Closed Casket: The New Hercule Poirot Mystery

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I am relatively new when it comes to Agatha Christie. And while the writing is obviously a bit dated, Agatha Christie has undoubtedly earned her title as the Queen of Mystery. Agatha Christie is a master of a surprise ending, she will have you guessing whodunit pretty much all the way up to the end. This is a feat I greatly respect, it’s no fun knowing what is coming in a mystery, if I’ve got it figured out half way through the book (or less) why bother? So, I’ve taken a liking to Dame Agatha Christie.

All that to say, when I saw that Sophie Hannah (whom I am admittedly not familiar with) was writing new Hercule Poirot books, I was a bit skeptical. Frankly, I still kind of am. I had read some less than favorable reviews of her first Hercule Poirot, The Monogram Murders, but figured those could just be the purists who will never be satisfied with anything aside from the original. Psst, I too am one of those people.

Hannah has introduced a new narrator (new in The Monogram Murders, totally new to me) Edward Catchpool. At first, I was wary because I had gotten used to Captain Arthur Hastings, whom I rather quite like. However, I can see why it would be necessary as a writer to introduce your own narrator as opposed to trying to recreate two Chrisite characters. Recreating the iconic Belgian detective seems like it would be difficult enough on it’s own. Catchpool kind of annoyed me for a wee bit, he eventually annoyed me less, but I still felt like the only purpose he served was to gather people’s stories.

Obviously, being written in 2016, it’s not going to have the same tone as a 1920’s Agatha Christie original. That being said, I think Hannah did a pretty decent job tone-wise. What stuck out to me is the more overtly sexual tones or implications throughout, that is something I’ve never picked up quite so strongly from an Agatha Christie book. For instance, Claudia Playford is kinda of an asshat, and more openly vulgar than I felt would have been normal in a 1920’s mystery. But what do I know; I’m not offended by vulgarity or sexual tones, they just felt a little out of place at times here.

As I mentioned before, recreating a character like Hercule Poirot seemed like it would be a daunting task, however, I felt like Sophie Hannah did actually manage to capture Poirot’s classic egotism and high self-regard. The mannerisms, the way in which Poirot expresses himself, or reveals his revelations, I felt were pretty spot on.

By about chapter 30, I was honestly kind of over this story. This book has one of the most long-winded reveals I think I have ever read. Also, the motive/reason the culprit committed the murder, was kinda of lame. By the time we’ve heard who is responsible for what, I was like “okay, cool, we’re done here” but then there were another 26 pages (a chapter and a half + epilogue). It was a struggle for me.

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Now, that isn’t to say I didn’t like this read at all, it wasn’t entirely bad. Hell, it kept me up the one night when I was about half way through and the story was moving right along. In all, it’s still worth a read if you just like a mystery, but personally, I was a little disappointed.

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A Man Called Ove: Some Thoughts

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I was a little unsure about reading this book, though I’m not sure why because I had mostly heard good things. The other day I was contemplating checking it out from the library and had it sitting next to me at the circulation desk, when a patron came up and in the middle of asking a legit question, interrupted herself to ask if I was reading A Man Called Ove, and I told her I was thinking I should try it. She was very excited having just recently read it herself (I can relate to such excitement) and she wouldn’t tell me much about it besides whispering “He’s a grumpy fuck.” This was the best book review I had heard in awhile, so I figured why not!

Is it weird that my almost 25 year-old female self can relate to a grumpy old man? Because I totally can. I feel like I’ve got the grumpy old person thing pretty much down most days. Writing notes to people to tell them they are a “useless bloody imbecile who couldn’t even read signs?” Love it. I wish I were that cool.

“He’d been a grumpy old man since he started elementary school”

What can I say about Ove.. He is a grumpy, sarcastic, stickler of a man. He likes rule,  principles, Saab automobiles, and doesn’t have time for your stupidity. Ove regularly refers to people simply by descriptors as opposed to names (ie. The Pregnant One, The Lanky One, The Blonde Weed, Cat Annoyance) some of which are pretty humorous. As Ove begins to connect with said people though, they begin to be referred to by their actual names as opposed to Ove’s observational names, something I must assume is intentional on Backman’s part.

I’m a fan of good use of flashback chapters as a means of explaining a characters back story and circumstance; A Man Called Ove is no exception, Backman does a nice job of letting the reader into who Ove really is. We see his true character as that of more than just a grumpy old curmudgeon, he has a big heart and cares about doing what is right. I also enjoyed how Ove’s character develops throughout the story, especially the latter part of book. (Lack of character development is one of my biggest pet peeves.) We see a man who is seemingly alone and shut off become more engaging (at times begrudgingly) with his neighbors and become invested in doing the things he knows to be right.

