Genre: Mystery

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Book Review: The Mysterious Affair at Styles

June 11, 2014 Book Review, Book Talk 4

Book Review: The Mysterious Affair at StylesThe Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie
Published by Simply Audiobooks on January, 2006/first published October, 1920
Genres: Mystery
Pages: 294
Source: Gift
Goodreads

 

I am a little late to the Agatha Christie party which is highly suspect as I’m all about a good mystery – whether in book form, television show or movie.  Give me a little murder in my media and I’m happy!

A little background – I’ve participated in World Book Night in the US since its inception and loved each year for various reasons.  This year, completely unexpected, Audiobooks.com donated an audiobook to the book givers.  It was such a wonderful and generous surprise and with my credit I immediately searched the available books.  I wanted my selection to be special, and as I’ve always heard Agatha Christie is the Duchess of Death, I chose The Mysterious Affair at Styles.

This novel introduces Belgian detective extraordinaire Hercule Poirot.  It should be noted that The Mysterious Affair at Styles was written during World War I when refugees had flooded England.  Such was what had led Inspector Poirot’s into England from his beloved Belgium.  He takes refuge near Styles Manor, home of Emily {Cavendish} Inglethorp.  His good friend Hastings arrives on leave from the War and solicits Poirot’s detecting skills when Emily is found dying from an apparent poisoning.

Every single character with the exception of Poirot has a motive and a means. . .Christie is adept at throwing in the red herrings and making each character appear suspect.  Emily solely inherited the Cavendish fortune when her husband passed away leaving his two grown sons dependent upon Emily’s generosity.  Then what does Emily do?  She up and marries a much younger man, Alfred Inglethorp, changes her will and conveniently instigates great turmoil with the Cavendish fortune when she up and dies.  Intrigue abounds as Hastings and Poirot begin to investigate Emily’s poisoning.

An issue that came up within The Mysterious Affair at Styles was the narrator Arthur Hastings.  After enlisting the help of his friend Poirot, Hastings questions everything Poirot says and does.  Another frustrating aspect was Christie’s disdain for her female characters.  For the time period in which this is written it is somewhat understandable that the female characters be written with a slant, but to the extent that the male characters overshadowed their female counterparts I found that to be a bit irritating.  It may just be that I’ve actively sought books with strong female characters and The Mysterious Affair at Styles was a throwback to a different time period.

I listened to this one with the thanks of Audiobooks.com narrated by Stan Winiarski.  I can still hear Winiarski’s unique pronunciation of Poirot – he was fabulous with just the right amount of inflection.  His accent made the book come alive and definitely kept my attention.

If you haven’t read Agatha Christie before then you should at least try one of her 200+ writings. If you’re a mystery fan at all Christie doesn’t disappoint with creating almost pretzel-like plot to keep the reader engaged. I’ve since listened to After the Funeral and The Murder at the Vicarage; more to come on these Christie novels!  Many Agatha Christie novels are available for free on the Project Gutenberg site including The Mysterious Affair at Styles.

Listening Time:  4 hours 31 minutes

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Book Review: Seduction

July 30, 2013 Book Review, reviews 4

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book nor the content of my review.

Book Review: SeductionSeduction by M.J. Rose
Published by Atria on May, 2013
Genres: Fiction, Historical, Mystery, Supernatural
Pages: 384
Source: complimentary review copy
Amazon
Goodreads

 

Seduction takes us into the heart of Victor Hugo during his self-imposed exile on the Isle of Jersey.  Hugo conducts numerous seances in order to connect with his deceased 19-year-old daughter.  Fast forward to modern-day Isle of Jersey and we find Jacinda L’Etoile, mythologist,  arriving to dispel rumors of Celtic hauntings.  We first met L’Etoile in The Book of Lost Fragrances where Jacinda discovers that reincarnation and scents have a strange, eerie effect upon her.  “We all share a consciousness. We breathe in each other’s air.  Sometimes two souls can see each other’s shadows even when the sun isn’t out.”

In Seduction, Rose creates three alternate story lines ~ Hugo and his search for his daughter in the other world; L’Etoile and her assistance to an old friend by researching letters from Victor Hugo found in his family library; and an ancient Celtic family and the traumatic choices made in a time long, long ago are all connected in the who, what and why of the Shadow of the Sepulcher.

The cover – WOW! Seductive, Gorgeous, Melancholic.

The beginning of the novel had me entranced.  While on her way to the Isle of Jersey L’Etoile meets a stranger on the ferry who analyzes and sums up her character in a few sentences and begins the mysterious happenings I’ve come to expect with Rose:

The not so obvious part is that you have all the hallmarks of a seeker.  I’ve known a few in my time.  I’ve even been flattered to have been called one.  You chase special knowledge.  You find threads of connections and then share them with people who need them.  I can read it in the way you’ve been looking out past the boat’s railing, how you looked at me, the questions you ask, but more importantly, the ones you don’t.

Carl Jung’s philosophy plays an important role in Seduction by adding an element of reality to what could have easily been fantasy: “Jung didn’t believe in accidents.  He proposed that resonance happens because we are functioning on more than our conscious level.  I’d like you to think about the idea that there is a force we don’t see but it ties matter, energy and consciousness together.”  M.J. Rose has the unique ability to take a subject like reincarnation and have the reader ponder the implications long after the novel is over.

