TBR Thursday 97… and Quarterly Round-Up

TBR Quarterly Report

At the New Year I added up the full extent of the horror of the TBR, including the bits I usually hide. So time for another count to see how I’m doing…

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It’s the review copies that are the killer! If I could just stay away from NetGalley… and publishers… and authors! Every time I mention that I got a book for review in future, I want you all to shout BOOOOO!! very loudly. And the further from Scotland you are, the louder you must shout. Ready to give it a try? All together now…

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Hey! Pretty good for a first attempt. Keep practising!

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The Around the World in 80 Books Challenge

Last check-in was in July, and I’ve been concentrating since then on the 20 Books of Summer challenge, so this one has been on the back-burner a little. But in the last couple of weeks I’ve travelled to a few places, so let’s see where I’ve been…

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I had a rather harrowing trip to Kabul in the company of Khaled Hosseini in The Kite Runner. I thought my visit to the Vatican City might be more relaxing, but Robert Harris kept my pulse rate up in Conclave. Then off to post-WW1 Calcutta just in time for a nice murder in Abir Mukherjee’s A Rising Man. I also paid a return visit to New York, this time in the 1950s courtesy of Suzanne Rindell’s Three-Martini Lunch, and I’ve decided to swap it into my New York slot in place of Patrick Flanery’s I Am No One – though both are set in New York, Rindell’s book gives a better flavour of that vibrant city.

To see the full challenge, click here.

19 down, 61 to go!

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The Classics Club

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So far, I’ve only read one from my Classics Club list, but it was a goodie. Now that you’re all going to help with my review copy addiction (BOOOOO!!) I shall have more time to concentrate on this challenge in the months ahead.

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1 down, 89 to go!

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Completed Challenges and Events

The Agatha Christie Blogathon

I thoroughly enjoyed participating in this event run jointly by Little Bits of Classics and Christina Wehner. 4.50 from Paddington doubled for this event, along with the Film of the Book, Murder, She Said.

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20 Books of Summer

I finally finished reading and reviewing my 20 books, albeit nearly three weeks late in the end. But who wouldn’t want a longer summer anyway? Clicking the logo will take you to the final list…

20 books 2016

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Coming up…

So all in all it’s been a busy few months bookwise. I’ll be spending the next three months trying to clear some of these review copies (BOOOO!!), reading some GAN books, and generally clearing the decks a bit. But I will be participating in one event, again hosted by Christina Wehner, this time in partnership with Into the Writerlea

The Characters in Costume Blogfest

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To find out more about it or to sign up, click the logo!

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Here’s to a great autumn of reading! 😀

Film of the Book: Murder, She Said (4.50 from Paddington)

Directed by George Pollock (1961)

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From the book review of 4.50 from Paddington by Agatha Christie:

When Elspeth McGillicuddy glances out of the window of her train carriage, she can see straight into another train that is running parallel to her own. As a blind flies up on the carriage opposite her, she is horrified to see a woman being strangled by a tall, dark man. Unable to do anything to prevent it, she reports it to the conductor. He suspects she’s just been napping and has dreamt the whole thing, but he’s a conscientious man so he reports the matter at the next station. However, no body is found on the train, and there the matter would probably have rested, but for the fact that Mrs McGillicuddy was on her way to St Mary Mead to visit her old friend, Jane Marple…

You can read the full book review by clicking here.

Film of the Book

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As soon as the delightful title music of Ron Goodwin starts up, it’s clear this is going to be a fun romping version of Agatha Christie’s story. Apparently Christie disliked these Margaret Rutherford adaptations, and I can see why. They are not what you would call faithful to the originals and Miss Marple is not the sedentary observer of human nature we all know and love. But for once I don’t care – the films are brilliant and just as entertaining as the books, if in a different way. Murder, She Said was the first of the four Miss Marple movies in which Rutherford starred and, despite some major changes, actually sticks fairly closely to the basic plot of the book. As the series went on the divergences from the books grew ever wider and the final movie, Murder Ahoy!, wasn’t even based on any of the books at all.

First of all, poor Elspeth McGillicuddy has been cut completely, as has housekeeper and assistant sleuth, Lucy Eyelesbarrow. Now it’s Miss Marple herself who sees the murder through the train windows. When the police fail to find a body, Inspector Craddock (Charles Tingwell) tries to persuade Miss Marple that she must have seen a couple… ahem… honeymooning, as he so delicately puts it. On Miss Marple pointing out in no uncertain terms that, spinster she may be, but she can still tell the difference between a bit of “honeymooning” and strangulation, Inspector Craddock subtly suggests that she must be dotty.

