Hollow Crown: Richard II

Four years late I started watching The Hollow Crown, the complete (now) history plays of Shakespeare from Richard II to Richard III which may not sound like much unless you know there were a bunch of Henries and hundreds of years of war in between.   And all I can say is, well!  It certainly makes an impression, but that impression is all over the map.  Gorgeously shot with some of the UK’s best actors doing their best acting, a fey and whimsical Richard you won’t forget soon, but… oh. my. god. the cheese.   The director decided to not simply highlight parallels to Christ’s martyrdom (parallels I don’t think are there unless you actually believe in the divine right of the king to be as big an asshole as he likes), he lays it on with a bulldozer.  He’s barefoot and riding a horse that may as well be a donkey.  He’s holding his arms out in crucifixion style all the time.  Then finally he’s killed like St. Sebastian.  Richard II was no saint.  I don’t know what made him make so many bad decisions, but sanctitude was not it.   Truly awful, these choices, both Richard’s and the director’s.

This is a shame because many of the actors, Patrick Stewart, David Suchet, almost everyone, is fantastic.  I’m also pissed off they changed the play.  Scenes are cut, lines given to other people.   I tend to think it completely unnecessary and am twice as glad I went and saw Henry VI parts 1-3 complete and in person.  They were great.  Lively, action filled and the troupe packed in as much humor as they could.  A thing almost completely absent from Richard II, except where I’m laughing at it.

Just like Jesus.  Not.

Now I have to read the play to see what I missed.  And I hope I haven’t put you off entirely.  It is worth watching as 1) you’ll never forget this Richard, 2) it sets up the whole next 200 years and 3) Stewart and Suchet are fantastic.  Plus all the rest have other directors, so, hopefully less cheese and maybe less mucking about with the script.

Sherlock for a Year

I’m not sure if http://noonlightreads.blogspot.ca/2016/12/the-chronological-sherlock-holmes_29.html#more knows I’m doing this.  I can’t comment on most Blogspot blogs.  It is a project to read all of Holmes over the course of 16 months.  I, of course, would rather do it in a year, but my ambitions generally outweigh my actual deeds so maybe I should stick to the schedule.   I have so far, having read The Gloria Scott and The Musgrave Ritual, the latter being more interesting because of being mentioned in the final episode of season 4 of Sherlock a show I have mixed feelings about.     I’m not reading A Study in Scarlet because I read it two years ago.  Although now having re-read my so-called review, maybe I should.   I didn’t even remember then why it was called A Study in Scarlet.   All I remember now is early Mormons, probably because I was so surprised a Holmes story should be about them at all.

The Gloria Scott is Holmes’ first case.  He’s still in college and actually has a friend.   It is the friend’s father who is the victim in the case and it’s a fine lesson in not panicking, but otherwise not, to me, a remarkable story.  The Musgrave Ritual, as I said, was interesting because it is mentioned more than once in The Final Problem, the 4th episode of Sherlock’s 4th season.   This is a show I love so much when it’s good.   Unfortunately, only the middle one was really good.   The first one was plagues with gratuitous torture and was, as someone put it, more James Bond than Sherlock Holmes.   Though the last one was like that too complete with villain’s underground lair.   No, Mr. Holmes, I expect you to die.   Playing cat and mouse with a sadist always bores me a bit.   And the deductions are pretty much incidental.    The whole plot is ridiculous really.   And it all has nothing to do with The Musgrave Ritual that I can see.


The Musgrave Ritual is the first case Holmes had as a professional.   He is called to a sprawling mansion of great antiquity to solve the disappearance of two of the servants under mysterious circumstances.   This one is much better.   Holmes actually deduces things and solves the mystery and reveals things even the owner hadn’t guessed.   It’s a good story, but there’s only so much I can say about a story.   I have this problem with short stories.   There’s not enough meat in most of ’em.   You start it and 20 minutes later your done.   It’s like an appetizer.   You’re still hungry and unsatisfied.

I’m thinking once a month is enough and maybe more than enough to report on my Holmes progress.  So the question is now whether to re-read Scarlet or move on to the Speckled Band.  Oh, and I suppose it wouldn’t make too much sense to only watch The Abominable Bride (which I’ve seen lumped in with season 4, but could be viewed as a stand-alone special) and The Lying Detective, but that’s what I’d recommend.

