The Patriotic Murders (aka One, Two, Buckle My Shoe)

 

by Agatha Christie

Published in 1940

Also titled: One, Two, Buckle My Shoe

In this book, Hercule Poirot goes to the dentist.  And, as usual murder ensues.

This was a good mystery, and I greatly enjoyed it.  But, as usual, the reason I enjoyed it was because Christie was willing to delve a little deeper than just “who killed whom,” and wrestle with some more serious issues, in this case, Is human life inherently valuable simply because it is human life?

My only beef with this story is that several characters had names that were very similar, making the story sometimes difficult to follow. (Wait, is this Blunt or Barnes?)

This mystery was a 4/5 for me, and below I take a brief look at those more serious issues, whilst revealing many spoilers…

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The Merchant’s Daughter

 

by: Melanie Dickerson

Published: 2011

So, this was a sort-of retelling of “Beauty & the Beast,” except without a literal Beast, or magic (or mean sisters or a widowed father or much of anything to do with the original tale, really).

Set in England in 1352, Annabel is the daughter of a merchant, whose death financially devastated his family.  Annabel’s lazy brothers and mother refuse to work, but cannot afford to pay the fee that enables them to get out of their required work on the estate, so blah blah blah, Annabel has to work for three years as an indentured servant to the new lord, Ranulf le Wyse.  Lord Wyse is (shockingly) young, ruggedly handsome, and misunderstood, not to mention all scarred up from a wolf he fought off to save a young servant-girl many years  before.

Meantime, the bailiff of the estate, who is old enough to be Annabel’s father, really wants to marry Annabel, but she doesn’t like him and refuses, yadda yadda.  The story unwinds and gets more and more unbelievable.  In the end, everyone is surprised when Annabel ends up marrying Lord Wyse and living happily ever after.

Things about this book I liked:

  • The retelling was a bit different, and I liked that.
  • Annabel herself wasn’t terribly obnoxious.  Overall, I liked her and wanted her life to be happy in the end.

Things about this book I disliked:

  • Lots of parts of this book felt forced.  I don’t know how else to describe it.  A truly good book flows very naturally (although not always predictably; there is a difference).  This book frequently felt jarring–as though there was another way (or several others) that the plot could have turned that would have been more likely or natural, but instead the author shoved the plot the direction she needed it to go.
  • The Bailiff.  How can he be this horrible person lurking about waiting for a chance to rape Annabel, but everyone else in the town thinks he’s the best thing since sliced bread? (Maybe better, because this was, I do believe, before sliced bread!)  Why does Lord Wyse believe Annabel’s stories of how the Bailiff is distressing and threatening her, and yet not fire the Bailiff?  Why does the Bailiff continue to pursue a girl so obviously favored and protected by his lord?  The Bailiff is just a bit too melodramatically evil for me, while at the same time, no other character in the book seems to care, or even notice, that he’s a creeper.
  • Lord Wyse.  He’s mysterious, but not.  He’s angry and cranky and then not.  And those changes occur within a week.  Because yes, that’s another thing that makes me roll my eyes at this book:
  • It takes place over about three weeks of time.  This mostly annoys me because we don’t really get that feeling that Annabel is able to (a) really appreciate the fact that she is going to be stuck here for a very very very very long time, or (b) that Annabel is able to love “the beast” for his true character.  And really, those two points are the foundation to a true Beauty & the Beast story.
  • The religion.  Don’t get me wrong, I am a conservative Christian myself.  Involving God in the story does not immediately annoy me.  And I knew what I was getting into, because the book is published by Zondervan and the author was a finalist for the Christy Award.  But, once again, the introduction of religion felt forced, as though modern-day Christian platitudes were being mouthed by historical characters.  This could be because the author decided to use the NIV as her quoted Scripture version, which definitely sounds nothing like 1532 language.  (I realize they were reading in Latin, but still…  NIV??  Seriously!?)

This was a fine book, but not one that I would read again, or particularly recommend.  For me, it overall did not have that happy, easy flow that allows a reader to believe that these events could actually have occurred.  2/5.

Magical Melons

 

by Carol Ryrie Brink

Published: 1939

This book, the sequel to Caddie Woodlawncontains several new adventures of the Woodlawn family, based on the tales told to the author by her grandmother.

I actually like Magical Melons better than Caddie Woodlawn, and I’m not sure why.  I think it’s because in Caddie Woodlawn, the author seems to be trying to connect all the stories, but it doesn’t work very well, because they are all just individual vignettes.  But in Magical Melons, it’s as though Brink realizes this, and just tells each tale independently, and the whole book flows better because of it.

Overall, super happy little stories, fun historical context.  3/5.

Eragon

by Christopher Paolini

Published: 2002

So I apparently forgot to take a picture of this book before sending it back to the library.  Sorry about that.  But you know what it looks like:  thick, blue, with a dragon on the front?

Somehow, these books have been published for about ten years now, and I’m just now getting around to reading them.  I’m not sure why.  Because of their popularity, I was skeptical of them, but I am about 2/3 through the second book (Eldest) and so far, so good.

Eragon manages to be a plot-setting book while still telling a story.  The first book in a “epic” series can often degrade into mere background and character introduction, but Paolini manages to accomplish that while still allowing a story to move along.  He has created a world that is consistent and characters who are relateable.  As another bonus, he did not end the book on a cliffhanger.  While there were plenty of open-ended story-lines to follow for the rest of the series, the author did a nice job wrapping up the loose ends for that particular book, which I like.  Overall, I felt that the book was very well-paced.

For me, the main drawback was a personal whim–I get so aggravated with books that involve multiple fictional languages, meaning that I constantly have to flip to the glossary at the back of the book.  I understand the dramatic reality it (sort of) portrays (a la Tolkien), but to me, it’s just a distraction.  Every time there is an tense meeting between multiple races, the flow of the conversation is lost by the fact that two or three languages are being spoken.  Paolini doesn’t do it too much, which is almost more annoying…  just the first sentence of everyone’s paragraph is in their native language, then they apparently either revert back to the common language, or Paolini decides to translate the rest for us, I’m not sure which.  Either way, it irritates me.

Still, an overall very enjoyable read, and I am definitely finishing out the series.  4/5.

 

Sad Cypress

by Agatha Christie

Published: 1939

In this rather mediocre Poirot mystery, Poirot works to discover the truth behind the murder of a lovely young girl and an elderly woman.  For me personally, this story struck no chord.  It was fine, the plot moved along, but there was nothing particularly unique or grabbing about it.

So, an average 3/5.