Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Thirteen at Dinner

Thirteen at Dinner. Agatha Christie. 1933. 228 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: The memory of the public is short. Already the intense interest and excitement aroused by the murder of George Alfred St. Vincent Marsh, fourth Baron Edgware, is a thing past and forgotten. Newer sensations have taken its place. My friend, Hercule Poirot, was never openly mentioned in connection with the case. This, I may say, was entirely in accordance with his own wishes.

Premise/plot: Thirteen at Dinner is the ninth novel in the Hercule Poirot mystery series by Agatha Christie. It is narrated by Poirot's good friend Captain Hastings. He is recounting for readers a case that Poirot himself was a bit ashamed of being involved in.

It begins with a performance: Hastings and Poirot witness a one-woman show, Carlotta Adams. One of the imitations she does is of actress Jane Wilkinson. Wilkinson has married into the nobility, Lord Edgware, but it has not been a successful match--at all.

Later that evening, Poirot meets Jane Wilkinson for himself. She has come to him--pleading with him. Will he be willing to go to Lord Edgware and ask him to grant her a divorce so she can remarry? If not she doesn't know what she'll do. Poirot agrees to go. Lord Edgware agrees to a divorce promptly. In fact, he claims that he agreed over six months ago letting her know by letter!

The next day Lord Edgware is DEAD. Who murdered him and why?!

My thoughts: If you've read Lord Edgware Dies, you've read Thirteen at Dinner. But. If you're like me, you won't mind a bit rereading this Christie mystery. It is one of my favorites. Why? Not because of the details of the mystery. But because of the WRITING. I love Hastings' narration. I love the banter between Hastings and Poirot. Poirot can be such a hoot! It was a TREAT to reread this one.

"Do you not know, my friend, that each one of us is a dark mystery, a maze of conflicting passions and desires and aptitudes? Mais oui, c'est vrai. One makes one's little judgments--but nine times out of ten, one is wrong."
"Not Hercule Poirot," I said smiling.
"Even Hercule Poirot! Oh! I know very well that you have always a little idea that I am conceited, but indeed, I assure you, I am really a very humble person."
I laughed.
"It is so. Except--I confess it--that I am a little proud of my moustaches. Nowhere in London have I observed anything to compare with them. (5-6)
"Stop Poirot!" I cried. "You are making my head spin. "
"No, no, my friend. We are only considering possibilities. It is like trying on the clothes. Does this fit? No, it wrinkles on the shoulder? This one? Yes, that is better--but not quite large enough. This other one is too small. So on and so on, until we reach the perfect fit--the truth." (65)
"I always find alibis very enjoyable," he remarked. "Whenever I happen to be reading a detective story I sit up and take notice when the alibi comes along." (101)
"Between the deliberate falsehood and the disinterested inaccuracy it is very hard to distinguish sometimes.."
"What do you mean?"
"To deceive deliberately--that is one thing. But to be so sure of your facts, of your ideas and of their essential truth that the details do not matter--that, my friend, is a special characteristic of particularly honest persons." (107)
"The positive witness should always be treated with suspicion, my friend. The uncertain witness who doesn't remember, isn't sure, will think a minute--ah! yes, that's how it was--is infinitely more to be depended upon!"
"Dear me, Poirot," I said. "You upset all my preconceived ideas about witnesses." (107-8)
"My good friend," he said. "I depend upon you more than you know."
I was confused and delighted by these unexpected words. He had never said anything of the kind to me before. Sometimes, secretly, I had felt slightly hurt. He seemed almost to go out of his way to disparage my mental powers.
Although I did not think his own powers were flagging, I did realize suddenly that perhaps he had come to depend on my aid more than he knew.
"Yes," he said dreamily. "You may not always comprehend just how it is so--but you do often, and often point the way."
I could hardly believe my ears.
"Really, Poirot," I stammered. "I'm awfully glad, I suppose I've learnt a good deal from you one way or another--"
He shook his head.
"Mais non, ce n'est pas ca. You have learnt nothing."
"Oh!" I said, rather taken aback.
"That is as it should be. No human being should learn from another. Each individual should develop his own powers to the uttermost, not try to imitate those of someone else. I do not wish you to be a second and inferior Poirot. I wish you to be the supreme Hastings. In you, Hastings, I find the normal mind almost perfectly illustrated." (111)
"You are like someone who reads the detective story and who starts guessing each of the characters in turn without rhyme or reason." (112)
"You have a theory, then?"
"A detective, M. Martin, always has a theory. It is expected of him. I do not call it a theory myself. I say that I have a little idea. That is the first stage."
"And the second stage?"
"If the little idea turns out to be right, then I know! It is quite simple, you see." (129)
"Do not antagonize your son! He is of an age to choose for himself. Because his choice is not your choice, do not assume that you must be right. If it is a misfortune, then accept misfortune. Be at hand to aid him when he needs aid. But do not turn him against you." (145)

