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text 2018-01-14 23:15
Detection Club Bingo: My Progress So Far
The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books - Martin Edwards
The Golden Age of Murder - Martin Edwards
Murder of a Lady (British Library Crime Classics) - Anthony Wynne
The Tales of Max Carrados - Ernest Bramah,Stephen Fry
Pietr Le Letton - Georges Simenon
Lonely Magdalen: A Murder Story - Henry Wade
Margery Allingham Omnibus: Includes Sweet Danger, The Case of the Late Pig, The Tiger in the Smoke - Margery Allingham

 

1. A New Era Dawns: Ernest Bramah - The Tales of Max Carrados

2. The Birth of the Golden Age
3. The Great Detectives:
Margery Allingham - The Crime at Black Dudley, Mystery Mile, Look to the Lady, Police at the Funeral, Sweet Danger, Death of a Ghost, Flowers for the Judge, The Case of the Late Pig, Dancers in Mourning, The Fashion in Shrouds, Traitor's Purse, and The Tiger in the Smoke
4. 'Play Up! Play Up! and Play the Game!'
5. Miraculous Murders:
Anthony Wynne - Murder of a Lady
6. Serpents in Eden
7. Murder at the Manor:
Ethel Lina White - The Spiral Staircase (aka Some Must Watch)
8. Capital Crimes
9. Resorting to Murder
10. Making Fun of Murder
11. Education, Education, Education
12. Playing Politics
13. Scientific Enquiries
14. The Long Arm of the Law:
Henry Wade - Lonely Magdalen
15. The Justice Game
16. Multiplying Murders
17. The Psychology of Crime
18. Inverted Mysteries
19. The Ironists
20. Fiction from Fact
21. Singletons
22. Across the Atlantic
23. Cosmopolitan Crimes: Georges Simenon - Pietr le Letton (Pietr the Latvian)
24. The Way Ahead

 

Free Square / Eric the Skull: Martin Edwards - The Golden Age of Murder

 

The book that started it all:

Martin Edwards - The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books

 

The Detection Club Reading Lists:
The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books: The "100 Books" Presented
The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books: Other Books Mentioned, Chapters 1-5

The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books: Other Books Mentioned, Chapters 6 & 7
The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books: Other Books Mentioned, Chapters 8-10
The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books: Other Books Mentioned, Chapters 11-15
The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books: Other Books Mentioned, Chapters 16-20
The story of Classic Crime in 100 Books: Other Books Mentioned, Chapters 21-24

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text 2017-12-05 17:30
Books I Read In October and November
The Diamond Empire (A Diamonds Novel) - K'wan
Sing, Unburied, Sing: A Novel - Jesmyn Ward
Brazen - Katherine Longshore
The Longest Memory - Fred D'Aguiar
The Tragedy of Brady Sims (Vintage Contemporaries) - Ernest J. Gaines
The Nightingale - Kristin Hannah
An Extraordinary Union - Alyssa Cole
A Hope Divided (The Loyal League) - Alyssa Cole
Perennials - Julie Cantrell
Driver's Seat (Penguin Modern Classics) - Muriel Spark

I read six books in October and five books in November. I'm pretty pleased about my progress. There were a few books that I thought I'd love and a few that I was unsure of that after reading became favorites. Here are the reading results:

 

 

5 Star Reads

 

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

 

*I listened to most of it on audio and then switched to the ebook. This book is worth all the hype. It is an unforgettable read. I will definitely re-read this book and I highly recommend if you enjoy WWII books and stories about family.

 

 

The Longest Memory by Fred D'Aguiar

 

*This was definitely a hard read. There's family betrayal, heartbreak and the harsh realities of plantation life. The characters in this book will stay with me for some time.

 

 

4 Star Reads

 

The Diamond Empire by K'wan

 

*Crazy characters, violence and deception all play into great entertainment. I love this series and can't wait for the next book. K'wan knows how to keep you captivated, on edge and panting for that next read.

 

An Extraordinary Union (The Loyal League) by Alyssa Cole

 

*Absolutely more than I anticipated. I loved the premise, characters and the writing. This book has interracial love, familial love and characters that stand for what they believe in. Another that I highly recommend to lovers of romance and historical fiction. Alyssa Cole is an author I will continue to pick up.

