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#FridayReads - 5.22.2020

Lost in a Good Book - Jasper Fforde Few Eggs and No Oranges: The Diaries of Vere Hodgson 1940-45 - Vere Hodgson, Jenny Hartley Jane And Prudence (VMC) - Barbara Pym, Jilly Cooper

Currently reading:


Lost in a Good Book: I think that I am almost done with Lost in a Good Book, although because it's an omnibus edition, I can't be sure. Things seem to be heading towards a resolution. I expect to finish in an hour or so.


With respect to this series - I'm pretty sure that this is the last of the Thursday Next books that I'm going to read. While I like the idea behind the book, I feel like they are a little too aggressively high-concept for me and I find myself frustrated with them. I do plan to return the omnibus, but will keep it in the back of my mind in case I decide to read The Well of Lost Plots.


A Few Eggs and No Oranges: I didn't make a lot of progress with this one this week. I read September and October of 1940, which is right in the middle of the London Blitz.


Being in the middle of a pandemic where some Americans are throwing tantrums like spoiled children over having to wear masks into stores and other public places, this is fascinating reading. We would not survive the Blitz. "Conservatives" would be whingeing about "muh riiiiiigths" as they all got us killed by refusing to put up some damn curtains. 


Jane and Prudence: I decided that I needed a dose of Pym, so this is next up. I have the VMC edition in paperback and all I've read so far is the introduction by Jilly Cooper.


I do have a three day weekend coming up, so I'm definitely going to need to add at least one more book to the plans. I'm trying to settle on my next Christie reread. On my ATVL blog, I reposted a bunch of Heyer reviews for #Throwback Thursday, so I'm also considering diving into my Heyer digital collection and reading one of her regencies! I also have a digital copy of Tey's The Man in the Queue, which is in consideration.


Why Do I Review Books: An Answer to A Question

Markk posed the question in his post here - after reading a statement about whether or not the world "needs" one more piece of writing on Edith Wharton or F. Scott Fitzgerald or D.H. Lawrence. I started to answer the question in a comment, but decided to write a post about it, instead.


The quote in question is:


But every time I go into the university library and wander down the aisles of English and American literature, I have to wonder: Does the world really need yet another bit of writing about Edith Wharton or D. H. Lawrence or F. Scott Fitzgerald? These writers are like those hotels with 10,000 reviews on Tripadvisor. Checking today, the current count on Goodreads for The Age of Innocence stands at 134,391 ratings and 6,378 reviews. Stop. Just stop. Will yet one more opinion make any difference?


Ahem. Let me begin...


First of all, the world needs a lot of things - starting with a reliable and effective vaccine for Covid-19 and solutions to the problems of global climate change, income inequality, worldwide hunger and child abuse. But let's be honest, the world doesn't need any book reviews at all, no matter the subject matter or author. So, I would start by just acknowledging that like many of the things that make life lovely, book reviews are unnecessary. They are a luxury. Every single one of them could be wiped from our memories tomorrow and the world would proceed more or less without so much as a pause.


But the real place that my thoughts begin is here - this quote reduces book reviewing to an inherently transactional process. A book review is only valuable if it "makes a difference." In other words, if it persuades a reader to engage in some sort of a transaction - to read a book or to forgo a book. I think that is far too narrow of an analysis. 


Because that's certainly not why I write about books on the internet. I don't care if anything that I've ever written about a book results in a sale for the author, or in the book being obtained to read, or the opposite - that it results in a person who planned to buy or read the book taking it off of their list. I feel really uncomfortable when someone responds to a post of mine by saying that they've now lost interest in a book, or they were planning to buy it but now they won't, or that they thought it sounded terrible but I've convinced them to buy it.


I'm not a marketing arm of a publisher (or a competitor), and I have no interest in that role. If people read what I've said and say to themselves "I don't think that book is for me," that's fine. But I never want someone to decide that a book is - or is not - worth reading because of something I've written. Those are decisions to be made by the individual reader and allowing oneself to be persuaded by the opinion of a single reader means that a person might miss out on something that they would love.


The way that I see it, people have been talking about books since they were invented. And people who read a lot, in particular, really love to talk about books. There is an unbroken line of conversation about Jane Eyre that started when it was published - and boy, was it controversial - that has continued into the present.


For example, when I write about Jane Eyre (40K reviews on GR), I don't do it because I'm hoping to convince someone to read Jane Eyre (although, honestly, everyone should read Jane Eyre). I also don't do it because I think I have any particular insight that the world can't live without. I don't think that we will ever say everything that there is to say about Jane Eyre - in fact, I think that we could talk about it for another 173 years and we still won't have said everything there is to say about it, which is one of the things that makes it a classic. I write about Jane Eyre because I have something to say and I want to add my voice to that conversation that started in 1847 when it was published. 


We live in this amazing time when it is possible to widen our own access to the endless discussion so that we can have it with people who live all over the world, who also love to talk about books. What a thing.


