprit reasonably enough. 

There was no way I could figure out the motive, tho. There was just way too much going on in this plot to figure out any logical conclusions, and to be honest, the conclusion that was presented seemed to have been magically drawn out of a hat.


It just did not work for me. However, I look forward to trying some of Carr's other titles. 

Reading progress update: I've read 58%.

She Died a Lady: A Sir Henry Merrivale Mystery - John Dickson Carr

This book is a little bonkers. 


@Tigus, I believe this is the famous wheelchair scene you mentioned:

But my attention was on other matters.

To have a half-filled whisky bottle fired at your head is enough to destroy the composure of even the noblest Roman.

The bottle whizzed past the head of Sir Henry Merrivale, and fell between Superintendent Craft and Paul Ferrars as they came pelting round the side of the house. Ferrars, who was carrying a suit of clothes across his arm, stumbled over it.

As it flew, H.M. put his hands up instinctively to shield his face. The steering-handle, left to its own devices, brought the chair round in a broad curve; and the motor, as though inspired by a diabolical life of its own, put on the burst of speed which made him travel as steadily as an express-train straight towards the brink of the cliff.

‘Turn it!’ Ferrars was screaming. ‘Turn it! Mind the cliff! For God’s sake mind the –’

What saved H.M.’s life, undoubtedly, was the softness of the soil and his own weight. Two deep grooves followed his jolting and bouncing passage across the earth. The crutch flew out of his hand. The motor coughed and died. The chair lurched, sank deeper, put on a last burst of speed; and then came to rest, deliberately, on the very edge of the cliff. His sandalled feet, in fact, stuck out over nothingness.

Then there was silence, under the warm sunlight.

Reading progress update: I've read 48%.

She Died a Lady: A Sir Henry Merrivale Mystery - John Dickson Carr

Belle nodded in reply, winking her eyes very rapidly.

‘I knew we were near Exmoor, naturally.’ She swallowed hard. ‘And I’d read Lorna Doone when I was a kid, or at least I’d heard about it. But I didn’t think there really were such things. Not really honest-to-God, I mean, and away from the movies.’

Craft snorted.

‘They’re real enough, all right,’ he assured her. ‘Unless you know most parts of that moor, stay off it. Or, if you must go, follow the moor-ponies. They never make a mistake. Isn’t that so, Doctor?’

I agreed with some vehemence. I have had to learn a good deal about Exmoor in the course of my professional life, but I don’t like that windy, gloomy waste to this day.

This story had a strong start but as soon as the investigation started, the story has dipped into "meh" territory. None of the characters stands out as more than a "type". And the main investigator, who is central to this series, is rather bland even tho he seems to have been attributed with some eccentricities.


Oh, and the plot is all over the place. It's almost as if the author tried to blend in too many ideas. Some also don't seem to fit the time of the setting (WWII).


I hope this picks up again soon.

Reading progress update: I've read 27%.

She Died a Lady: A Sir Henry Merrivale Mystery - John Dickson Carr

Oooh! More twists! And a discussion of the forensic value of footprints.

I like it!


The last thing I needed after a day at work that was filled with a lot of stupidity was some random person leaving a idiotic comment on a review on GR. 


Why on earth did I even check...


I'm burying my head inside a book. Maybe with some wine on the side. 

See ya'll tomorrow.

Reading progress update: I've read 1 out of 288 pages.

The Great Fortune - Olivia Manning

Even tho I enjoyed the start of She Died a Lady, I needed a little break from detective stories last night and figured that there is never a bad time to try Harriet Walter's narration of a book.


So, I am extra pleased to say that I think Manning's Balkan trilogy may be something that works for me just as brilliantly as Ford Madox Ford's Parade's End series. I listened to the book for about 40 minutes before falling asleep and I cannot wait to get my hands on a print version to read along. 


I hope to share some quotes later, but I love Manning's observations. 


After all of the "telling rather than showing" messes I've encountered over the last month, this book seems such a precious find. 


Also, Harriet Walter.

It's a really good narration of the story. I may have grabbed the other two books in the trilogy over my second morning coffee. 

Well, and reading the SC ruling this morning, it's been a really good morning all round. 


Long may it last.

Reading progress update: I've read 10%.

She Died a Lady: A Sir Henry Merrivale Mystery - John Dickson Carr

‘Is that you, Doctor?’ Alec called.

‘Yes. I’d better run the car into the garage, in case it rains. Be with you in half a tick.’

But Alec didn’t wait. He blundered over into the glow of the head-lamps, and I had to stop altogether. Putting his hand on the door of the car, he peered up and down the drive.

‘Look here,’ he said. ‘Who cut the telephone-wires?’

Oh, this is good!

Frankenstein as narrated by Dan Stevens

Frankenstein - Mary Shelley, Dan Stevens

This was my third read of the story.


Just a quick note that my rating refers to the book only. 


While I have a lot of love for some of "the monster's" story, especially the parts of the story that are narrated by "the monster", this is not a favourite book. Like most other Gothic classics, it drags and drags, and the glacial pace of the story does nothing for me, and does nothing to make me celebrate this otherwise gorgeous book of ideas and enlightenment and humanity by such a badass writer. 


So, let me break this down more scientifically:


Pace: -10*

Ideas: +10*

Writing (enjoyment, other than pace): +4.5*

Rage factor reading about Victor: -10*

Empathy factor (Totally rooting for "Adam"): +9


Total: 3.5*


Separated out - Dan Stevens' narration: ALL THE STARS!!


Halloween Bingo - Cozy Mystery ... Take # 2

She Died a Lady: A Sir Henry Merrivale Mystery - John Dickson Carr

As Maisie Dobbs and I have parted ways due to irreconcilable differences, I will turn to She Died a Lady next, because it has a gorgeous cover, and I like the premise of the book.


Sunday Food

Not so much of a Sunday Post, but @WhiskeyInTheJarRomance shared a lettuce wrap recipe the other day that I found really inspiring. 


Of course, as happens so often, I forgot some main ingredients or substitutions (to make it veggie) at home, so I made something completely different...but it is still a lettuce wrap and I don't think I have made one before.


So, here it goes:


The corn salad is pretty gorgeous by itself (recipe here) so I added some veggie mince, guacamole, sour cream and cheese.

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