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What's The Last Book You Read?

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A fake strategy card game for Big Bang Theory.

Im reading the Speaks the Nightbird series by Robert McCammon. Its 17th century Southern colonial historic fiction with heavy leanings of witchlore

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On 4.10.2017 at 11:39 PM, BloodBoal said:

For @Incanus!

 

The Mysterious Affair At Styles - Agatha Christie (1920)

 

For quite some time now, I've wanted to check Christie's works (the only novel of hers I read is Murder On The Orient-Express, if I remember correctly), and what better way to do this than chronologically? And so here we start with The Mysterious Affair At Styles, a pretty fun and easy read. What struck me about that one is how it almost feels like an instructions manual for some board game (a la Clue) in its first half: not only does each character details his/her entire biography during their introductory scene (with Hastings basically thinking each time "Well, that person would really benefit from Mrs. Inglethorp dying!" thus giving each one a motive and making each one a suspect), but you also get maps of the house and the room where the murder was committed, and even drawings of some of the clues. It is pretty funny (even if it feels a bit clumsy, in a way: it feels like Christie was trying to find her marks as a writer) but also makes it easier to follow everything that happened and thus makes it more engaging.

That being said, I did find it a bit disappointing that not all the elements to solve the case are given to the reader: the last ones you need to find out who the murderer is are given after Poirot revealed who did it. I prefer when you're given all the clues, so that if you're paying enough attention and if you're smart enough, you can guess who the murderer is before the denouement. That way, even if you don't find out who is behind it all, you can appreciate how intelligently the whole case was put together and think: "Oh, wow! I should have seen it coming! Poirot really is a smart fellow!" instead of "Oh, well. There was no point in trying to find out who did it before the reveal, since that element had not been given to me". Mind you, that's a small nitpick (it's not like I have a choice, anyway: I'm guessing most Poirot novels end that way, so I better get used to the idea!), but still something I would have appreciated.

Regardless of that, it was an enjoyable read (for a first novel, it is incredibly well-written) that offers a nice easy-to-follow case with some cool twists and turns (the final one was well thought-out) and it makes for a solid introduction to one of the world's most famous detectives.

 

8/10

Quite spot on BB. Christie's first novel is quite an accomplished affair which really sets stage for the career to come. It is traditional but more than anything sets up Hercule Poirot as the great detective in the most effective way (a character Christie hated at the end of her career as he became so wildly popular). 

 

And with Christie there are almost always some elements of the final reveal or denouement that her readers aren't privy to, which makes guessing for the perpetrator of the murders somewhat more difficult when she doesn't lay all the clue before them. But then again she is masterful at drawing up character portraits with almost minimal strokes and yet achieving vivid characterizations that keep you intrigued until the very end.

 

And keep in mind that as with most authors Christie's work varies quite a bit in quality and you can get the sense of deja vu as she recycles some plot-points but her extensive work includes some really ingenious examples of the murder mystery genre rightfully considered classics and you cannot but marvel at her seemingly endless and prolific creativity in crime writing (few true missteps aside).

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11 hours ago, BloodBoal said:

 

It's funny: I recently finished Murder On The Links (will post my thoughts on that one soon), and in the edition of the book I have, there's a postface with some quotes from Christie, and there's one where she said she already wanted to get rid of Hastings because she grew tired of him (after only two novels!), and that's why she had him marry Bella Duveen at the end of that one (but she must have had a change of mind, given (if I'm not mistaken), Hasting is still there in the following stories. At least, I remember him being very present on the TV show. I guess she realized she needed that character as a surrogate for the reader, to ask the "dumb" questions to Poirot, and for Poirot to also have someone to explain his deductions to. Much like Watson with Sherlock Holmes).

Yes Hastings is really the Watson to Poirot and he is involved in lot of the short stories rather than the novels (in the narrator capacity) though he makes appearances from time to time in both. But he and Japp have been written into many of the television series episodes when they do not actually appear in those stories, perhaps to create continuity in the cast and not having new police inspector in each and every one of the stories as it seems to be in the novels.

 

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Yeah, definitely. She really has a knack for creating lots of colourful and varied characters. And of course, Poirot is a great protagonist, made all the more memorable thanks to David Suchet's impeccable performance in the show (it's really a case where it's hard to picture the character any other way if you've seen the adaptation).

