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review 2019-10-16 19:37
Till the Boys Come Home - Cynthia Harrod-Eagles

I finished reading "TILL THE BOYS COME HOME" several minutes ago. Reading it was like riding at times a boat down white water rapids. There would be moments of calm, and then -- WHOOM! tragedy and devastating sadness.

The novel carries the reader across the length and breadth of the year 1918. A year that started uncertain for Britain and many of the novel's main characters. The expectation was that Germany would launch a great offensive in the spring - now that Russia had withdrawn from the war, thus freeing up for Berlin several infantry divisions it could deploy on the Western Front against the British and French - and crush the Allies in a series of attacks before the Americans could enter in appreciable numbers to affect the outcome of the war. All the while, there is this war weariness that permeates every aspect of life both at the Front and in Britain, which is reflected in the Hunter family and their servants. There were a lot of ups and downs, as well as twists and turns in the story that caught me unawares. And -- along with Cynthia Harrod-Eagles' skill in making her characters come alive --- I was captivated with this novel. I simply had to know how everything would turn out. Now I need to catch my breath before reading Novel # 6 in the series.

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text 2019-10-14 23:30
Around the World in 80 Books Mostly by Female Authors: Master Update Post

[World map created with Mapchart.net]


The aim: To diversify my reading and read as many books as possible (not necessarily 80) set in, and by authors from, countries all over the world.  Female authors preferred.  If a book is set in a location other than that of the author's nationality, it can apply to either (but not both).


On the map I'm only tracking new reads, not also rereads.


The Books:



Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: Purple Hibiscus (new)



Elizabeth Peters: Crocodile on the Sandbank (new)

Agatha Christie: Murder on the Nile (new) and Death on the Nile (revisited on audio)



Alexandra Fuller: Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight (new)



Laila Lalami: The Moor's Account (new)



Clea Koff: The Bone Woman (new)



Kofi Annan: Interventions: A Life in War and Peace (new)


Sierra Leone

Aminatta Forna: The Memory of Love (new)


Democratic Republic of Congo

Sandra Uwiringiyimana: How Dare the Sun Rise (new)








Michelle Obama: Becoming (new)

Mary Roberts Rinehart: The Red Lamp (new)

Nevada Barr: Track of the Cat (new)

Louise Erdrich: The Plague of Doves (new)

James D. Doss: The Night Visitor (new)

Ann Leckie: The Raven Tower (new)

Ellen Datlow, Terri Windling (eds.) & Various Authors: A Wolf at the Door and Other Retold Fairy Tales (new)

Bob Berman: Earth-Shattering (new)

Fredric Brown: The Dead Ringer (new)

Jim Butcher: The Aeronaut's Windlass (new)

Anna Katharine Green: The Golden Slipper (new)

Toni Morrison: Beloved (new)

Clayton Rawson: Death from a Top Hat (new)

Delia Owens: Where the Crawdads Sing (new)

Rex Stout: And Be a Villain (new)

Jennifer Estep: Kill the Queen (new)

Joan D. Vinge: Ladyhawke (revisited)

Dennis Lehane: The Given Day (new)

* Puerto Rico

Rosario Ferré: The House on the Lagoon (new)



Stef Penney: The Tenderness of Wolves (new)

Margaret Atwood: Hag-Seed and The Testaments (both new); The Handmaid's Tale (revisited on audio)



Clarice Lispector: The Hour of the Star (new)



John le Carré: The Night Manager (new)


Dominican Republic

Julia Alvarez: How the García Girls Lost Their Accents (new)



Tom Reis: The Black Count (new)



Silvia Moreno-Garcia: Gods of Jade and Shadow (new)



Sara Collins: The Confessions of Frannie Langton (new)



Kathy Reichs: Grave Secrets (new)








Xinran: The Good Women of China (new)



Shizuko Natsuki: Murder at Mt. Fuji (new)


North Korea

Hyeonseo Lee: The Girl with Seven Names (new)


South Korea

Min Jin Lee: Pachinko (new)


Sri Lanka

Michael Ondaatje: Anil's Ghost (new)



Elif Shafak: Three Daughters of Eve (new)



Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni: Sister of My Heart (new)

M.M. Kaye: Death in Kashmir (new)

William Dalrymple: The Last Mughal (new)



Chingiz Aitmatov: Jamilia (new)



Laurence Bergreen: Over the Edge of the World (new)



Gertrude Bell, Georgina Howell (ed.): A Woman in Arabia: The Writings of the Queen of the Desert (new)



Banine: Days in the Caucasus (new)



Zen Cho: Sorcerer to the Crown (new)






Australia / Oceania


Joan Lindsay: Picnic at Hanging Rock (new)

