The Curse of Cozies

July 22, 2015 at 10:44 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

The curse imagesof cozies is that they completely suck you into worlds of absolute silliness, and mid-read, you’re totally ok with that.  Why?  Because, inevitably, there’s coffee, fuzzy pets, books and knitting, and a few dead bodies that require you to summon your inner Nancy Drew for.

My latest cozy mystery read was Victoria Abbott’s The Christie Curse, the first in a book collector series – that I now, of course, have to collect.  It can share shelf space with my Laura Childs and Cleo Coyles, with my Alice Kimberly series, and D.R. Meredith books… as they all tilt ther hats to their parents: Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie – who have inadvertently become the founders of the genre though they weren’t known for knitting or cooking themes.

The Christie Curse has proven itself to be one of the better books of the genre, especially if you count the other book themed cozies I have already read.  Homicide in Hardcover by Carlisle is another bibliophile cozy 61OhIWNdMOL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_mystery, and I enjoyed it, but the story didn’t hold a candle to Abbott’s book.  Researching Agatha Christie, chasing top secret book industry scoops, browsing personal library collections filled with first editions… The Christie Curse is simply full of all my favorite things, including the Irish uncles who aren’t exactly on the up and up.  Add some bipolar cats and an adorable pug – of course I thought this was a great book.  Abbott didn’t pull any punches either, there’s a fabulous Italian lady who constantly shouts “Eat! Eat!” at our protagonist, and recipes in the back so that we, too, may partake in the deliciousness.

Currently, I’m reading CATastrophic Connections by Joyce Ann Brown and look forward to having an official review posted for you soon.

What cozies have you read lately?

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Agatha, Eggs, and Book Hounds

June 14, 2012 at 9:38 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

In my pursuit to read all things Agatha Christie, I have been reading through her entire Crime Collection.  It’s a 23 month program that I set up for myself.  I love reading things in lists this way, but the only draw back is in getting an awful lot of Christie at once.  In doing that, I found one I didn’t care for a lot faster than I would otherwise.  Three Act Tragedy just didn’t do it for me.  It wasn’t as exciting, it wasn’t a page-turner.  I’m not sure if its my mood, if this one just isn’t my style, or if its Egg.  Yes, I have a problem with Egg, and in a bit of stream of consciousness, I will tell you why.

I’m not sure if I don’t like her character or if I’m just hung up on her name.  I just know for certain that I can’t go along with the idea of naming a character Egg.  It really bothers me.  The only remotely forgivable occasion is in True Blood, where there is a rather tall gentleman by the name of Eggs.  1. He’s a dude.  2. There’s an ‘S’ which gives me the impression that maybe its supposed to be his last name. 3. You can call anyone almost anything in the South, but Europeans should be a little more respectable in my opinion.  I can say that, I’m from Texas.

I read “Egg” and am immediately filled with images and smells:

* green lights, The Great Gatsby, and eggs for neighborhoods

* lots of colors, Easter egg hunts, odors from the yard due to un-found treasures (yuck)

* yummy smells, too…. breakfast. omelette.  Hobo omelette are the best.

* the feel of a cold egg cracking under my fingertips, I like the sound of the crack too

Good or bad, none of these sounds, smells, and recollections should be brought to mind from a charismatic female character in a murder mystery.  How funny, too, that she even says “That is a bit catastrophic. To go through life as a Mugg -” in reference to another’s name.  Whereas I think, more catastrophic than to be called “Egg”?  While pondering this, Sir Charles interrupts my thoughts with some chatter about the murder and then says, “Oh, damn, why do I beat around the bush?” At that, my middle school humor kicks in and I begin to giggle as Egg is being spoken to by a man who used the word ‘beat.’  I immediately feel the need to make a Quiche, or a cheesecake, rather than solve a murder.  Although Poirot is the best sleuth around and it is said that he has an egg-shaped head.

