deird1: Andrew - with James Bond style intro (Andrew james bond)
There have been quite a few Sherlock Holmeses in my life.

My very first Holmes was actually Hercule Poirot making a silly joke. He examines a crime scene, then announces to Hastings that the murder was committed by a left-handed redhead who had spent many months at sea (or something - I don't actually remember), and when Hastings cried "Poirot???" he grinned and, basically, told Hastings off for expecting Sherlock Holmes to be real.

My second experience of Holmes was, again, Agatha Christie being silly. Tommy Beresford was doing his best Holmes impression, and playing the violin very badly, while making observations that were slightly off the mark.

I never really got the impression that Christie was very keen on Doyle's stories, somehow.

Since then, I have encountered many, many versions of Sherlock Holmes, including:
- the original novels
- Young Sherlock Holmes
- the black and white movies (or at least one of them)
- Basil the Great Mouse Detective
- Dr House
- RDJ's steampunky Holmes movies
- Sherlock
- Elementary

And, oh boy, do I have opinions.

my feels, let me tell you them )
deird1: Tara crying over Willow's betrayal (Tara betrayal)
Very cross with my edition of The Naughtiest Girl in the School, right now.

This book was written in the 1940s.
The kids are given two pounds each week for pocket money.
Said pounds are made up of 100 pence each.


Judicious googling confirms my suspicion that the original edition had them receiving two shillings each week.

Why, oh why do people think these things need to be dumbed down? Either the kids won't notice the weird currency, or else they WILL notice and will therefore LEARN something!

This is actually annoying me more than the American editions of Harry Potter.

book rec

Dec. 16th, 2015 07:11 pm
deird1: Fred reading a book (Fred book)
So, this is a book I've read once. Or, now, one-and-a-half times.

It's not my style. And it's kind of awesome.

I am, as I have previously mentioned, a murder mystery person – preferably of the 1930s variety. I am not a modern thriller fan. Smoke Screen, by Sandra Brown, is emphatically a modern thriller. (Apparently, Sandra Brown – who I've never heard of – is winner of the "Thriller Master Award", which I've also never heard of. She totally deserves it.)

It's a book about corruption, covering up corruption with murder, covering up murder with more murder, and covering up more murder with more corruption. It's also about a woman on the run, and said woman having hot sex with the man whose life she ruined.

It's rather brilliant. I'd forgotten how much I enjoyed it.

And now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to finish rereading it, and then somehow persuade my husband that I really need to spend money on more Sandra Brown books.
deird1: Dawn raising an eyebrow, with text "srsly?" (Dawn srsly)
Read a murder mystery today, in which the killer got away with it.

As a veteran of whodunits, I'm quite used to stories from the perspective of the killer, or where the killer gets away. They can work well - but, the thing is, they kinda depend on you sympathising with the killer.

If the book's from the killer's perspective, they can still be a horrible person, but you need at least some kind of reason to see things from their point of view. And, if the killer gets away with the murder, you really really need to understand where the killer's coming from, and to mostly agree with their point of view.

If Ms Jones is taking out Evil McNastison, vile wretch, kidnapper of cute little girls, and puppy killer, then the fact that she gets away with stabbing him might just be something we're okay with. If, on the other hand, Ms Jones gets away with stabbing Cheapskate McDouche, who didn't pay his parking tickets, we might think she's overreacting. And we'll probably get a bit more disapproving about the whole got-away-with-murder thing.

...all of which is a long, round-about way of saying:

If your murder mystery, from 1930, has someone getting away with murdering a Foul Fiend who
a) has an affair with a married woman
b) dumps said married woman because he's out of cash
c) proposes to a rich chick because he needs more cash
...and that's it...
then your 21st century murder mystery fan, reading your fabulous novel, will not necessarily approve of you letting the murderer off the hook.

No matter how much you have the other characters gasp and say things like "what a cad!", I'm still not going to be happy about them killing him. He's just not evil enough.

