Wednesday, May 4, 2022

The April Book Bunch

Let's just say that after a March with a lot of reading, April was a let down! I guess all that reading time in March was disrupted in April by a lot of painting, which was probably a better thing overall!

That said, it was a mostly-mystery month, with one book on home decor. I'm about halfway through a remarkable (and very long) biography on Julia Child -- but you'll have to wait for the May report for that one.

"The Word Is Murder" by Anthony Horowitz

I loved Horowitz's "The Magpie Murders" (coming soon to PBS) but I was skeptical as to how he would incorporate himself into another series he writes in which a detective comes to him (Horowitz the author-as-character) for help in solving a case. How do you write yourself into a mystery as a fictional (or semi-real) character? It seemed an odd conceit -- but it worked!

In "The Word Is Murder," Horowitz-the-character is approached by a former police officer who now does consulting with the London police on unusual murders. A woman who is the mother of an up-and-coming stage and film actor plans her funeral, resigns from her board position on the Globe Theatre, and then is found murdered in her home that night. The detective wants the author to consult and help him find out more about the murder.

Horowitz-the-character has met Inspector Hawthorne when he served as a consultant on "Foyle's War," (the real series that the real Horowitz wrote -- and if you haven't seen it, it's very good!). While they are a bit at odds in the personality department, the author is soon sucked into the intrigue of the case. They are an odd couple, Horowitz playing Watson to Hawthorne's Holmes, which is clearly an inspiration of the character.

The result is delightful and great fun with characters in the film industry, all with a back story. Horowitz incorporates his own resume into his character's story (there is a scene when his character is on the set of "Foyle's War," for example) and his references often led me to google, where I often found they were true ones! There are many potential suspects in Diana Cowper's murder and a good deal of clever sleuthing until it is uncovered! Enjoy!

"Untrue Blue" by Emma Jameson

This is the most recent addition in the "Lord and Lady Hetheridge" series. It finds former Scotland Yard chief/now private detective called in to help solve the murder of one of his former police colleagues, a young female detective who was working on three controversial cases at the time of her murder. Tony Hetheridge's police sergeant wife, Kate, is on bed rest, awaiting the birth of their first child, but that doesn't stop her from becoming involved.

If you have read the other books in the series, you'll recognize some of the main characters. The plot is probably the best conceived of the books in the series. Would I recommend it? There are far better mystery series, but it's not bad and a fairly quick read.

"The Tenant" by Katrine Enberg

This Danish mystery was a tightly written book and I found myself unable to stop reading it. A young woman who lives in a three-apartment building is murdered, discovered by another tenant, and mourned by Esther, the building landlord, a 60-something woman who lives on the top floor and who aspires to be a mystery novelist. 

Detectives Jeppe and Anette are called on to handle the rather grisly murder case, with a list of suspects that include Esther's singing teacher, members of her online writing group, and even the volatile father of the late Julie. There is a viable case for each of them and the weeding out of suspects is fascinating and good detective work that leads them through Copenhagen. And of course, Esther takes it upon herself to do a little detective work herself -- which is never a good thing!

And yes, I want to read another book by Enberg, and I hope Jeppe and Anette return for a sequel.

"The DIY Home Planner" by Karianne Wood

This very short (143 page) book is beautifully illustrated with colorful, fun illustrations by Michal Sparks. It features the most basic of home-dec info in a colorful, easy to follow way. There were parts I loved, parts I didn't. So, what I loved first.

Wood takes us through each element of home decor -- furniture placement, window and lighting treatments, paint, flooring and more -- in brief overviews of each, featuring the pros and cons of various choices. Do you know how to figure out how much paint to buy for a space? Or which color? Here's the equation. How wide should your chandelier be? There's a formula for that. How do you pick your decorative pillows? She has an easy solution based on the fabric design on the pillows. She's the Elizabeth Warren of home dec. She has a plan for that. And this is all helpful, useful information, especially as indicated by Sparks' illustrations. This is info I can and may well use and it is useful to have it at hand in one spot.