Oh Hercule Poirot! “That man! Is he back in England?” “Yes.” “Why has he come back?” “Why does a dog go hunting?” – 3rd Act, Part 10

Although, naming a character Sir Bartholemew Strange nearly makes up for this little irritation about the Egg.  In fact, it would be a great name for a dog.  I would call him Bartie for short, and I think perhaps he should be a hound of some kind.  I have a beagle named Geoffrey Chaucer, perhaps Bartie could be the Walker Hound of my future.  I’d love to have a Jack Russell named Agatha.  Mmmm, no, not a Jack Russell.  I’d like Agatha to be a Fox Hound…

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Quasi Crisis in Christie Crime Quest and Caterpillarism

May 24, 2012 at 3:24 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , )

Agatha Christie behind what looks like MY TBR pile.

I had a goal to read the entire Agatha Christie Crime Collection in 23 months.  I’m making it an even 24 now, because, well, I haven’t read any of her work this month.  I kind of lost my mojo, my steam, the wind in my Christie sails has gone still and stagnant.  I just got so wrapped up in Napoleon and Victor Hugo and a pile of other things that caught my attention this month.  My desire to complete the collection is not gone.  I cannot even say that I’m not in the mood to read her books as I’m in the middle of Murder in 3 Acts right now.  I just didn’t finish off my allotted 3 Christie’s for the month.  Its good to take a wee break every now and then though, it will make next month that much sweeter.

In addition to being distracted by Napoleon and getting very wrapped up in my Les Miserables readalong with Kate’s Library, I am now the day time nanny to 3 month old Felicity.  As of day two, I can say that having this second little person with me during the day has definitely changed the reading dynamic in the house.  My own toddler is half jealous of my averted attention and half in love with the idea of having a live baby doll to hold from time to time.  Needless to say, reading Christie aloud to them both makes things a bit interesting as I pretty much inevitably run out of hands.  Would not mind being a caterpillar-like creature right now, so I can hold books, baby, toddler, make bottles, pet dogs, and still sweep my hair out of my face at the same time.  Caterpillar comes to mind with its many arms, as well as the fact that growing up I distinctly remember a summer reading program growing up whose ‘bookworm’ logo was no worm at all, but a caterpillar.  I, of course, being the precocious child that I was, informed all the adults in the room and was then hushed.

So now, I take a minute to update you on the reason for the lack of updates while Ayla buckles her baby doll (the fake baby doll, not the live human baby doll) into the car seat and plays mama, and Felicity kicks her little tiny feet around in the bouncer.  The feet blow my mind, even though Ayla was this small not too long ago, her feet never were.  My child has very long feet, this child has very teensy tiny preemie feet.

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Titles, Actresses, and of Course Murder… Oh My!

April 30, 2012 at 6:14 am (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , )

First Edition UK Cover 1933

Title: Lord Edgware Dies/ 13 At Dinner

Author: Agatha Christie

Going through my own personal Agatha Christie Crime Collection challenge, next on my list for April was 13 At Dinner.  My copies are leather bound editions with 3 titles per volume, in no particular order, so I thought my eyes were just going bad when I couldn’t find the title.  Finally I settled on 13 Problems and thought I was ready to go, but opening it up, something didn’t feel right.  So it was back to the internet to check over my list.

That’s when I discovered that 13 At Dinner was originally published as Lord Edgware Dies, and low and behold, I actually have a copy of THAT.  The story follows the trail of a woman suspected of murdering her husband because, quite frankly, she told everyone he would and then he drops dead.  It happens during a dinner party at which there are 13 guests, hence the republished title.  But that doesn’t explain why they chose to retitle the book.

I was doing a little research into this phenomena, and discovered that this happens quite often especially in crime fiction.  For Christie alone, there’s a fabulously long list of retitles, mostly between the first edition UK and the first edition US:

After the Funeral  (UK) = Funerals are Fatal (US)

Death in the Clouds (UK) = Death in the Air (US)

Destination Unknown  (UK) = So Many Steps to Death (US)

Dumb Witness (UK) = Poirot loses a Client

(US) Five little Pigs (UK) = Murder in Retrospect (US)

4.50 From Paddington (UK) = What Mrs McGillicuddy Saw (US)

Hercule Poirot’s Christmas (UK) = Murder for Christmas (US)

Hickory, Dickory Dock (UK ) = Hickory, Dickory Death (US)