Reading All Around the World

Since we can take our time with this and I don’t have to fit it all in a year, I decided to join up with Jean of Howling Frog and Esther of Chapter Adventures’ Reading All Around the World challenge.   You sign up for 50+ (you could sign up for all 197) countries which are helpfully listed on the sign-up page.   The writer has to be from or living in the country in question or you can read a non-fiction book about that country which is what makes the challenge even doable if you’re going for all of them.   Which I’m not.   At least, not yet.   I think my life would need to last much longer before I was willing to commit to a book from every country, but then, I’m a slow reader as I’ve mentioned before.


I think though that even reading about 50 countries will broaden my reading.   I kind of doubt I’ve read books from that many.  Could be wrong as I’ve never kept track, but I certainly should read enough to make it more than I’ve read before.

Join us in this long-term project.   Head on over to Howling Frog or Chapter Adventures and sign up!

Postern of Fate

Postern of Fate is probably the last book Agatha Christie wrote and along with Elephants and Passenger to Frankfurt it’s kind of a sad mess, though not as bad as those two because Tommy and Tuppence.   I’ve always loved them and wish they’d been a bit more about mysteries and less about espionage, but even in their 70s they’re still the same old T & T, only a bit more rambly and repetitive.    The Beresfords are retiring and have bought a lovely house in a quiet English village to while away their final days… or have they?   They haven’t even finished moving in when an old children’s book reveals a coded message.   Mary Jordan did not die naturally.   But who was she?  And who was Alexander Parkinson, the boy who seems to have written the message.   Time again is something that Dame Agatha really cannot write about any longer at this point.   It is 1973.   Tommy and Tuppence are in their 70s.   Both were active during World War I which means anyone their age or older could have been involved in the case at the time and yet she keeps talking about how long ago it was and everyone must be long dead.   And she keeps emphasizing that the past and the present are not unrelated, like this is some great revelation, but it is moderately entertaining if you enjoy the Beresfords.   They investigate.   Find almost nothing, but somehow flush out a killer who probably could have remained safely on the loose if they hadn’t decided to start killing again.   Oh, well.   The last two were written when she was much younger, so looking forward to that.  I know I read Curtain in my youth, but I don’t remember if I read Sleeping Murder, Miss Marple’s last.


This was the second clue book in Bev’s Follow the Clues.   Seeing as “Postern” has probably never been in another title ever and Fate isn’t much better, I’m using the books Tuppence mentions in the early chapters that they bought from the previous owners.   One of the authors, L.T. Meade (a children’s author I never heard of) also wrote mysteries.   So, I’m giving her Master of Mysteries a try.   I’m worried this may be the end of my clue chain.   No, surely not.   I’ll find something with Master or Mysteries in the title if nothing else.

Don’t think this fits any other challenges.


Magpie Murders

The first book of the year – ta da!  Don’t look at the calendar.   I know it’s the 14th.   I actually finished it a couple nights ago, which is only slightly better.   I saw several blog posts about this book and it sounded so right up my street that I had to get a copy now now now.   Then I made myself wait until the 1st to start it so it would count for Bev’s Clues challenge.

It seemed like a fun one to start with.   Two books in one.  The first half is the manuscript of the 9th Atticus Pünd novel, Magpie Murders, which is being read by his editor Susan Ryeland.  The novel within the novel is an Agatha Christie type – mysterious deaths in a small village, small circle of suspects, European detective and not bright sidekick set in 1955.   (I had trouble remembering that at first.   Whooping cough?  Why would they die of whooping cough?  Oh, right.   1955)   The trouble is I found this half a bit slow and stilted.  Whether it’s the effort of writing it like it’s 1955, the German detective or he wanted to make it like that, I’m not sure.   The mystery starts with a housekeeper falling down the stairs in the local great house Pye Hall.   Sir Magnus Pye is away (Magnus Pye — get it?) and the housekeeper is alone in the house.   It appears to be a tragic accident.  But is it? Atticus at first refuses to investgate, but changes his mind after the second death.   And I had a serious problem with the second death because lopping someone’s head off with a sword is not easy.   Even axemen with compliant nobles laying their heads on chopping blocks back in the day sometimes had difficulty with it.   An amateur doing it with a moving target – ridiculous.   And if you managed it, I’m sure you’d be covered in blood.  But I’m probably way too uptight about things like that.