(Agatha Christie was so much better at this. I've seen other authors go with Mr Marries-For-Money and Mr Complains-About-The-Church-In-His-Newspaper being killed with the approval of the other characters - and apparently the author - but the Values Dissonance stopped those being okay pretty quickly. Whereas Christie, when she wanted to let the killer go free, made her victim kidnap and murder a three-year-old. That's still pretty effective.)

book rec

Feb. 15th, 2013 09:13 pm
deird1: a cross, on a rainbow flag (believe out loud)
Read a book today. A whole book - in one day. Not unprecedented, but it only happens with books I'm utterly fascinated by. And this book was, indeed, fascinating.

The book in question was Torn by Justin Lee, who runs the Gay Christian Network. I've read a number of posts, interviews, and articles by Justin over the last few years, and have always been very impressed with him. He is committed to following Jesus no matter what trouble it gets him into - and it shows.

If you're a Christian, I recommend you get a copy of Torn, and read it. If you're not a Christian... get a copy of Torn, and read it. Cause seriously, guys, it's awesome.
deird1: Spike mock-threatening Joyce, with text "GRR." (Spike grrr)
I have recently been reading Dracula. I figured that, well, it's a classic, and also, it's free, so why not?

It's actually quite good. (Which I wasn't at all expecting. Despite it being a classic. Because I'm kinda dumb.) It's also an epistolary novel, which is exactly my kind of thing.

So... hurrah! Dracula!

One thing I found rather amusing is that, as a 21st-century reader, I interpret some sentences differently to the average 19th-century gothic novel fan.
Like this:
Here Quincey Morris added, "I understand that the Count comes from a wolf country, and it may be that he shall get there before us. I propose that we add Winchesters to our armament. I have a kind of belief in a Winchester when there is any trouble of that sort around.", there they were, hunting down Dracula, and someone made the very sensible suggestion that they should bring Sam and Dean along, because those Winchester boys know a thing or two about vampire hunting - and I nodded seriously and got halfway down the page before I realised that wasn't what they'd meant.

I'm not a hopeless fangirl, I swear.
deird1: chibis of Kitty and Lydia from P&P, with text "fangirls at large" (Kitty Lydia fangirls)
Guide to characters on Pern

- If you are a dreamy virgin until deflowered by the love of your life in a quasi-rape scene... you are GOOD.

- If you are sensual and like sex with manly men of manliness... you are EVIL.

- If you used to sleep with the evil sensual women, but grew tired of them and deflowered a virgin in a quasi-rape scene... you are GOOD.

- If you still sleep with the evil sensual women... you are EVIL... probably. But not as evil as the evil women. At best, you are a minion.

- If you are a tomboy... you are GOOD.

- If you care about clothes and your appearance... you are EVIL.

- If you grow up and then care about your appearance... you are GOOD.

- If you grow up and then become slovenly... you are EVIL. And probably sensual.

- If you live there... you are GOOD.

- If you like people who live there... you are GOOD.

- If you like their caves... you are GOOD.

- If you like their wine... you are GOOD.

- If you despise the people, the caves, the wine, the weather, the fashion, the food, the music, and anything and everything remotely Bendenese... you are EVIL.

Fire Lizards:
- If you like them... you are GOOD.

- If you dismiss them... you are EVIL. (Unless you're Lessa, in which case you are the BESTEST OF ALL BEST PEOPLE, and everyone who dislikes you will die horribly.)

Here endeth the lesson.
deird1: Maximus the horse, holding a sword in his mouth threateningly (Maximus sword)
I've recently realised what story I really want from fiction - and that I'm never going to find it unless I write it myself.

My problem is:
- I really like murder mysteries. (ala Agatha Christie, or Castle)
- I really like modern settings which include magic.
- I really don't like stories in which magic is a big deal. (like the Dresden Files)

And the stories I can get are:
a) murder mysteries that do not include magic at all (like Castle)
b) mysteries which are ALL ABOUT THE MAGIC, and the entire story is about "What kind of magic did they use, and how can we defeat it?"
c) mysteries which are ALL ABOUT THE MAGIC, and the entire story is about "Given that we know this definitely was magic, how can we defeat the evil wizard without the muggles finding out about it?"