Trudi Canavan: The Magicians' Guild (new)


New Zealand

Ngaio Marsh: Vintage Murder and Died in the Wool (both revisited on audio)

Witi Ihimaera: The Whale Rider (new)







United Kingdom

Lorna Nicholl Morgan: Another Little Murder (new)

Stephen Fry, John Woolf, Nick Baker: Stephen Fry's Victorian Secrets (new)

P.D. James: A Taste for Death (revisited on audio)

Agatha Christie: The Big Four, Why Didn't They Ask Evans?, Murder on the Orient Express, The Unexpected Guest, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, The Secret Adversary (twice), Parker Pyne Investigates, The Mysterious Mr. Quin, The Regatta Mystery and Other Stories, and Hallowe'en Party (all revisited on audio; The Unexpected Guest also in print); and The Lost Plays: Butter in a Lordly Dish / Personal Call / Murder in the Mews (new)

Elizabeth Ferrars: Murder Among Friends (new)

Barbara Pym: Excellent Women, Quartet in Autumn, and An Unsuitable Attachment (all new)

Terry Pratchett: Equal Rites, Wyrd Sisters (both revisited on audio), Mort, Sourcery, Guards! Guards!, Monstrous Regiment, and Pyramids (all new)

Georgette Heyer: Why Shoot a Butler?, They Found Him Dead, A Blunt Instrument, and The Unfinished Clue (all new)

Nicholas Blake: A Question of Proof (new)

Joy Ellis: The Murderer's Son, The Fourth Friend, and The Guilty Ones (all new)

Peter Grainger: An Accidental Death (new)

Elizabeth Gaskell: My Lady Ludlow (new)

Various Authors / Contributors: Agatha Christie Close Up: A Radio Investigation (new)

Virginia Woolf: The String Quartet (new)

John Buchan: The 39 Steps (revisited on audio)

Oscar Wilde: Lord Arthur Savile's Crime (new)

Ellis Peters: The Hermit of Eyton Forest, Dead Man's Ransom, The Leper of Saint Giles, St. Peter's Fair, The Virgin in the Ice, and Monk's Hood (all revisited on audio)

Patricia Wentworth: The Alington Inheritance, The Gazebo, The Benevent Treasure, Anna, Where are You?, The Key, The Ivory Dagger, Out of the Past, The Silent Pool, The Catherine Wheel, The Fingerprint, and Eternity Ring (all new)

Dorothy L. Sayers: Whose Body? (twice) and The Five Red Herrings (both revisited on audio)

Martin Fido: The World of Sherlock Holmes (new)

Ian Rankin: In a House of Lies (new)

John le Carré: Our Game and A Murder of Quality (both new)

Martin Durrani & Liz Kalaugher: Furry Logic (new)

The Detection Club: The Floating Admiral (reread)

Tony Medawar (ed.) & var. Golden Age mystery writers: Bodies from the Libary and Bodies from the Library 2 (both new)

Peter Lovesey: The Last Detective (new)

Colin Dexter: Morse's Greatest Mystery and Other Stories (new)

Miles Burton: The Secret of High Eldersham (new)

Ngaio Marsh: The Nursing Home Murder (revisited on audio)

Ellen Wilkinson: The Division Bell Mystery (new)

Ronald Knox: The Three Taps and The Body in the Silo (both new)

Jane Austen: Sense and Sensibility (revisited on audio)

Jan Zalasiewicz, Mark Williams: Skeletons (new)

Frank Froest: The Grell Mystery (new)

Julian Symons: The Belting Inheritance (new)

Israel Zangwill: The Perfect Crime, aka The Big Bow Mystery (new)

Richard Hull: The Murder of My Aunt (new)

Elizabeth George: Deception on His Mind (revisited on audio)

Douglas Adams: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (new)

C.J. Sansom: Tombland (new)

Winifred Holtby: South Riding (new)

Wendy Moore: Wedlock (new)

J.K. Rowling: The Casual Vacancy (new)

Ruth Rendell: A Sleeping Life and The Monster in the Box (both new)

Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman: Good Omens (revisited on audio)

Candace Robb: The Apothecary Rose (new)

Arthur Conan Doyle: The Mystery of Cloomber, Lot No. 249, The Sealed Room, Danger! (all new), The Speckled Band, The Return of Sherlock Holmes, His Last Bow, and Sherlock Holmes: Three Tales of Intrigue (all revisited on audio)

Cary Elwes: As You Wish (new)

Diarmaid MacCulloch: Thomas Cromwell (new)

Ben Schott: Jeeves and the King of Clubs (new)

Hesketh Pearson: Conan Doyle: His Life and Art (new)

Arthur Conan Doyle & Various Contributors: The Essential Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (new)

