January Minireviews – Part 3

Oh my gosh.  Okay.  I’m still here.  I had a mild breakdown today because freaking WordPress changing literally E V E R Y T H I N G on top of my already crappy week was just more than I could take.  I even started to set up a new blog on Blogspot.  But for now I am going TRY to continue working with this stupid website because I feel like I have so much invested here!

A bit of whining first, then book reviews.  Feel free to skip this paragraph.  I’m in a Mood haha  So besides the fact that the entire dashboard is just stupid now, my biggest issue is that the Pages are just in some kind of random order.  (Maybe what’s been edited recently?  But it doesn’t really seem to be that.  Definitely not alphabetical.  Definitely not in the order they are on my site, or anything else that I can figure that actually makes sense.)  I use these pages every time I make a post because it’s how I index everything.  Each book I review then has a link filed on at least three index pages – the ones you can see at the top of the website.  However, even though I can’t sort those pages and the whole thing looks stupid I can apparently “search” them so I think I can use the search function to find the pages I want when I want them… maybe.  Mostly.  Honestly I’m just flat pissed at how horrible the new set up is.  It’s so, so horrible.  

But onward, right?  I’m going to try to see if I can make this stupid website do what it’s always done for me, even if it now takes about 15 extra steps and makes no sense.  At least I can now “seamlessly create a podcast” from my website.  Because that’s definitely what I want to do.  Oh my GOSH.

As a side note I can “kind of” use the Classic editor by choosing it as a block in the Block editor.  Because that makes sense, right? *HUGE EYE ROLL*

EDIT EDIT EDIT EDIT

I FIGURED IT OUT!!!!!  Okay, sorry, this almost feels like it should be its own post instead of one with reviews but whatever haha  OKAY so if your dashboard has also gone completely wonky – I went to My Profile and then on the left sidebar clicked Account Settings.  Now here’s the stupid part.  Just the other day I had to UNCLICK the button that says “Show advanced dashboard pages” so that the update would NOT show up.  Today I turned it ON and now everything is back to normal.  WHAT IS HAPPENING?!?!

I’m SO SORRY that I’ve been whining about WordPress so much lately!!!  I’m going to try to go back to being the upbeat person that I usually am haha  Thanks so much for listening to me rant lately and for giving me helpful possible solutions!!!  Maybe this whole thing is back under control!?!?  Time will tell…  For now – on to a few reviews!!

Sometimes I don’t feel like writing a full review for whatever reason, either because life is busy and I don’t have time, or because a book didn’t stir me enough.  Sometimes, it’s because a book was so good that I just don’t have anything to say beyond that I loved it!  Frequently, I’m just wayyy behind on reviews and am trying to catch up.  For whatever reason, these are books that only have a few paragraphs of thoughts from me.

Time & Time Again by Ben Elton – 4*

The sad part about being way behind on reviews is that books that I really found interesting and thought-provoking at the time have now faded into the distance.  When I read this book back in January, it completely sucked me in.  A fantastic concept well-executed with a great twist – it honestly doesn’t fit my usual style of reading as it wasn’t a particularly happy book, but it was done so well that I didn’t mind.  If you’re someone with a rosier view of the human race than I have (i.e., if you think people are on a generally upward trajectory and are constantly improving rather than devolving), you may not like this book as well.  But since I actually think people are on a cyclical but steady downward trend, this book rather fit with my life philosophy in many ways.  

There were a few too many unanswered questions for me to rank this more than 4*, but all in all it was a solid and engaging read a bit outside of my normal parameters.  

Sheriff Bo Tully mysteries by Patrick McManus

  • The Blight Way – 4*
  • Avalanche – 3.5*
  • The Double-Jack Murders – 3.5*
  • The Huckleberry Murders – 3.5*
  • The Tamarack Murders – 3*
  •  Circles in the Snow – 2.5*
I usually give a series its own post, but I’m so far behind on reviews that I’m not even going to do that haha  
 
I grew up on McManus’s collections of essays/articles and many of my life philosophies are based on his theories.  This series was written late in his life and was one of his few forays into fiction.  Set in a small town in Idaho, the books focus on the county sheriff, Bo Tully, and various murders/adventures/shenanigans that occur in Blight County.  While the series started well with a likable group of characters, the last couple of books fell off sharply, with the stories getting weirder and the final book not even including most of the characters who had been regulars in the earlier books.  I can see myself reading the first two or three books again, but not the whole series.
 
