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review 2018-04-02 21:17
My KYD Reads ... or: Harry Potter, and What Else I read in March 2018
Harry Potter Box Set: The Complete Collection - J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. Gryffindor Edition - ROWLING J.K.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - J.K. Rowling,Stephen Fry
The Hog's Back Mystery - Freeman Wills Crofts,Gordon Griffin
The Red Queen - Margaret Drabble
A Red Death: An Easy Rawlins Mystery - Walter Mosley,Michael Boatman
Imperium - Robert Harris
The Distant Echo - Val McDermid,Tom Cotcher
Unterleuten: Roman - Juli Zeh
"A Brief Discourse of Rebellion and Rebels" by George North: A Newly Uncovered Manuscript Source for Shakespeare's Plays - Dennis McCarthy,June Schlueter

A big thank you to Moonlight Reader for yet another fun, inventive BookLikes game!  I had a wonderful time, while also advancing -- though with decidedly fewer new reads than I'd origianlly been planning -- my two main reading goals for this year (classic crime fiction and books written by women).

 

Harry Potter - The Complete Series

This was a long-overdue revisit and obviously, there isn't anything I could possibly say about the books that hasn't been said a million times before by others.  But I've gladly let the magic of Hogwarts and Harry's world capture me all over again ... to the point of giving in to book fandom far enough to treat myself to the gorgeous hardcover book set released in 2014 and, in addition, the even more gorgeous Gryffindor and Ravenclaw anniversary editions of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone.

 

 

That said, particular kudos must also go to Stephen Fry for his magnificent audio narration of the books, which played a huge role in pulling me right back into to books, to the point that I'd carry my phone wherever I went while I was listening to them.

 

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone - J.K. Rowling, Stephen Fry Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets - J.K. Rowling, Stephen Fry Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban - J.K. Rowling, Stephen Fry Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire - J.K. Rowling, Stephen FryHarry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix - J.K. Rowling, Stephen Fry Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince - J.K. Rowling, Stephen Fry Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - J.K. Rowling, Stephen Fry

 

 

As for the rest of my KYD books ... roughly in the order in which I read them:

 

Ngaio Marsh: Death at the Dolphin (aka Killer Dolphin)

Killer Dolphin - Ngaio Marsh Death at the Dolphin - Ngaio Marsh

Also a revisit: One of my favorite installments in Marsh's Roderick Alleyn series, not only because it is set in the world of the theatre -- always one of Marsh's particular fortes, as she herself was a veteran Shakespearean director and considered that her primary occupation, while writing mysteries to her was merely a sideline -- but because this one, in fact, does deal with a(n alleged) Shakespearean relic and a play based on Shakespeare's life, inspired by that relic.

 

 

The Hog's Back Mystery - Freeman Wills Crofts, Gordon Griffin

Freeman Wills Crofts:
The Hog's Back Mystery

 Part of Crofts's Inspector French series and my first book by Crofts, who was known for his painstaking attempts to "play fair" with the reader; which here, I'm afraid, hampered the development of the story a bit, in producing a fair bit of dialogue at the beginning that might have been better summed up from the third person narrator's point of view in the interest of easing along the flow of the story, and in holding French back even at points where a reasonably alert reader would have developed suspicions calling for a particular turn of the investigation.  But I like French as a character, and as for all I'm hearing this is very likely not the series's strongest installment, I'll happily give another book a try later.

 

 

Unnatural Death: A Lord Peter Wimsey Mystery - Dorothy L. Sayers, Ian Carmichael

Dorothy L. Sayers: Unnatural Death

Not my favorite Lord Peter Wimsey book by Sayers, but virtually the only one I haven't revisited on audio recently -- and as always, I greatly enjoyed the narration by Ian Carmichael.  That said, here again Sayers proves herself head and shoulders above her contemporaries, in devising a particularly fiendish, virtually untraceable method of murder (well, untraceable by the medical state of the art of her day at least), and perhaps even more so by hinting fairly obviously at two women's living together in what would seem to be a lesbian relationship.

 

 

The Red Queen - Margaret Drabble

Margaret Drabble: The Red Queen

Ummm ... decidedly NOT my favorite read of the month.  'Nuff said: next!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Red Death: An Easy Rawlins Mystery - Walter Mosley, Michael Boatman

Walter Mosley: A Red Death

I'd long been wanting to return to the world of Easy Rawlins' mid-20th century Los Angeles, so what with Mosley's fiction making for various entries in the KYD cards, including at least one book by him in my reading plans for the game seemed only fitting (... even if I ended up using this one for a "Dr. Watson" victim guess!). -- This, the second installment of the series, deals with the political hysteria brought about by the McCarthy probes and also makes a number of pertinent points on racial discrimination and xenophobia, which make it decidedly uncomfortable reading in today's political climate.