The second half flows a lot better.  The author, Alan Conway, dies, an apparent suicide.  But is he?   He seems to have fought with everyone he knew.  Thin-skinned, irascible, annoying-as-hell, the suspects include everyone he knew, at least in Susan’s eyes.   No one else seems to think his death was anything other than what it appeared.   Susan’s an annoying investigator to me.   She’s kind of obnoxious and seems to miss a lot throughout as she keeps saying things like, I didn’t realize until much later…  But I think Anthony Horowitz pulls it out at the end, which makes up for all the typos in the book.   All right, no it doesn’t.   Someone get a damn proofreader in here.   Why on earth should we pay the money we do for new books when they can’t be bothered?  They don’t have half of the expenses they used to (this one was print, but only because I couldn’t wait for the Kindle version.  That’s what comes from reading British book blogs.   Sometimes they get things before us.  And some of us are impatient.)     At any rate, a decent ending can save all the rest and I thought it was pretty good.

So, for Bev’s Follow the Clues Mystery Challenge I’m following this up with an Agatha Christie.   Not only is the Magpie Murders manuscript a Christie homage, there’s an appearance by Christie’s grandson in the book.  I’m going with the last Tommy and Tuppence — Postern of Fate.   I guess it’s the last book she wrote as the last two published were written years before so both Marple and Poirot would have a final case.

I like this Follow the Clues idea so well I’m also doing a non-mystery follow-up.   I don’t know whether this will work or not, (and the trail is thin to be sure) but because the phrase ‘crazy pavement’ is used twice in the book, I decided to read Beverly Nicholl’s Crazy Pavements.   A novel about Bright Young Things in the 20s or 30s.   Not sure which.

This books also qualifies for the Wild Goose Chase #2 – a bird in the title.  And I might as well make it my UK book for the Reading Europe challenge.

Bout of Books and Challenges


So, poor reporting on my part about Bout of Books 18.   I enjoyed it.   Not really sure if I read more than usual or not.   Didn’t finish a book.   I was reading Magpie Murders and I also started Alan Bennett’s Writing Home, I think it’s called.   Early diaries, pieces and the Lady in the Van, collected.   More on those in the future.   At least the first one.   Hopefully both.


I wanted to sign up for some more challenges because I think they’re good for my reading life.   Last year fell a bit flat as one third of my not many books were Agatha Christies and of those I read, many were meh.   At least with classics, even when I don’t like them, I feel like I accomplished something.   I just don’t feel the same about having read The Devereaux Legacy.


Even though I missed it by a half a book last year, I am re-upping and vowing to do better this year.   Karen’s categories are fun and you can do as few as six or as many as 12.



The Wild Goose Challenge from The Bookshelf Gargoyle sounded fun:


1. A book with a word of phrase relating to wildness in the title – any interpretation of the word “wild” is acceptable (eg: The Call of the Wild, Angry Aztecs, Crazy for You; An Untamed State)

2. A book with a species of bird (or the word “bird”) in the title: (eg: The Adventures of Robin Hood, The Thorn Birds, Turkey: A Modern History)

3. A book with an exotic or far-flung location in the title – fantasy and mythical locations are acceptable (eg: Paradise Lost, The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu, Atlantis Rising)

4.  A book with an object you might hunt for in the title (eg: Treasure Island, One for the Money, The History of Love, Dreams from my Father, A Monster Calls, All the Answers)

5. A book with a synonym for chase in the title (or its derivatives: chasing, chased, etc) (eg: We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, The Girl Who Chased the Moon, Follow the River, Man’s Search for Meaning, The Night Stalker)

6.  A book with a means of transport in the title (eg: If I Built a CarWalk Two Moons, The Girl on the Train)

7.  A book with an object you might take on a search or hunt in the title (eg: The Golden Compass, The Map to Everywhere, Water for Elephants, Team of Rivals )


Clarissa – as punishment for not reading a Greek play last year.   I was hoping just to read two Greek plays this year, but she isn’t hosting that challenge again.   My comment joining went off into cyberspace as they always do with blogspot.   But I will give this a shot.

I think I can do books from 5 different European countries.


All right, I think that’s it.   Probably enough to be going on with.   Happy New Year, all, and happy reading!

One more:

Sherlock Holmes stories throughout the year:

For some reason I can never comment on blogspot blogs with the kind of comment format she has, which seems to be most of them (maybe all?)  Very annoying, so unless she stumbles across this blog, she may never know that I’m joining in unless Cleo who pointed it out lets her know.   (Thanks, Cleo!)


