Wednesday, October 18, 2017

#RIPXII 3-17: Agatha's Poisons

After my latest reading project, I just might be able to poison someone and get away with it. I started by picking up Kathryn Harkup's A is for Arsenic: The Poisons of Agatha Christie. I soon noticed that each of the fourteen chapters was based on a specific Christie book or short story collection and, because I wanted comfort reads this season, this project quickly formed in my head -- read or reread a classic mystery before each chapter of non-fiction. It turned out to be a wonderful idea. I loved reading the novel or stories and then delving into why the poison of choice was used and if Christie made any errors, the science of what it is and how it kills, how/if it would have been detected at the time, and some real life poisoning cases/influences. I loved the science, the history, and, yes, the Poirot (and Marple, Tommy and Tuppence, Ariadne Oliver, and even Mr. Satterthwaite). I was shocked as I reached book ten or eleven and found that I wasn't at all tired of Dame Agatha's stories. Each one was unique, with a wide variety of settings, characters, and even points of view.

These are the books I read, ranging in publication date from 1921 to 1961:

Murder is Easy
The Labours of Hercules
Sparkling Cyanide
Appointment with Death
Crooked House
Five Little Pigs
4:50 from Paddington
Three Act Tragedy
Sad Cypress
Dumb Witness
Partners in Crime
The Mysterious Affair at Styles
The Pale Horse
Lord Edgware Dies

I want to point out too that Harkup's book has the most amazing appendix -- a list of every Agatha Christie story and how all of the people die in them! I still have a few Agatha books that I haven't read (I own 66 of her books, not counting her autobiography and her travelogues) but when I'm done, I'll really dive into that appendix.

The only person that wasn't exactly happy with this project was my husband. Apparently, having your wife learn the ins and outs of 14 deadly poisons and then recount all of the gruesome details in bed each night for weeks isn't fun. All I know is that I've already made the mistake of saying too much.

Formulating an alibi,

Friday, October 6, 2017

New Release: A Far, Far Better Thing to Do + GIVEAWAY

Okay, fam ... be honest with me ... the world has got you down, right? You're constantly looking for distractions but you can't always find the energy to focus on an actual book? Luckily for us, the brilliant folks at Running Press have just put out A Far, Far Better Thing to Do: A Lit Lover's Activity Book by Joelle Herr, illustrated by Lindsey Spinks. This little book is perfect for all of the times when you just want to put down your phone and pick up a pencil.

Instead of scrolling, you can put your own flair onto the portrait of Dorian Gray,

Go on a short quest to capture the white whale,

Or play a little game of Marry, Kill, "Do" where nobody else need see your answers.

(I really couldn't marry or "do" Poe so I guess he must die.)
There are word searches, crosswords, trivia games, coloring pages, and even writing exercises that should give any literature lover at least a few hours of time away from current events. And if you're feeling especially depleted, you can opt for a low-energy activity like a maze or a connect-the-dot picture.


The publisher has kindly offered to send copies of this activity book to a couple of you so, if you are interested, just leave a comment below and tell me which book you would feel most qualified to make crossword clues for. I'll be picking two winners in a week (Friday, Oct 13). International entries are okay and don't forget to leave an email address or twitter handle or something so that I can contact you! (And my answer is either Alice's Adventures in Wonderland or American Gods. Weird combo, I know.)

Brushing up on first lines,

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Bryant and May, Completed (For Now)

It is with a heavy heart that I must reveal that ... I've caught up in my favorite current series. Bryant and May have been my companions during the dog days of summers past, the late night hours of readathons, and the stressful days of current events. But, with Bryant and May: Strange Tide, I've used up all of my comfort reads for the moment. I was saving the last couple of books for stressful times and, well, yeah ...

I won't lie. This one, the 13th in the series, was a tough read. One of the main characters isn't well, as you can guess would eventually happen with two elderly detectives past the expected ends of their careers. But these aren't just any men and the reader can't help but pull for them to stay on the job for as long as they possibly can because they are likely the only ones who can figure out why bodies keep showing up near the Thames. Full of lots of Thames lore and current London politics, I once again learned while I was entertained. Sigh. I love that the most.

Now for the good news -- Bryant and May: Wild Chamber comes out in the US on December 5 so luckily I don't have to wait too long until I have another comfort read waiting on my TBR shelf for the next rainy day (figuratively, of course, because ... Seattle).

Following the Thames,

Friday, September 29, 2017

#RIPXII September Update

I thought I would do a little update for the midpoint of the RIP challenge since I'm in the middle of a big reading project and it will take a couple more weeks to wrap up and write about!

So far I've posted three reviews but I've also --

*listened to A Red Herring Without Mustard, the third Flavia de Luce story
*almost finished listening to The Watcher in the Shadows, one of the Carlos Ruiz Zafón YA horror novels
*read the first six chapters of A is for Arsenic, five Agatha Christie novels and twelve short stories

In the coming days, I'm going to keep on with the Agatha Christie/poison project, start another CRZ audiobook, and choose some amazing rereads for Readathon!