She also includes a page of a scale grid so you can arrange your furniture before you hump your heavy sofa to every corner of the room before settling on what you chose first. In the back of the book there is even a page of little beds and chairs and sofas you can cut out to make that planning task a little easier. There are plenty of good hints and even if you picked up tips on just one or two of them, it might be well worth it. Or, at 16.99, you might be able to find all that info for free at your home store or that decorating guru of all time, Mr. Google, who will direct you to Wood's blog (or others). (Which, by the way, is a lovely home dec blog if you are into that kind of thing.)

So, what didn't I like? Well, I really disliked almost all the crafty things she included in the accessory styling section. Maybe I'd like them better in photos but in the drawings most were cutesy not cute, and looked amateurish. And maybe they should be. For a beginner who doesn't have a sense of the rule of three (or odd numbers) or who doesn't read a boatload of blogs that have volumes of vignettes, some of the info is useful. But those projects just turned me off -- after all that very solid info. 

There are some tear-out quotes that she suggests be framed (not in my house!). Really? You don't have a photo of Grandma or that gorgeous sunset from your Caribbean vacation or that lovely street in some glorious European city that might not look better in your frame. I think you do. But hey, someone might like it. There's a guide for an origami bookmark that I will have to try because I think the instructions look way more complicated than my brain can handle and I'm always up for a challenge and if I can do it, it will be spectacular. But those two pages and those in the back of the book with three leaf templates for a wreath could be cut. 

So, my recommendation is that if you need the info about ordering paint, picking flooring or deciding between drapes, shutters or blinds -- then it is well worth the price. If you're looking for cute ideas for craftiness or your home, hit the internet. Or her blog. 

"Death on the Nile" by Agatha Christie

I think I've read almost every book Agatha Christie has written (including some written under the name of Mary Westmacott), along with her two autobiographies, biographies of her by others, and fiction based on her life. I've enjoyed her BBC Poirot and Miss Marple series and features from her books. But, it has been years since I've picked one up for a good read.

I decided I needed what I call a "24-Hour Aggie" -- a book I could read in no more than 24 hours, probably much less. So, I chose "Death on the Nile" because I had recently seen Kenneth Brannagh's new interpretation and the earlier Peter Ustinov version. The two films differed somewhat in characters/names from each other and I wonder how closely either of them hung to the book.

Christie is a wonderful writer. She's an honest one, too. If you read her books very carefully, you may well determine the murderer -- she lays it all out there. But it can be so subtle, you just glide over it. Poirot does not, however, and that's what makes him a marvelous detective and character. 

For the uninitiated, the plot revolves around a young married couple -- Linnet (one of the richest women in the world) and her new husband, Simon, her former best friend, Jacqueline's finace -- until he met Linnet. As they honeymoon in the Middle East, they are being stalked by Jacqueline. As the group cruises down the Nile, with an assortment of other passengers, it is clear that Linnet and Simon are targets -- but from whom?

Christie spent a good deal of time in the Middle East, where she met her husband, Max Mallowan, and her descriptions are vivid. The characters are well drawn and she captures both atmosphere and personality deftly but completely.

For those who might wonder how well either movie holds to the book, the answer is that they both take some liberties, primarily with the names of characters and their occupations. (For example, in Branagh's version, Salome Otterbourne is a jazz singer, not a romance novelist.) Other characters are dropped, some have either name changes or are invented. For example, the character of Bouc only appears in Christie's novel of "Murder on the Orient Express." In Branagh's version, he returns (with his mother) as a passenger, taking over the literary character of Tim Allerton and again serves as Poirot's sidekick. 

In the Ustinov version, Poirot's sidekick is Colonel Race, who is in the novel. This version also deletes several of the secondary characters.

The Branagh version also gives Poirot a backstory that explains his elaborate moustache and his lack of a romantic partner. This isn't in Christie's version (at least not in "Death on the Nile"). But I'm glad he did it, putting the detective in more human context.

But this is a book overview, not a film overview. And I'd say if you like mysteries and haven't read Christie (or re-read her in a long while), pick up a 24-Hour Aggie and enjoy!

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My name is Erika. said...

