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?

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The School for Good and Evil

The School for Good and Evil

By: Soman Chainani

HarperCollins 2014

A young adult fantasy fairy tale

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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.

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.

Happy Halloween

(from Trixie)

Trixie_halloween

“Spinning Straws”

“Spinning Straws”

Afraid my Here’s just a pile of straw,
The flimsiest place of all to hide,
And I see a wolf pacing outside
With dollar-sign eyes and a gaping maw.

Just here spinning dreams of gold,
But can’t know what is real
Or let fears start to heal,
Til the man says one dream’s taken hold.

I entered this space to win more,
Yet what I own is depleted,
And I feel defeated,
So many wisps scatter over the floor.

Maybe I promised my future away,
For what I can’t guess
And now I feel less,
Grasping straws at a name I can’t say.

What name will finally fit?
It seems I have tried-
I know I have sighed,
But still I have failed to find it.

Have I been spinning false gold?
Tossing in my straw bed,
May be losing my head,
I’m not sure I want to be told.

Perhaps there is a one who knows,
Who wants my labors to bear fruit,
And sees the future’s my strong suit,
Where my gold dream is so real it glows…

I’m trying to spin this straw to gold,
As the wolf paces to inspire dread,
And my mind races to ask what’s ahead,
Which name will describe what I hold-

Straw?….Or is it gold?

Bring Me….a Fairy Tale Shrubbery!

So, I was thinking about fairy tales, as you do, and something occurred to me: on a surface, practical level, the lesson of an awful lot of them seems to be that the better gardener will win. Check this out:

1. Beauty and the Beast-The Beast gets the girl because he has the garden with the best roses. If Beauty’s family were better at gardening, she wouldn’t have had to ask for a rose and they wouldn’t have found themselves in that problem in the first place.
beautybeastrose

2. Twelve Dancing Princesses-The gardener just is the one who gets the princess, because she would rather marry a gardener.
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3. Rapunzel-If the young couple could have just grown their own garden, they never would have had to deal with the witch.

4. Red Riding Hood-If her family had a pretty flower garden, she wouldn’t have needed to wander about the woods for a bouquet or admiring the floral scenery and the wolf’s trick wouldn’t have worked.
Little-Red-Riding-Hood-Final_small_hr

5. Cinderella-how did she manage to get to the ball so quickly and snazzily, AND run away in time for the prince not to see her transformation back to rags while wearing just one flimsy glass shoe? They had a thriving pumpkin patch.

6. Snow White-If the dwarves or Snow White could grow their own fruit they wouldn’t bother with apple-sellers, would they? (Clothing items like combs and ribbons are a different matter of course, but then those were absurdly easy to undo in any case.)

7. The Princess and the Frog-The only positive thing about the princess in most portrayals is that her family had a wonderful garden for the prince-turned-frog to live in, and that is clearly the underlying reason why she manages to marry well. Also, when you’re a frog beautiful gardens are clearly what you look for when you need a princess to kiss you, so that garden lies at the base of the happiness of both title characters.

8. The Juniper Tree-A well-kept tree can even resurrect the dead, in this one!

9. The Wild Swans-If the sister could just have maintained a royal garden once she was queen, she could have slipped some nettles in and not needed to go running around graveyards, getting accused of witchcraft and all the shirts might have been finished!
plucked-nettles-hans-andersens-fairy-tales

10. The Firebird-With no well-grown cherry orchards, this magical creature would not have shown up.

11. Jack and the Beanstalk-If those giants had simply been attentive gardeners, they could have weeded out troublesome beanstalks and kept all their own treasure, at least before a third visit!

As a matter of fact, a lot of fairy tales seem to show that problems arise when people use being in the woods as an excuse not to do their own gardening. It leaves them open to wildflower delays and poisoned fruit. Clearly, we all need to grow our own gardens instead of just hiding behind trees, which is actually quite disappointing since even as a young girl I wanted a yard full of blossoming flowers so I could have that beauty without having to really garden. Yet, look at the evidence! Witches win when they grow thorns. Beautiful gardens attract firebirds, princes, and insightful beauties. Gardening well can get even “villains” new children or keep them out. Maybe I should get one…

Any other fairy tale gardening/shrubberies you can think of? Bring it here and place it here beside this shrubbery, only slightly lower in the comments, so we get the two-level effect…

Snow Queen for Halloween?

Halloween’s fast approaching,
Those ghouls are encroaching,
And if you or yours have chosen
To emulate the queen of Frozen,
Dress-up fit for a Snow Queen,
At Sonshine Smiles Shop can be seen!

Located here: https://www.facebook.com/SonshineSmilesShop

This is my niece as model in this dress:
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And it comes with matching hairclip!
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She also has an official version of a Snow Queen dress, but this is by far my favorite. And, honestly, looking at this versus the official ones, which dress looks like it could better keep the cold from ever bothering its queen?

Orders must be placed soon for delivery by Halloween!
https://www.facebook.com/SonshineSmilesShop, where custom dresses like this can be ordered for estimated $30-$50, depending on size.

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