The Hollow (UK) = Murder after Hours (US)

Lord Edgware Dies (UK) = Thirteen at Dinner (US)

The Mirror Crack’d From Side to Side (UK) = The Mirror Crack’d (US)

Mrs. McGinty’s Dead (UK) = Blood will Tell (US)

The Mousetrap (UK) = Three Blind Mice (US)

Murder in the Mews (UK) = Dead Man’s Mirror (US)

Murder is Easy (UK) = Easy to Kill (US)

Murder on the Orient Express (UK) = Murder in the Calais Coach (US)

One, Two, Buckle my Shoe (UK) = The Patriotic Murders (US)

Parker Pyne Investigates (UK) = Mr. Parker Pyne, Detective (US)

Poirot’s Early Cases (UK) = Hercule Poirot’s Early Cases (US)

The Sittaford Mystery (UK) = Murder at Hazelmoor (US)

Sparkling Cyanide (UK) = Remembered Death (US)

Taken at the Flood (UK) = There is a Tide (US)

Ten Little Niggers (Original UK) = And Then There Were None (Current UK) = Ten Little Indians (US)

They do it with Mirrors (UK) = Murder with Mirrors (US)

The Thirteen Problems (UK) = The Tuesday Club Murders (US) T

hree-Act Tragedy (UK) = Murder in Three Acts (US)

Why Didn’t they Tell Evans? (UK) = The Boomerang Clue (US) T

– taken from http://www.gaslightbooks.com.au/checklists/mchanges.html

While looking into that little curiousity, I stumbled onto another bit of fun.  One of the characters in this particular Poirot adventure is based off a real historical person.  Inspired would be more correct, as Ruth Draper wasn’t going around getting herself killed.  Christie’s actress Carlotta Adams was an invention conceived from watching the American actress Ruth Draper in action.

Draper was known for her monologues, ability to become something new with few props, and to immitate anyone.  When Christie discovered Draper she thought “[…] how clever she was and how good her impersonations were; the wonderful way she could transform herself from a nagging wife to a peasant girl kneeling in a cathedral. Thinking about her led me to the book Lord Edgware Dies.” (from Christie’s autobiography which I desperately need to read!).

Apparently, Draper loved to perform at parties as well as on Broadway.  It was said that she would watch people, taking note on all their little quirks and behaviors, and then turn what she gathered of them into one-person sketch, worthy of all sorts of accolades.  She traveled throughout Europe as well and was quite the sensation.  The character of Carlotta Adams is one in the same, aside from the small little detail that she doesn’t live to the ripe age of 70 because she gets wrapped up in a murder mystery.

I’m enjoying my weekly sit downs with Christie, and Lord Edgware Dies has been no exception.  Its fun, interesting, and Poirot always keeps me on my toes.

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To Eden Phillpotts

April 15, 2012 at 7:05 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , )

Agatha Christie opened her novel Peril at End House with a dedication:

To Eden Phillpotts

to whom I shall always be grateful for

his friendship and the encouragement

he gave me many years ago

Immediately, I was intrigued.

Eden Phillpotts

Eden Phillpotts was an English author, poet, and dramatist born in 1862 in India.  He lived near the Christie household when Agatha was young and still unpublished.  She visited him reguarlary under the advisement of her mother, so he could mentor her and guide her writing into a lifelong career.  Phillpotts was the first professional writer to read any of Agatha’s unpublished pieces.

A letter survives of some of the advice he had to bestow on the young budding writer:

“You have a great feeling for dialogue… You should stick to gay, natural dialogue.  Try and cut all the moralizations out of your novels; you are much too fond of them and nothing is more boring to read.  Try and leave your characters alone, so that they can speak for themselves, instead of always rushing in to tell them what they ought to say, or to explain to the reader what they mean by what they are saying.  That is for the reader to judge for himself.” ( www.poirot.us )

Phillpotts’ family moved from India when he was three years old.  At seventeen, he worked as a clerk for an insurance company, where he fell in love with theatre and decided to become an actor.  When he realized acting wasn’t for him, he pursued a career in writing instead.  So young when he began, its no wonder he enjoyed encouraging another young talent when he saw one.   Phillpotts’ own first publication was his poem “The Witches Cauldron” which kicked off a slew of published articles, reviews, short stories, plays, and novels.  Later, he was know to also write under the name Harrington Hext.