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So Miss Marple, after consulting her close friend Mr Stringer (who is played by Margaret Rutherford’s real-life husband Stringer Davis), decides that they should investigate themselves. After a lovely scene of these two rather, shall we say, mature people searching the railway tracks, Miss Marple gets herself employed as the new housemaid at Ackenthorpe Hall – Rutherford Hall in the book, and changed to prevent confusion over the coincidence of the house sharing the same name as the star of the film. Why they changed Crackenthorpe to Ackenthorpe defeats me though, as does the fact that Miss Marple apparently now lives in Milchester rather than St Mary Mead…

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While the purist in me is shaking her head disapprovingly about these wholesale changes, I do understand them. Unlike Poirot, often Miss Marple doesn’t have a huge role in the books, tending to perform her miracles somewhat in the background of the action. She doesn’t really investigate as such – she merely listens and applies her knowledge of human nature to get to the truth. In this book, Lucy Eyelesbarrow is the central character with only occasional appearances from Miss Marple herself. But if you’ve booked the wonderful Margaret Rutherford to star in your movie, you want her pretty much in every scene, or else you might find yourself lynched by an angry mob of disgruntled Rutherford fans… including me! So this version of Miss Marple carries out all the investigative work herself, helped only a little by Inspector Craddock and the ever-faithful Mr Stringer.

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The cast is a nice line-up of British character actors of the period, plus a few up-and-coming stars of the future in bit parts. James Robertson Justice guest-stars as grumpy old Mr Ackenthorpe, and his exchanges with new housemaid Jane are total comic joy. Muriel Pavlow is excellent as poor put-upon Emma, Mr Ackenthorpe’s daughter. The various Ackenthorpe brothers are an unpleasant bunch, as they are in the book too, and all played by well-known faces even if the names are less familiar to me – Thorley Walters, Conrad Phillips and Gerald Cross, with Ronald Howard as brother-in-law Brian Eastley. For reasons unknown (to me), an American actor, Arthur Kennedy, plays Dr Quimper and I must say I find his American accent a bit discombobulating amongst all these Brits. A youngish Richard Briers appears in a tiny role, and who should pop up as the daily cleaner at Ackenthorpe Hall but the woman who would later in her career become the definitive Miss Marple – our very own Joan Hickson! There’s a lovely bit where she gets chased by a goat…

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In the book, I loved the interplay between the two boys, Alexander and his friend Stodders, and the various adults. Stodders has been ruthlessly done away with in the same mass culling that took Elspeth and Lucy. But Alexander is delightfully played by Ronnie Raymond. (Wondering whatever happened to him, I checked it out and IMDb informs me he quit acting and became an undertaker! I kinda wish I hadn’t checked now…) In the film, he’s an arrogant, cheeky little so-and-so who quite frankly would benefit from a swift kick up the pants, but Jane soon gets him onside and he becomes a kind of assistant sleuth. He and Rutherford work beautifully together and provide much of the film’s humour.

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Just to add to the general jollity, the film throws in some light-hearted mild horror elements – people hiding behind curtains, storms and thunder, lights going out at unfortunate moments, and a gardener of the scowling sinister variety. Because of the disappearance of Mrs McGillicuddy, the ending is changed (though the solution is not), and builds up to a tense face-off between Miss Marple and the murderer. As Inspector Craddock points out, she’s a very brave lady!

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OK, OK, I know Christie fans are probably gnashing their teeth right now, but honestly, it’s so much fun! Try to forget that the real Miss Marple is unlikely to disguise herself in dungarees! Ignore the unlikeliness of her possibly having romantic inclinations towards dear Mr Stringer! Go along with the idea of her creeping about the grounds in the middle of the night with a torch, searching for corpses! In fact, just try to put out of your mind that it’s got anything to do with the book at all and enjoy it for what it is – a great British comedy thriller starring one of the finest comedy character actresses of all time. You surely won’t regret it…

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

It kinda breaks my heart to choose from these, so…

The Winner in the Book v Film Battle is…

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THE BOOK!

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AND THE FILM!

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This post is part of the Agatha Christie Blogathon being hosted by Christina Werner and Little Bits of Classics. Do pop through to find links to all the great Poirot posts from yesterday, and check back with them over the next couple of days for links to today’s Miss Marple posts, and tomorrow’s posts on anything else Agatha Christie related.