I really don't like the "must keep magic secret from the muggles" thing. It's silly and annoying. And I don't like stories in which magic plays a major part.

What I want is a story in which the options for theft include picking locks, bribing guards, walking-through-walls spells, and smashing windows. And the detectives have to figure out how the theft was done - and it could have been any of the above, but probably not an Intangibility Ring, because those cost several thousand dollars each, and why would you use one for petty theft when you could be busy stealing the Mona Lisa?

Or a story in which they know the murderer used the confusion potion they found hidden in the kitchen, and have to use patient detective work to figure out which member of the family owned the potion in the first place.

Or the rookie detective suggests using a "detect guilt" spell on all the suspects, and the team's mage rolls her eyes and says sarcastically "Why don't I just cast a 'solve the case' spell, and then we can all go home early!"

That's the story I've been after for about a decade. And... I'm really going to have to write it myself, aren't I?
deird1: Toph looking pretty (Toph pretty)
Yet another small moment when I realise how different my life is from Agatha Christie's:

Colonel Race looked at his watch.
'Ten-past-twelve. Time for another?'
'You'll excuse me,' said Superintendent Battle. 'But I'm by way of being an "early-to-bed" man.'

Maybe it's just me... but in what twisted universe does leaving a party after midnight count as "early to bed"?
deird1: Dawn looking at Spike, with text "badder than you" (Dawn badder than you)
I gave Alex a Tintin book for his birthday - and hence, read through a Tintin book for the first time in years.

It's... kind of like Nancy Drew.

What I mean is, in ordinary mysteries, the protagonist will discover a set of intriguing and baffling clues, that will slowly lead them to the culprit.

Whereas, in Tintin, what happens is that Tintin finds something purely innocuous. Say... a man has dropped his handkerchief. And Tintin, being a good citizen, picks up the handkerchief and gives it back. Upon which, the man will recognise Tintin, think "Good Lord! Tintin is on my trail!", kidnap him, reveal his part in the evil scheme, and then somehow fail to kill Tintin in his giant death laser.
After this, Tintin will get away from the death laser, get intrigued by this entrancing new mystery, do the smallest of follow-ups - and thus stumble upon the next member of the gang, who will think "Mon Dieu! C'est Tintin!", kidnap him, and reveal a bit more of the evil scheme...

Every. Single. Time. It's uncanny.

cool book

Mar. 23rd, 2012 09:11 am
deird1: Fred reading a book (Fred book)
And next on the list of Books You Should All Read...

No Proper Lady, by Isabel Cooper.

The back cover describes it as "Terminator meets My Fair Lady", and... well, yeah. That's about it.

- Joan, daughter of Arthur and Leia, is a soldier from a post-apocalyptic future. A magical something-or-other went terribly wrong (think The Gift, for instance) and now humanity is losing ground every day.

- So, being at the end of their ropes, the soldiers decide to send Joan back in time - 200 years back in time - to find the man responsible for the eventual end of the world, and kill him.

- Joan comes back in time to 1888, where she meets Simon Grenville - a gentleman who also realises how terrible the villain is, and is happy to help Joan out.

- And the two of them hatch a plan. In which Joan becomes "Mrs MacArthur", and begins to learn enough upper class etiquette to work undercover...

It's really fun! And well written. And if you're in the mood for sci-fi, paranormal, historical, guerrilla warfare with a side-serve of romance... give it a go. It's worth reading.
deird1: chibis of Kitty and Lydia from P&P, with text "fangirls at large" (Kitty Lydia fangirls)
Allow me to recommend a book that I've never actually read...

It's called The Floating Admiral, and it was written in 1931 by "members of the Detection Club" (comprising such people as GK Chesterton, Agatha Christie, and Dorothy L Sayers, among others).

It is an excellent book in every respect. (As far as I can tell - since, you know, I haven't actually read the thing yet.)