Phillpotts was known to befriend many of history’s greats: Arthur Conan Doyal, Henry James, George Bernard Shaw, Arnold Bennett, Jerome K. Jerome, and obviously Agatha Christie.  As a sign of both friendship and his faith in Christie’s writing ability, Phillpotts introduced Christie to his agent at Hughes Massie.  The dedicated novel Peril at End House was the seventh in the Hercule Poirot series, published in 1932.  Its nice to know that she fit in a dedication to a friend and advisor long before his death in 1960, many times friends are not so lucky to appreciate each other prior to memorial memos.

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Spring on Some Christie

April 2, 2012 at 12:47 am (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , )

Gone are the cold evenings bundled by the fireside with our hot tea, cozy blankets, and Agatha Christie books.  Now, its Spring in Texas, so our evenings involve a crap ton of humidity, cold sweet tea, and holding whatever Christie novel I’m in the middle of in front of an open window while praying for a breeze.  Still, even though the mood has changed, there’s something so comforting in the consistency of reading through such a large series.  Cold days, warm days, happy days, sad days, it doesn’t matter – I know I will close the night with a few chapters of Hercule Poirot, pompous egg-shaped head and all, coming to the rescue with the truth.

So much of my reading in my life has been seasonal.  I always save Sherlock Holmes for the winter months.  Anne of Green Gables owned my summers as a child.  Some things just move me as stories that should be read at certain times of the year, let the story meld with an existing environment to provide the perfect mood.  I even set my Scentsy warmers to scents that will match!  So you can guess my hesitation sitting down with Hercule Poirot as the weather got warm, now that I’ve snuggled up with him all winter.

Yet, March blessed me with The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, The Big Four, and The Mystery of the Blue Train.  Roger Ackroyd was shocking and wonderful, The Big Four surprisingly huge in its worldwide grandeur, and The Mystery of the Blue Train cozy in its step back into the traditional Poirot pace.  The weather didn’t take away from any of these stories, Christie gets you into the story so efficiently, so effectively, you can’t be distracted by the outside world; afterall, Poirot has a mystery to walk you through, a mystery only he is equipped to solve.  I can’t wait to see what is in store for our household with the titles coming up in April and the rest of the year.

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Continuing Adventures With Papa Poirot

March 4, 2012 at 7:22 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , )

Title: The Murder of Roger Ackroyd

Author: Agatha Christie

Genre: Mystery

Length: 194 pages

Buy a Copy

I do believe that The Murder of Roger Ackroyd is my favorite Christie yet, despite the departure fromHastings.  The whole scenario is nothing short of clever, and Christie should be praised for the fun little twist of an idea.  Of course, I won’t share that idea here, because that would spoil all the fun for fresh readers.

Just go into it knowing you will discover not just the necessary murder, but secret marriages, bastard children, private meetings after dark, moving furniture, missing money, and a curious puzzle involving the color of one’s boots.

Poirot is his usual, spunky and immodest self, proclaiming, “What one does not tell to Papa Poirot he finds out.”  Indeed, M. Poirot, indeed, and here you’ve done it again.  I love that little man!

For those new to my blog, I am reading through Christie’s Crime Collection in 23-24 months, starting this most recent January/ February with the intention of finishing the 23rd volume (there are three books per volume in my collection) sometime in November/December of 2013.  Feel free to join me: http://www.shelfari.com/groups/79392/discussions/418226/Agatha-Christie

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Hercule Poirot, mon ami

February 12, 2012 at 1:16 am (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , )

Welcome back to my blog, Mes Amis! I have finished yet another book in the Hercule Poirot series, and just as she has done in the rest, Christie has brought a small smile to my face.

Hercule Poirot by Ceska Soda

Poirot Investigates has a bit of a different structure than the previous Poirot books.  In this one, Captain Hastings narrates multiple mysteries in a series of short stories, rather than following one in a full length novel.  Ironically, the format of Poirot Investigates would have lent itself to easier read aloud evenings by the fire, but I got greedy and read it all by myself!

