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review 2017-10-19 08:23
Blunt Instrument
A Blunt Instrument - Georgette Heyer

Here's the thing about most Golden Age mysteries:  the puzzle is all.  No matter how witty or clever or brilliant the writing is, it's almost never about the characters themselves, but about the murder mystery puzzle.  Which is, of course, why I read mysteries; I love the puzzle and I love trying to solve it.  But unfortunately, if the reader does solve the murder/puzzle, there's not a lot of characterisation to fall back on; solve the puzzle and the remaining story can be tedious.

 

I solved this one on page 88-89.  I don't think I did anything particularly clever, just that a certain passage hit me a certain way and it all became clear to me.  The only thing I ended up getting wrong was the relation of the murderer to one of the characters and then only because I imagined the murderer to be the wrong age.

 

I didn't dnf, or skip to the end to see if I was correct solely because, when Heyer is 'on' with her writing she is on, and this is one of her better writing efforts, even if the plotting went astray (and I've found out her mysteries were all plotted by her husband).  The story behind the mystery plot is a farce and Heyer thoroughly caricatures everyone except Hannasyde.  The dialog was electric and even though I was thoroughly impatient with Neville at the start, I thought him wildly entertaining by the end.  I wanted to keep reading just to see what he'd say and do next. 

 

So, 2 stars for the plotting because... page 89.  There was never any doubt on my part that I was wrong.  But an extra star because the characters are Heyer at her wittiest and most hilarious.

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review 2017-10-19 03:18
(Audiobook) The Turn of the Screw
The Turn of the Screw - Henry James,Richard Armitage,Emma Thompson

aka Words, Words Everywhere.

 

I've read my share of VIctorian Era writing, so I am quite familiar with just how wordy it can be. But this...this was beyond. Honestly, had I been reading this as opposed to listening to it I'd have DNF'd it for sure. Even with the superb narration, there were a few times I had to back up to listen to a passage again.

 

As for the story itself...it was okay. I like--and yet also find it quite maddening--that the story is left open to interpretation. And I'm not quite sure just what I think actually happened just yet. I waffled back and forth while reading the book, but have no firm thoughts as of now.

 

Anyway, 2 stars for the story itself, and the extra star is for Emma Thompson's excellent narration.

 

 

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text 2017-10-19 03:03
Reading progress update: I've read 100%.
The Turn of the Screw - Henry James,Richard Armitage,Emma Thompson

I just need Classic Horror to be called and I will have my second bingo!

 

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review 2017-10-18 21:19
Not Going on My Favorite List, But Still Pretty Great Book
Hangsaman - Shirley Jackson

Look, just know that this book is weird. It switches from first to third person sometimes too. And then you honestly don't know what's real or not real so you feel very confused at times. And you also may end up not liking anyone (I know I didn't) but may come away feeling sorry for Natalie (I did) and then just confused again. Just go read Moonlight Reader's REVIEW of this book since it will make way more sense than my mutterings about things below.

 

First, Natalie and her family are messed up. You find that out quickly when you realize her terrible father refers to himself as God everyday when they are having breakfast. Her mother is scared of being alone with her father (I know I would be too) and also scared of doing anything wrong. Natalie's brother, Bud is barely there and Natalie is at times doing her best to please her father, but also trying to help her mother though she has barely concealed contempt for her at times. 

 

When Natalie starts having a back and forth conversation with a police detective you don't know if Jackson is trying to allude to something that is going to happen, or it's all just in Natalie's imagination.


When Natalie finally leaves for college, things get worse for her. She realizes that she has no friends, the other girls call her "Spooky" and you start to realize that what you are being told is not the whole truth as a reader. I started to pick up on things here and there and realized that Natalie was not realizing what was not being said a lot of times. When Natalie weirdly befriends one of her professor's wives, things actually seem a bit better, but you realize she has fallen into the mess of another family that she is finding even heard to extricate herself from. 

 

I think the writing at times got a bit muddled (sorry Ms. Jackson) I assume that is intentional, since I have read some of Jackson's other works, and it seems as if she chooses each word with care. Some sentences last an entire paragraph. At times it made my eyes glaze over. And you start to realize that maybe Jackson is doing that on purpose since you start to realize that maybe Natalie is speaking some of this out of the way stuff out loud. 

The flow was a bit off for me though. Due to the writing I mentioned above, it just made things grind to a halt at times. Since this is such a short book it should not have taken me that long to finish it, but it did. I think that after Natalie goes away to school things drag a bit until she meet's her professor's wife. 

 

The setting of a young girl's home and than college experience was interesting. I just don't remember being alone at college. My brother was an upperclassman so everyone called me Little (insert my brother's name here) so I didn't even have my own identity, I was just his little sister even after he graduated. I will say that everyone treated me differently though. He was a jock, and though I was in high school, I decided to just focus on my grades and not play any sports. When the school's basketball coach found out I could play and how good I was apparently she was not happy.