I’m two stories behind, but since I’m skipping Study in Scarlet, catching up shouldn’t be hard.   Provided I actually do it 🙂


And another one,   Keely of Achaemenids is hosting a Russian challenge this year instead of the Ancient Greek.   I like Russian lit so I’m going to join on the lowest level.  Tolstoy, 1-3 works.


This may be the last or maybe not.   Since I’m still finding them, who knows?


Bout of Books 18

Just happened to notice today is the start of Bout of Books 18.  Whenever I’ve signed up before, I haven’t done well.   Maybe a week is too long for me to focus, but with all that room for improvement I will sign up once more and give it a shot!    This goes on for a week and I still can’t download pics, so a boring old link will have to do.

Bout of Books

For a week you read more than you normally would.   There are challenges if you like or not if you don’t.

So, I’m signing up to hopefully get my reading year off to an extra ready start.

Happy 2017!

Well, last year wasn’t much of a year reading-wise (or most other-wises).   I think I finished 34 books, over a third of them Agatha Christies, which is pretty pathetic, but now I’m down to only 3 Christies, I think, so there won’t be that escape hatch any longer.   I took that route twice in the last month, but haven’t written about them.

First was Nemesis.  The penultimate Miss Marple.   Really the last since the last of both Marple and Poirot were written years before.   Not too bad.   A bit rambly.  Miss Marple finally goes pro.   She is offered a chunk of money to solve an unspecified crime by the man she met in the Caribbean.   This sounds like an impossible task, but there’s no penalty for failing, so she accepts and soon she gets some guidance.  She starts to take a tour of stately homes and gardens, but promptly leaves the tour to stay with three witchy sisters in a small town.   Naturally, Miss Marple figures it all out and I figured part of it out, which is my usual.

Right now I can’t seem to download pictures, so take this opportunity to imagine a fine, old English house gently decaying for lack of wealth and Miss Marple knitting away.

Then it was the penultimate Poirot.  Elephants Can Remember.   Again, not a bad idea, but rambly and really not enough story.   Mrs. Oliver is accosted at a writers’ luncheon by an old battle-axe who asks her if her goddaughter’s mother killed her father or her father killed her mother?   Mrs. O has quite a time dredging up memories of this terrible incident which you might think was quite memorable even if you only read about it.    She consults Poirot and together they investigate when it turns out her goddaughter and her fiance would rather like to know, too.   Mrs. Oliver tracks down people who knew them when and Poirot tracks down police and finds out what they knew and after a lot of vague, repetitive interviews, they cobble together enough information to solve the case.   This one I guessed the whole thing.   A major problem with this book is the timeline is hopelessly confused.   It reads like she wrote it to take place 20 years earlier and then changed it to 12, but didn’t change it consistently, or vice versa.   There are clues all through some of which indicate 12 years and some 20.   Guess she was too famous for an editor to point this out.   It’s the sort of case which needs a proper timeline.

Then I watched the Suchet version.   They settled on 12 years earlier, but then, I guess the lack of plot was not enough to fill in the time so they threw in some extra murders and a whole other plot line for Poirot to solve while Ariadne’s off interviewing her elephants.   Naturally, the two plotlines neatly converge and you find out what happened to the older sister of the boy who was killed.   The whole thing makes no freakin’ sense though.   *Spoiler* In order for their plot to work, the couple that killed themselves or each other had to have invited the girl to the house just on the day they died which they would have had absolutely no reason to do.   Actually, there were good reasons not to do it.  So, you rewrite even weak Christie at your peril.*End Spoiler*   Not everyone can write mysteries, that’s all there is to that and apparently for Elephants they hired some people who couldn’t.   They worked in some tortuous psychiatric treatment which apparently while having scary looking equipment, didn’t actually work that way and so there’s now reason for the modern viewer, who apparently can’t go two hours without a gruesome death, to watch.   Meanwhile, the old fashioned viewer is left irritated in the extreme by the poor additional plot.

At this point, you are invited to imagine a crumbling old mansion on a cliff and a young woman walking into danger!


I really hope to do better this year.   I didn’t even manage the six classics.   Too much goofing around and not enough reading.   And definitely not enough knuckling down to tackle the harder stuff.   Wishing everyone a happy 2017!