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review 2018-11-05 15:24
Took a Little Bit to Get Going, But Really Loved This One
The Pale Horse - Agatha Christie

The non-Poirot or Jane Marple books are usually hit or miss for me. However, Christie does a great job with this one. The book is slow moving at first. We follow a man named Mark Easterbrook who narrates the majority of the book. Initially we don't exactly know what's going on, we just know that there are some deaths that are somehow linked to a place called "The Pale Horse." It took me til about the 20 percent mark to get really into the book. I liked Easterbrook and was delighted with Mrs. Oliver for popping up too. She gets strong armed to sign some books at a village fete by Easterbrook and makes mention of not liking fetes after what happened at the last one she was at (Dead Man's Folly).  

 

"The Pale Horse" follows Mark Easterbrook (who appears to be a historical writer or novelist....still unclear on that) who seems to be drifting through his life. He has a steady relationship with a woman named Hermia who he is slightly fond of, but who he finds dull. When he witnesses two young woman tousling over a young man at a coffee bar; he finds out one of the woman's names (Thomasina Tuckerton known as Tommy Tucker) and learns later that she died after reading her obituary. The book then shifts to Father Gorman who is called to give last rites to a woman who is dying. Whatever he learns disturbs him so much he goes off and writes down names. Too bad for Father Gorman that someone ends up murdering the man, not realizing that he tucked the list of names into his shoe. When the police are called up, they are flummoxed about the list of names. They realize some of the names are of people who have died, but have died of natural causes. Then we switch back to Mark and him getting pulled into the investigation. 

 

There are a lot of characters in this one, but Christie does a great job with all of them I thought. I liked Mark. We get some reveals about his backstory that surprised me. I did like that when he ends up realizing where The Pale Horse is (near one of his relatives) he acts as if he isn't interested in going there after what many of the inhabitants say about the three women who work there. When he realizes that Hermia is not taking his concerns seriously, he goes to the local vicar's wife who believes him and also ends up getting assisted by Mrs. Oliver who gives him some suggestions about forming a partnership with Ginger Corrigan (a young lady he met when he initially came to visit his relatives). 


I really enjoyed Ginger a lot. Her and Mark definitely realize something is up with The Pale Horse and refuse to just let the police do their investigation.


I also liked how Christie did foreshadowing in this one. We have Mark, Hermia, and Mark's friend and his date talking about MacBeth and the three witches and how unrealistic they are when you get into their speech and how actors portray them. I liked how Mark's friend said what would be more scary would just be three ordinary women in a village who many have come to fear. When Mark meets Thyrza Grey, Sybil Stamfordis, and Bella Webb, I got why he felt uneasy around them. Here are the three modern witches that his friend warned him about and Mark becomes afraid they do have real power to cause someone to get sick and die. 

 

The writing was very good and I have to admit that I didn't see the ending coming at all. Per usual, smartly done by Christie. 

 

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text 2018-11-01 17:24
Reading progress update: I've read 5%.
The Pale Horse - Agatha Christie

Ariadne has not shown up yet. We have been witnessed to a fight between two women over a man though. And the narrator (so far) is Mark Easterbrook who appears to be a novelist and is dismayed at how dirty young women look nowadays. When Mark reads an obituary of one of the young woman who was in the fight (Thomasina Tuckerton known as Tommy Tucker) he wonders what happened. 


I just realized I can read this for the book portion of Dia de los Muertos!

 

Book: Re-read an old favorite from a now-deceased author, a book from a finished (dead) series, or a book set in Mexico.

 

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text 2017-02-17 15:27
7 Great Fantasy/Urban Fantasy Series
Storm Front - Jim Butcher
Something from the Nightside - Simon R. Green
The Gates (Samuel Johnson, #1) - John Connolly
The Rook - Daniel O'Malley
Moving Pictures - Terry Pratchett
The Name of the Wind (Kingkiller Chronicle, #1) - Patrick Rothfuss
On a Pale Horse - Piers Anthony

At this point, it is no surprise to anyone that I am a fantasy fan, specifically urban fantasy. I like magic, monsters, adventures, etc. I also like revisiting characters and worlds, which means I'm definitely a series guy. I like a good standalone, mind you, but they are rarely as immersive as a long-running series.These are a few of my faves, and why. I am excluding the ones I discovered last year, as I've already discussed them elsewhere.

 

1. Storm Front - Jim Butcher  The Dresden Files - Jim Butcher

 

First Book: Storm Front (2000), ongoing

 

One of my all-time favorites, this series follows Harry Dresden, a professional wizard based in Chicago. It starts out as basically a PI series with magic, but dives much deeper into the lore starting with book 3, Grave Peril. Fast, funny, and exciting, this is the big daddy of modern UF, hitting #1 on the NY Times list a few times. There are 15 books in the series thus far, plus various shorts, novellas, and comics.