 

Image result for not my problem gif

 

I digress. The ending of the book gets increasingly dark and leaves the reader with a feeling that something worse is coming Natalie's way due to what all the signs are pointing to regarding her behavior. 

 

I wouldn't really call this a Gothic book or even a straight up horror story though Goodreads classifies it as such. It's just an interesting look at the different stages in a woman's life. We have the young girl (naive and at times defiant) the newlywed (scared of what she did by giving up her own identity) and the married woman (realizing that being married was not the ultimate prize that she thought it would be). So you do get the maiden, the mother, and the crone in this one giving a cautionary tale about what it means to be a woman. 

 

Image result for the maiden the mother the crone

 

 

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text 2017-10-18 16:30
Reading progress update: I've read 117 out of 191 pages.
Pietr Le Letton - Georges Simenon

Well, one thing is obvious: Simenon was writing for an audience that clearly had specific images in their mind whenever a Paris locale was invoked -- no need to go into great descriptive and atmospheric detail; mere name-dropping of the location was sufficient.  All of which is fine for today's readers as long as they are at least familiar with the present-day incarnations of these places (and possibly their history), or have seen period images, but which makes the novel somewhat inaccessible if you've never been to Paris nor have other ways of evoking the same sense of instant recognition that Simenon's contemporaneous audience would have had.  Which probably goes some way towards explaining (in addition to their several TV adaptations over the decades) why his books are still incredibly popular in Europe -- and not merely in France, either -- but somewhat less well known elsewhere.

 

Also, I note that Maigret is another one of the "great detectives" who didn't age in real time.  We're told at the beginning of "Pietr le Letton" that he was 45 years old in 1931, when this book was published, which would have made for retirement in the early 1950s.  Yet le commissaire Maigret was still investigating crimes in the early 1970s ...

 


36 Quai des Orfèvres, the police headquarters of Paris, then and now.  There's a neat blog page (in French) looking at the history of the place. (Note: Linked place names hereafter contain similar links to information found on the web.)

 


Simenon's "Majestic" is a luxury hotel in the vein of the Meurice (left) and the Georges V (right) (both photos from Wikipedia).  Its interior might well have looked like this:

... and we're told that it's on the Champs Elysées, which looked like this then:

 Maigret and the man he pursues take the train from, and arrive back in Paris at the Gare St. Lazare:

Maigret then follows his quarry on foot all the way from the Gare St. Lazare across the city centre to the Rue du Roi de Sicile, via Rue du 4 Septembre and Les Halles, which is easily a 50-minute walk. (NB: the police headquarters at 36 Quai des Orfèvres are on the southern bank of Île Notre Dame, just below Sainte Chapelle in the below map, in the direction of Pont Neuf):

Les Halles, the famous "Belly of Paris" epitomized in Émile Zola's novel of the same name -- razed in the 1970s and replaced by a forum, which in turn was replaced by a canopy roof in the 2000s:

 

The Rue du Roi de Sicile was part of the old Jewish quarter in the Marais (video on YouTube -- opens on BookLikes only in blog view, not in dashboard view):


Rue due Roi de Sicile (photos from Wikiwand)

... and elsewhere in the old Jewish quarter.

The Marais (which literally translates as "swamp" -- for a [geographical] reason) today is an area of bars and nightclubs, and in the early 2000s used to be one of the centres of the gay scene (don't know whether that's still the case).

As Simenon highlights, it is only a few hundred feet from the Rue de Rivoli, next to the Champs Elysées one of the most luxurious shopping miles of Paris -- in the 1930s, the contrast between the poverty of the Jewish quarter and the splendour of the Rue de Rivoli must have been staggering:

(Rue de Rivoli, then and now)

The evening of that same day, Maigret follows the American billionaire Mortimer-Levingston and his wife to the (théâtre du) Gymnase on Bd. Bonne Nouvelle (on the above map, the stretch between Bd. Haussmann and Bd. Saint-Martin) where they attend the performance of an opera. (Note: Today's incarnation of the Gymnase is a cabaret; it's still in the same building, but the shows presented are entirely different):
 

Afterwards, the billionaire couple proceed to a dance bar on (or near) the Rue la Fayette (bottom row: the same corner of Rue la Fayette, then and now -- photos from CParama / Le Métropolitain de Paris):
 

Bars in Montmartre, Montparnasse and Saint Germain des Près similar to what Simenon's Pickwick Bar would probably have been like (photos from various sources):
    

And, finally, a few images of Fécamp (Normandie), where Maigret follows the man identified as Pietr le Letton at the beginning of the book (right: an early 20th century painting of Fécamp harbour by Robert Antoine Pinchon; both images from Wikipedia):

Merken

Merken

Merken

Merken

Merken

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