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Book Club Girl’s Agatha Christie Read-A-Long: And Then There Were None

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Book Club Girl’s Agatha Christie Read-A-Long: And Then There Were None

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1- When we first meet the “ten soldiers,” while they may not have been the best group of people, you don’t necessarily wish them ill will. As their pasts are revealed and their true personalities unmasked, did you feel any sympathy for them as a victim of the situation? Do you think that we, the reader, were predisposed to dislike certain characters more and feel sympathy for others?

I don’t know that I felt any sympathy for these characters when we first meet them. They’ve all committed pretty horrible crimes for which they can’t be tried in court. Especially as their true personalities surface, most of the ten characters show no remorse for their crimes. I did love the character Vera because she seems to be the smarted and most put-together of them all, but I do think that has a lot to do with what Christie wants us to think.

2- Each soldier was initially defined by their stature or position in life, did that change for any of them as the story progressed, or did they rely more on their roles off the island for survival?

At first, each character is completely defined by his or her role in society, but as each character drops one by one, the roles definitely change. I think the roles are soon redefined by who can remain the most calm (and sane, if you think about it). They do all start to lose it eventually, which truly evens the social playing field.

3- One of the themes present throughout And Then There Were None is guilt and the effect it can have on a person. How did each character deal with the guilt of their past crimes? Who handled it the best? And who was the most torn up from it?

It’s hard for me to answer this question because I don’t want to give the ending away to anyone who hasn’t read it yet! I think the character who “did it” had the most guilt because they couldn’t make life fair for the victims of these people. Ack! That is horrible and vague… Most of the characters don’t handle the guilt at all. They shut themselves up and try to run away from the madness of knowing they are going to die.

4- What did you think of the use of “Ten Little Soldiers” throughout the book, both the poem posted in the bedrooms and the little disappearing figurines on the dining room table? How do they both figure into the story? Do you think the reminder of the “Ten Little Soldiers” poem was necessary throughout the story?

I loved the soldiers so much! They really add to the psychological suspense since each soldier directly corresponds to one of the criminals. The reminder of the poem sort of helps you keeps track of what is really happening and why it is happening to these people. It also gives so much drama to the last death scene, as you know what is going to happen, even though you really don’t want it to.

5- If you were trapped on Soldier Island, which character’s behavior would you most identify with and why? If not, what would you have done differently?

Honestly, I would be taking the house apart trying to build a raft. Especially after the first few deaths, you KNOW what is going to happen, just not who is next. Holing yourself up in a house that is so obviously set up by the person who is trying to kill you is not a very smart idea to me.

6- From the very beginning certain characters are drawn to each other to form alliances in their strange situation—at first Vera and Emily, later Blore, Armstrong, and Lombard, Armstrong and Wargrave, and then Vera and Lombard. What do you think brought them together? How do these alliances affect events?

It kind of reminds me of the show Survivor. You know that no one is to be trusted, but you have to form alliances if you want to stay alive. I think they help the characters keep the madness at bay for a time. They see that they might have a friend and jump on that possibility. Alliances don’t necessarily change events, but they almost make it easier for the puppet master to pull the strings.

7- Did you have your own theories about who Unknown was before getting to the “Manuscript Document” and if so, at what point?

The first time I read it, I had absolutely no idea. I thought of several possibilities, but none of them were even remotely correct. I’ve read it a few times since then, and I try to see the clues Christie leaves, but there almost aren’t any to be found. It is truly a remarkable feat of hers to write such an unsolvable mystery!

8- It’s widely commented that Christie “violated the standard rules of mystery writing” by making it nearly impossible for us to solve the mystery before she explains it to us. How did that make you feel as a reader?

I freakin’ love it! I don’t think there should be “rules” when writing any type of book. I hate when I’m reading a mystery book and I can figure out the ending. It can be comforting to read books that fall into a pattern, but if all mysteries were written as such, everyone would be writing the same book over and over again.

9- As Agatha wrote in her author’s note, the plot was so simple, yet so baffling, that she herself was most pleased with the outcome for having done it. Are there any mysteries from recent years that you think come close to what she accomplished here?

No. It seems impossible to me to meet Christie’s level of brilliance. I think there are many spectacular mystery writers out there right now, but no one is able to blow my mind like Agatha. Gillian Flynn came really close with Gone Girl, but it doesn’t have the same kind of simple poise Christie executes so well.