 

A Hope Divided (The Loyal League #2) by Alyssa Cole

 

*Loved it! Just as great as the first, but I fell in love with Socrates (Ewan). Marlie and Ewan had their own personal struggle, but manage to fight for what's most important, love.

 

Perennials by Julie Cantrell

 

*I listened to the entire book by read-to-me function on my Kindle Fire during the seven hour ride to Las Vegas. Perennials is what I call a slow burn. There's much going on throughout the book, but it all comes together like an intricately weaved  fabric at the end. I love family books. This book was heartbreaking and sweet.

 

Brazen by Katherine Longshore

 

*I'm trying to clear out the last of my YA books. I read the first two books in The Royal Circle trilogy and enjoyed them so, I decided to read Brazen before I donated it. I'm finding that the YA books I purchased are truly written for a very young audience and I can't read them. The writing is too juvenile in language and tone. However, I was able to read this and enjoyed it. It was a fun engaging read.

 

 

3 Star Reads

 

The Driver's Seat by Muriel Spark

 

*Okay, but completely forgettable read. I would've preferred someone to have just told me the story and saved my money and time.

 

Thousand Cranes by Yasunari Kawabata

 

*Another okay read that I had too high expectations. I get the parts about the importance of traditions with the tea ceremony, but even that wasn't enough of a grab to save this little book. Someone could've just told me the plot and I could've skipped it.

 

 

None Rated Books

 

The Tragedy of Brady Sims by Ernest J. Gaines

 

*This definitely didn't turn out the way I thought it would. It's strange it's a book in my opinion. I don't read short stories, but I would call this one. I'm baffled and don't have much to say. Another book I could've skipped.

 

Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward

 

*This is the third book that I've tried to love by Ms. Ward. I just don't think we get along. The first book I read of hers was Salvage the Bones. After I tried The Men We Reap. I found it to be slow and melancholy to the point of distraction. My mind would wonder while reading the words. I get the point of the books or what's trying to be conveyed. I just don't enjoy the process of getting there. I find her books have the same formula. Therefore not agreeing with my tastes. Many readers love Ms. Ward and she's won numerous awards. I'm sure she'll continue with much success and I do wish her well.

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review 2017-12-03 08:25
Emile Zola’s The Belly of Paris: Celebration of Food or Satire?
The Belly of Paris - Ernest Alfred Vizetelly,Émile Zola

Les Halles in Paris—do you know it? Unless you’re into a bit of French history, you may not. It doesn’t exist anymore, demolished in 1969/70, its centennial year. It was a huge market, much of it housed in at least ten pavilions of glass and iron designed by Victor Baltard. Plus a big domed central pavilion that later became the Bourse de Commerce, the French stock exchange. Everything you could imagine to be edible could be found there, from fish, meats, and cheeses to fruits, vegetables, and herbs.

View of Les Halles in Paris taken from Saint Eustache upper gallery, c. 1870-80 (colour litho) by Benoist, Felix (1813-1896); Private Collection, out of copyright interior of dome

Les Halles has been called the “belly” of Paris, a name owed to Emile Zola’s novel Le Ventre de Paris (The Belly of Paris), published in 1873, three years after the opening of Les Halles. It should be no surprise that the novel contains descriptions of the market’s offerings. Descriptions that are some of the lushest I’ve read and probably in greater profusion than in any other book. For those who love food, it’s a joy to read.

But the book isn’t just about the bounty (or glut) of the products the market yields. It’s, in fact, just one in a series of twenty books—maybe the largest of all time—chronicling the lives of the Rougon-Macqquart family. According to Brian Nelson’s Introduction to The Belly of Paris (Oxford World’s Classics). Zola intended the series to

“illustrate the influence of heredity and environment on a wide range of characters and milieus.”

Sounds like a psychological study (here’s another of another Victorian character)? Sure does, but in the form of fiction. The cycle or series places various members of this particular family at the core of each of the twenty books. In The Belly of Paris, that Rougon-Macquart is Lisa, the plump and beautiful, rosy, self-assured woman married to Quenu, the owner of a successful charcuterie. While her relatively simple-minded fat husband labors in the kitchen to make the products for the store, La Belle Madame reigns behind the counter.

