I haven't exactly been turning the page this past month! But I have enjoyed several offerings, two mysteries and an autobiography of sorts (diaries, actually).
"The Hollywood Spy" by Susan Elia Macneal
This is the current entry in Macneal's "Maggie Hope" series, set during World War II. This time Maggie is in Hollywood in 1942, ostensibly to help her former beau, John, now working for Walt Disney, discover if his fiancee was murdered or a suicide/accident, as the police say. As she and her ballet-dancer friend, Sarah, discover the joys of Hollywood, they also discover a gritty side -- one of racism, the KKK, and a white supremacist undercurrent reaching into some of the highest levels of not only society but some of its most trusted institutions.
As fans of the series know, Macneal weaves a good story and one that readers may find very uncomfortable, with more than a few parallels to some recent events in today's world. She does her research well (and includes a lengthy bibliography at the back of the book for those wishing to delve deeper into the topic). It is an unsettling book and it should be.
(For those unfamiliar with the "Maggie Hope" series, the central character is an American who lives in London and in previous books worked for Winston Churchill and served in the OSS.The books follow the chronology of the war and Maggie has had plot lines in several countries related to Wold War II. Each book is self-contained but reading in order is recommended.)
"Madly, Deeply: The Diaries of Alan Rickman" by Alan Rickman
For one generation, the late Alan Rickman may be remembered as Emma Thompson's husband in "Love, Actually," who is smitten with his young secretary. To a younger generation he will forever be Severus Snape from the Harry Potter series. What many might not know was that he was an accomplished artist as well as a highly regarded stage actor, classically trained.
"Madly, Deeply" is a collection of about fifteen years of his diary entries from, ending several months before his untimely death in January 2016. They offer readers a glimpse into the personal and professional life of a working actor. Chances are he did not write these to be published "as is" or in some ways he may have been more specific, but as more of a reference to which he later referred.
The entries are quite short, some simply indicating a flight or a notation of it being a good or bad day where he dined or his companions at the table. Others are longer, more thoughtful entries, providing insight into Rickman, his films and his activities. Some are deeply thoughtful, some a bit snarky or exasperated, others full of praise for fellow actors or performer.
Rickman was writing for himself and sometimes that can leave a reader a bit at sea -- who is NG? or Mike M. (especially if there has been more than one character with similar initials.) Often the editor will footnote a name (or add a last name in parentheses) but not often enough. (Possibly because he has no idea who they are!) It's frustrating -- and you learn to let it go. Because apart from a bit of starstruck namedropping (when he attends an awards event or a party) most of the names are people he knows and works with, his friends. Some of those names will be familiar to you as well and that makes it rather fun.
Another small quibble is purely personal! Rickman was a wonderful artist and the photos in the book show several of his journal pages with elaborate paintings on them (along with production photos). I would have loved to have seen more of those. That said, his editor had his work cut out for him -- his handwriting was terrible!
Through his entries we learn about the actor's commitments to certain charitable organizations, his political commitments, the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) where he studied and later served on the board, the frustrations of rehabbing a home from miles away, the stresses of constant travel while shooting -- and then sitting on set all day, waiting for your shot. We step into his life as his mother fades and dies and learn a bit about his family.
And, in the end, we find that he is (as probably most all famous people are) a very "real" person who irons his own shirts, drinks a bit too much wine at times, struggles to lose weight now and then, cleans the lime off the shower and has strong political beliefs, marching in more than one protest. It becomes clear that he is a steadfast friend. He strikes me as an ordinary guy in an extraordinary career, with all the ups and downs that go with it.
This isn't everyone's book. But it certainly was mine. It has led me to searches for movies of his I haven't seen and I'll appreciate them all the more. (But I wish the editor had included a glossary of names and a timeline of films/theatre projects would be nice, too -- since he often refers to them in his own shorthand (GQ is "Galaxy Quest"!)
"Murder at Monk's Barn" by Cecil Waye
If you haven't heard of Cecil Waye, well, neither had I. That's pretty amazing since he wrote more than 150 books (under many names), most of them in the 1920s to the 1960s. He was a founding member of the famed Detection Club which included writers like Dorothy L. Sayers and Agatha Christie in their roster. The list of books and articles on his Wikipedia page is enormous.
"Murder at Monk's Barn" (1930) is the first in a series of four books featuring the brother and sister investigators Vivienne and Christopher Perrin. When they are a approached by a client to learn who murdered his brother, they take on the case, visiting the small village of Fordington, site of the manor house, Monk's Barn, on a quest for information. Along the way they work with Detective Swayne, who believes they may be able to learn more intimate details about the characters involved than he can.
The murder itself is rather ingenious and the method of discovery, particularly through Vivienne's efforts, is clever indeed. There is little more I can say without scooping the plot, but this is a delightful and intriguing romp and well worth the time spent reading along.
|Photo: Jason Babcock|
And finally, for those still interested, here's a three-minute video on the rescue of Pumpkin the Deer. It's fascinating. And here is a photo of Pumpkin, post rescue, as photographed by Jason Babcock, who said (when asked on FB, "how can you tell?" -- "He reunited with his herd and has been seen out and about in the woods, enjoying the bountiful of snacks." He indicated they could tell it was Pumpkin by the button antlers, that he was smallest of the three he hung out with and -- he ate a lot!
