The Little Grey Lists

I have just finished watching the last season of Agatha Christie’s “Poirot” mysteries starring the brilliant David Suchet.  I wanted this week’s list to be a tribute to this ending, but how to do it?  By the Poirot books?  I went through these many years ago and most have blurred together.  All Christie books?  Some of my favorites were not Poirot, although he was by far my favorite.  By the “Poirot” series?  All Poirot adaptations?  In the end, I couldn’t choose.

Top Agatha Christie Mysteries:

1. Five Little Pigs

-This one was by far my favorite.  With the crime in the past there was nothing to get in the way of the psychological study.

2. And Then There Were None

-This is the first Christie book I read and one of the few books ever that I kindof wish had been withheld from me til I was a few years older…it still plays vividly in my mind, compelling, brilliant, and incredibly creepy.

3. Crooked House

-The tone and ending of this book just stay with you.

4. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd

-Seeing the crime through the villain’s notebook while still not knowing who it is….thrilling.  The adaptation of this was one of my only true letdowns-no cinema can do it properly.

5. The Man in the Brown Suit

-This is a novel where I actually remember the characters more fondly than the mystery-it’s great fun and my favorite of Christie’s matchmaking moves.

6. Dead Man’s Mirror

-Another Poirot mystery I found particularly clever and memorable.

Top Suchet “Poirot” adaptations:

1. Five Little Pigs

-I was surprised at how faithful they managed to keep it.  Love it!

2. Evil Under the Sun

-They managed to add humor and suspects with more depth without losing the tone of the original.

3. The Tragedy at Marsdon Manor

4. The Mystery of Hunter’s Lodge

5. The Chocolate Box

-All of these are just delightful to watch….I’m sure this list will change often, but David Suchet’s Poirot just shines.

Top non-Suchet Cinema Adaptations:

1. Thirteen for Dinner

-This Peter Ustinov one just has more time to flesh out the characters and what I found to be a more believable Lady Edgeware.  Plus, Suchet does appear…as Japp!

2. Witness for the Prosecution

-This Hitchcock film feels like a real Agatha Christie, and is well acted!

3. Death on the Nile

-This one I include because, although I feel the Ustinov version and the Suchet version are both excellent shows, I prefer the Ustinov one simply because it has more time to develop various motives and has a memorable montage showing how practically everyone could have committed the crime…On the other hand, I prefer Suchet’s Poirot here, as usual, and find his portrayal much closer to the books.  Still, whichever way you go, I recommend it.

Poirot would hate these mini-lists for being uneven and a hodgepodge of preferences rather than one, orderly list…I know, shall blame it on my need for gastronomic nurturing and plead that I have not yet eaten.  What about you, mes amis, which novels, episodes, or crimes do your little grey cells prefer?

The School for Good and Evil

The School for Good and Evil

By: Soman Chainani

HarperCollins 2014

A young adult fantasy fairy tale

SchoolforGood-pb-c

Agatha never believed the stories that the two children who go missing from her village every four years were kidnapped to attend the schools for fairy tale characters.  She certainly doesn’t think she belongs in some school for witches and villains, as everyone else in Gavaldon says.  Sophie not only believes, she yearns to reach the School for Good and emerge as the princess she was born to embody.  Plus, she will be lucky enough to have her best friend Agatha with her, only in the School for Evil.  When Agatha lands at the School for Good and Sophie is delivered to the side of Evil, fate, fairy tales, and friendship are thrown into consternation.  Will the girls realize their true fairy tale?  Will they live through it?  More importantly, will they end up still together or will their opposing roles drive them apart?

Chainani’s setting and characters usher readers into his fairy tale world with an intrigue mixed with an unusual directness and defiance.  Switching perspectives between the desperately seeking Sophie and the focused, loyal Agatha keeps the world and its questions spinning, the action has more urgency and the plot more suspense when balanced so well between two characters instead of centering on one focal point.  Thematically, this novel gets off to a slow start, but just when I despaired that the only theme would be appearances, the dark undercurrents of deeper chills and issues emerged.  These deeper subjects grow fast, and Chainani’s world of shifting-perspectives show them off brilliantly.  What starts as a stroll past a sunlit river, discussing the fallacy of looks quickly melds into a twisting chasm roaring with rapids that push Agatha and Sophie towards love, home, betrayal, riddles, success, hopes, and friendship, all while questioning which paths are truly good and which lead towards evil.  The fast pace of the action, the ever-building stakes, and the constant determination of both heroines kept me hooked and, by the end, reeling.  The School for Good and Evil climaxes in a wave that crashes down rather abruptly, but the fullness of that wave is beautiful and satisfying and, while sudden, the ending left me feeling splashed and wishing for more.