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Saving Fiona

Saving Fiona: The Story of the World's Most Famous Baby Hippo. Thane Maynard. 2018. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 48 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: This is Fiona. She is a baby hippopotamus, but not just any baby hippopotamus. She is the first premature hippopotamus to be raised by humans. She is a survivor. This is her story.

Premise/plot: Saving Fiona is a nonfiction picture book for young readers. The Cincinnati Zoo was super-excited to welcome hippos to their new African animal habitat. The first two hippos in the exhibit were Henry and Bibi. They were hoping that these two would have a baby. They did! No one expected Fiona would be born several months premature, however. The zookeepers had to step in and raise her....until she was ready to be reunited with her parents. This book is about how they took care of Fiona in those early months.

My thoughts: I have watched Fiona's videos with great enthusiasm and interest. I found the picture book to be fascinating. It is full of pictures. It is full of facts. It's just an absorbing, compelling story. Readers of all ages might find Fiona's story a must read.

Text: 5 out of 5
Photographs: 5 out of 5
Total: 10 out of 10

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Monday, May 21, 2018

Who's a Pest?

Who's a Pest? Crosby Newell Bonsall. 1962. Harper & Row. 64 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence:  Lolly, Molly, Polly and Dolly all looked at Homer. Homer was their brother. "I didn't do it," said Homer. "Yes, you did," they said. "Yes, you did. And you're a pest!" Then Lolly and Molly and Polly and Dolly all turned their backs. "Beans," said Homer, "I'm not a pest."

Premise/plot: Who's A Pest is a dialogue driven early reader from the early 1960s. It stars Homer, his sisters, and a LOT of animals. How very easy it is to be misunderstood!

My thoughts: I could not resist this one when I saw it in my local charity shop. The dialogue was so funny. Perhaps not ha-ha funny. But funny nonetheless.

Homer sat down.
Soon he heard a sound.
"Help," it said.
"Help! Help! Help!"
Homer looked around.
"Help who?" he asked.
"Help me," said the sound.
"Who's me?" Homer asked.
"Me is me. I don't know who you are," said the sound.
"I'm Homer," said Homer.
"Please help me, Homer," said the sound.
"Where are you?" cried Homer.
"Here," said the sound.
"Where's here?" asked Homer.
"Here is here," said the sound.
"Oh, my," cried Homer, "I'll never find you. I don't know where here is."
Homer soon enlists others to help him search for ME. Anyway, I found the book delightful. I'm not sure children will equally be delighted by this vintage I Can Read book. (It does have a LOT of text per page.) 

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Currently Reading #21

Something Old
Little Women. Louisa May Alcott. 1868. 566 pages. [Source: Bought]

Rachel Ray. Anthony Trollope. 1863. 326 pages. [Source: Bought]

The Blue Fairy Book. Andrew Lang. 1887. 390 pages. [Source: Bought]

East of Eden. John Steinbeck. 1952. 601 pages. [Source: Bought]

Thirteen at Dinner. Agatha Christie. 1933. 228 pages. [Source: Bought]

Something New
More Than Meets the Eye. Karen Witemeyer. 2018. Bethany House. 352 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Between the Lines. Nikki Grimes. 2018. 216 pages. [Source: Library]

Cilla Lee-Jenkins: Future Author Extraordinaire. Susan Tan. Illustrated by Dana Wulfekotte. 2017. 256 pages. [Source: Library]

Something Borrowed
The Three Edwards (The Plantagenets #3) Thomas B. Costain. 1958. 480 pages. [Source: Library]

The Life of Mary, Queen of Scot: An Accidental Tragedy. Roderick Graham. 2008. 542 pages. [Source: Library]
Something True
Beyond Suffering Bible NLT: Where Struggles Seem Endless, God's Hope Is Infinite. Joni Eareckson Tada. Joni & Friends, Inc. 1016. Tyndale. 1696 pages.