 

 

One, Two, Buckle My Shoe - Hugh Fraser, Agatha Christie

Agatha Christie: One, Two, Buckle My Shoe

Another revisit, and in no small part courtesy of Hugh Fraser's narration, I liked the book a good deal better than I had done originally.  This is one of several entries in the Poirot canon where we learn about Poirot's phobia of dentist's visits, which obviously makes for the high point of the book's humour ... and of course it doesn't exactly help that it's Poirot's dentist, of all people, who turns out the murder victim. -- The plot features several clever slights of hand, and you have to play a really long shot to get the solution right in its entirety (even if strictly speaking Christie does play fair).  Well, that's what we have Monsieur Poirot's little grey cells for, I suppose!

 

 

Imperium - Robert Harris

Robert Harris: Imperium

The first part of Harris's Cicero trilogy, and both a truly fast-paced and a well-researched piece of historical writing; covering Cicero's ascent from young Senator to Praetorian and, eventually (and against all the odds), Consul. 

 

The first part of the book deals at length with one of Cicero's most famous legal cases, the prosecution of the corrupt Sicilian governor Verres, and Harris shows how Cicero employed that case in order to advance his own political career.  Notably, Cicero quite ingeniously also ignored established Roman trial practice in favor of what would very much resemble modern common law practice, by making a (by the standards of the day) comparatively short opening statement -- albeit a supremely argumentative one -- and immediately thereafter examining his witnesses, instead of, as procedural custom would have dictated, engaging in a lengthy battle of speeches with defending counsel first.  As a result of this manoeuver, Verres was as good as convicted and fled from Rome in the space of the 9 days allotted to Cicero as prosecuting counsel to make his case. 

 

The second part of the book examines Cicero's unlikely but eventually victorious campaign for consulship, and his exposure of a conspiracy involving Catiline, generally believed to be the most likely victor of that year's consular elections, who later came to be involved of conspiracies on an even greater scale, and whose condemnation in Cicero's most famous speeches -- collectively known as In Catilinam (On, or Against Catiline) -- would go a great way towards securing both Cicero's political success in his own lifetime and his lasting fame as a skilled orator.

 

 

Murder is Easy - Agatha Christie

Agatha Christie: Murder Is Easy

Another Christie revisit, and I regret to say for the most part I'm down to my less favorite books now.  This isn't a bad book, and the ending in particular is quite dark ... but the middle part, much as I'm sorry to have to say this, simply drags.

 

 

 

 

The Distant Echo - Val McDermid, Tom Cotcher

Val McDermid: The Distant Echo

Holy moly, how did I ever miss this book until now?!  Even more so since the Karen Pirie series is actually my favorite series by Val McDermid ... OK, Pirie herself has little more than a walk-on role here; we're talking absolute beginning of her career, and the focus is decidedly not on her but on her boss and  on a quartet of suspects involved in a 25-year-old murder case -- in fact, the whole first half of the book is set 25 years in the past, too, describing the immediate aftermath of the murder and its consequences for the four main suspects, chiefly from their perspective.  But still!  Well, I sure am glad I finally caught up with it at last ... definitely one of the best things McDermid ever wrote.

 

 

Unterleuten: Roman - Juli Zeh

Juli Zeh: Unterleuten

A scathing satire on village life, on post-Berlin Wall German society, on greed, on the commercialization of ideals ... and most of all, on people's inability to communicate: Everyone in this book essentially lives inside their own head, and in a world created only from the bits they themselves want to see -- with predictably disastrous consequences.  The whole thing is brilliantly observed and deftly written; yet, the lack of characters that I found I could like or empathize with began to grate after a while ... in a shorter book I might not have minded quite so much, but in a 600+ page brick I'd have needed a few more characters who actually spoke to me to get all the way through and still be raving with enthusiasm.  If you don't mind watching a bunch of thoroughly dislikeable people self-destruct in slow motion, though, you're bound to have a lot of fun with this book.