REVIEW: No Graves as Yet by Anne Perry

No Graves as Yet by Anne Perry

no graves as yet

Publisher: Ballantine Books

Release Date: August 26, 2003

Source: library copy

Rating: 2.5 out of 5

The year is 1914. Joseph and Matthew Reavley have just found out their parents have been killed in a gruesome car accident. Matthew, a member of the Intelligence Service, knows that his father was on his way to bring him a document that could change the fate of England, as well as the rest of the world. Matthew and Joseph know that their parents’ deaths could not be a mere accident when such a document is involved. Especially since when they search their parents’ car and belongings there are no such documents found. Joseph is soon shocked when one of his best students, Sebastian Allard, is found murdered in his university rooms. Are the two deaths connected? Will the document be found and change the world as they know it?

I love reading mysteries set in World War I, and this novel was particularly intriguing since it is set right before the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand. I actually read this book as part of my Mystery Book Club at my local library, so it was great to hear other people’s opinions when I have such strong ones. I really wanted to love this book. Maybe I had too many expectations going into it since Perry is such a famous and beloved author. The philosophy in this novel is absolutely brilliant. Joseph and Sebastian have an amazing discussion about war and peace and how civilization could be destroyed in an instant by an act of war. The political views and historical perspective discussed are fascinating, especially considering that the document and scandal talked about in the book are actually thought to be real.

What I really had a problem with was the pace of the plot. The mystery is quite intricate and definitely well thought out, but I just felt that the book took too long to go nowhere. I was not able to predict the “who-done-it” of the book, but by the end of the novel, I just didn’t care. I really just wanted to be over and done with it. It seems like Perry is trying to write about religion, politics, and humanism all within the plot of an historical mystery, but it just becomes too much like a treatise rather than a thriller. Perry’s characters are no-doubt outstanding, they just meander until they trip across the finish line more accidentally than anything. I think that I will try to read one of Perry’s other series, as I do like her writing style, but I don’t think I will be reading the rest of this series.

It’s a Summer of Christie!!!

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You all know just how much I love Agatha Christie, so when I saw there was going to be a new *authorized* book I got really excited! In celebration of the pending release of The Monogram Murders by Sophie Hannah, I’m joining Book Club Girl’s read-a-long of these classic Christie mysteries over this summer. Here’s the schedule if you’d like to read along:

June 30thAnd Then There Were None

July 30thDead Man’s Folly, and we can discuss the book and the premiere of the movie adaptation on Masterpiece Mystery airing July 27th.

September 2nd:  After the Funeral (be sure to pick up the new edition on sale August 5th with a foreword by Sophie Hannah explaining why this is her favorite Agatha Christie mystery)

October 6thThe Monogram Murders, featuring a guest post by author Sophie Hannah

For more information, go to Book Club Girl’s site: It’s a Summer of Christie!

REVIEW: Never Laugh as a Hearse Goes By by Elizabeth J. Duncan

Never Laugh as a Hearse Goes By by Elizabeth J. Duncan

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Publisher: Minotaur Books

Release Date: October 29, 2013

Source: Library copy

Rating: 4 out of 5

There’s just something magical about browsing in your local public library and discovering a new series which you just can’t put down. About a month ago, I saw this book on the New Books shelf at my library. I read the description and thought, “Oh my goodness, I have to read this book!” But then I looked through the book and saw it was the fifth book in the series – so of course I had to read the first four books before starting this one! Although you can read Never Laugh as a Hearse Goes By as a stand-alone mystery, I would definitely recommend reading the other books in the series for Penny’s character development.

Penny Brannigan moved from Canada to Wales about 25 years ago to start her very own nail salon in the small town of Llanelen. As a favor to a friend, she has agreed to give a talk at a clerical conference in Gladstone’s Library along with her boyfriend, DCI Gareth Davies. Although they think this trip is going to be a relaxing getaway for a few days, they are gravely mistaken as two people are soon dead.

I have to say, I am a sucker for all things British/Welsh, cozy mysteries, and small-town settings. You can tell that Duncan has really done her research for the location and feel of the people. You have your typical small-town characters, but there are so many other characters added into the mix that it never gets boring. I will say that in the first two books, I was able to predict “who-done-it”, but in the later books, Duncan really hones her mystery-writing talent and makes this a book you won’t want to miss. There really is a unique quality to Penny’s character that separates her from so many female heroines. She isn’t afraid to do things for herself or be on her own. She definitely takes a step away from your traditional single woman in a small town, and I can’t wait to read more of her mysteries.

REVIEW: Leaving Everything Most Loved by Jacqueline Winspear

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Leaving Everything Most Loved by Jacqueline Winspear

Publisher: Harper Perennial

Release Date: April 8, 2014

Source: Publisher

Rating: 4 out of 5

In the latest Maisie Dobbs mystery, Maisie has become restless with her life in England. She wants to remain independent, but she also loves her longtime friend and companion, James Compton. Just as she is thinking of heading on a tour of the globe, Scotland Yard comes to her in need of help with the murder of an Indian woman, Usha Pramal. As a former governess, Usha was a rare woman who had gone to college and traveled to London with an English family to teach their children. When they fired her without aide to get home, she found lodgings and a job and was seemingly on her way back to India. Yet, when she is found in the river with a gunshot to the head, Scotland Yard can only turn to Maisie with no leads in the case.