It is always fun to read your book posts. I saw the new Death on the Nile movie a couple of weeks ago. I liked it but I wish it was a little closer to the book, which I had read awhile back. But isn't it fun how you can read one of Christie's books in so little time? I read 2 of hers last month, and my book post goes up FRiday so I will leave you in suspense until then what they were. Your Death on the Nile book cover is just like mine, but from the days when paperbacks didn't cost like they do now.

I have the Tenant in my audible account as it was one of their recent daily deals, and it is good to know it is really good. I'm not familiar with the Emma Jameson book, but it is always fun to get some new mystery ideas.

Thanks for this month's book list. It's hard to chose between which is better, reading or art, isn't it? But it's OK to have a slow reading month because we all have those. hugs-Erika

Mae Travels said...

You really make that home decor book sound terrible. I wonder why you even bothered with it. You are so skilled at the craft projects you do.

best... mae at

GretchenJoanna said...

I always admire your ability to write these reviews! Reading and painting -- and blog-writing -- go well with early spring, it seems. :-)

Valerie-Jael said...

I don't think I would like the home decor book, but the others are all good! have a great week, hugs, Valerie

Sue in Suffolk said...

Lovely to read a good book list!
I borrowed The Tenant but failed after a few pages and I'll order the Anthony Horowitz ASAP
I've thought about re reading Agatha Christie because I read them way way back in the 70s but there always seems to be new authors to read. The films and Poirot series are/have been on TV frequently so maybe I don't need to re read.

DUTA said...

Your mention of Peter Ustinov brings back memories to me. What a great actor!

David M. Gascoigne, said...

Your book reviews are impeccable, Jeanie, and interesting too.

eileeninmd said...

Hello, Jeanie,

I always enjoy your book review post. I have a couple more now to add to my reading list. Thanks for sharing! Take care, enjoy your day!

acorn hollow said...

You do read a lot I am lucky if I get a book in every two weeks between work and all the other things I like to do.
Agatha Christie is a favorite but the best thing is younger readers are finding her. I work in a book store and teens and college age are looking for her.
I just finished the tv series with David Suchet as Poirot to me he is the true Poirot.

shoreacres said...

A 24-hour Aggie? I thought you were writing about a new student at Texas A & M (known asthe Aggies) who got expelled after only a day!

Rita C at Panoply said...

You give such frank reviews. I love that.

Amy at Ms. Toody Goo Shoes said...

I was hoping for a better review of the DIY Home Planner - I would have snapped that up in a second, but I do trust your opinion, so I'll skip it. I have a list of books a mile long on my "read" list, but right now, I am plowing through Tinder Box, the story of how HBO went from nothing to a premiere network. Probably not much interest to the average reader, but it's fascinating to me, as I worked there for 32 years, and feel like I'm reliving my career.

La Table De Nana said...

As always call me impressed!

Marilyn Miller said...

Every time you review mysteries I think I need to read more mysteries. And then, I don't do it.
In April I finished the most recent Outlander book (almost 900 pages). I started reading a historic fixtion that takes place during the Viet Nam era, but it gave me nightmares and probably won't finish it. I seem to gravitate to World War I and II era quite often, not sure why; but that is where I am now.
Keep on reviewing those mysteries and I will try to find some to read too.

Divers and Sundry said...

Interesting choices. I'll make a note for my next library trip :) Thanks!

NGS said...

I don't read much crime/mystery and when I read your book reviews, I sometimes wonder why!

Pam said...

Not read any of those, but I have been reading more. I am back to trying to read at bedtime to chill out. I don't spend a lot on my books since I will not keep them once I am done. So I have picked up 1.25 books at Dollar Tree. I got several really good ones. I picked up some at Dollar General the other day. I just finished one and it was pretty good. Those only cost 3 bucks each and I got two at Goodwill for 2.99. Have not touched them yet. I am stacking up what I have read and once I get my rear in gear, I need to make the personal library for the end of the yard. Going to read Take a Book, Leave a Book. Maybe that way I will not be buying many from there on out. I will post on our subdivisions FB page once I have it made. We have one in the sub that is for DVDs, so a book one would be great. Stay calm and read on.

Lisa from Lisa's Yarns said...