How is your RIP season going so far?

Immersed in poison(ers),

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

New Release: The Wonderling (and RIPXII 3)

Today is the release date of a very unique, heartstring-tugging middle-grade fantasy tale, The Wonderling by Mira Bartók. I usually write my own summary but this one from Candlewick is just perfect --
Welcome to the Home for Wayward and Misbegotten Creatures, an institution run by evil Miss Carbunkle, a cunning villainess who believes her terrified young charges exist only to serve and suffer. Part animal and part human, the groundlings toil in classroom and factory, forbidden to enjoy anything regular children have, most particularly singing and music. For the Wonderling, an innocent-hearted, one-eared, fox-like eleven-year-old with only a number rather than a proper name — a 13 etched on a medallion around his neck — it is the only home he has ever known. But unexpected courage leads him to acquire the loyalty of a young bird groundling named Trinket, who gives the Home’s loneliest inhabitant two incredible gifts: a real name — Arthur, like the good king in the old stories — and a best friend. Using Trinket’s ingenious invention, the pair escape over the wall and embark on an adventure that will take them out into the wider world and ultimately down the path of sweet Arthur’s true destiny.
I got entirely lost in the richness of this story. It was perilous and sweet at the same time and I was never quite sure if things would come right in the end. Arthur was so pure and innocent, Trinket so brave and bold -- each time they were in danger, my heart sat in my throat until they got through. My absolute favorite thing about this story though was that there were characters who were not what you expected them to be. More than one creature that seemed scary or dishonest turned out to be helpful or friendly, a perfect modern lesson to reinforce the old adage "don't judge a book by its cover". (Although, take a look at this cover! Anyone could tell that this book would be wonderful, right?)

Yearning for family and music,

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

#RIPXII 2: The Meaning of Night

I didn't waste any time getting to my reread of Michael Cox's The Meaning of Night this RIP season. I read this book near when it came out in 2006, a couple of years before I started blogging, so all I really had in the old noggin were memories of super-enthusiastic feelings. I was quite nervous in case the book didn't live up to those.

The story follows Edward Glyver as he tries to regain a birthright that he was kept from as a child and to get revenge for wrongs done to him as a youth. He fights against Phoebus Daunt, a poet and scoundrel, who is attempting to con his way into that birthright and into the heart of Emily, the same woman who Edward has fallen in love with. I know that sounds a bit stodgy and, well, Victorian, but that's because I didn't share the first line yet --
After killing the red-haired man, I took myself off to Quinn's for an oyster supper.
Yes, Glyver lets us know from the first sentence that he is a murderer. And, from there, the story continued to keep my attention. It was smart and twisty and made great use of Cox's extensive knowledge of history and literature. I'm so glad that I reread it and it has re-whetted my appetite for Wilkie Collins and the other Victorian sensationalists. Not all books need supernatural villains, for there's truly nothing so scary as the evil men do.

Sussing the truth,

Monday, September 18, 2017

New-ish Release: The Winged Girl of Knossos

The Winged Girl of Knossos isn't actually a new book. It was written in 1933 by Erick Berry, pen name for Evangel Allena Champlin Best. It was a Newbery Honor Book but was sadly out of print for many years. Thankfully, Paul Dry Books has reprinted it because I haven't been able to stop thinking about it since I finished reading it a couple of weeks ago.

The "winged girl" is Inas, daughter of Daidalos. He is an inventor who longs to soar like the birds and she is an adventurer who does everything from sponge diving to bull jumping. Their home is ancient Crete, under the reign of King Minos. This story brings to life an era that time has turned into myth. Ariadne, the labyrinth and the minotaur, and Theseus are all real and they all have their places in Inas' tale.

Not only did Berry use an impressive vocabulary but she knew the right amount of tension to keep readers of all ages engaged and the historical setting is incredibly accessible. Best of all, the strong, active female character of Inas was truly ahead of her time. I suppose this is why the book received Honors. I keep thinking about the various adventures, the setting, the idea that myths come out of facts. I'm really looking forward to getting this book into our local elementary school so that more kids can enjoy it and be exposed to its ideas.

Digging in the past,

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

#RIPXII Book 1: Ash and Quill

Third in The Great Library series, Rachel Caine keeps upping the stakes for our young Library initiates and Ash and Quill is a ridiculously stressful, entirely readable entry in the series. For those still unfamiliar with it, the alternate universe premise is that the Great Library at Alexandria was never burned and a global civilization that venerated learning was established. But, of course, eventually the leaders started caring more about power than anything else. The first book starts with a group of young initiates who quickly bond as they start to uncover injustices and irregularities within The Library. I don't know how long this series is going to be but if Caine keeps up the character maturation, the high-stakes action, and the unadulterated bookishness, I'll stay on board for at least a few more books!

( I wrote a bit more about the first two books last year.)

Sharing this book instead of hiding it,