The book, is so much more complex than it may appear on the surface and, like any great piece of art, each reader can potentially see in it something that’s unique to her particular perception. For me, one character that stood out is the young artist Claude, Lisa’s nephew, who returns as the main character in a subsequent book, L’Œuvre (The Masterpiece). He wanders around the markets in early mornings, admires the luscious colors of the produce and imagines painting them.

Claude may have been modeled after post-Impressionist Paul Cezanne, Zola’s friend from their childhood in Aix-en-Provence. Besides being a painter, Claude is something of a philosopher—a mouthpiece for Zola—as he theorizes about fat people swallowing up the thin ones. This clash of Fat vs. Thin is, in fact, a major theme throughout the whole book.

While the Fat prevails in Les Halles, some thin people do live around there. Aside from Claude, there is Florent, the unlikely hero. He brought up his younger half-brother, the fat charcutier Quenu who is devoted to him. Having escaped his exile in the prison of Cayenne (Devil’s Island) where he suffered constant deprivation of food, company, and sensory stimulation, you might think Florent would fatten himself up and thrive in Les Halles. But the abundance of food doesn’t make him salivate. It makes him want to puke. He’s a conscience-ridden ascetic who spends his hours thinking and writing about how to change things for the better. He threatens the status quo and the things that Lisa values. She becomes his silent, but powerful, enemy. In the end, Zola describes her:

She was a picture of absolute quietude, of perfect bliss, not only untroubled but lifeless, as she bathed in the warm air. She seemed, in her tightly stretched bodice, to be still digesting the happiness of the day before; her plump hands, lost in the folds of her apron, were not even outstretched to grasp the happiness of the day, for it was sure to fall into them. And the shop window beside her seemed to display the same bliss. It too had recovered; the stuffed tongues lay red and healthy, the hams were once more showing their handsome yellow faces,

The Belly of Paris is just as much about the characters—as richly-drawn as the produce—that inhabit Les Halles as it is about its life-giving (for the fat) but also nauseating (for the thin) bounty.

For a long time, French cuisine has been celebrated all over the world for its superior quality and craftsmanship. Every chef worth her salt wanted to master French culinary techniques. French gastronomy has been such an institution that UNESCO declared it an intangible cultural heritage in 2010, citing it as a “social custom aimed at celebrating the most important moments in the lives of individuals and groups.” A ritual and festive event using know-how linked to traditional craftsmanship.

Les Halles, I think, is both at the root of and an embodiment of French gastronomy, one that Emile Zola immortalizes in this sumptuous, biting book.

Source: margaretofthenorth.wordpress.com/2017/10/11/emile-zolas-the-belly-of-paris-celebration-of-food-or-satire
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review 2017-11-29 01:33
READY PLAYER ONE Review
Ready Player One - Ernest Cline

The year is 2044, and everyone is hooked up to an all-encompassing virtual reality program called the OASIS. The world itself has become broken and desolate beyond repair, thus pushing humans to full involvement in virtual living. Everything is available on the program. And the original creator, upon his death, left his entire fortune to the one lucky player who can beat all his challenges and find the egg at the end of the hunt. The prize? $280 billion. And an all-powerful, eternal avatar on the OASIS.

 

I really wasn’t sure if I would like this book, but seeing the movie trailer recently piqued my interest. I am glad I gave it a shot, as it was a delightful and enthralling departure from my usual reading. This one reveals in geek culture. I don’t game at all, nor do I hold any sort of nostalgia for the 1980s, but I still had buckets of fun. The main character, Wade, is a cool cat, as are his online friends. I was with them from the start.

 

I did have a few minor problems, though. I could have done with perhaps a bit more character development — I’m thinking all the characters not named Wade. His friends are fleshed out a bit, but not enough for my liking. Still, this is primarily an action/adventure/techno thriller, which means in-depth character development isn’t the first priority. That’s fine.

 

There’s also a bit of instalove here, and that grates my nerves. In fact, said instalove almost wrecked the ending for me, but whatever. These characters are teenagers and teenagers are prone to cheesy displays of affection and emotion. It’s fine. I sort of expected it from this, a YA novel in adult fiction clothing.

 

I enjoyed this one a lot. Cline’s sheer imagination is a power to behold, and the futuristic universe he has created is awe-inspiring and a lot of fun, even to someone who doesn’t like sci-fi — like me. If you’re feeling a rollicking geeky ride filled with 1980s references, try this out.