I have loved the Maisie Dobbs series for quite some time, and this latest addition to her story is excellent. I do highly recommend reading the previous novels in the series first, as there is much background knowledge that would make the book easier to follow. Over the years, Maisie has changed so much as a woman that it is through her cases and trials in life that we see who she becomes. In this book, she is dealing with a particularly difficult decision. How does she maintain her identity while remaining a partner to James? This case will also test her relationships with her employees, Billy and Sandra, as they try to find a balance between kindness and overbearing control.

I am always excited to read a new book in this series, and Leaving Everything Most Loved is no exception. I will say that the last few books have been very serious with little release in term of moments of happiness. Most of Winspear’s books contain a bit of silver lining in the storm clouds, but as we approach the era of World War II, each book has taken on a new gravity. I highly, highly recommend this book, but I also would recommend reading it on a bright sunny day with some chocolate at hand :)

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for letting me host this book. For more information, click here.

REVIEW: Steeped in Evil by Laura Childs

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Steeped in Evil by Laura Childs

Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime

Release Date: March 4, 2014

Source: library copy

Rating: 3.75 out of 5

Theodosia Browning runs her own tea shop in the middle of historic Charleston, South Carolina. She has a knack for tea and scones as well as solving murders. When she gets an invitation to a wine-tasting, she can’t say no to such a fun night. Fun… except for the dead body in the wine barrel. The vineyard owner’s son has been murdered, so the owner asks for Theodosia’s help in solving the case.

I’m not going to lie. A few books ago in this series, I thought I was going to give up on it. This is the fifteenth book in the series, and I was worried it was going to get old. After taking a break from the series for a few years, I decided to pick it back up, and boy, was it like running into an old friend. The talk of tea blends and the many treats they are going to serve in the shop is fantastic. The descriptions of Charleston’s locals are hilarious and fascinating at the same time. I so enjoy reading cozy mysteries, and this series always includes recipes and tea party ideas in the back. I do recommend starting the series from the beginning, as many there are many characters and idiosyncrasies to remember.

I will say that the chase scenes are a little overused, and the dialogue can be a bit stuffy at times, but overall, I really enjoyed this addition to the series and do recommend it.

REVIEW: The Outcast Dead by Elly Griffiths

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The Outcast Dead by Elly Griffiths

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Release Date: March 11, 2014

Source: personal copy

Rating: 5 out of 5

The sixth book in the Ruth Galloway archaeology mystery series is just as good as the first. In fact, each book just seems to get better. Ruth Galloway lives in northern England and is the head forensic archaeologist at a small university. Her current dig takes her to the grave of a woman thought to be an urban legend: Mother Hook. Mother Hook was said to be a woman who had a hook for a hand and killed children whom she was meant to protect. A TV show finds out about the dig and wants to feature Ruth and her crew on their program. Meanwhile, DCI Nelson is working on a missing child case that may be hitting too close to home.

If you’ve read the book before this one in the series, you know that Griffiths’ suspense building can just about kill you. Every time you think that everything is okay, she just turns it back on you in another way. I freaking love it. I love the archaeology she incorporates into the story. I feel like I’m always learning something new without even having to try. The atmosphere of northern England alone is enough to make me want to read this book again. The dark, rainy gloom is always followed by a wonderful day by the shore.

BUT, I must say that my favorite part of this book is the character development. Ruth has always had social anxiety, but she learns to work through it in this story. I have always identified with her character since she is an introvert, a little bit overweight, and extremely self-conscious. She seems to be able to become a more whole version of herself. We also see more of Judy, Tim, and the rest of Nelson’s team. Judy, particularly, gets a wonderful breadth to her character as a mother and wife.

I highly, highly, highly recommend this book, and this entire series. For my review of the first book, click here.

REVIEW: The Preservationist by Justin Kramon

The Preservationist by Justin Kramon

17654683Publisher: Pegasus Books

Release Date: October 10, 2013

Source: Publisher

Rating: 3.75 out of 5

To Sam Blount, meeting Julia is the best thing that has ever happened to him.

Working at the local college and unsuccessful in his previous relationships, he’d been feeling troubled about his approaching fortieth birthday, “a great beast of a birthday,” as he sees it, but being with Julia makes him feel young and hopeful. Julia Stilwell, a freshman trying to come to terms with a recent tragedy that has stripped her of her greatest talent, is flattered by Sam’s attention.