And then, of course, there is that aspect of writing about books online that allows me to look back over the years and remember a book that I've read and what I thought about it at the time. I've never been great at keeping paper lists, but between Booklikes and Goodreads, I have an imperfect list of everything that I've read and reread since 2013. According to my challenge widgets, that's around 1300 books total. I certainly haven't written about everything I've read, but looking back over time has shown me trends in my reading. 


So those are the reasons that I write about books on the internet, and really none of them have anything to do with the sense that the world needs my opinion on much of anything, and they have even less to do with the idea of convincing anyone to read anything in particular.



The Body in the Dumb River by George Bellairs

The Body in the Dumb River - George Bellairs

Details: #35 in the Inspector Littlejohn series

Published: 1961


Full review will be posted on the wordpress blog - if I do one.

So exciting!

Nine months after losing our beloved Jackson, Mr. MR and I have decided that we are ready to bring a new companion into our family.



Yes, we are getting a new Golden Retriever puppy. We put the deposit down yesterday and will pick him up in the first couple of weeks of July. I don't have a picture of our actual boy yet, but you can be sure that there will be puppy pictures. So many puppy pictures that you'll be begging me to stop posting puppy pictures!



We haven't settled on a name yet, and likely won't until we actually meet him, but we have several in the running.


Right now, Indiana Jones (Indy, for short) is in first place. We also like Sherlock, Atticus and Oberon (Obie). My husband has rejected Mycroft, Darcy, and Rochester. I also proposed Hastings, but he was a hard no.


I'm so excited! Here's a picture of a handsome sibling from the same parents but different litter!


#FridayReads 5.15.2020

Mrs. McGinty's Dead - Agatha Christie Lost in a Good Book - Jasper Fforde Few Eggs and No Oranges: The Diaries of Vere Hodgson 1940-45 - Vere Hodgson, Jenny Hartley The Body in the Dumb River - George Bellairs

I have four books on the go right now, although at least two of them are nearly finished.



Mrs. McGinty's Dead: This is another one that I started last weekend and then got sidetracked away from - it's the most recent book on my Christie comfort reread. It's one of Ariadne Oliver's most delightful appearances in print, and that makes it a fun reread. Poirot leaves London for this one, and makes an early appearance in the action. There are some other fun side-characters, including Mrs. Summerhayes, who is a bit of a hoot. I'm again quite a ways into this one, and it won't take long to finish.


Lost In A Good Book: I just started this one on my kindle - I have an omnibus edition checked out from my library, and I'll likely only read this one right now. I enjoyed the first Thursday Next book by Jasper Fforde, so when I saw the omnibus available on Overdrive, I decided to read book 2.


A Few Eggs and No Oranges: I bought this Persephone edition a few months ago and I've been making my way through it rather slowly. It's quite a long book at 590 pages, and I find that it works well to read a week or two, or maybe a month, at a time. As I'm not worried about speed-finishing this one, you'll likely see it on my Friday Reads for quite sometime. The book itself is the diary of Vere Hodgson, a Londoner who worked for a Notting Hill Gate charity during the war, and who survived the London Blitz. She is described as sparky and unflappable.


The Body in the Dumb River: I've been reading this one for too long at this point - I started it last weekend and then set it aside for some other books at about the 1/3 mark. It won't take long to finish, so it's first up for the weekend. It was originally published in 1961, and I am reading the British Library Crime Classics series reprint pictured. The cover is just as lovely in person.


That should take care of most, if not all of my weekend!

Reading progress update: I've read 141 out of 188 pages.

Cat Among the Pigeons - Agatha Christie

Julia looked at him in an expectant fashion.


“You leave yourself in my hands? Good.” Hercule Poirot closed his eyes. Suddenly he opened them and became brisk. “It seems that this is an occasion when I cannot, as I prefer, remain in my chair. There must be order and method, but in what you tell me, there is no order and method. That is because we have here many threads. But they all converge and meet at one place, Meadowbank. Different people, with different aims, and representing different interests—all converge at Meadowbank. So, I, too, go to Meadowbank. And as for you—where is your mother?”


Poirot has finally arrived in the narrative!


I do really enjoy Julia Upjohn in this one.


Congrats to Lillelara

For finishing all 1200+ pages of The Count of Monte Cristo



I bow to your awesomeness.


I have a Penguin Classics copy that has been sitting unfinished on my shelves for at least 4 years. Now, I'm thinking I might drag it back out and try again.

Reading progress update: I've read 96 out of 188 pages.

Cat Among the Pigeons - Agatha Christie

As you can see, I'm about half-done with the buddy read, and I'm enjoying it immensely, as always. Poirot hasn't yet made his appearance in the book - this is one of his latest arrivals.


However, Tannat's review mentioned that she wondered if it might not have been a better mystery without Poirot, which got me thinking about whether Agatha had considered writing the book with a different detective. I duly dragged out my copies of the Curran books that take us through Christie's notebooks to see if there was an answer there.


The second book, Agatha Christie: Murder in the Making; More Stories and Secrets from Her Notebooks, devotes several pages to Cat Among the Pigeons. There are over 80 pages in her notebooks devoted to CAtP, and in the initial brief book notes, Christie is considering both Poirot and Miss Marple for the detective positions:


Miss Marple? Great niece at the school?