I have been a fan of Rickman since I saw his film Truly Madly Deeply on tv years ago. You can find a listing of all his films on IMDB.
Thank you for posting the deer rescue. I had heard that people helped him but hadn't seen the footage. What a wonderful team of people!
For me, he's Slope in Barchester Towers. Brilliant.
I'd like to read Madly, Deeply. I always loved his performances and think of Sense and Sensibility with Kate Winslet. I would like the last mystery too. Thanks!
oh, thar poor deer!
Thanks, Jeanie, for the review of the Alan Rickman book, which I have on library reserve now. He was one of my favorite British actors. You mentioned searching for some of his films and I can recommend Truly, Madly, Deeply which in a way was an early version of the later Ghose movie, similar plot. Currently, I am reading The Extraordinary Life of an Ordinary Man, a memoir on Paul Newman. The Queen by Andrew Morton is next as I am going for nonfiction reads this year, but certain ones will never be on that list, specifically the one by the Queen’s grandson. The British mystery writer you mentioned is one I will check in my library.
Those are thoughtful reviews. Well done. I posted a review, too, and her books are free to download!
Great video. The tricky part was getting the net off! Great to see people doing good things for wildlife.
So glad to see something from Alan Rickman! Loved the man! I may get that one, thank you for your excellent reviews.
Funny, my book reading is ok but my book listening is way down this month. I guess it was just that kind of month for everyone. The MacNeal mystery sounds like a great series. I don't know either of the mystery series you mentioned this month, but I am going to put them on my list.They both sound very good. It's too bad Alan Rickman has died because he was a very good actor (he was also in Die Hard). But I love how you mentioned he did all the normal things we do. I think you did pretty well with books this month because it really isn't the number of books but what you read, right? Hope you're having a good weekend. hugs-Erika
Love the Deer video, I am happy these people were able to help remove that pumpkin. The mysteries look interesting and new to me, thanks for sharing your books. Have a great day and happy new week!
Looks like good reading here. Enjoy and have a nice day
Maybe you only read three books, but it sure looks to me like they were three good ones. And the Rickman diaries look especially interesting. I first saw him as the villain in Die Hard and was struck by his blazing energy on the big screen. My favorite of his roles, though, was probably the stoic and restrained (and initially rebuffed) Colonel Brandon in Sense and Sensibility.
Hope you're having a great weekend -- stay safe and warm!
Great to see Pumpkin free again!
Great reviews. I am thankful that Pumpkin is back where he belongs.
I've always been a fan of Rickman.
Glad to be able to actually see the deer freed!!
Your review of the Rickman diaries is really wonderful and I enjoyed reading it. There must be something wrong with me because I ONLY think of him as Snape!
best… mae at maefood.blogspot.com
I haven't heard of Cecil Waye either Jeanie, but I'm a huge Agatha Christie fan so I will look for his books. Thanks for posting the video, I've been so worried about that poor deer!
I just manage peu à peu one book, it´s a shame.
Oh, I never expected Pumpkin being so loud and sounding so dangerous!
Glad so many people braved up!
Good reviews of books I never heard of. Great to see the deer free at last. Enjoy your day, Jeanie.
I have always been a fan of Alan Rickman and will enjoy reading this. Thank you for sharing the books today. I am thrilled that the sweet deer got a happy ending.
Must add these rescuers are heroes. Thanks for sharing Jeanie :)
The stories seem interesting to me. I haven't read a book since the new year either!
Is that Alan Rickman on the book cover? Definitely a face to remember...
For me, Alan Rickman is first and foremost Hans Gruber.
Many thanks for sharing the Deer video, so pleased that these people were able to help remove that pumpkin.
Thanks too for your book reviews.
Enjoy these last few January days.
All the best Jan
Thanks for sharing these books, Jeanie! You read more than I managed to this month. I adored Alan Rickman as an actor, so I'm sure I'd enjoy his diaries. I loved him in "Madly, Deeply" and as Professor Snape, he was brilliant. I was very sad over his untimely death. Have a great week, Jeanie!
Your reviews are always excellent, Jeanie. I enjoyed the video and thanks for sharing! Happy week to you.
I enjoyed Alan Rickman in movies long before I knew his name. He will be missed.
I am afraid that my reading list for January would cause your eyes to glaze over, Jeanie, so I will leave it at that - although I have been reading quite a bit of twentieth century poetry recently, rediscovering Robert Frost in the process. Right now I am wallowing in Dylan Thomas, having also enjoyed the work of Leonard Cohen as a young Montreal poet. Both he and Irving Layton explored the Montreal Jewish scene in fabulous ways. The fact that I know the area they inhabited and wrote about added extra interest to their work. There...maybe I am not quite so boring after all!
I loved him as actor too..Ill look into it.I only Libby so fingers crossed:)
The Hollywood Spy sounds like one I would want to read.