But anyway, it works like this:
- Detector 1 writes the first chapter of a murder mystery, sprinkling clues liberally around the crime scene. He also writes down his solution to the mystery that explains everything perfectly, and puts it in a sealed envelope.
- The first chapter (and the sealed envelope) are then passed to Detector 2. She reads the chapter, figures out what clearly happened, and writes the second chapter - along with a sealed envelope containing her solution to the whole thing.
- Those two chapters go to Detector 3, who starts writing the next bit...

According to their rules, every single writer has to have a clear explanation for the mystery in mind, and have everything they write fit with it. And everyone has to take into account every single clue planted by the earlier writers as well.


As Dorothy L Sayers says in the introduction:
Where one writer may have laid down a clue, thinking that it could point only in one obvious direction, succeeding writers have managed to make it point in a direction exactly opposite. ... We are only too much accustomed to let the great detective say airily: "Cannot you see, my dear Watson, that these facts admit of only one interpretation?" After our experience in the matter of The Floating Admiral, our great detectives may have to learn to express themselves more guardedly...
Speaking for myself, I may say that the helpless bewilderment into which I was plunged on receipt of Mr. Milward Kennedy's little bunch of brain-teasers was, apparently, fully equalled by the hideous sensation of bafflement which overcame Father Ronald Knox when, having, as I fondly imagined, cleared up much that was obscure, I handed the problem on to him.

Doesn't it sound brilliant? So very interesting, and YOU SHOULD ALL GO AND READ IT. EVEN THOUGH I HAVEN'T YET.

Reading of strange murder mysteries scheduled for this weekend, during which I expect to squeal with delight at least six times...
deird1: Vimes lighting a cigar using a swamp dragon, with text "Fabricati Diem Pvnc" (Vimes)
Typos in books really annoy me.

This is, to some extent, expected. After all, I'm an editor. My natural inclination upon seeing a typo is to whip out a red pen, correct it, and then reprint the page. And you can't just reprint a book every time you see a mistake.

But in this case, I'm not talking so much about the mundane typos, such as this one in Harry Potter:
"They've already heard. Fang!"

Which, if you think about it, clearly should have been:
"They've already heard Fang!"

Irritating, but perfectly easy to see what was meant.

It's more problematic in, for instance, Agatha Christie books. Where there are constantly lines of dialogue missing.

Seriously! It's hard to notice at first, but if you go through every two-person conversation in the book, assign one line to one person, and then alternate, you'll constantly find it changing person unexpectedly, so that someone has actually answered himself. There are all these lines of dialogue missing that were clearly supposed to be part of the conversation, but accidently left out - and no-one noticed!

And it's too late to ask the author what she'd intended to write - given that she's dead, and all.

Not having a Christie novel on hand, I can't give you an example of this conversational weirdness. I can, however, give an example of an equally irritating typo, from the book that prompted this post. It is as follows:
It had been tasted by three tasters, including Sergeant Detritus, who was unlikely to be poisoned by anything that worked on humans or even by most things that worked on trolls... but probably by most things that worked on trolls.

Given the way Pratchett's writing tends to work, I would assume that this phrasing was clearly leading up to a joke. But, instead of a joke, it's simply repeated the "worked on trolls" bit twice. Typo? I'd say so. And an irritating one - because there's a missing joke! And I DON'T KNOW WHAT IT WAS.

deird1: Rarity, looking disdainful (Rarity)
Penhallow really is one of the worst murder mysteries ever written. Georgette Heyer must have been depressed and annoyed with the world when she wrote it, or something - because I can't possibly conceive of how you'd write this book and call it a murder mystery if you were happy.

In this book:
- An unpleasant family spend 200 or so pages being unpleasant to each other.
- Everyone thinks about how much better it would be if Lord Penhallow died.
- Lord Penhallow dies.
- Everyone keeps being unpleasant.
- Everyone gets depressed about how much life still sucks and wasn't improved by Penhallow's death.
- The murderer kills himself, leaving no indication behind as to why he killed Penhallow.
- The detectives wonder why he did it, concluding that it's a "most unsatisfactory case".
- Life goes on - unpleasantly as ever.

...seriously, what was the point?

