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Halloween Party my copyThis was one of the first Agatha Christie mysteries I read, and, back then, I found it a bit slow. This time around, however, I really enjoyed the book. I believe that’s in part because I am so much more invested in Hercule Poirot as a character.

For newcomers to Poirot, I suggest starting with the novel that introduced him, The Mysterious Affair at Styles—one of Christie’s best. Hallowe’en Party is one of her later novels, written in 1969, and it’s a bit more nuanced. When I picked it up for the second time, I did so in eagerness to read more about Poirot and his occasional cohort, the quirky Mrs. Ariadne Oliver—a sort of literary avatar of Christie herself. I was likewise pleased to encounter Superintendent Spence on the scene. That is one of the great pleasures of reading Christie for me—the recurring cameos of previous characters. Also, this time I got all the apple jokes.

That is not to discount the plot of Hallowe’en Party. It’s another of Christie’s intricately woven puzzles, and I enjoyed the different threads as they delved into mysterious deaths and sidetracked into red herrings. The story begins with preparations for the title event, and I found the British take on Halloween fascinating. No trick or treat, but several spooky games and also, significantly, bobbing for apples. Christie makes use of autumn imagery such as late Michaelmas daisies and the slanting sun, to give the novel the gauzy feel of a late November afternoon.

This is one of Christie’s “village mysteries”, and although Woodleigh Common is a newer community, Poirot uncovers a myriad of past secrets. He also discovers a strange and menacing garden:

“There was an atmosphere here. He tried to pin it down. It had qualities of magic, of enchantment, certainly of beauty, bashful beauty, yet wild. Here, if you were staging a scene in the theatre, you would have your nymphs, your fauns, you would have Greek beauty, you would have fear too. Yes, he thought, in this sunk garden is fear.”

The theatrical Christie seems to be alluding to is Shakespeare’s The Tempest, with a precocious 12-year-old “Miranda” who is like a woodland sprite flitting about the tree branches and the rocky, overgrown paths.

Much like the garden, the book is at times enchanting and theatrical—especially the party scenes—but there is a dark, disquieting undertone. Bad things happen to some of the children and there is even a town witch. This is a perfect Halloween read with a couple of nice twists in the resolution.

Finally, it warmed my heart that Hallowe’en Party is dedicated to P.G. Wodehouse (a great lover of detective fiction himself), “whose books and stories have brightened [Christie’s] life for many years.”

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dewey graphicThis past weekend I participated in the Dewey’s Readathon, with 1900 readers from all around the world. Well, sort of. I had family in town so I spent much of the weekend with them. Thus, I didn’t log the serious hours of reading that I have in the past.

I read in snatches, as the Readathon went from 8:00 am Sat to 8:00 am Sun, my time. (The times change depending on where you live—so that we are all reading for the same 24-hour period.) Most of the participants tweet progress updates, and it’s really fun to see who is reading, where they are, and which books. Bookworm joy!

I finished up Rival Queens by Nancy Goldstone and Hallowe’en Party by Agatha Christie—but that was only about 30 pages each. I also managed about 100 pages of Salem’s Lot by Stephen King, which I’m reading with twitter friends as part of the #SalemAlong.

I never plan this but somehow I always wake up early on Readathon Sunday. At 5:00 am, I made some hot tea and started Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. I didn’t quite finish it by 8:00 am. OK, I may have nodded off for a bit. But I did knock it off with some extra reading time on Sunday—so I’m counting it.

Tally:
Big Magic—273 (entire book)
Rival Queens—30 pages ish (finished book)
Hallowe’en Party—30 pages ish (finished book)
Salem’s Lot—100 pages (solid dent)

433 ish pages total

The next Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon is Sat April 23, 2016. Join us!

stack oct 2015

Past Dewey’s Readathons:

Hurray! Its the  Dewey’s Read-a-thon April 2014

So in Need of Dewey’s Read-a-thon October 2013

Here We Go, Dewey’s Read-a-thon April 2013

Read-a-thon or Read-a-5k? October 2012

Read or Cheer on the Dewey’s Read-a-thon October 2011

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SalemAlong buttonIt’s the first day of the Halloween month, and I’m starting the #SalemAlong—a readalong of Salem’s Lot by Stephen King. The #SalemAlong is hosted by Melissa, Trish, and Care.

Interested? Click here to join us!

Honestly, I’m a bit nervous about the nightmare factor, but I think (well, I’m told) that it will somewhat be alleviated by reading together with some of my book buddies. Strength in numbers?

I read both Under the Dome and 11/22/63 in readalongs, and it’s so fun to see everyone’s comments and reactions via twitter and blog posts.

But this is the first of King’s horror books I’ve read since Carrie, which I found much more terrifying than the movie—though the Sissy Spacek version is pretty darn scary. While I admire King, I confess that I have wimped out and gone for the film version over the books of many of his classics—It, The Shining, The Stand. Pathetic, I know.

Again, here’s the #SalemAlong welcome post and sign-up. Join us, if you dare…

If you love scary reads, also check out Murder, Monsters, and Mayhem aka #MX3, at Jenn’s Bookshelves, which celebrates horror/thriller/mystery books all month.

Salem's Lot TH#112263Along — readalong of 11/22/63

#DomeAlong — readalong of Under the Dome

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TBR checkpoint 5 chromeI’ve skipped a couple of checkpoints, but I’ve managed to make some progress in the 2014 TBR Pile Challenge. Still, I’ve got a bit of reading to do this summer to clear the shelf!