As with every detective hero, Poirot manages to be cleverer and more astute than everyone with whom he comes in contact.  He sees every clue and teases us with it, not telling us what it means until the end.  He manages to be both exasperating and adorable, Hastings (and the reader) often want to wring his neck and simultaneously shake his hand while he lectures his younger ally on the use of his “little grey cells” in his brain.  In the finale of one adventure,Hastings exclaims: “Poirot was right. He always is, confound him!”

I think my favorite thing about him is how often he toots his own horn.  He has no sense of modesty and is constantly talking of himself in the third person, proclaiming his greatness and intelligence.  When not speaking in the third person about how happy people will be to see the arrival of the “The Great Hercule Poirot” he’s is busy saying things like:

“I, who have undoubtedly the finest brain in Europe at present, can afford to be magnanimous!”

One would call him pompous, but with his short, round stature and that twinkle in his green eyes, how can you hate him? In fact, if he were real, I’d hope that he would call me ‘mon ami.’

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Evenings With Agatha

January 16, 2012 at 7:14 pm (In So Many Words, Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

Title:Murder on the Links

Author: Agatha Christie

Genre: Mystery

Length: 173 pages

One of the most wonderful parts of January has been the cold – and Agatha Christie.  At the start of the year, I committed myself to a 23 month plan to read all of the Agatha Christie Crime Collection, of which I own a beautiful black and red leather set.

The picture may be old, but its the same fireside.

In the evenings, my daughter and I light the fire in the fireplace, turn on the radio (its one of those old school looking wooden ones from Target, complete with turntable, cd player, and tape deck) and jazz immediately warms the living room with sound.

I keep my Scentsy burners on constantly and this month we’ve had a lot of Honey Peared Cider, Weathered Leather, and Cozy Fireside going.

Ayla, my daughter, is 14 months old.  The jazz comes on and suddenly its dancing time!  We sway and swing until the tea kettle is ready (it doesn’t whistle to my utter chagrin), and then curl up together and I read aloud the selected Agatha Christie for the evening.

This is the one time of day that we spend in the living room, most of our ‘living’ happens in the library where all my books and Ayla’s play mats are.  How silly of us that our living room is where we do all our reading on death and murder.

This arrangement is everything I imagined would be wonderful about spending time with my daughter, and Agatha always lives up to her end of the deal, with all the excitement of a three ring circus.

In this second installment of the Poirot investigations, Poirot cleverly and humorously antagonizes other detectives as he and the narrator, Hastings, solve the crime together.  If I said anything more, I would give away all the best parts!

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Christie the Queen of Mystery

January 7, 2012 at 3:01 am (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Title: Mysterious Affair at Styles

Author: Agatha Christie

Buy Now!

Join Hercule Poirot in Christie’s classic whodunit series, starting with the first!  The lady of the house of Styles is poisoned and it’s up to Poirot and the narrator to uncover the culprit.

I’m sure you’ve heard that Christie is the mother of all mystery, and after reading my second Christie mystery ever, I must say I understand where that idea comes from.  I was reading another blog today (http://resolution52.com/adventures-in-resolution52) and the writers really summed my thoughts on Agatha Christie and the mystery world up well when they wrote:

 Agatha does it better – but, without Doyle, she probably wouldn’t have done it at all.

You can feel the cornerstone in the structure politely put in place by Doyle’s existence as a writer, but despite my deep love for Sherlock Holmes, you can tell Christie really mastered the whodunit art.

I’m on a mission to read all of Agatha Christie’s crime collection and starting at the beginning did not disappoint.  Christie’s cozy mysteries make for pleasant little “FridayReads” (if you’re a twitter follower you know how much I love those) and I look forward to continue my year with Poirot!  And soon after following with Miss Marple and the rest.

The goal is to finish the entire crime collection in 23 months, starting now.  I’ll be reading three titles a month, so feel free to join me for some or all: http://www.shelfari.com/groups/79392/discussions/418226/Agatha-Christie

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