Thursday, 11 April 2013

Books 2013 #10 - #19

Hoopla. Straight to it...

#10 Footprints on the Ceiling
Clayton Rawson


I really have to slow down with these books. I'm already through the third one in the series but let's take a breath and look at number two. It starts with our hero - is that Merlini the magician or Hart the sometimes journalist sometimes scriptwriter as he is in this one? But let's say Merlini for the sake of the narrative - roundly believed to be whooping it up with the circus which has just arrived in town. Hart is looking for him, the mysterious beauty is looking for him, no one knows where he is, except really he's in the backroom, having advertised in a newspaper for genuinely haunted houses. Meanwhile on a private island there is a possibly haunted house belonging to an agrophobe millionairess who has come under the spell of a possibly phony medium. On his way there Hart ends up with suitcase of pirate booty when someone substitutes it for his own suitcase at a station and it may or may not have come from a sunken wreck just off the shore of the private island. All this is before we get to the ceiling covered in the footprints of the title and a man whose skin is turning blue. Awesome. I think part of the reason I love this series is partly because it's all so ridiculous and partly because of the reader of the audiobooks. He does the voices perfectly - not like someone I shall be reviewing next time who made everyone sound like a serial killer to the point where I was astonished half way through when I realised the three couples in the story were actually supposed to like each other and not sound like they were about to go postal. 

#11 A Murder of Quality
John Le Carre  
I have read this and seen the TV version with Denholm Elliott, Glenda Jackson and a young Christian Bale among others but this was my first time with it as an audiobook. It really is a great story. You are pulled all over the place as each of the characters goes through the ringer. The reading was very good but I'd still recommend the book for any first-timers. 

#12 One Zentangle a Day
Unusually for me I actually bought this for the Kindle as I wanted to be able to use it on the move. For those not familiar with the genre I suggest you put 'zentangle' into somewhere like Etsy or Pinterest and see what comes up.
Zentangle 4
It is essentially advanced doodling which some people seem to be billing as a new meditation/therapy and yes, I can see how it could help some people clear their minds but there's no way it would work for non-visual people. Unless you are a natural doodler I don't think this would do much for you. However, as a natural doodler I have really enjoyed learning new little designs and have been scribbling away in a little sketchbook. I haven't done one-a-day but am none the worse off for that. If you did want to give it a go don;t be fooled into buying any of the merchandise. Yes you can buy 'tiles' and japanese paper and posh fineliners and shading pencils and all sorts, but equally you can use copier paper and a biro to get started. 

#13 The Thirteen Problems
Agatha Christie
Another I have read multiple times but this is the recording read by Joan Hickson who really *is* Marple. A series of short stories set in the context of a kind of after dinner club for bright young things. Each time some unsolved problem is shared and each time it is quiet, dowdy Miss Marple who solves it by using a village parallel. Very easy listening. 

#14 Meet Mr Mulliner
PG Wodehouse
Absolutely wonderful stories of a time people tend to call 'a forgotten age' although I'm not convinced it ever existed like this. A lot of the short stories in this book revolve around one of Mr Mulliner's nephews who was a pale and insipid young man until he overdosed on one of his uncle's inventions (much like an early George's Marvelous Medicine). At which point he saves a Bishop from a dog and ends up on such friendly terms (with the Bishop, not the dog) that he refers to him as 'Bish' throughout the rest of the stories. More famous for his Jeeves and Wooster series, the other books are equally wonderful. 

#15 The Body in the Library
Agatha Christie
My cousin gave me a bundle of these recordings, most of which I haven't listed here and all of which I've read in book form. I mention this one because it struck me that, like Joan Hickson is for me the definitive Marple, Dolly Bantree shall now be forever associated in my mind with Joanna Lumley. Her protrayal of her in the TV version of this one was perfect. Lots of teeth and gushing laughter. Apart from that this is a lovely story with lots of village parallels and insights. 

#16 The Psychopath Test
Jon Ronson
I defy anyone to read this book and not diagnose at least two of their past associates as psychopaths. For me it was one of my sister's exs. This was lent to me by one of the Boys from the office who despite looking fairly docile from the neck up (and down again in fact) has turned out to be a reader. So not all bad. If the name of the author sounds familiar he also wrote The men Who Stare at Goats which is actually a fairly good film despite Ewan McGregor's accent (he plays Jon Ronson). The author himself is an acutely anxious man so I could relate immediately although I can't see myself going to Broadmoor or meeting with the Scientologists and/or David Shayler. Plus the David Shayler stuff - wow, that man needs help. I did not know about all that stuff. And yes, he's the one who used to work for MI5 and got prosecuted for breaking the official secrets act. Getting back to the book, it is very readable, not boring, the right length and generally to be recommended.

#17 Death at Blenheim Palace
Robin Paige


I chose this as I was going to a wedding at Blenheim. I rather like this series, as light hearted as they are. This is an english Lord who isn't at all snobby and is interested in technology who has married an american woman who is an author of what would probably now be chick-lit. Or at least this kind of book. A guest at a house party vanishes, then a body is found but it isn't her. There are robberies going on, stories from other books get wound in, the Duke of Blenheim is a bounder etc etc. Cosy reading. 

#18 Wash This Blood Clean From My Hand
Fred Vargas 


I read this cover to cover on my way back from visiting my lovely cousin in France, which is fitting since she introduced me to the series last year. I adore these books, even though I still haven't forgiven Adamsberg from the last novel. And in this one he's even more stupid. Maths was clearly not his strong point at school. I did struggle a little with this book as I felt it was just so obvious where it was going and what was going to happen. However, she writes them *very* well and the development of the female policewoman whose name I forget was really stylish. I am looking forward to the next. 

#19 Beekeeping for Beginners
Laurie King
Apparently in america Laurie King is a big name but I hadn't heard of her until I got hold of this short story. It starts off the relationship between Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes (who else would it be with all those bee references) which, if the 'twitter interview' at the end of the story is to be believed, ends up with them married. Yes. Hm. Well. I remain to be convinced, not least because at this point Holmes has retired while Mary is 15. That might just be another bit of fiction. However, this short story was enough for me to get hold of the first book in a series which is now quite advanced. I'll let you know how it turns out. 

1 comment:

PURLPOWER said...

Fantastic reading round up. Love the sound of the Psychopath Test - heard Jon Ronson being interviewed about it when it came back (on Richard Bacon's Radio 5 show I think) and so thanks for reminding me about it. Not been reading much at all lately for various reasons. Need to sort that out.

I've been enjoying Zentangling cards recently but I agree - I think it completely comes natural to a born-doodler but I can't imagine anyone else getting much out of it.

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