I am a huge fan of M.J. Rose, having read every one of her novels.  She’s a wonderfully gifted storyteller, grabbing the reader from the first line and not letting go until the final page is read.  With that said, I have to admit that I had difficulty connecting with Jac L’Etoile in Seduction.  It was almost like she was a “nervous ninny” and not the strong female character I recall from The Book of Lost Fragrances.  Admittedly, there were some pretty strange happenings that would freak out any normal person, but, L’Etoile seems to have lost her sense of self and strength of character.

Not to give any spoilers but the conclusion felt rushed and not typical of Rose’s complicated, involved endings.  Have you read Seduction?  I’d love to hear your thoughts on the novel.   Seduction is No. 5 in the Reincarnation series but can be read as a stand alone novel….there are some references to the happenings in The Book of Lost Fragrances; however, Seduction can still be easily understood.  And just because this one did not resonate with me does not mean I’ve lost my love of M.J. Rose.  She’s still and will always be in my top 5!  So this one I recommend with slight reservation.

Please share your thoughts! Reincarnation – yes/no?  Fan of Carl Jung?
Fan of Rose? Read either The Book of Lost Fragrances or Seduction? Thoughts?
 
Disclosure: Many thanks to the publisher and Amy at Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours for the complimentary review copy.

 

 

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11-22-63 by Stephen King: Book Review

April 7, 2012 Book Review, reviews 16

11-22-63 by Stephen King: Book Review11-22-63 by Stephen King
Published by Scribner on November 1, 2011
Genres: fantasy, Fiction, Historical, Mystery
Pages: 849
Format: Audiobook
Source: purchased
Goodreads
The past is obdurate.  
I don’t watch horror movies. I don’t read horror books. And up until 11/22/63 I did not read Stephen King.  However, this book intrigued me, especially after reading so many positive reviews.  And of course I wanted to learn more about what might have happened in the world had JFK not been murdered. [br]  [br]
Jake Epping is an every-day man.  He teaches high school English, enjoys his job and his students, and has a quite unusual friend in Al Templeton, the owner of a small diner Jake frequents.  Al approaches Jake with a strange tale and request one afternoon ~ Al tells Jake he has been traveling back in time to 1958 for years, and he wants Jake to try out the travel stairs.  Jake does not believe Al until he walks down the stairs in the back of the diner and finds himself in 1958 where times are much simpler in many, many ways.  But when Jake returns to 2011 he almost does not even believe the trip happened.  Al shares with Jake that he is dying of lung cancer and was not able to finish the “job” he started in the past ~ the job of stopping Lee Harvey Oswald from killing President John F. Kennedy.  Al begs Jake to go back in time and stop Oswald, which Al believes would change world history for the better.  Al gives Jake a drivers license, money and credentials to become George Amberson in the past…..but Jake does not want to take on the task…..until Al leaves him with no choice.
The past harmonizes. [br]  [br] 
My Thoughts:
All of last year I read over a hundred books but did not find a favorite, one that I could see myself reading again for the pure love of the story.  Believe it or not, the last book I loved that much was The Help, which I read in 2010! [br]  [br]
Then comes 11/22/63…..In Jake Epping I found a man who was put into the most unusual circumstance of which he had to make the best of.  His character is one that grows throughout the novel – when he finds himself in a life he never imagined and discovers the best and the worst in himself.  I think this is where many of us are – in a life we never imagined for ourselves but finding out how to make the best of it…..while discovering the best and worst in ourselves. [br]  [br]
When I heard about this book and how the main question is what would have happened if JFK had not been killed that Friday afternoon in Dallas, November 22nd, 1963, I had to get over my fear of Stephen King and read this darn novel!  I have always thoroughly enjoyed what-if books and wondering truly what would have happened had this not have happened…whatever “this” is. [br]  [br]
11/22/63 has stayed with me, haunted me, created long discussions with friends and family….and I have found that I am now in love with Stephen King and his ability to draw me into the story, fall in love with the characters and obsess about what is going to happen next!  Stephen King was able to take me from tears to laughter to anger and disbelief with in a matter of pages.  And while Jake was George Amberson in the past, I felt like I was right there along with him – paying only a fraction of the price for goods and services in that time period.  I kept asking my mom, who grew up during that time period, about different prices and historical occurrences and discovered that Stephen King had all the facts down pat! [br]  [br]
And let me just share this with you – if you are able, I strongly recommend listening to the audio version of 11/22/63.  Narrator, Craig Wasson IS Jake/George.  Wasson had a distinct accent for every single character in the book and his timing was spot on.  At the humorous parts of King’s tome, Wasson had me laughing out loud.  Wasson’s ability to go from a strong Southern accent to a nasal Northern accent to a thick African American accent had me listening every possible moment I could.  This audiobook was the best I have ever listened to, and I am now one of Wasson ‘s biggest fans….along with Stephen King’s! [br]  [br]
In a Word: Bittersweet  [br]  [br]
 
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