The School for Good and Evil reads like a true fairy tale, where each link in the chain feels inevitably bound to the others until the ending feels like a truth.  As a fairy tale enthusiast, that is the highest recommendation I can give to a new fairy tale work.  I will also say that the setting was vivid, all the characters continued to grow on me, as well as in the tale, and I loved the themes-they were fantastically done.  If you like fairy tales, detailed fantasy worlds, complex heroines, Ever After High, or quick-paced action tales, this is a book for you.  Go read it.

Top Ten Christmas Wishlist Books

This is a rendition of thebrokeandthebookish.com’s Top Ten Tuesday (and a Day). However, after looking at the lists, I decided to do next week’s now. After all, what’s the use of putting out into the world what I want for Christmas on Christmas Eve? Santa, let alone anyone else, would never be able to implement that quickly! So, here’s my wishlist of books now:

Top Ten Christmas Wishlist Books:

1. xo Orpheus: Fifty New Myths by Kate Bernheimer
-I have her previous anthology, “My Mother, She Killed Me, My Father, He Ate Me” and it is glorious.

2. Perfect Ruin (The Internment Chronicles) by Lauren DeStefano
-I love her lyrical writing style.

3. Animalia by Barbara Helen Berger
-She’s so beautiful and touching!

4. When the Sun Rose by Barbara Helen Berger

5. The Prince’s Doom by David Blixt http://www.amazon.com/Princes-Doom-David-Blixt/dp/0615894437/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1418840600&sr=1-1&keywords=david+blixt
-Oh my goodness, I didn’t know this was out so soon, and it’s in paperback, and-and! I must have!!

6. Diary of Johannes Burchardus
-This diary is a firsthand account about Pope Alexander VI-the Borgia Pope!-and I love the quotes I know, and I crave it.

7. To Be or Not to Be by Ryan North
-This is a choose your own adventure Hamlet book. How do I not have this?

8. Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman
-This is the sequel to Seraphina, coming out next year, and I must know what happens next!

9. Prudence (The Custard Protocol) by Gail Carriger
-This is another coming-out one, but it’s on my list of must-read. This is the sequel series to The Parasol Protectorate, about Alexia’s daughter.

10. Jester Leaps In: A Medieval Mystery (Fools’ Guild Mysteries) by Alan Gordman
-I loved Thirteenth Night and want to know what happens next.

So, that’s me. What does your wishlist look like?

Wild Stand

“Wild Stand”

These are my bones, where I stand,
These are my feet, intent as the stones,
This is my breath, my will, my desire,
My hands full of fire, of magic and death

My life, wood, garden-
Alive around my skull,
Surrounds my sense with running,
Culling, cursing, full-

Like all, my teeth have weight,
Sharper than tears, but
Gorging for fears, Trap-
All life’s sap through the gate.

Rip, heave, leave-
These bones yield precious dust,
Thrones for fights and steps-
Watch, thrust, sigh for relief…

Eat, take, wield-
These make all my measures,
Fields of graves, of insides sweet,
Treasures wake us from self slaves,

Nourish me with reapings sharp,
Lock, growl, instincts keeping-
Hiddens flourish, Wantings flock,
Turn eyes in, sweep up the clock:

Life, lust, sate-
These rule within my hut,
My hands and my musts,
Crossing bones against all fools,

Turn, chase, die,
Deny my claws, you’ll never try,
Flaws churn up earths to taste,
Burning haunts win every race,

This is my sun, my moon that beats,
Heart’s a flavor and others a treat,
Lusts are endeavors, all blood flows,
Death, wild, scorn, they my joys sow.

Cackles in the air,
Passion spins upon my toes,
Each one wins without compare,
With one sip of wild Knows.

So welcome in, alone
Mind, heart, soul-
Edges here to hone,
For inside here is where I’m whole.

Top Ten Books to Feed On

I once again decided to do my own top ten list this week, and as tomorrow is the Holiday of Feasting, these are books that focus on memorable foods and feasts.