Thanks for the video on Pumpkin. It was fun to watch those working to help him.
Though I would be intrigued to read about Rickman I doubt that I would read it.
Thanks always for your reviews. They inspire me to share what I am reading too.
Thanks for stopping by to leave comment on my reviews.
You know I loved the added information about Pumpkin. It finally occurred to me that the publicity may have sensitized people who'd never considered such things to the damage that can be done by carelessness with our 'stuff.'
Your book reviews always are great. If I were a reader of fiction, this is one of the first places I'd come to find recommendations for my next read: or what to avoid at all costs!
As always, I appreciate the book reviews. My January list includes The Bullet That Missed (third in the Thursday Murder Club series), The Paris Library, Remarkably Bright Creatures, and Lessons in Chemistry - all of which I highly recommend.
I am not familiar with Rickman's movies. Perhaps, David would know more since he is a movie buff. BTW, please check your email. I sent you a request. Take care.
There's something compelling about an actor who dies unexpectedly, but leaves behind a nice legacy.
I have not realized that Rickman was the husband in Love, Actually! I haven't seen any of the HP movies but I know that is what he is very very well known for. I read all of the books but haven't wanted to watch the movies as I liked imagining the characters in my mind. I will likely watch the movies once I introduce the boys to the books, though. I've heard they are excellent.
My reading has been slower this month, too. I have had a busy month with a lot of social plans that have cut into my reading time but it's been good to catch up with people I haven't seen in a long time!
I am thrilled those people rescued the Pumpkin head deer. How very special those people are to take time to help this distressed deer. There is hope in the world. Thanks Jeanie for providing the video and the books.
I absolutely am a fan of the actor Alan Rickman. A favorite character was Colonel Brandon in "Sense and Sensibility." "Madly, Deeply" sounds interesting to learn about the man. I have not heard of Cecil Waye but I do love a good mystery. I always enjoy your reviews Jeanie. Also, thanks for the happy ending update on "pumpkin deer." Happy week......
I don't tend to attend to actors' personal lives, but Rickman's career certainly is a treasure trove. He had scope. I hadn't realized he was also an artist.
That deer! What fun to keep track of him :)
I've only seen a handful of Alan Rickman's films, but I am quite tempted by this book.
Nice books. Alan Rickman was good in all his films, but as Severus Snape he outdid himself! Have a great week, hugs,Valerie
I don't read non fiction but I'm sure that Alan Rickman book is a treasure.
I would LOVE to read the Rickman book. I first remember seeing him in Die Hard. The lther bools sound like my kind of mysteries.
SO happy to see that video of Pumpkin and getting free finally.
Not a fan of Snape but i have liked some of his other characters. I think i was a bit ambivalent about his acting...
The Hollywood Spy sounds like something I'd enjoy. Have a good week, Jeanie!
I am so happy to hear about Pumpkin the deer! Fabulous! Oh Alan Rickman...he was a fantastic actor, I actually loved him the best in Die Hard!! ☺
Thank you so much for updating us on the rescue of Pumpkin. I adored Alan Rickman.
I love Alan Rickman, and yes.....Die Hard IS a Christmas movie!!!
Thanks for posting the Pumpkin video! :D
I have managed 9 books this month!!! Loved Alan Rickman.........
Thank you Jeanie for these reviews. All interesting I find. Yes, Alan Rickman is an excellent actor. I also like your reviews on the two thrillers. I have not heard of any of the authors, but will check them out.
I love Alan Rickman. I was so very upset when he passed. I had forgotten that he was in Galaxy Quest! Such a weird movie for him lol. I loved him in the Costner Robin Hood, and of course ,the first movie I ever saw him in,Die Hard! I think that was his very first movie?
You always read an interesting assortment of books. The diary by Alan Rickman sounds interesting but complicated. I wish he had written a book instead. Like you said he didn't write it for publication. I've liked him in the roles I have seen him in from Galaxy Quest to Love Actually to Harry Potter. He was quite good in whatever role he played. I would have liked to get to know him better but I don't enjoy being a literary detective trying to decipher clues from a diary. I often enjoy vintage detective stores and I'm not familiar with Cecil Waye. I'll look him up. Have a great day!
I like Nora Roberts, I just finished one that she wrote. Rather good.
Loved Rickman. He always played the most delicious villain.
That was such an interesting clip, Jeanie. Here's to the people who rescued Pumpkin, and set him free. Brave ones.....and caring. Thanks for the update.
Made me happy that he's with the others now.
That was a good review of the Alan Rickman book. I always enjoyed his acting, and he seemed like a very nice person from some interviews I watched. 'A Little Chaos' was one of his movies I liked. He also directed that one. Glad for Pumpkin being rescued!
The short video of "Pumpkin" is indeed quite fascinating. What a wonderful, happy ending to his ordeal.
I have always loved Alan Rickman and I put his diaries on my wishlist. Thank you for tis excellent review. I have seen some of Rickman's lesser known movies because I have always enjoyed his acting so much. His voice is unforgettable.
Sounds like what you did read was enjoyable at least. I might have to check out that Alan Rickman book.
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