Ian Fleming: Casino Royale (new)

James Hilton: Was It Murder? (new)

Priscilla Royal: Wine of Violence (new)

Peter Ackroyd: Hawksmoor (new)

Michael Gilbert: Smallbone Deceased (new)

Anthony Rolls: Scarweather (new)

Margery Allingham: The White Cottage Mystery (new)

Various Authors: The Lady Detectives, and The Rivals: Tales of Sherlock Holmes' Rival Detectives (both new)

Josephine Tey: The Daughter of Time (revisited on audio)

Catherine Louisa Pirkis: The Experiences of Loveday Brooke, Lady Detective (new)

Ann Cleeves: Raven Black (new)

J.B. Priestley: An Inspector Calls (new)

Joseph Conrad: The Heart of Darkness (revisited on audio)



Tana French: The Witch Elm (new)



Stephen Fry: Mythos (new)

Madeline Miller: Circe (new)



Astrid Lindgren: Die Menschheit hat den Verstand verloren: Tagebücher 1939-1945 (A World Gone Mad: Diaries, 1939-45) (new)



Emmuska Orczy: The Elusive Pimpernel (new)

Sarah Bakewell: At the Existentialist Café (new)



Agatha Christie: Murder on the Orient Express (revisited on audio)

(Note: Yugoslavia at the time of the writing -- but the action is set after the train has passed Vinkovci, aka "The Gateway to Croatia".)



Dolores Redondo: El guardián invisible / The Invisible Guardian (new)

Manuel Vicent: Son de mar / Der Gesang der Wellen (new)



Andrea Camilleri: The Shape of Water (new)



John Le Carré: A Small Town in Germany (new)



Nina Blazon: Siebengeschichten (new)



Sofi Oksanen: Fegefeuer (The Purge) (new)



Teffi: Memories: From Moscow to the Black Sea (new)

(Note: Counting Russia as European here, not Asian, as the author is from -- and this particular book is set in -- the country's European part.)




The "Gender Wars" Stats:

Read to date, in 2019:

Books by female authors: 114

- new: 83

- rereads: 31


Books by male authors: 68

- new: 60

- rereads: 8


Books by F & M mixed teams / anthologies: 8

- new: 7

- rereads: 1




The Reading Lists:
















WOMEN WRITERS (global list):


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text 2019-10-14 15:30
Halloween Bingo 2019: Fourteenth Extra Square
Grave Secrets - Kathy Reichs,Katherine Borowitz


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review 2019-10-09 14:41
Needed to be More Twisted
A Whole New World: A Twisted Tale (Twisted Tale, A) - Liz Braswell

Well this one was a letdown. I read the twisted tales about Beauty and the Beast and loved how that was set up. This one takes a look at Aladdin and Jasmine and what would have happened if Jafar got to use the lamp and have Genie grant him wishes. I think the biggest problem is that none of the characters feels very developed. There seems to be a side plot with the introduction of two characters (Duban and Morgiana) that held more promise than us following Jasmine and Aladdin around trying to defeat Jafar. Also the book is a lot more harsher about the Sultan and how the people of Agrabah were treated by him. The ending was just off to me. I was expecting something more. 


"A Whole New World" follows what would have happened to Jasmine and Aladdin if Jafar was able to escape with the lamp instead of Aladdin holding onto it from the Cave of Wonders. The book also includes a few things that I happen to know are from the musical as well. We have the introduction of Aladdin's mother, mention of his runaway father, and his two childhood friends who are focused on being the best thieves ever. That said, the book switches things up a bit with Aladdin getting Abu from his mother as a pet. Aladdin only stealing to help out others and not for monetary gain. He runs from the captain of the guards, but still respects them. The book follows along with the Disney cartoon through Aladdin meeting Jasmine in the market, saving her from losing her hand, and them running off with each other. The book only changes things when we have Jafar hold onto the lamp and leaving Aladdin to die in the Cave of Wonders. 


Image result for diamond in the rough gif


From there everything kind of goes sideways.


Jasmine is developed slightly. She sees the issues with how her father ruled and how she never got how the people of Agrabah were neglected by her father and his need to just let Jafar deal with things while he played with toys. I felt a bit bad since I always liked Jasmine's father in the cartoon, and here he seems to be more of a buffoon.


Aladdin has a whole code thing going on though and talks about "street rats" a lot. Braswell also has him and Jasmine pretty much insta-loving each other quickly in this one. I was more interested in Aladdin once you have the introduction of Duban and Morgiana and their whole group of thieves thing. 


Jafar is not only power mad, he wants people to genuinely love them. He is still focused on Jasmine marrying him in this story for reasons (that really don't make a lot of sense, but whatever) and is determined to find magical means to compel her and others to do his bidding. 