 

 

Von Köln zum Meer: Schifffahrt auf dem Niederrhein - Werner Böcking

Werner Böcking: Von Köln zum Meer

Local history, a read inspired by conversations with a visiting friend on the history of shipping and travel by boat on the Rhine. -- A richly illustrated book focusing chiefly on the 19th and 20th centuries, and the mid-19th-centuriy changes brought about by diesel engines and the resulting disappearance of sailing vessels (which, before the advent of engines, were pulled by horses when going up the river, against the current): undoubtedly the biggest change not only in land but also in river travel and transportation, with a profound effect on large sectors of the economy of the adjoining regions and communities.

 

 

And last but not least ...

 

 

Dennis McCarthy & June Schlueter: "A Brief Discourse of Rebellion and Rebels" by George North -- A Newly Uncovered Manuscript Source for Shakespeare's Plays

The lastest in Shakespearean research, also a read inspired by conversations with the above-mentioned visiting friend, and a February 7, 2018 New York Times article on a possible new source text for passages contained in no less than 11 of Shakespeare's plays.  The story of the discovery itself is fascinating; the research methods applied are in synch with modern Shakesperean scholarship ... and yet, for all the astonishing textual concordance, unless and until someone proves that Shakespeare not only had the opportunity to see this document but actually did (at least: overwhelmingly likely) see it, I'm not going to cry "hooray" just yet.  According to the authors' own timeline, Shakespeare would have been about 11 years old when this text was written, it was kept in a private collection even then, and there is no record that the Bard ever visited the manor housing that very collection -- which collection in turn, if the authors are to be believed, the text very likely at least did not ever leave during Shakespeare's lifetime (though it was undoubtedly moved at a later point in time).  And Shakespearean research, as we all know, has been prone to a boatload of dead-end streets and conspiracy theories pretty much ever since its inception ...

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text 2018-03-24 13:01
KYD Green Round: Crime Scene Card Guess - Team MbD / Lillelara / TA
Imperium - Robert Harris

 

Robert Harris's Imperium has white lettering (and the lower part of the cover is black).  In addition, the holders of Ancient Rome's public offices -- including this book's protagonist, Marcus Tullius Cicero -- had to organize a variety of games to entertain the citizens, so the words "game" and "games" appear repeatedly throughout the text.

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review 2018-02-07 19:34
Not exactly a review
Conspirata - Robert Harris
Imperium - Robert Harris

I loved listening to these two books! Therefore, I am incredibly disappointed to see that Hoopla does not have the third in audio. I will definitely have to check other sources - and get them all in paper format to read again. Great stuff! 

 

Funny thing, I only started reading these because I am writing about Reginald Pole and he made his own annotated book of the writings of Cicero, so I thought I should get an idea of what Cicero was like. If these novels are any indication, I like him just as much as good old Reggie did.

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review 2017-09-01 16:00
Wildwood Chronicles Masterpost OR I can't come up with a clever title
Wildwood - Carson Ellis,Colin Meloy
Under Wildwood - Carson Ellis,Colin Meloy
Wildwood Imperium - Carson Ellis,Colin Meloy

I hadn't intended to marathon the books in this series but fortuitously I was able to get my hands on them only weeks apart. Therefore, I decided to lump them all together in one masterpost. You're welcome! Rather than showing the covers for the books, I've opted to give you a glimpse of the illustrations found inside before each book's review. **If you haven't read past the first book then I highly caution you about reading my reviews for the other 2 books. I've tried to stay spoiler free but there's only so much I can omit.**

 

Source: Pinterest

Wildwood by Colin Meloy with illustrations by Carson Ellis starts off the Wildwood Chronicles series which as far as I can tell consists of 3 books (although some websites confusingly say there are only 2). The first book follows Prue McKeel, an average 12 year old living in Portland...until one day her baby brother is kidnapped by a murder of crows. She and a semi-friend from school, Curtis Mehlberg, venture into the Impassable Wilderness in search of the baby and stumble across an entirely different world. It turns out that inside the I.W. there exists a magical place full of talking coyotes, magical sorceresses, mystics that commune with trees, and a gang of roving bandits. There is also a postman, a corrupt government, and territory wars. Maybe things aren't so different from what she's used to after all? No, it's completely different and Prue finds out that she's not as normal as she once thought...