I've only read one book by Agatha Christie, I think! I will have to check out another book of hers sometime. I am terrible at guessing who did it, though. I very very rarely catch the clues that are laid out in the book! I don't know if I read too fast or what, but it is fun to be surprised at the end!

Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

I like Christie and haven't read her for a while. I never did read this one, so it's next on my list. Thanks for a good analysis and interesting review.

Anvilcloud said...

I have watched Foyle’s War which I was quite keen about and read some Magpie Murders which I don’t recall being keen about. They might make good tv, however.

Iris Flavia said...

DIY Home Planner is nothing you need, in my opinion!
You do great - you should rather write one!

Lots of books. I found one in the street (sadly German) that made even Ingo laugh :-)
Other I am slow in reading, sadly. And have too many...

Lauren @ My Wonderfully Made said...

Great reviews and they all look like interesting reads. I find myself reading more these days as the weather has NOT been spring-like so nothing has been done outside yet. The decorating book I will be checking out . . . I love getting ideas from others on ways to change things up inside!

Carol @Comfort Spring Station said...

You read such an interesting assortment of books. A fun read!

Amy said...

Always enjoy hearing what others are reading, and it's a marvelous way to "discover" new authors.
Love Anthony Horowitz, and have thoroughly enjoyed in his Hawthorne series.
Katrine Engberg has 2 more books involving Detectives Jeppe Korner & Anette Werner.
The Butterfly House published in 2021.
The Harbor published in 2022.
Stay safe & well.

Anonymous said...

Katrine Engberg has 2 additional books starring Detectives Korner & Werner.
The Butterfly House (2021)
The Harbor (2022)

Joanne Huffman said...

I always enjoy the book reviews.

It's me said...

You read a lot of book !…..I am reading too at the moment after a long long time…I have read the first book of the seven sister….still 6 books to go….and the new book from sante montifiore Reading this week ….it is relaxing…when I read I do not think about what is happening right now in my life…love happy weekend …thanks for your email πŸŒΈπŸŒΊπŸ’—πŸŒΊπŸŒΈ

Susan Kane said...

I love the book choices. The DIY is a little different for me.

Sherry's Pickings said...

i have just read the Tenant and i can't remember a thing about it ... that's how i read mysteries over and over :) The horowitz one sounds a bit - odd but interesting. said...

thanks for the honest reviews Jeanie, I used to be a huge Agatha Christie fan and need to take your suggest and reread Death on the Nile! I found your review of Karianne's book interesting and not surprising because I've come to a similar conclusion from reading her blog...she has some good concrete advice for some basic decorating but some of her crafty creations I wouldn't want it my decor, but she is from a different generation, and I am not of fan of most farmhouse styles and shabby chic. I do admire how she has built an empire from her blog, very impressive!

gigi-hawaii said...

I really don't care for murder mysteries. The DIY book is more my type of reading.

Bleubeard and Elizabeth said...

I LOVE a good mystery and the one I really want to read is the one Horowitz wrote. I loved Foyle's War, so this one really piqued my interest. Of course, I also am a fan of Agatha Christie. I love how you give us just enough information to make us want to read each book.

Priscilla King said...

I'd probably like the decor book, just as eye candy. (I'm a non-decorating person, possibly because a family friend has been employed as a decorator, but I enjoy seeing how other people use colors.)

Pam Richardson said...

Thanks so much for the reviews, Jeanie. I am stuck in historical fiction and can’t pull myself away!

William Kendall said...

Very eclectic reading choices.

Carole @ From My Carolina Home said...

Your reviews are great, one of these days I'll get back to reading murder mysteries.

Victoria Zigler said...

If you're going to sacrifice some reading time to something, painting is a good choice.

Carola Bartz said...

It's a long time ago that I read Death on the Nile. It is one of my Christie favorites, even though I don't like Poirot (too arrogant). And I remember sailing by the Old Cataract Hotel in Assuan where she stayed and drew inspiration for this book. I haven't seen the movie though. The Danish mystery sounds interesting. I always enjoy your book posts.

Lowcarb team member said...

I always enjoy your book posts, thanks for sharing these reads.

All the best Jan

Lowcarb team member said...

I always enjoy your book posts, many thanks for sharing your reads.

All the best Jan

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