Poirot? Mrs. U sits opposite him in a train


There were also two proposed titles for the book:


Death of a Games Mistress

Cat Among the Pigeons


Obviously, we know which title was picked, although Death of a Games Mistress actually makes it into the story in the conversation between police officers early in the book, after Miss Springer is murdered.


Also, as a little fun tidbit, I can also share that apparently Cat Among the Pigeons was a proposed name for another Christie mystery - Ordeal By Innocence - before it became the title of this mystery.

Reading progress update: I've read 4 out of 188 pages.

Cat Among the Pigeons - Agatha Christie Finally managed to sit down to read! I told you I'd be bringing up the rear. Now, to hang out with Miss Bulstrode and Chaddy and the rest of the Meadowbank staff for a while!

Updates and plans - and the buddy read

The buddy read: I am going to be foot-dragging on the buddy read a bit. It's gorgeous here in the PNW, and I am having my in laws up for a socially distant barbecue. We haven't seen them in weeks, so we decided to get together on the patio. We've also been doing a ton of yard work on this gorgeous weekend. I took Thursday and Friday off work, so we've been doing winter clean up - as I've mentioned, I live on a wooded acre, so we had a big yard debris burn on Thursday.


By the end of the day, we had burned everything and the fire ring/campfire area had been basically cleared. We were down to campfire size. 



So, today, my husband is draining our koi pond, dredging out as much of the organic debris (i.e., leaves) that he can and then refilling it with some clear water. I'm making a huge tray of kebabs - carne asada steak and chili lime chicken threaded with three colors of peppers and sweet onions. We're also having baked potatoes, corn on the cob and a salad. This is basically the ultimate summer meal in my household.


What that means is that there won't be a ton of time for reading! I'll catch up as I can.


In terms of the site, it's great news that the domain has been renewed and we'll all be able to hang in there for another year. I'm still frustrated with the lack of maintenance, though, and I'm still really worried about the long term viability of the site. I may set up an automatic posting mechanism so that everything I post here gets funneled to a blog. At a minimum, though, I'll likely post longer, more substantive reviews on my wordpress blog and post mostly updates and social stuff over here. 


One good thing that has come out of the scare is that I am pretty sure that everyone has been added to the GR group at this point! I also want to make sure that I follow everyone's off-site blog. I'll be working on that next week! 


I'm very relieved that we'll still have a place to play Halloween Bingo, though. Huzzah!

Reading progress update: I've read 1 out of 328 pages.

Mrs. McGinty's Dead - Agatha Christie Another comfort reread, which seems to be all I have the energy for right now.

BL Update

My level of exhaustion with this site had increased to the point that I really just need a break for a few days. I'll pop in on Saturday for the Cat Among the Pigeons buddy read, but you'll probably find me mostly over at Goodreads and on my personal blog on wordpress. Hopefully they can get their shit together, and I'll be back.

Please do me a favor

If you are still active on BL and if you are in our backup GR group, please head over there and post in the new thread, titled "Please check in!"


I am trying to get a head count together and make sure that I have exchanged current contact information for anyone who wants to keep in touch.

It is not my intent to incite panic



I received an email from Themis-Athena 32 minutes ago. She is unable to log in right now. She advises that the BL domain expired today.


No idea what will happen next, if anything. If it isn't renewed, eventually the site will go down for good.


So, here are a few resources:


This link will enable you to request membership to a back-up GR group: BL Expats


You may also email me at thedeadauthorsclub@gmail.com if we go down permanently.


This has happened before and BL renewed the domain. But if there is stuff here that you can't recover, you should save it somewhere else just to be safe.

The Last Buddy Read of the Pandemic

Cat Among the Pigeons - Agatha Christie

And, of course, it must be a Poirot. Please join us to read (or reread) Cat Among The Pigeons, first published by Collins Crime Club in 1959. This is the 34th outing for Monsieur Poirot and his egg-shaped head, although his entry into the action of the book comes quite late. 


Cat Among the Pigeons combines some of the best of Dame Agatha's thriller tendencies with a solid mystery, set in a girl's boarding school. It features some fantastic side characters, including the wonderful Miss Bulstrode, played to perfection in the first-rate BBC adaptation by Harriet Walters, as well as Julia Upjohn, a school girl who is a bit of a live wire. 


This is high-order comfort reading for me, and for my fellow Agathytes. Join us for this last buddy read next Saturday, May 9, if you are interested in reading along with us!

Status Check: Buddy Reading the Pandemic

A recap of the Pandemic Buddy Reads:


3/21/2020: Towards Zero by Agatha Christie

3/28/2020: Case Closed by Patricia Wentworth

4/3/2020: No Wind of Blame by Georgette Heyer

4/11/2020: Scales of Justice by Ngaio Marsh

4/18/2020: True Grit by Charles Portis

4/25/2020: Tenant For Death by Cyril Hare

5/2/2020: Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey


We've rounded out the first list, and the second list, too. The question at this point is whether we've got more reads in us, or should we call it good and done.


This has been amazing, no matter what we decide!