 

Source: Pinterest

Continuing in Under Wildwood, we find our heroes separated and trying to reconcile themselves to their new existences. Prue is having conversations with the local flora and Curtis is trying to become the best bandit he can possibly be. We're introduced to new characters such as Mr. Joffrey Unthank who is the owner and operator of both a machine shop and orphanage (not necessarily mutually exclusive by the way) as well as Carol Grod who sports a pair of wooden eyeballs. The reader continues to learn more about the Periphery Bind which keeps the Impassable Wilderness and all its environs from encroaching on the Outside. There are assassins, Titans of Industry (capitalization very much required), and danger around every corner. This book marks the turning point into a darker tone as the battle between good and evil gets well and truly under way.

 

Source: Hoodline

All of this brings us to Wildwood Imperium which (from what I can tell) is the final book of the series. To some extent, all of the books have discussed politics in one form or another but this one is almost entirely about the political system (or lack thereof) in Wildwood and its environs. Prue is still on the lookout for the second Maker (the reader knows who this is and it's frustrating seeing the near misses) while the Verdant Empress speaks to the May Queen from a mirror on a nightstand. (You aren't confused you're just behind in the series.) This is the tensest (and longest) book of the lot and a lot of loose ends are tied up (like where all of the bandits went). (I still have a question about the Elder Mystic's whereabouts but maybe that's just me.) It doesn't feel complete to me though. There's still a lot that could be done with the characters in my opinion but based on what I've seen there doesn't seem to be any plans to continue the series. It's a shame because this married pair makes a powerful literary duo. (They're coming out with a new book on October 24th of this year entitled The Whiz Mob and the Grenadine Kid!)

 

Overall series rating: 9/10

Source: readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com
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review 2017-04-05 11:06
Das Spiel spitzt sich zu
Die Knochenjäger - Steven Erikson

Hinweis: Diese Rezension bespricht sowohl „Die Feuer der Rebellion“ als auch „Die Knochenjäger“. Im Original erschien der sechste Band unter dem Titel „The Bonehunters, für den deutschen Markt wurde dieser geteilt.

 

Imperatrix Laseen entsendete Mandata Tavore mit einem eindeutigen Auftrag ins Reich der Sieben Städte: sie sollte die Rebellion des Wirbelwinds samt ihren Wurzeln herausreißen und das Land erneut befrieden. Nach dem verhängnisvollen Blutbad im Sand der Raraku ist der Aufstand niedergeschlagen; Sha’ik ist tot und die Göttin wurde bezwungen. Doch eine kleine Schar ihrer Anhänger entkam. Angeführt von Sha’iks gefürchtetem Leibwächter Leoman von den Dreschflegeln fliehen die Überlebenden in die uralte Festungsstadt Y’Ghatan. Tavore hat keine andere Wahl, als sie mit der erschöpften 14. Armee zu verfolgen, obwohl sie weiß, dass Y’Ghatan für das malazanische Imperium in der Vergangenheit nichts als Kummer und Schmerz bereithielt. Hier starb Dassem Ultor, das Erste Schwert, der größte Held der Malazaner. Trotz dessen muss Tavore ihre Soldat_innen in den Kampf gegen die Feuer der Rebellion schicken. Scheitern ist keine Option, denn sie darf der Imperatrix keine Vorwände liefern. In den letzten Monaten wurden Laseens Pläne und Absichten stetig undurchschaubarer, sie selbst unberechenbarer. Würde sie sich aus Machthunger gegen ihr eigenes Volk wenden und sich im brodelnden Krieg der Götter auf ein gefährliches Spiel einlassen? Würde sie sich mit dem Verkrüppelten Gott verbünden?

 

