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review 2017-12-16 13:40
Claustrophobic and Baroque Experience: "Swann's Way" by Marcel Proust
Swann's Way - Marcel Proust,Lydia Davis

I read Proust's masterpiece back in 1985. What did I know of life then? Nothing!

 

Having recently read a Smithsonian editorial that made fun of the novels, and remembering all too well one particular hilariously snippy Monty Python sketch (the Summarize Proust Competition), I too wanted to be able to rub elbows with the elite intellectuals who mocked Proust, so I picked up the first of three volumes (the weighty Moncrieff editions because I have no french whatsoever) and got started. The first few pages were tough going, but soon I became mesmerized, then I fell in love, and by the end of the summer I was tucking flowers into the plackets of my blouses and wearing bows in my hair.

 

Oh you kids. “Swann's Way” is the swiftest, plottiest volume in the monster, with “Un Amour de Swann” a little novel in itself, with a beginning, middle, end, and all that sort of thing. Originally drafted in a mere three volumes, the Recherche grew as Proust re-Proustified the later volumes while waiting for publication; many readers have wished that that long mini-book could be recovered. The pace picks up again in the last volume, which the author's death prevented him from reworking it, so that a dinner party—one of the greatest scenes in all literature, by the way—takes only a few hundred pages to describe, what with the jolts of consciousness with which Proust bracketed it, while the first half of the volume is impossibly brilliant about the first World War without ever leaving Paris.

 

 

If you're into Mundane Fiction, read on.

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review 2017-12-16 08:02
Silent Nights: Christmas Mysteries
Silent Nights: Christmas Mysteries - Various Authors,Martin Edwards

On the whole, it's pretty much a safe bet that just about any anthology collection is bound to be hit or miss: some stories will hit all the marks, while others will be, at best, 'meh'.

 

Silent Nights is one of the rare ones where even the weaker stories are better than average. I reviewed the first 4 here, but here are my thoughts concerning the remaining stories.

 

Stuffing by Edgar Wallace - ★★★  There was a definite The Blue Carbuncle vibe to this story.  It was short, and amusing, and was amongst the stories in this book with the most Christmas spirit.  It was short and told in third person so even though I really enjoyed it, it was hard to rate it higher.

 

The Unknown Murderer by H.C. Bailey - ★★★1/2  This one was just plain weird, but oddly satisfying.  Twisted story / mystery, but the ending was unsatisfactory.  I wanted more information.

 

The Absconding Treasurer by J. Jefferson Farjeon - ★★★  I'm not sure I'm destined to be a Farjeon fan.  This is the second story I've read by him and I'm left feeling short changed.  I liked the writing, but the mystery was really non-existent.  The investigator doesn't share his thoughts with the reader - or the clues - so you're with him for almost the entire story, and then suddenly he goes for a walk, finds a body and voila! knows the solution to the entire mystery.  The writing saves this from a 2 star story though.

 

The Necklace of Pearls by Dorothy L. Sayers - ★★★★  I'm a fan of Whimsey, so even though Sayers pulls something of a Farjeon in this short story, I find I didn't mind quite as much.  Even though I don't think the reader gets enough information to solve the mystery, we do at least get all the elements, making it easy to see where Whimsey is going.  And the crime's concealment was freaking ingenious.

 

The Case is Altered by Marjory Allingham - ★★★  The fact that I had to look this one up again because I remembered nothing about it probably says more than I can for the story.  It's not bad, nor badly written, it just wasn't memorable.

 

Waxworks by Ethel Lina White - ★★★★★  I was sure I was going to dislike this one when I read the author intro, where Edwards highlights the author's focus on writing suspense stories.  But oh man this one was so good!  Even though I knew how it was going to turn out - really, everything about the first part of the story made the ending inevitable - I had no idea how that ending was going to happen.  I was expecting something far less subtle than I got, and that subtlety, and the twisty bit, was what made the story so good.

 

Cambric Tea by Marjorie Bowen - ★★★  This story started out promising to be another 5 star, but in a gothic vain, but lost steam at the very end, with a disappointingly weak ending that felt the result of the author writing herself into a corner and then copping out.