 

By the way, talking about the show (if I'm not mistaken, you've seen it, right?): do you know why they didn't adapt the stories in chronological order? Do you know if there's a particular reason behind it? Just asking, because I've started watching the episodes in chronological order of the novels, and I was surprised to see the show adapted them in a (seemingly) random order (The Mysterious Affair At Styles was the first episode of Season 3 and Murder On The Links the third episode of Season 6. What the hell?).

 

On a sidenote: the cue Gunning wrote for the bicycle race in Murder On The Links was pretty neat! Is it available on any CD release?

Oh I  have seen the whole series from start to finish many times and after David Suchet there can't be another Poirot in my book. He is Poirot as far as I am concerned.

I suspect the reason for not doing the Poirot stories in chronological order was simply one of practicality and television format. I think it was easier to first test the viability of the show by producing the standard 50 minute episodes adapted from the short stories before taking the leap to full 1,5 hour feature length for the actual novels. The first longer episode was in season 2, Peril at the End House after which came the Mysterious Affair at Styles (end of season 2 or beginning of season 3). So I guess it was much more up to the producers and adapting writers, when and how these novel adaptations would be presented.

 

Suchet tells in the book Poirot and Me how the renewal of the show for each season was always unsure and he had to wait until the last minute to get the confirmation that there would indeed another season of the show. This put him as an actor in a tight spot because he could not commit to other productions for the longest time between seasons for that reason. And since British actors aren't all exactly millionaires, Suchet's livelyhood was often on the line with such delays and not being able to commit to e.g. theater roles.

 

And alas only a fraction of the music from the show has been released and sadly nothing from Murder on the Links has been on the CD releases (the episode also features a gorgeous French-styled love theme for Hastings and Bella). So much great music is still unreleased from the show.

 

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Oh, yes, the cases (so far) are definitely well put together and well though-out, with some clever twists and turns (sometimes used excessively, though. I'll get on that when I'll post my thoughts on Murder On The Links). And yes, the novels I've read so far (I'm on the fourth one now, The Man In The Brown Suit) have been of varying quality, but still remain easy, breezy reads. Fun stuff!

I just finished Hickory Dickory Dock which was actually very entertaining. Only thing hampering the enjoyment was the Finnish translation which was surprisingly clumsy in this case.

 

The messiest Christie Poirot novel is perhaps The Big Four which transports Poirot into the world of international espionage and spies in a way that seems a bit foreign to the character. It was cobbled together from several short stories in a period of Christie's life when she was depressed (if I remember correctly) and seems very episodic and uncharacteristic both to her and her main character.

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44 minutes ago, BloodBoal said:

 

I thought as much. And yeah, they probably did that for continuity, as you said. Plus, they're likable characters, so it would have been a shame not to have them in some stories.

Hugh Fraser as Hastings and Philip Jackson as Japp are simply quintessential in their roles and bring great dynamic foil to Poirot's persona in the show. The adaptations often expand their roles and add little plot threads not in the original stories to add length to the short story episodes and some character depth to them, which I think is superbly done by the writers.

 

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Ah, yeah, I didn't consider the varying length of the episodes, depending on whether they were adaptations of short stories or novels, so yeah, that probably played a part in that (and that also probably explains the varying number of episodes from one season to the next, some having 9 episodes, others only 2, etc...)

The British TV series seem to have wildly varying number of episodes/season. With the feature length novel adaptations it was indeed only 2/season but when the production company changed in mid-2000's it could be 4/season.

 

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I guess we should be thankful he committed to the show till the very end and didn't leave to be replaced by another actor!

I think his run from 1989 unti 2013 must be some kind of record of one person playing the same character in this type of show.

 

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From what I understand, Gunning's Poirot to you is what Price's Robin Hood is to me. I guess we chose the wrong scores to fall in love with, given they're not very likely to get proper, well put together, lengthy releases! It is not very wise to be fans of music from British TV shows, mon ami...

Yes. I dream of a huge Christopher Gunning/Stephen McKeon/Christian Henson box set with all the music. :) 

 

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Ah, so you don't read them in English? Disappointing! Mind you, neither am I... Not sure how easy most of those novels would be to understand in English, given some of the "archaic" terms Christie used...

I have read Christie novels both in Finnish and in English and I don't think the language is too difficult in the original English.

 

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Thanks for the warning. Now I'll know what to expect when I'll read that one. ;)

 

By the way, have you only read Christie's Poirot novels/short stories, or have you read her other works too (Tommy and Tuppence, Mrs. Marple, etc.)?