Susannah the Pioneer Cow by Miriam Mason – 3.5*
 
Susannah the Pioneer Cow

//published 1941//

This is a simple children’s story about a pioneer family who moves west (all the way to Indiana haha) in a covered wagon but told from the (third person) perspective of the family cow, Susannah.  It was a happy little story but since it was focused on the cow it was lacking in a lot of details about pioneer life.  I think I would have loved this book when I was an early reader, though, because Susannah does have some exciting adventures.


Thirteen Problems by Agatha Christie – 3.5*

A fun little collection of short stories based around Miss Marple.  I actually rather enjoyed these because I quite like Miss Marple’s random-yet-somehow-make-sense connections between different people/situations, and those really shine in these shorts.  Not the best Christie has to offer, but still rather fun.

‘The Murder at the Vicarage’, ‘Thirteen Problems’, and ‘The Body in the Library’ {introducing Miss Marple}

by Agatha Christie

published 1930, 1932, 1941

Sometimes I just need to read some good mysteries, ones where the bad guys are always appropriately punished, and the hero is unlikely but brilliant.  And so I turn to Agatha Christie yet again.  :-D

All the way back in early 2012 (before I was even on WordPress!  Back when my main book blog was on tumblr!  Ah, those were the days!  Not really; WordPress is a much better format for this blog.  Anyway) I started reading the Hercule Poirot books in their published order.  It took me a while to work through them, but it was well-worth the effort to see his character (and those of various secondary characters) unfold and build.  While Miss Marple does not star in nearly as many works, I’m still intrigued about following another character through her progression.

I’ve never liked Miss Marple as well as Poirot, but she is still a fun character in her own right.  She is much smarter than I am, as I never see what she’s driving at with her village connections, but I do love to see how she explains how, exactly, a body in the library ends up being like the little boy who put the frog in the clock.

The Murder at the Vicarage is narrated by the vicar himself.  While Miss Marple had appeared in a short story previous to this (“The Tuesday Night Club”), this was her first full-length novel.  I actually really liked the vicar and his wife, and their relationship made a nice second level.  As always, Christie’s strong morals and droll sense of humor lend a flavor to her books that I greatly enjoy.

“Will you tell me exactly what it is that has upset you?”

“Tell you that in two words, I can.”  Here, I may say she vastly underestimated.

Her humor is so dry, and she frequently makes me giggle.

On the other hand, she can also give me pause –

“If you catch him on the wrong side of the law, let the law punish him.  You agree with me, I’m sure.”

“You forget,” I said.  “My calling obliges me to respect one quality above all others – the quality of mercy.”

“Well, I’m a just man.  No one can deny that.”  I did not speak and he said  sharply, “Why don’t you answer?  A penny for your thoughts, man.”

I hesitated, then I decided to speak.

“I was thinking,” I said, “that, when my time comes, I should be sorry if the only plea I had to offer was that of justice.  Because it might mean that only justice would be meted out to me.”

Thirteen Problems is a collection of short stories that were published at various times throughout the late 1920’s and compiled into one book in 1932.  The first chapter is “The Tuesday Night Club,” Miss Marple’s original appearance.  Several friends are gathered together for dinner, and decide that every week a different one will tell a story and see if the others can solve the mystery.  Miss Marple, of course, never ceases to astound those around her with her intuition and common sense.  Although even Miss Marple can be distressed at times –

I was more disturbed than I can tell you.  I was knitting a comforter for old Miss May at the time, and in my perturbation I dropped two stitches and never discovered it until long after.

As I discovered when reading through the Poirot books in order (and actually the same thing happened when I read the Bertie & Jeeves books in published order as well), many of the secondary characters reappear, and getting to know them through multiple stories really increases the depth and interest for each subsequent tale.  The Body in the Library was a much stronger read this time around because I already knew the Bantrys and Sir Henry and Inspector Slack – even the vicar’s wife pops back in – the names of various gossip-mongerers match up with personalities from Murder at the Vicarage, and everything just ties together so much more completely.

Miss Marple is a fun character, and her little insights do actually give the reader a better chance of solving the mystery herself, so that’s an added bit of fun as well (although I’m notoriously bad at mystery solving).  I can’t help but admire her strong sense of practicality that enables her to strip human drama down to its basic form –

Everybody is very much alike, really.  But fortunately, perhaps, they don’t realize it.