 

The Chinese Apple by Joseph Shearing - ★★★  Oddly enough, as this is written by the same author as Cambric Tea under a pseudonym, this story's problem was the exact opposite of Cambric Tea's:  weak build up and a solid ending.   What is supposed to be the plot twist was obvious to me from the start; but the ending was so satisfying it scored extra points from me.

 

A Problem in White by Nicholas Blake - ★★★★1/2  An Encyclopaedia Brown type of mystery!  I had a very hard time at the start figuring out the characters - the author gave them all nicknames, then two pages in gave them their proper names, confusing me to no end.  But Blake gives the reader all the clues and then doesn't give the solution - it's at the back of the book, allowing readers to try to guess whodunnit without being influenced.  (I haven't had a guess yet, because I need to re-read it again now that I have a better idea of who is who.)

 

The Name on the Window by Edmund Crispin - ★★★★  I really enjoyed the writing in this one an awful lot, which made the abrupt ending to the 'locked room' mystery easier to put up with.  I'll definitely be reading more Crispin.

 

Beef for Christmas by Leo Bruce - ★★★★1/2  I've read Bruce's other series involving the Professor and I like him as a main character better, but Beef's a very clever man and the writing was top notch.  The reader doesn't get all the facts, but the story compensates; this one felt far more complete than a lot of short stories often do.

 

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review 2017-12-16 08:00
Three Lives Of Mary by David M. Kelly
Three Lives Of Mary - David M. Kelly Three Lives Of Mary - David M. Kelly Three Lives Of Mary by David M. Kelly is a mesmerizing story of a cybot named Mary. Along with her husband Ben, she looks for habitable planets. It is an entertaining, fast reading book. I gave it five stars. I received a complimentary Kindle copy in an Amazon promotion. That did not change my opinion for this review. "Mary gasped as her legs were ripped from under her and she slammed face down into the ground. Several tendril-like vines wrapped around her arms and legs and she instinctively pulled against them. Thorn-like bristles clawed at her burnished skin as the vines coiled tighter around her despite her struggles." Mary discusses her feelings about Ben and changes he had made. "They'd seen so much together, it was hard to remember when it had been different. Mary still thought of Ben as he was when they were first married. He'd always been easy going, with an almost endless joy of life in general. But after they became CySaps he'd become more intolerant and obsessed with the latest technology. Sometimes Mary wondered if the gain of extended lifespans was worth the sacrifice." Link to purchase: https://www.amazon.com/Three-Lives-Mary-David-Kelly-ebook/dp/B01LWAQVIH
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review 2017-12-16 02:58
Review: A Letter from Lancaster County
A Letter from Lancaster County (Lancaster Discoveries) - Kate Lloyd

A Letter for Lancaster County is a good sweet story. It seems about a redemption and learning to deal with death and grief. What a lovely plot. Katie Lloyd does a good job with it. We get the perspective of the main characters named Rose and Angelina.

 

They get a letter from their aunt Sylvia. Both girl are dealing with their own problems and grief of their mother. Will they learn that letting go and have faith? There a budding romance going on as well. What could that be and can Glenn and Rose being a match? You will need to find out by reading.

 

Can Angelina figure out what going on at home and her husband and family. To find that out, you will need to read to determine that. They find out that their Aunt Sylvia is sick, Will Rose decide to stay or will see go back to her home in Washington? This is a lovely and sweet story of love, friendship and redemptions.

 

Book themes for Calan Gaeaf:
Read any of your planned Halloween Bingo books that you didn’t end up reading after all, involving witches, hags, or various types of witchcraft –OR– read a book with ivy or roses on the cover, or a character’s name/title of book is / has Rose or Ivy in it.

 

 

Source: nrcbooks.blogspot.com/2017/12/review-letter-from-lancaster-county.html
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text 2017-12-16 00:06
Reading progress update: I've read 26 out of 733 pages.
Cedilla - Adam Mars-Jones

Cromer's indefatigable humour whilst recounting tales of abuse and agony is remarkable.

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