I have read all the Ms Marple novels (there are only 12 after all) but have only read And Then There Were None and a handful of short stories not featuring Christie's famous sleuths. I should really look up those Tommy and Tuppence stories as they seem fun (well more fun than the awfully drab and slow TV series Partners in Crime that was produced in 2015 with David Walliams and Jessica Raine in the lead).

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52 minutes ago, Stefancos said:

David Suchet IS Poirot as much as Jeremy Brett IS Holmes.

Verily it is thus.

 

10 minutes ago, Richard said:

Joan Hickman is Miss Marple, although I like Margaret Rutherford.

Basil Rathbone is Sherlock Holmes.

It is Joan Hickson but I'll let that slide since you chose wisely.

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6 minutes ago, Disco Stu said:

I enjoy both of the more recent actresses to play Marple.  Just because it isn't definitive doesn't mean it isn't worth watching.

Geraldine McEwan and Julia McKenzie are fine actresses in the role and I do enjoy watching the newer adaptations but Hickson is the definitive one for me, combining perfectly the disarming old lady eccentricity and the underlying intelligence and wit and knowledge of human nature that are Miss Marple's central characteristics.

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On 10/18/2017 at 11:55 AM, Incanus said:

I have read all the Ms Marple novels (there are only 12 after all) but have only read And Then There Were None and a handful of short stories not featuring Christie's famous sleuths. I should really look up those Tommy and Tuppence stories as they seem fun (well more fun than the awfully drab and slow TV series Partners in Crime that was produced in 2015 with David Walliams and Jessica Raine in the lead).

 

I watched the first three episodes of the 2015 Partners In Crime show (which cover the first Tommy and Tuppence novel, The Secret Adversary), and let me tell you: the story has been heavily changed (and for no particular good reasons). Lots of stuff that doesn't make much sense as a result, or simply makes the story less interesting. I thought Walliams and Raine were fine as the leads, but everything else was pretty much a mess.

If you get the chance to get your hands on it, you'd be better off watching the 1983 series of the same name, with Francesca Annis and James Warwick as the leads. Much better adaptation, that one.

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1 hour ago, BloodBoal said:

 

I watched the first three episodes of the 2015 Partners In Crime show (which cover the first Tommy and Tuppence novel, The Secret Adversary), and let me tell you: the story has been heavily changed (and for no particular good reasons). Lots of stuff that doesn't make much sense as a result, or simply makes the story less interesting. I thought Walliams and Raine were fine as the leads, but everything else was pretty much a mess.

If you get the chance to get your hands on it, you'd be better off watching the 1983 series of the same name, with Francesca Annis and James Warwick as the leads. Much better adaptation, that one.

I thought the script was a bit anemic and the main couple lacked suitable chemistry in Partners in Crime but I agree that the 1983 version is much better and livelier and fun adaptation (I have seen a couple of episodes). Annis and Warwick had just the perfect charm and banter to them.

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The Murder On The Links - Agatha Christie (1923)

 

I found this one to be overall a tad disappointing. For some reason, I couldn't quite get into the story nor the characters. The case itself is once again well structured and well put together, with one cool twist about halfway through the story that you don't see coming and that puts the whole story in a different light, but then... as it goes on, Christie just piles up twist after twist after twist... to a point where I felt it got a bit ridiculous. Basically, it just goes like this: "Well, this is the murderer, of course! But wait, no! THIS is the murderer, no doubt! But no! Here it is, the murderer at last! Well, no, it was all a ruse: here is the murderer!". While the twists made sense within the story (Christie doesn't bend logic to come up with twists for the sake of having twists), I still thought she overdid them a bit in that one, which participated in my lack of appreciation of the story.

Of course, there's still some worthy material in the novel, the best thing about it easily being the character of Detective Giraud, Poirot's "rival" on the case, whose interactions with the lead character make for some pretty funny dialogue and situations. Much like in the previous novel, Hastings is also a fun narrator, as he is continuously frustrated by Poirot and his "know-it-all" attitude and wants to see him fail once in a while, and prides himself whenever he thinks he's once step ahead of his Belgian friend (even though he never is). And of course, Christie always manages to surprise you with twists that completely turn the whole case around yet still feel like an integral part of the story and not something she put there because she wanted the story to take a U-turn just for the heck of it. It's just a shame that she had to put so many of them in this one...