1. The Magic Thief series by Sarah Prineas
Biscuits!

2. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
The title food, plus roast pigs and stews! Also a holiday tea tradition that I would love to bring to life…

3. Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
Eat me!

4. The Ordinary Princess by M. M. Kaye
Spun sugar castles, and gorgeous swans, and ice-cream licking, and nuts!

5. Mrs. Piggle Wiggle by Betty MacDonald
Whisper sticks!

6. Little Witch by Anna Elizabeth Bennett
Sandwiches, cake, and of course ice cream!

7. House of Many Ways by Diana Wynne Jones
-Ah, the quest to figure out how to convince a magical house to feed you…

8. Her Royal Spyness by Rhys Bowen
-Tea, champagne, and learning to cook and boil.

9. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
-Where food equals home, safety, and order…in comparison to hostile adventurers, anyhow.

10. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
Turkish delight!

What are some foods or feasts that you found memorable in books? Alternatively, in shows? Personally, I think “Pushing Daisies” the most delicious
series. It has the pie-maker, the cheese cupboard, and all the honey! On the other end of the spectrum is Fringe, where in spite of all the invitations and references to food made to and around her, Olivia only eats in about 5 episodes, and that depends on whether you are willing to count 5 m&ms as eating or to assume that a raised hand in the blurry background can be taken as actually eating a bite of french toast…

Well, what works shall you imbibe this week?

National Start Your Own Country Day (3)

The time has come once again, nationally (*ironic eyebrows*), to start one’s own country! This third year of my career in statehood, I declare that my new country shall be Dracalia.

Dracalia:
Geography: Laid out like a dragon with wings unfolded and tail curling underneath into the water.

Official Animal: Dragons

Official Flower: Bleeding hearts (They like anything that grows down instead of up)

Official Tree: Weeping willows

Official Motto: “Refinement comes through fire.”

Official Flag: A large, purplish-blue dragon filled with stars holding a green and golden globe in its claws. The background is darkest green.

Known for: Architecture and art, with new techniques and exhibits in everything from chateaus, to murals, to cake-crafting. If it involves balance, beauty, and imagination, this is the place to be. It celebrates its independence day with festivals full of all kinds of dragons depicted through art, movement, and games.

Go forth and proclaim your own country!

Top Ten Non-Romance Relationship Books for Thanksgiving

This week I made my own Top Ten list, in honor of the coming holiday: the Top Ten Books where Gratefulness/Support is Key in People who are NOT in Love with One Another. So much of the time in stories, real support or gratefulness is just there to show which person the protagonist should romantically wind up with, and it can and should be there so often when romance is not at all part of the case. Alternatively, it is there as a background plot-point or a side story, rather than being celebrated. I just want to showcase some of the works where non-romantic relationships are the big deal, not a side story.

1. Little Witch by Anna Elizabeth Bennet
-All about new friends, and the food they feed you!
little witch3

2. Diamond Willow by Helen Frost
-Family and animals, and how they overlap!

3. Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salmon Rushdie
-Family, new friends, and even new acquaintances who turn out to be allies, no matter how good they are at it.

4. Gwinna by Barbara Helen Berger
-Family, friends, and animals.
Gwinna

5. The Silent Gondoliers by S. Morgenstern (William Goldman)
-The acts of friendship here, oh how they trump all romance!

6. Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore
-I love how friendship and support clearly undermines other relationship terms and keeps the heroine going. This is perhaps one of the great reasons why shipping Bitterblue/Giddon revolts me-this book is about the warmth and triumph of friendship-and these readers are flying in the face of that by reading into one of the best friendships in it a romance that was never there!

7. The Merlin Trilogy by Jane Yolen
-Oh, how he connects to people! Family, memories, even the ultimately unworthy who still held his gratitude for a time, it’s all beautiful.

8. The Tiffany Aching series by Terry Pratchett
-When Tiffany is your friend, you will wind up grateful.

9. Incarceron by Catherine Fisher
-The deepest relationships in here are about family, about friends who become family, and about trust. This is another instance where I get very upset at people who insist that a close friendship ought to have been a romance just because it was the most honest and strong relationship-real gratitude and reliance happens in friendships, too!

10. Entwined by Heather Dixon
-All about family, right to the core, and none of the romances get in the way of that in the slightest.

And 11, because I can: The Magic Thief series by Sarah Prineas
-Allies, friendship, and teamwork.

How about you? What are some of your favorite non-romance relationships or books?

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