Ich liebe, liebe, LIEBE „Das Spiel der Götter“ von Steven Erikson! Ihr könnt euch nicht vorstellen, wie großartig es ist, zu beobachten, wie sich all die Handlungsstränge Stück für Stück verdichten und langsam zuspitzen. Ich war mehr als nur ein wenig erleichtert, mich im zweigeteilten sechsten Band „Die Feuer der Rebellion“ und „Die Knochenjäger“ wieder in den gewohnten Bahnen der Geschichte zu bewegen und zu bekannten Figuren zurückzukehren. Nach dem Ausflug in das Reich der Tiste Edur und der Letherii hätte ich vor lauter Wiedersehensfreude Luftsprünge machen können. Trotz dessen verstehe ich nun, warum Erikson diesen extremen inhaltlichen Bruch wagte. Die Tiste Edur spielen eine bedeutende Rolle im Krieg der Götter und werden vom Verkrüppelten Gott skrupellos manipuliert. Ohne den tiefen Einblick in ihre Geschichte und Kultur hätte ich niemals begriffen, wieso sie für seine Einflüsterungen außergewöhnlich empfänglich sind. Sie sehnen sich so verzweifelt nach Identität und Bestimmung für ihr Volk, dass sie nicht erkennen, dass er sie hemmungslos belügt. Sie bemerken nicht, dass sie sich weiter und weiter vom Schattenreich und Kurald Emurlahn entfernen.
Vermutlich ist ihre Distanz der einzige Grund, warum Ammanas und Cotillion das Gewirr der Schatten in Besitz nehmen konnten. Anders kann ich mir nicht erklären, wie ein Mensch – selbst ein Aufgestiegener – ein nicht-menschliches Gewirr für sich beanspruchen konnte. Allerdings glaube ich, dass die Eroberung der Schattensphäre nicht spurlos an Ammanas vorbeiging. Ich habe gewaltige Schwierigkeiten, seine Persönlichkeit als Herr des Hohen Hauses Schatten und seine Persönlichkeit als Imperator Kellanved miteinander in Verbindung zu bringen. Meiner Ansicht nach passen sie nicht zusammen. Ich denke, das Aufsteigen, die Transformation in Schattenthron, veränderte Kellanved stark. Als hätte die fremde Macht des Gewirrs seinen Verstand angegriffen.
Ich bin Steven Erikson sehr dankbar, dass er endlich erklärt, wie das System des Aufsteigens funktioniert. Es gefiel mir hervorragend, dass Erikson Ganoes Paran diese zusätzlichen Fakten über das Universum erläutern lässt, denn meiner Ansicht nach ist Ganoes‘ Rolle die spannendste der gesamten Geschichte. Er ist der Herr der Drachenkarten, die, wenn sie ausgespielt werden, meinen Puls in die Höhe jagen und meinen Körper mit Gänsehaut überziehen. Als dieser steht er außerhalb des Konflikts der Götter, scheint aber nicht zu Neutralität verpflichtet zu sein. Seine oberste Priorität ist der Schutz der Sterblichen vor allzu radikalen Eingriffen der Götter. Folglich besitzt er eine gewisse Macht über sie, die er eindrucksvoll zum Einsatz bringt.
Ganoes ist jedoch nicht der einzige Charakter, der sich aktiv in den Krieg einmischt. Mittlerweile ist die Situation erstaunlich vielen Figuren bewusst. Es bildet sich eine unerwartete Allianz gegen den Verkrüppelten Gott, die die Sterblichen unablässig in günstige Positionen schiebt. Interessanterweise betrifft das auch Icarium. Icarium erfüllt nur einen einzigen Daseinszweck: er ist eine Waffe. Eine furchterregende Waffe, die während eines Kampfes in blinde Raserei verfällt. Ich war schockiert. Wie vom Donner gerührt. Ich kannte die Legenden über ihn natürlich, aber niemals hätte ich erwartet, dass dieses witzige, sanftmütige, philosophisch bewanderte Halbblut zu einem Monster mutieren könnte. Kein Wunder, dass er seit Jahrhunderten einen Aufpasser hat. Wenn die Jaghut-Tyrannen so waren wie er, kann ich gut verstehen, dass sich die T’lan Imass auflehnten und schworen, alle Jaghut auszurotten.

 

Wann immer ich eine Rezension zu einem Band von „Das Spiel der Götter“ schreibe, bin ich frustriert, nicht alle herausragenden Aspekte ansprechen zu können. Ich wünschte, ich könnte euch haargenau darlegen, wie tief mich die Loyalität und Kameradschaft der 14. Armee berührte, wie spannend und nervenaufreibend die Schlacht in Y’Ghatan war, wie faszinierend die philosophischen, theologischen Überlegungen Steven Eriksons sind und wie viel Misstrauen ich Imperatrix Laseen gegenüber empfinde. Ich könnte zu jedem Fragment der einzelnen Handlungsstränge ganze Abhandlungen schreiben. Die Geschichte der Reihe ist eigentlich viel zu komplex, um sich an Zeichenzahlen zu halten. Vielleicht werde ich in Zukunft alle selbstauferlegten Richtlinien in den Wind schießen und frei von der Leber weg drauf los schwärmen. Denn darum geht es hier ja schließlich: euch von der mit Abstand besten Reihe zu erzählen, die das Genre der High Fantasy zu bieten hat und die mein Herz ehrfurchtsvoll höherschlagen lässt.

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