Old Paths. J.C. Ryle. 536 pages.
The Church in Babylon: Heeding the Call to Be a Light in the Darkness. Erwin W. Lutzer. 2018. 208 pages. [Source: Review copy]

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Saturday, May 19, 2018

Me? Listen to Audio?! #19

The first thing I listened to this week was...

The Wings of the Dove. Henry James. 1902. Adapted for BBC Radio 4 by Linda Marshall Griffiths. Directed by Nadia Molinari. Starring Aisling Loftus as Kate Croy, Nico Mirallegro as Merton Densher, Jodie Comer as Milly Theale. 

I listened to the omnibus edition. Each broadcast contains five parts. Part one. Part two.

I have never read the book. (Though I have read a few of Henry James' novels in the past.) I came to the audio drama with no expectations.

I found the drama to be confusing. I think it was purposefully so. I think they dramatized the psychological aspects of it. And it isn't easy to audibly capture one's INTERNAL struggles. I'm not sure if James was using stream of consciousness in the novel, but certainly the radio drama makes use of the concept. Once I read a summary (or two) of the novel, I was able to piece together the story and enjoy it. For better or worse.

My favorite character was the dying Milly Theale. My least favorite character was Kate Croy. At first, I was trying to make Kate Croy be the heroine, a sympathetic heroine. But she just was not staying in that mold, in that little box.

The Secret Garden. Frances Hodgson Burnett. 1911. Librovox. Read by Karen Savage. 7 hours. 

I have read this one several times. I enjoy so many things about the book. I love quite a few of the characters. It genuinely has a feel-good feeling to it. I don't love, love, love everything about the story. Some elements are slightly weird. (How Magic seems to take the place of God, for example.) But such a treat to listen to this one. Thought the reader did a GREAT job with the accents.

 What I really remember is the movie from 1987. Do you have a favorite adaptation of The Secret Garden?

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Review Policy

I am interested in reviewing books and audio books. This blog focuses on books written for middle grade on up (essentially 10 to a 110). I review middle grade fiction and young adult fiction (aka tween and teen).

I also review adult books.

I read in a variety of genres including realistic fiction, historical fiction, mystery, romance, science fiction, fantasy, literary fiction, and chick lit. (I've read one western to date.)

I read a few poetry books, a few short story collections, a few graphic novels, a few nonfiction books.

I am especially fond of:

  • Regency romances (including Austen prequels/sequels)
  • Historical fiction set in the Tudor dynasty
  • Historical fiction and nonfiction set during World War II
  • Jewish fiction/nonfiction
  • dystopias
  • apocalyptic fiction
  • science fiction (especially if it involves time travel and alternate realities)
  • fantasy
  • multicultural books and international books

I am not a fan of:

  • sports books
  • horse books
  • dog books if the dog dies (same goes with most pets actually except maybe fish)
  • westerns (if it's a pioneer story with women and children, then maybe)
  • extremely violent books with blood, blood, and more blood

I am more interested in strong characters, well-written, fleshed-out, human characters. Plot is secondary to me in a way. I have to care about the characters in order to care about the plot. That being said, compelling storytelling is something that I love. I love to become absorbed in what I'm reading.

If you're interested in sending me a review copy of your book, I'm happy to hear from you. Email me at laney_po AT yahoo DOT com.

You should know several things before you contact me:

1) I do not guarantee a review of your book. I am just agreeing to consider it for review.
2) I give all books at least fifty pages.
3) I am not promising anyone (author or publisher) a positive review in exchange for a review copy. That's not how I work.
4) In all of my reviews I strive for honesty. My reviews are my opinions--so yes, they are subjective--you should know my blog will feature both negative and positive reviews.
5) I do not guarantee that I will get to your book immediately. I've got so many books I'm trying to read and review, I can't promise to get to any one book in a given time frame.
6) Emailing me every other week to see if I've read your book won't help me get to it any faster. Though if you want to email me to check and see if it arrived safely, then that's fine!

Authors, publishers. I am interested in interviewing authors and participating in blog tours. (All I ask is that I receive a review copy of the author's latest book beforehand so the interview will be productive. If the book is part of a series, I'd like to review the whole series.) Contact me if you're interested.

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