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review 2017-11-09 12:44
'The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas' by Gertrude Stein
The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas - Gertrude Stein

If you start thinking too deep about Gertrude Stein's motivation and headspace in writing this book it's easy to lose yourself in a hall of mirrors. Stein — noted, notable, an influencer before #influencers were a thing — wrote this book "largely to amuse herself" [according to the back cover] in the persona of her partner Alice Toklas, but largely about herself. It is easy to find ways throughout the book that she seems to play with the form, frustrate expecatations, amuse herself, which makes it fun but can also feel like an inside joke, especially if you're not in on the game.

 

I was expecting to get away from the popular vision of Stein into the actual writing. I was knew little more than what I had seen read in Ernest Hemingway's A Moveable Feast, which was written much later, and seen in the movie Midnight in Paris, which presents a fan-fiction version of Stein, Hemingway, Fitzgerald and others in the Paris social circles of the time. Stein, played by Kathy Bates, comes across as a kind of oracle, a sought after voice of guidance who dashes off short, enigmatic quips to her cadre of famous artists and writers.

 

To my surprise, my image hasn't changed that much after reading this book. I imagine this is at least in part an effect of the playfulness, playing into the image that had been built of her. She shows us the same ultra-cool group around her, they all come to 27 rue de Fleurus for advice which is always more quizzical than practical. But when you expect intimacy, she changes the subject, when you expect to hear about art she cuts you off with a neologism, you're ready for more Picasso but she has already drifted to Picabia. 

 

The story constantly jumps from anecdote to anecdote, following thread forward through the years and back so that you lose track of the fact that the chapter that started 40 pages ago is supposed to be about 1907-1914. All her famous friends appear but rather than a revealing look, we get a glimpse and a quip. About Bebe Berard's paintings, she says, "they are almost something and then they are not." And Picabia, "although he has in a sense not a painter's gift he has an idea that has been and will be of immense value to all time." [I'll note that both these instances appear in the book attributed to Stein by Toklas.]

 

At the heart of my issue with this book, and the way it most conforms to the tell-all, is the assumption of a deep familiarity with the subject. Many things that are entirely uninteresting if it's some guy on the bus are suddenly newsworthy if it's done by Anne Hathaway. TMZ owes it's whole existance to this phenomenon and goofy sound effects. In more narrative stories, where the people are fictional or unknown, you would establish that connection between the reader and the principle characters, but in tell-alls and memoirs you can trade off the reader's existing connections to public figures.

 

Going back to Midnight in Paris, Owen Wilson [the only name I will ever use for any character he portrays] meets a man at the party who introduces himself as Scott Fitzgerald. He is dumbstruck and the audience is expected to be as well because it's assumed we all know who F. Scott Fitzgerald is. If we had given the name Charles Boyle it would have been a very strange scene, no person watching would have any reason to know why meeting this Charles guy was exciting.

 

So it is here at points. There are so many artists and wives and personalities that flit in and out and we get no characterization. Of course I was very interested in the Hemingway part not only because I like his work but because I know something of his biography. Picasso's work I really enjoy but I know little of his life so I didn't really know what to make of the events that happened to him. He is with Fernande, then he is with Eve and neither mean much to me. I am told Stein and Toklas like Fernande but that's about as high as the stakes get. I know almost nothing of Cezanne's biography though I love his painting, same with Matisse. Juan Gris and Braque, I know their names and a few pieces, and many I don't know at all. 

 

That is why the writing feels so unconnected and why it dragged so much at moments, it sometimes felt like random pages torn out of a notebook and mixed up, there is a story there but I don't have all the pieces to make sense of it. 

 

Adding to the slowness, Stein uses a conversational style, which here means following loose trains of thought and bouncing around between subjects and time periods. In my mind I could picture Toklas professionally lit for a documentary and just speaking for hours straight running through the notable events of her life with Stein. But it doesn't build to anything and the chapters run to about 50 pages so staying focused took some doing. 

 

That is a lot of complaining for a book I enjoyed fine and may revisit someday, probably when I have learned more about Picasso and the art scene in early 20th century Paris. If that is your focus, this is surely a must-read, but if not, I'm hoping there are other routes into Stein that are more inviting.

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