 

2. Something from the Nightside - Simon R. Green   The Nightside series - Simon R. Green

 

First book: Something From The Nightside (2003), completed

 

This series takes place in the titular Nightside and follows John Taylor, PI, ne'er-do-well

and prophesied heir to the Nightside, as he solves crimes, learns about his birthright, and challenges the Powers That Be. The writing can be a bit repetitive, and there are a couple lesser books among the twelve (thirteen including a collection, which is fun but inessential), but some of the characters are just flat awesome, especially Walker and "Shotgun" Suzie Shooter. Can get a bit gruesome, but the humor is always spot on.

 

3. The Gates (Samuel Johnson, #1) - John Connolly  Samuel Johnson series - John Connolly

 

First book: The Gates (2009), completed.

 

A very funny combination of demonology and theoretical physics, intended for YA readers. A great trilogy about a young boy whose town is frequently treatened with demonic takeover. I'm not usually a YA guy, but this just flat rocks.

 

4. The Rook - Daniel O'Malley  Checquy series - Daniel O'Malley

 

First book: The Rook (2012), ongoing.

 

Another fun UF series, this one told, thus far, from exclusively female perspectives. There are many people in the world born with strange abilities and, in the UK, it is up to the Checquy to handle them. Very funny, often gory, and occasionally thought-provoking. As the second book, Stiletto, mostly abandons the lead from the first book in favor of two new characters, it will be interesting to see what happens in book 3.

 

5. Moving Pictures - Terry Pratchett  Discworld - Terry Pratchett

 

First book: Color of Magic (1983), completed.

 

Confession time: I've only read six or so of these books and feel no pressig need to complete the series. I will read more of them, and happily, but am in npo rush, nor do I feel any need to read them in any particular order. There are about forty books in various subseries, plus various addenda, and, while there is continuity, flitting around has worked fine for me thus far.

 

6. The Name of the Wind (Kingkiller Chronicle, #1) - Patrick Rothfuss  Kingkiller Chronicles - Patrick Rothfuss

 

First book: The Name of The Wind (2007), ongoing.

 

An epic fantasy in the traditional vein, with great characters, beautiful writing, and interesting magic systems. This series follows Kvothe first as a student, then on various adventures. Stories within stories, an unreliable narrator, a school story, this is as interesting structurally as narratively. Am desperately anxious for book three.

 

7. On a Pale Horse - Piers Anthony  Incarnations of Immortality - Piers Anthony

 

First book: On a Pale Horse (1983), completed.

 

Both the worst-written and most structurally ambitious of all these series. this deals with mere mortals who, in various ways, become incarnations of various concepts, such as Death, Time, War, etc. Originally intended as a quintet, then extended to eight books. I never bothered with the last three books because the first five tell a complete story. Said story is not told sequentially, as the books take place at around the same times. Instead, we get the same occurrences from different perspectives, slowly deepening context, and a growing sense of the underlying conflict. The writing isn't particularly strong, but the ambition is laudable.

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review 2015-07-29 00:00
On a Pale Horse
On a Pale Horse - Piers Anthony An absolutely hysterical and morbid take on Death! This book honestly delighted me, and bemoan the fact that current and modern writing isn't this quality. I can't wait to read the next book.
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review 2015-07-14 18:53
On a Pale Horse / Piers Anthony
On a Pale Horse - Piers Anthony

When Zane shoots Death, he has to take the job, speeding over the world riding Mortis, his pale horse/limo, measuring souls for the exact balance of Good and Evil, sending each to Heaven or Hell instead of Purgatory. The new Thanatos is superbly competent, ends pain when he ends lives. But Satan is forging a trap for Luna, the woman Death loves.

 

I can see where I would have been really into this series if I’d read it as a teenager. I was just busy reading at that point in my life and not very much into evaluating what I was taking in. It is a very male-oriented story, with women being mostly objects that they compete for and fight over. The male characters evaluate women by their age and attractiveness, although Zane/Death comes to grudgingly admire Luna’s strength, intelligence, and morality. If I had children, I wouldn’t encourage them to read this series, but if they did, we would need to talk about the role of women in it and why it shouldn’t be used as a model for relationships. The female characters often say some very chauvinistic things, as if Anthony believed it was acceptable to be prejudiced as long as the female characters voice those thoughts (e.g. that as women get old, they just bag & sag and lose all their attractiveness, implying that without youthful attractiveness they really aren’t worth anything anymore).

 

The writing is acceptable; the morality is extremely black-and-white. Having characters like God and Satan included in the list of characters plunges the reader very much into a Christian universe and there is no escaping that uni-religion slant. Since I attended Sunday School as a child, I was conversant with the details of that worldview, but I wonder how many modern young people would be? It might be interesting for non-Christian readers, although I would hate for them to get their Christian theology from Anthony, or it might be off-putting.

 

On the plus side, I really enjoyed the horse/car Mortis and the idea that a new person in the Incarnation of Death could shake up the job quite a bit.

 

I’ve read these books out of order (it doesn’t affect their understanding all that much since they’re fairly simplistic), so I’ve only got a couple to go. I’ve abandoned Anthony’s Xanth series because it bores and annoys me, but I haven’t made any hard-and-fast decisions about this one. Not my favourite author, although I can understand what others may see in his work.

 

Book number 181 in my science fiction & fantasy reading project.

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