So all in all, yet another well-written book by Mrs. Christie, though this time around I didn't find the case to be quite as compelling as the previous one. Better luck next time, I suppose!

 

6/10

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Pretty much. That show is the absolute shit. Loved every minute of it. Although Susan looks a bit too Mediterranean to double for the blue-eyed, fair-skinned Bette, her portrayal was hard-hitting. And Lange made Joan likeable again after Faye cemented her into the public consciousness as a deplorable maniac.

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The Man In The Brown Suit - Agatha Christie (1924)

 

I had some trouble getting into the story of that one at first. Of course, there's a fact that it was a story featuring none of the characters Christie is most famous for (Poirot, Marple, Tommy and Tuppence...), which took me by surprise and not in a necessarily good way. I thought Anne Beddingfield wasn't a really charismatic main character, the mystery that sets everything in motion didn't feel particularly engrossing... But as the story unfolded, it eventually got better, turning into some light Indiana Jones adventure of sorts, with the African setting making for a welcome change of scenery within Christie's works, and the cast of characters being varied enough to keep you intrigued about them and their background. The narrative that keeps on switching back-and-forth between two characters was a fun writing device too, giving the reader two different point of views on many events, and the twist, while not entirely unpredictable, worked fine within the context of the story. The romance aspect may not be to everyone's liking though (but it is for the most part, unobstrusive).

This one is quite a departure from Christie's previous novels, and while this can be a problem to some, I think it still has enough good material to offer to make it a worthwile read (as long as you can get past the rather average beginning). But now is the time to get back to Poirot!

 

7/10

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Murder Is Easy by Agatha Christie (1939): Another one of Christie's novels not featuring any of his famous sleuths and it begins intriguingly by an old lady hinting at multiple murders to the main character, an ex-policeman of middling years just returned back from the Far East and ready for a quiet life in England. The old lady's sudden death starts a chain of events which leads the protagonist to take upon himself to solve the mystery in an unofficial capacity. The plot features a prototypical English country village with a rather familiar cast of characters, a rich pompous landowner, a doctor, a lawyer, an eccentric effeminate antique dealer, old and young ladies of various social statuses and everyone with a probable motive for doing the killings.

 

The mystery and the investigation take a typical route with extensive interviewing of people and meeting the whole character gallery and there is finally the classic reveal at the end, here done in a quite cinematic fashion I must say. While the murder mystery is actually quite engaging Christie has to force a romance into the mix which dampens the narrative quite a bit as it comes off very contrived and awkward (this often translates into the film adaptations as well) and feels like it comes out of the blue. The interesting aspect of this case is how the suspected murders have all been committed before the action starts so there is not much of the "we have to catch the killer before he kills again" type of impetus in this story. Also in the end the motive of the killer feels somewhat unconvincing even if it might be psychologically plausible and all lines up in the story with it just a tad too conveniently. And it has to be said that the main character of Luke Fitzwilliam is a bit bland compared to the super sleuth like Poirot and Christie doesn't really delve into his characteristics or quirks all that deeply but he as the captain Hastings substitute gets the job done.

 

As a side note the film adaptation for the Agatha Christie's Miss Marple is nearly unrecognizable as the entire thing has been completely redone with a few characters remaining but the whole story apart from the murderer and initial premise is reworked to include miss Marple but also have some of the murders happen during rather than before the start of the story. But it is certainly one of the less successful dramatizations of Christie's novels in terms of how faithful it remains to the original story but the new TV series did take quite a bit of liberties with the material (e.g. the Sleeping Murder).

 

Not exactly a page turner but a competent bit of murder mystery with an interesting premise from the queen of crime fiction. 

 

7/10

 

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Poirot Investigates - Agatha Christie (1924)

 