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TBR Thursday 90… and Half Year Round-Up

TBR Quarterly Report

At the New Year I added up the full extent of the horror of the TBR, including the bits I usually hide. So time for another count to see how I’m doing…

Total count June 16
Hmm… not doing too well on the target of taking fewer books for review, am I? However, regarding the overall total, in my defence I had to add roughly twenty books or so to the wishlist when I created my Classics Club list, so if it hadn’t been for that there would have been a significant decrease – and the Classics challenge runs over five years. All in all, the increase is not as devastating as I anticipated…

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The Around the World in 80 Books Challenge

Last check-in was at the end of April, so let’s see where I’ve been since then.

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I witnessed a murder in Milan first of all in The Murdered Banker. Javier Marias took me to Madrid in A Heart So White – also to Havana in Cuba, but I’m only claiming one destination per book. Arthur C Clarke took me not just around the world but all the way to Saturn in 2001: A Space Odyssey. (What? Cheating? Not at all – if the political situation doesn’t improve soon, I assure you I’ll be on the next space ship out of here…) My next and most recent trip was one of the Main Journey destinations – off on the Orient Express with Graham Greene in Travels With My Aunt.

To see the full challenge, click here.

16 down, 64 to go!

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The Agatha Christie Blogathon

I’ll be taking part in this event in September and I’m hoping some of you might join in too. It’s being run jointly by Little Bits of Classics and Christina Wehner, both of whom blog mostly about movies. However, the idea of this blogathon is to encourage book and movie bloggers to get together by reviewing either books or film and TV adaptations, or by discussing some aspect of the Queen of Crime’s work. Pop on over to Christina’s blog to find out more – it will be a lot of fun!

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20 Books of Summer

Oh dear! I’m so far behind with this challenge it may be impossible to catch up! But I’ll try! And my choices aren’t working out too well – I’ve abandoned three to date, as many as in the whole of the rest of the year. Here’s my ‘progress’ so far…

Read and reviewed

Exposure by Helen Dunmore
The Widow by Fiona Barton

Abandoned – review to follow

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (polemic barely disguised as fiction)

Abandoned and replaced – no review

Vigil by Angela Slatter (nothing wrong with it from the little I read – just not my kind of thing)

replaced by The Visitor by Maeve Brennan

Barkskins by Annie Proulx (polemic barely disguised as fiction)

replaced by From the Dust Returned by Ray Bradbury

Currently reading

Citizen Kane by Harlan Lebo

Three Martini Lunch by Suzanne Rindell

The Visitor by Maeve Brennan

So, 17 books to read and review over the next two months – still do-able… so long as I don’t get distracted…

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And finally, a couple of books that are heading towards the top of the pile…

truly madly guiltyCourtesy of NetGalley. Loved Moriarty’s last book Little Lies and can’t wait to read this one!

The Blurb says: Despite their differences, Erika and Clementine have been best friends since they were children. So when Erika needs help, Clementine should be the obvious person to turn to. Or so you’d think. For Clementine, as a mother of a two desperately trying to practise for the audition of a lifetime, the last thing she needs is Erika asking for something, again. But the barbecue should be the perfect way to forget their problems for a while. Especially when their hosts, Vid and Tiffany, are only too happy to distract them.

Which is how it all spirals out of control…

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the girlsNetGalley again. One of the big releases this summer, and also one of my 20 Books.

The Blurb says: Northern California, during the violent end of the 1960s. At the start of summer, a lonely and thoughtful teenager, Evie Boyd, sees a group of girls in the park, and is immediately caught by their freedom, their careless dress, their dangerous aura of abandon. Soon, Evie is in thrall to Suzanne, a mesmerizing older girl, and is drawn into the circle of a soon-to-be infamous cult and the man who is its charismatic leader. Hidden in the hills, their sprawling ranch is eerie and run down, but to Evie, it is exotic, thrilling, charged—a place where she feels desperate to be accepted. As she spends more time away from her mother and the rhythms of her daily life, and as her obsession with Suzanne intensifies, Evie does not realize she is coming closer and closer to unthinkable violence, and to that moment in a girl’s life when everything can go horribly wrong.

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So…what do you think? Do either of these tempt you?

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P.S. Next Tuesday, I will be hosting my first ever guest post, and I have to tell you it’s a major goodie! Not telling who, but here’s a hint… it’ll be a Tuesday ‘Tec post. I do hope you’ll pop in…

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