But their relationship is tested by a shy young man with a secret, Marcus Broley, who is also infatuated with Julia. Told in alternating points of view, The Preservationist is the riveting tale of Julia and Sam’s relationship, which begins to unravel as the threat of violence approaches—and Julia becomes less and less sure whom to trust. – From the publisher

The story of Sam, Julia , and Marcus is one awesome psychological thriller that will not let you down.  Told in alternating points of view, The Preservationist combines a classic thriller format with some humor tossed in for good measure.  I love the fact that Julia is so real – her doubts, motives, and personality are all characteristics that I saw in people who I knew in college.  Kramon uses language cut down to the bare bones, so there is no fluff or meaningless scenes as there are in many modern suspense books.  In fact, this book actually reminded me of a lot of the Scandinavian, depp, dark thrillers that will keep you up way past your bedtime because you can’t put the book down, but you also probably couldn’t sleep without the light on even if you tried.  I will say that this is a huge step away from Kramon’s previous book, Finny, so if you are looking for something similar this is definitely not that book.  The Preservationist is an entirely different animal, but it shows that Kramon can be successful in whichever genre he chooses to write.

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for giving me a chance to be a stop on this tour!

REVIEW: The Round House by Louise Erdrich

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The Round House by Louise Erdrich

Publisher: Harper Perennial

Release Date: October 2, 2012

Source: Publisher

Rating: 5 out of 5

Joe and his family are having a hard time on their reservation in North Dakota. Geraldine, Joe’s mother, is brutally attacked, but she is so traumatized by the event that she won’t tell her family or the police what really happened. Joe’s father is a tribal judge who is trying to work with the police to find the horrible person who so terribly hurt his wife. Joe is falling into the background of his family’s focus. He decides to team up with his friends and find out what really happened. Their journey begins at the Round House, a sacred house to Joe’s tribe.

There is no question about why this book won the National Book Award. I got immediately sucked into the mystery of what happened to Geraldine, and why she is being so careful in protecting her family at the cost of her own sanity. But this book isn’t just a mystery, it is a tale of mythology and heritage. Joe and his friends remind me of the boys in Stand By Me. They aren’t being supervised, but this lack of adult presence lets them discover clues behind the mystery as well as their own identity. I also found myself thinking about the tv show Twin Peaks at times. There is an eeriness and supernatural quality to the story that really make it come alive.

If you do read this book, do me a favor: put everything down, turn your cell phone off, make sure you have a glass of wine or tea, and just sit down and enjoy every word this book has to offer. This is one of those books I wish I could read for the first time again. It is magic, pure and simple.

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for letting me be a host on this tour!

REVIEW: Winter at Death’s Hotel by Kenneth Cameron

Winter at Death’s Hotel by Kenneth M. Cameron

death's hotelPublisher: Sourcebooks Landmark

Release Date: August 6, 2013

Source: Publisher

Rating: 4 out of 5

The year is 1896. Arthur Conan Doyle has just arrived in New York City for the American leg of his tour with his wife, Louisa.  While Conan Doyle is busy getting ready for lectures and appearances, Louisa is left to her own devices in a new and exciting city.  When a mutilated corpse is found on the streets, Louisa sees an artist’s sketch in the paper of what the woman would have looked like in life; and she swears that she had seen this woman at the hotel.  As “luck” would have it, Louisa sprains her ankle and must remain at the hotel while her husband completes his tour across the States.  Louisa delves deeper into the mystery as more bodies start turning up. Yet, all of her inquiries lead back to the hotel, and eventually to her.

You all know that I absolutely love anything and everything related to Arthur Conan Doyle and his stories.  When I got the chance to review this book, I quite literally jumped at the opportunity.  The atmosphere from the very beginning was eerie and cold, which sets up a great beginning to a murder mystery.  I love Louisa so much.  She is strong, curious, and doesn’t back down even when her husband thinks she is just being a “silly woman”.  Most of the time she lets her curiosity lead her through the book, even when it gets her into trouble.  I love that she gets the help of those around her to solve the murders.  She doesn’t think she has to be completely independent when sense tells her otherwise.  She draws in a firecracker female reporter, Buffalo Bill and Henry Irving, almost forming a Scooby-gang of crime fighters.

It was so refreshing to read a male author writing from a woman’s perspective and having him get it right!  Cameron doesn’t fall into the classic female stereotypes that many male authors do.  Louisa is a free spirit who doesn’t have time for fainting or taking orders.  She really reminds me a lot of Amelia Peabody from the Elizabeth Peters mysteries – Louisa creates her own destiny.  I highly recommend this book!