Though I am hardly qualified to really evaluate language and writing style, I enjoyed such about A Man Called Ove. The wit and sass were not lost in translation. There were some lovely quotable moments, for instance: “He skeptically peruses this grammatically challenged little natural disaster” when referring to Nasanin (the three-year-old) who then and there became my favorite character. There was also a fun use of vulgar words. I love a good swear word used well!

On more than one occasion Ove’s character reminded me a a few other somewhat social inept characters I enjoy. Which then to the realization that apparently I enjoy grumpy, sarcastic, anti-social characters (shocker).  Some such characters include Don Tillman (of Graeme Simsion’s The Rosie Project) and Martin Clunes’ character Dr. Martin Ellingham (of Doc Martin). If you aren’t familiar with either of these characters, but were a fan of Ove, I highly recommend checking them out 😉

 

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Bloodline: A Book Review

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First, I should start out by saying I am a total noob when it comes to Star Wars books. This is only the third I have read, the others being the novelization of A New Hope and Claudia Gray’s YA novel Star Wars: Lost Stars. Actually, let me take a sec here, I’m not going to review Lost Stars BUT, it was a great book basically retelling the original trilogy from a whole new perspective. Gray did a great job on Lost Stars and I’m willing to say I think she did a great job with Bloodline too, but like I said, I’m new here.

I know next to nothing about the “extended universe” of Star Wars aside from things my husband has told me, as he has read the majority of the older Star Wars books that are no longer considered canon since Disney bought Lucasfilm. It’s crazy that so many books are now just sort of thrown out, but by basically recreating the canon, Disney just made it a whole lot easier for noobs like me to jump in. Huge fans like my husband know still have the advantage though and known way more than your average “Oh I love the Star Wars movies!” fans. There is SO much to learn, I constantly have to ask Brock questions for clarification, which in any other case would make this a frustrating read, but made reading Bloodline and Lost Stars kind fun because Brock gets excited when I ask him SW questions.

This book. Uhm, nerd alert, I loved it. It takes place about 20 years after the fall of the Empire (episode VI) and follows the story of Senator Leia Organa. The story either follows Leia directly, or those working closely by her, and it’s fantastic.

Spolier alert: Leia Organa is still a badass. Even when she is a 20-some year older former rebel, member of the Galactic Senate. She has committed her life to the senate since she was 14, and still doesn’t give two shits about proper protocol and formalities, it’s awesome guys.

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Without giving too much away, we encounter conspiracy, betrayal, cartels, and secret militias, oh my! Leia has been keeping a secret for a few decades and it’s about to be revealed We meet an array of new characters in Bloodline, and see a few cameos or mentions of classic favorites, most notably Han Solo, husband of Princess Leia and now famous racer. Their married life is certainly no fairy tale, living on separate worlds and all, but adorable and sweet to the core nonetheless.

In this post-Empire world, we have a Galactic Senate, divided into two main parties, the Centrists and Populists. The struggle and suspicion between these two parties plays a major role throughout the story. But there is also a consistent reminder that many things are not black and white, and more complicated than which side of the party line one falls upon.

We find some new and suspicious characters in this book. Gray does a pretty good job of making you wary of these new players, and it is a bit of a roller coaster at times. As I read books I am constantly trying to gauge a characters trustworthiness and decide where they stand. Perhaps everyone reads that way, but I’m usually overly suspicious of characters. Gray supplies up with a lovely little emotional roller coaster when it comes to gauging who we can trust in Bloodline. Casterfo Ransolm is one such character. Ransolm is a Centrist senator and collector of Empire memorabilia. It’s assumed Ransolm will a bit of the antagonist to Leia’s Populist leanings, however it’s not that simple. Casterfo and Leia begin to work together to uncover a possible multi-planet cartel operation and eventually become friends. But when new information is divulged, the proverbial shit hits the fan. Where will people’s loyalties lie?

I also want to just take a second to talk about this cover, because as I mentioned in a previous post; I judge books by their covers. This cover is kind of badass: Leia, Vader and X-wings! It’s eye-catching and appealing to the SW fan in me. It also brings up some immediate questions. Vader and Leia appearing on the same cover of a book called Bloodline? Hmmmm… But that’s all I will say about that.

This book was a fun read, and I would easily recommend to anyone who is even a half-hearted  SW fan. As a more than half-hearted but less than full-on-lunatic fan, I love having this insight into the happens in the SW universe between Return of the Jedi (Ep. VI) and The Force Awakens (Ep. VII) and the fact that this is Leia’s story, makes it even better!

 

 

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