Another easy and fun read. I was a bit worried that in a shorter format, the cases would not be as engaging as the longer ones, but Christie managed to keep each one intriguing and to write well-rounded (and pretty varied) mysteries in just a few pages. I do wish some of them had been expanded a bit, such as The Adventure Of The Egyptian Tomb, but all in all they made for satisfying short adventures (and I guess there's still the Suchet series for people who want them to be expanded upon ;)). Hastings keeps on being funnier and funnier, each time a woman is involved finding her to be the most beautiful creature on earth. It was also nice to see him become more involved in the cases (like in The Disappearance Of Mr. Davenheim, which led to some pretty funny bits in the adaptation between that character and Chief Inspector Japp. I like the theme Gunning wrote for those two in that episode!). Still, I do wonder what exactly is the justification for him hanging around with Poirot. I mean, there's no particular reason for that: Poirot doesn't need him to solve the cases, nor does Hastings need Poirot for anything. One could say it's the same thing with Watson and Holmes, but that's not quite true: Watson is a doctor and can help Holmes in his investigations when it comes to medical stuff, plus Holmes has problems with social interactions and Watson helps him in that regard too (well, at least that was a reason given in the latest series. Not sure if that was in the books as well). But with Hastings, I can't think of any good reason for him to be there (an in-story reason, that is. Of course, the reason Christie put him there is, as I said in a previous post, as a surrogate for the reader. But what's the in-story explanation? Hmm...). Mind you, that doesn't bother me, it's just some random question that popped in my mind as I was reading those stories. Anyway, to get back to those: overall, I liked them (with the exception of maybe one or two, such as The Tragedy At Marsdon Manor, where the resolution was a bit far-fetched in my opinion) and there were a nice way to quickly develop the "mythology" of the Poirot universe as well as the relationships between the three main characters (Poirot, Hastings and Japp). Two thumbs up from me!

A few words about the adaptations: those were understandably not quite as faithful as the previous ones, given the filmmaking team had to expand the stories. Generally, the additions were nice (like the previously mentioned rivalry between Japp and Hasting in The Disappearance Of Mr. Davenheim, or the hilarious moment in The Veiled Lady when Poirot and Hastings infiltrate Lavington's house), but sometimes, this made for unnecessarily convoluted plots (The Case Of The Missing Will) and as a result, these were not quite as engaging as the original material. Still, for the most part, it was good stuff, supported by cool music by Gunning (love his theme for The Veiled Lady! And quite like the cue he wrote in The Kidnapped Prime Minister as Hastings chases Mrs. Daniels).

 

7.5/10

 

EDIT: OK, just saw that apparently, Gunnng didn't write the music for the episode The Kidnapped Prime Minister. Ah, well. The cue I mentioned is still nice regardless of who wrote it!

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So you're reading the books in order, and simultaneously watching the show out of order, because they filmed in a different order than the books were published?

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Dangerous, by Milo Yiannopoulos

 

I had to put down my Bette and Joan book to get this read by the time I see Milo's stage tour in Sydney at the end of this month. And what a read this was!

 

I think what's more powerful than his obvious condemnation of crazy feminazis and social media snowflakes is his call for conservatives to let go of their antiquated, foppy, exclusive 'debate club' mentality and embrace a more shit-stirring, provocateur-like approach to politics, or else the left will continue to win through its ongoing stranglehold on education and the creative arts. And Milo thankfully recognises the need for more conservatives with an effective gauge on popular culture to persuade impressionable youngsters that they best avoid third/fourth-wave-feminist hysteria.

 

And he takes the piss out of almost everyone here, so it's a belly of laughs for the politically incorrect among us. We need more shit-stirrers like Milo!

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Nah he only barely touches upon Silicon Valley, and dismisses the world of tech journalism as a cesspool of disinterested, leftist stooges. His targets are feminists, the alt-right, neo-nazis, Islam, BLM, establishment gays and establishment Republicans, and why all these groups are hypocritical, free-speech haters.

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On 11/7/2017 at 0:41 PM, BloodBoal said:

Yep. But so far, it's not much of a problem: there weren't narrative arcs covering many episodes or anything like that (they were all self-contained), so watching the episodes out of order doesn't make much of a difference in terms of viewing experience (except when the production values and/or aspect ratio will change (and the actors getting older, of course), as I'll go from something like Season 3 to Season 13, and back).

 

It's funny how there used to be lots of shows you could basically watch in any order and they barely even make them any more.  Even the comedies of today are serialized!

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On 11/7/2017 at 5:35 PM, BloodBoal said:

Poirot Investigates - Agatha Christie (1924)

 

 

I don't know why, but the fact that you're going back and reading all these Agatha Christie books makes me respect you more.

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I read Tina Fey’s Bossypants and really enjoyed it. I wouldn’t have minded if it had been a bit longer though. I’d have liked more 30 Rock stories and she barely mentioned Mean Girls. 

 

Apparently she narrates the audio book book so I may have to get that with my audible credit. 

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