I started with 15 books in my original TBR Challenge Pile, which stretched across the cupboard. So I am a little over one third of the way through, having knocked off six books so far.

I’ve read and reviewed 3 books :
Arabian Nights & Days by Naguib Mahfouz
A Very Long Engagement by Sébastien Japrisot
Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin

I’ve read 2 more that need to be written about:
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
What is Art? by Leo Tolstoy

And I’ve given up on one book that I just couldn’t get into after 81 pages:
Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

I must say, it is truly gratifying to see the TBR pile shrinking and to link up the reviews. So I must thank Adam at Roof Beam Reader for organizing this challenge. Now, back to the books!

The 2014 TBR Pile Challenge

Checkpoint 2: Progress as of Feb 16

Checkpoint 1: Progress as of Jan 15

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Dewey's Readathon April 2104

2014 TBR Challenge and Dewey’s #Readathon stack.

The Dewey’s Read-a-thon, spring or fall, is always one of my favorite weekends. A whole day dedicated to reading!!

Sign up to join us for the read-in this Sat. April 26 at 8:00 am EST.

I am hoping to make a dent in my 2014 TBR Challenge Pile, which still seems rather large as I’ve been sidetracked by other books.

So, this is a double reading challenge day for me!

One Book Completed! Arabian Days and Nights by Naguib Mahfouz

Readathon Rerack

Back to bed with book, coffee, and a very lazy dog!

It was a drizzly, rainy morning so instead of our usual am adventure, the doggie was happy to jump back in bed … and stay there!

A nice (and luxurious) boost to my Read-a-thon productivity.

Indeed it was perfect reading weather. Last April, I was distracted by the fact that is was the first sunny, warmish day in months–so I kept sneaking outside.

Second book finished!

Second book finished!

I also finished The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, another TBR Pile Challenge pick. So two books down and a very relaxing day. I really wanted to savor my reading time and enjoy not being on a schedule. Mission accomplished.

 

So in Need of Dewey’s Read-a-thon October 2013

Here We Go, Dewey’s Read-a-thon April 2013

Read-a-thon or Read-a-5k? October 2012

Read or Cheer on the Dewey’s Read-a-thon October 2011

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IT bookWhat happens when you don’t like the “it” book? For years, people have raved about Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin—it’s one of those cult books. I just read it for the 2014 TBR Pile Challenge, and I’m stumped as to my response.

I prefer not to disparage any book, as I don’t want to deter readers who might love said tome. I myself have been burned by people warding me off great reads. Coincidentally, on Sunday, The New York Times Book Review asked: “Do We Really Need Negative Book Reviews?”

To The Lighthouse, by Virginia Woolf, was on our high school syllabus, but my teacher resisted since she didn’t like it. She read a few passages aloud, but we never delved in. I just assumed it wasn’t a good book. (Perhaps not a good teacher?) What a surprise in college to discover the magic of Woolf’s “stream of consciousness.”

Likewise, Charles Frazier’s Cold Mountain languished on my shelf nearly five years because a few friends had panned it. That book wowed me and I think is one of the best American novels written—ever. Recently, I was the only member of book group to adore Julie Otsuka’s lovely novella The Buddha in the Attic, which I had almost skipped owing to email grumblings.

Clearly I am not a good indicator of popular culture, because I didn’t love Gone Girl or Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn. I am dazzled by her writing ability, but I didn’t really care about the characters or the plot. I’m not sure why, because Graham Greene has repeatedly invested me in unlikeable characters and twisted plots—as did Aravind Adiga with The White Tiger, which I could not put down. The Help, by Kathryn Stockett, was very readable, but I felt that it simplified some issues. Even books by a favorite author are not a safe bet. I love the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series but have not been able to make a similar connection with other books by Alexander McCall Smith.

However, these books are beloved by many readers. Thus, I don’t want to subject anyone to my own literary fickleness. They say you can’t judge a book by its cover, but I’d argue that you can’t judge it secondhand either.

Winters Tale Mark-HalprinBack to Winter’s Tale: it moved slowly and felt rather inaccessible. When, in a moment of melodrama, the hero and heroine first kiss … I laughed. I am actually an inveterate shipper, so this was a red flag for me. I did love the horse, though.

Still, I don’t want to discourage readers (or offend the legion of Winter’s Tale fans). Plus, I’d hate for someone who might “get it” to miss out because of me.

So what to do when you don’t like the “it” book? Pass it along for someone else to try. A friend was eager to claim my hardcover of Winter’s Tale, and she really likes “it.”

“Do We Really Need Negative Reviews? from The New York Times Book Review

Fascinated and Haunted by The Buddha in the Attic

The 2014 TBR Pile Challenge

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TBR first book on shelf VWe are now two months into the 2014 TBR Pile Challenge, and I am happy to report that I’ve read two books. The first book I chose was Winter’s Tale, by Mark Helprin, and I have just finished What is Art? by Leo Tolstoy.

As of press time, I have not yet managed to post any reviews. Nor has our host and challenge leader Adam blogged about what he’s read, so I guess I am not disqualified. (Update: I reviewed Winter’s Tale but need to gather my thoughts on What is Art? I do recommend it though.)

One bonus of winter is more reading time, especially this year. We’ve already had more than twice the average snowfall—around 55 inches so far and it’s snowing now. All these storms have managed to cancel trips and evenings out, so I have had many more nights reading by the fire (about which I am not complaining).

Off to the bookshelf now to pluck another from the TBR Challenge pile.

The 2014 TBR Pile Challenge.

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