Review: The Seven Dials Mystery

The Seven Dials Mystery
The Seven Dials Mystery by Agatha Christie

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Book #34 for 2016
Habitica’s Legendary Book Club Modest Reading Challenge Task: A book that you’ve already read at least once
Old Firehouse Books Summer Bingo Square: A book that’s been on your shelf for more than five years

Ah, Bundle and Battle, together again! This made me want to go read The Secret of Chimneys again. It’s a pity Christie didn’t do more with these characters. But given how this novel ended, I guess I’m not surprised.

I was expecting this to be a quick re-read, but I was amazed at how much time I spent chasing down odd vocabulary words and trying to figure out what kind of “automatic” pistol Stevens had managed to procure for Jimmy. I’m pretty sure it was an ACP .455, which appears to me to be a semi-automatic, despite its name. I’m also pretty sure that Christie was poking fun at pulp thriller writers of the day when Jimmy made it clear that he wanted a “blue-nosed,” fully automatic pistol. And I think it’s more than a little sad that a century or so after the ACP was introduced, so many people are still using “automatic” and “semi-automatic” interchangeably.

But I digress. I was also amazed at how little of the plot I remembered. The plot twist really got me, even though I avoided some of the red herrings and, really, I ought to have known better. Some of the explanations regarding the origins of the Seven Dials Club weren’t completely satisfying, but if not examined too closely, they make for some cleverly constructed clues.

I really enjoyed the humor sprinkled throughout this book. There was a distinct P.G. Wodehouse influence, and Christie’s snarky asides and gift for snappy dialogue were delightfully evident. There’s even a fun little subplot of romance, complete with a proposal scene that puts Jane Austen to shame. I’d recommend this to anybody looking for a light-hearted mystery romp set in the late 1920s.

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Review: The Green Mile, Part 6: Coffey on the Mile

The Green Mile, Part 6: Coffey on the Mile
The Green Mile, Part 6: Coffey on the Mile by Stephen King

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Book #8 for 2015

This was an excellent resolution to the series, tying together the stories of young Paul and old Paul as well as driving home the themes. Gift or curse? Death as release. Facing judgment. I liked how King built in the epilogue by giving everybody’s death details along the way. This is very much a book about death, but it makes it clear that death is not just about death. Death is contrast to life. As such, it points up the importance of how we live our lives.

This is easily the best King I’ve ever read, but it occurs to me that I really haven’t read that much King. I should rectify that.

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Review: The Green Mile, Part 5: Night Journey

The Green Mile, Part 5: Night Journey
The Green Mile, Part 5: Night Journey by Stephen King

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Book #7 for 2015

This installment showcases King’s genius for foreshadowing in such a way that still leaves plenty of room for speculation and wonderment. Even though I am now getting a really good idea of how the front story and the back story will come together, and I know that the escapade had to have turned out to be something of a success, the suspense remains high. I recommend reading this one only if you have the final episode ready at hand.

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Review: The Green Mile, Part 4: The Bad Death of Eduard Delacroix

The Green Mile, Part 4: The Bad Death of Eduard Delacroix
The Green Mile, Part 4: The Bad Death of Eduard Delacroix by Stephen King

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Book #6 of 2015

There were some horrific scenes in this installment, but King handled them delicately, which I think takes a great deal of talent. There is also an economy of description that makes it a real page-turner. One thing I liked about this part in particular is that the front story — Paul in the old folks’ home — really started coming out as more than just an excuse to have a story at all.

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Review: The Green Mile, Part 3: Coffey’s Hands

The Green Mile, Part 3: Coffey's Hands
The Green Mile, Part 3: Coffey’s Hands by Stephen King

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Book #5 for 2015
PopSugar Challenge Criterion Met:
-A book with magic

Tons of foreshadowing in this installment, but also lots of plot development. I really liked how King was pacing and framing this story. A few bits were on the predictable side, but the story flowed nicely all the same and made me eager for the next book.

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Review: A Natural History of Dragons

A Natural History of Dragons
A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Book #4 for 2015
PopSugar Challenge Criteria Met:
-A book set in a different country
-A book a friend recommended
-A book that made you cry

The plot may have been all over the place and a little oddly paced, and a few things may have been a bit predictable, but I enjoyed the heck out of this faux memoir. The voice was consistently well executed throughout and made it easy to immerse myself in this tale of adventure and dragon lore.

Brennan set Lady Trent’s story in an alternate world that is analogous to our Victorian era without actually being our Victorian era, and that may have helped prevent it from feeling derivative even though I was constantly reminded of Elizabeth Peters’ Amelia Peabody Emerson and Tasha Alexander’s Lady Emily, with a dash of Agatha Christie’s autobiographical Come, Tell Me How You Live as well. I occasionally wondered if this alternate reality was truly necessary for the insertion of real (if non-supernatural) dragons, and I’ve decided that it was. It was actually a very clever device to make the world, its dragons, and its characters feel extremely authentic.

I can understand some readers wishing for more dragons in the story, but there was enough dragon action to keep me satisfied, and I plan to read more in this series. I would recommend this especially to fans of Peabody and Lady Emily, but also to those interested in dragon tales and historical mysteries.

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Review: Perry Rhodan Lemuria I Star Ark

Perry Rhodan Lemuria I Star Ark
Perry Rhodan Lemuria I Star Ark by Frank Borsch

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Book #34 for 2014

I picked this up mainly because I sometimes attend Bubonicon, which has “Perry Rodent” as its mascot, so I was curious about his inspiration, Perry Rhodan. At this point, though, I don’t really know what to make of the character or his universe. Some of the characters did really interest me, but Perry himself was fairly bland. And the world was just confusing, especially regarding the timeframes involved. I couldn’t figure out whether this was supposed to be a completely alternate universe or if the Lemurians were supposed to be aliens that inhabited Earth at some point or some other scenario entirely. I just couldn’t make anything fit right.

I also felt that the story was too referential to 20th-century America. Is this actually some sort of unwritten rule for space opera? Because it seems to be a common complaint of mine. Maybe I should just get over it.

Probably the most annoying thing, though, was that the story just kind of stopped. There was an oddly “Star Trek” gathering at an entertainment planet, but it didn’t really resolve anything. I realize that this is only book one of a six-book series, but I would expect there to also be a smaller story arc to achieve some kind of closure. This book left so much hanging out that I don’t feel confident that all of the dangling threads will ever be tied off.

Despite all the issues I had with this installment, I will probably read the next one if it comes my way. Maybe it would let me know if I would be wasting my time to continue.

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