The Genie in our story is still sassy, but also pretty lame. We don't get him interacting with Aladdin, instead he interacts with Jasmine and goes into how genies are made, humans suck, and the whole three wishes thing. The information dumps are not that great and I was curious about genies and the whole end times thing that was referenced. 


Image result for genie aladdin cartoon gif


The writing was a letdown. We keep having a story climax it felt like every chapter. And you would have a character going, well now we are going to go to war with Jafar and then nothing would happen for pages and pages. Or someone would threaten to kill Jafar and it just rang hollow after a while. I think the problem was that too much was going on with people getting captured, almost captured, escaping, etc. The flow was not good. I mean after Jafar gets the lamp it should have been game over or something. I don't know a way to have made this more interesting. Maybe if Braswell had really gone for it and killed off all of the main characters from the story and letting Duban and Morgiana take center stage. 


I did laugh one time while reading though when you have Jafar take a page out of Aladdin's book and does his own parade cheering him and how weird it all looked to outsiders. 


Related image


The setting of Agrabah just seemed a bit different than what the Disney cartoon showed us. We just generally seem to have all of the people living in poverty. And then one wonders how the Sultan and Jasmine lived so well if the people had zero money to be paying taxes and or feeding themselves. I was perplexed. 


The ending was weird. I don't know. I felt like this was a set-up to another story in some ways, but I know that these twisted tales stand alone so I didn't get the ending that was given here. 


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review 2019-10-08 20:23
Francie and her Mod, Mod, Mod World of Fashion by Joe Blitman
Francie and Her Mod, Mod, Mod World of Fashion - Joe Blitman

I've been looking and looking for this! Francie, Barbie's "MOD'ern" cousin, debuted in 1966. She can be elusive, but irresistible once you get a handle on what you're looking for. Joe Blitman's other book 'Barbie and her Mod, Mod, Mod World of Fashion' was a comprehensive and fun look at the 'mod' fashions for Barbie and her same-size friends. His book on 'Francie' is just as thorough and playful. It includes every Francie doll and outfit produced.


 Two blonde twist n' turn Francies. Standing is wearing 1966-67's 'Gad Abouts' missing a green knit hat with blue pom, and thin visor sunglasses. Sitting is wearing a vintage 'clone' outfit clearly inspired by Mattel.


In addition to a section covering dolls in their original packaging and outfits, the book offers two photos of each outfit, one neatly laid out with its accessories and another on a doll, or dolls, in posed shots with fun props and backgrounds. This makes for a more interesting read and it also offers different angles and textures that aren't easy to see when they're lying flat or still beneath plastic. This is especially true of the knit or crocheted leggings which are very hard make out in those small pictures.


Our latest find! The 1966 Francie house. It's an enormous vinyl suitcase. I can't imagine a kid lugging this around full of dolls. It's missing some pieces, as you'll see, but I put in some extras.


Francie in various forms was around for roughly ten years depending on how fast stores sold old stock. She had same-size friends in Casey and Twiggy (they shared a head mold). She never talked, but was given a Malibu make-over (a differently painted Casey head) in 1971. Her outfits then became less inspired as the '70s wore on before she was discontinued sometime in 1976.


A 1970-73 Francie with Growin' Pretty Hair in her original dress. The mechanism for the hair seems to be frozen. I'm not going to be the one to yank her head off trying to make the hair 'grow'.


Francie only ever came in blonde or brunette (the growin' pretties were only blonde, the quick curls were only brunette), but was the first doll to have the 'real' eyelashes enjoyed by many of the dolls of the late '60s and early '70s. In another first, Mattel released Francie as a black doll in 1967. This version is extremely scarce, but available online if a collector wants to pay. Another problem with finding any Francie in good condition is that in the 1965-69 years the vinyl has a tendency to yellow and/or develop a sticky residue.


A 1966-68 Twist 'n Turn Francie in her original swimsuit.


The other essential book is, of course, Sarah Sink Eames' 'Barbie Doll Fashion, Vol. 2'


We've made some progress collecting mod-era dolls, but we have a long way to go. With a few exceptions, we won't pick up anything after 'Malibu' happened. I didn't have many mod dolls before, so I've mixed a few of them in the last photo. :)


Party time! Another Growin' Pretty Francie wears 1968's 'The Silver Cage' escorted by a New Good Looking Ken wearing 1969's 'Rally Gear'. A Free Movin' Ken is in 1971's 'The Suede Scene' and a Twist n' Turn Julia wears 'Leisure Leopard'. By the way, those chairs are mounted in the vinyl and can swivel. Probably so a child (or grown ass man) could swivel the dolls underneath the table top (missing).

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