There are very clear rules as to what's supposed to happen in murder mysteries. Generally, you have
1) at least one person we like
2) a few fun discussions about the murder
3) a grisly, exciting, baffling murder
4) a happy ending
5) lots of interesting clues that solve the case.

I'm not saying you have to have all of them, but this book doesn't have any! It's horrible, depressing, and seems to have been written purely so Heyer could spend 300 pages proving how much life sucks.

*needs some Christie to take away the bad taste*
deird1: Fred reading a book (Fred book)
It can be rather strange reading books from the 30s.

I'm currently re-reading an Agatha Christie book. So far, Poirot's opinions on the suspects have included:

1) Huge amounts of interest in the murder - not suspicious, because the suspect is a servant, and obsession with death is typical of her class.

2) Offering 50 pounds to buy something that's only worth 20 - highly suspicious, because the suspect is Jewish, and should therefore be good at bargaining.

3) Murder attempts before they were certain that the victim would actually have the huge amounts of money they were being killed for - definitely indicates a female murderer, as women always jump to conclusions.

All of these opinions are being presented as perfectly unremarkable...
deird1: Elizabeth and Darcy getting married (pride and prejudice)
I've been re-reading Rainbow Valley, from the Anne of Green Gables series.

It's funny, because I have distinct memories of thinking the worst two books in the series were Anne's House of Dreams and Rainbow Valley, with Anne of Ingleside as a nice interlude between them. This time around, though, the worst two books are clearly House of Dreams and Ingleside, with Rainbow Valley being really really fun.

(The two very best Anne books are Anne of the Island and Rilla of Ingleside, as all right-thinking people are well aware.)

I think it's largely vegemite effect, really. The first time I read them, Ingleside was a pleasant-enough recovery from the deeply dull House of Dreams, even if it did focus on Anne's children, rather than on Anne herself. And then, horror of horrors, Rainbow Valley kept forgetting what the story was about and wandering off into digressions on completely different people, not even noticing that whole chapters weren't about the Blythes. Silly author!

This time, though, I know what to expect. Ingleside is silly stories about the Blythe children... and actually isn't all that interesting. Whereas Rainbow Valley is about a completely different family, who just happen to share a neighbourhood with characters we've met before.

I'm expecting it to be about the Meredith family - and in fact it is. And it's really fun.

I still find it odd when I discover myself switching opinions like that.
deird1: Andrew - with James Bond style intro (Andrew james bond)
The easiest way to tell innocent and guilty parties apart in books starring Hercule Poirot:

Character who thinks Poirot is awesome and consistently fangirls him: GUILTY

Character who expresses doubts about Poirot's sanity or assumes that he is going gaga: INNOCENT

It never fails.
deird1: Fred reading a book (Fred book)
Here, in no particular order, are various things that really annoy me in novels:

stupid books with their stupidness )
deird1: Andrew - with James Bond style intro (Andrew james bond)
When it comes to fictional detectives, you have:

Miss Marple ("it's just not what he'd do...")
Rick Castle ("this would be a bit more likely - and would make a much better story")
lots of detectives in the middle who are too non-quirky to discuss
Hercule Poirot ("logically, this alarm clock could only have been heard by someone inside the room - so she must have been lying")
Sherlock Holmes ("ahah! footprints! which proves that the crime was committed by a Bolivian man with red hair, money troubles, and a savage history")

Miss Marple is practically using intuition (as well thought-out as her deductions generally are) - and then the continuum goes on into more clue-based territory, putting more and more importance into finding the facts... until we're up to Holmes, who is almost using intuition again.

(Seriously - I read a Sherlock Holmes story once. He found some footprints, measured the distance between them, and spied a gold wedding ring that someone had dropped. From this he deduced forty pages of the villain's personal history. And he was right about every bit of it.)

I tend to prefer my detectives from the Marpleish end of the spectrum. (Although the occasional clue-heavy mystery can be fun.)

Of course, there are also Nancy Drew clones: where the detective runs around speculating wildly until the villain kidnaps them, tells them the whole plot, and then leaves them to get rescued.
They're... kind of strange.
deird1: Fred reading a book (Fred book)
As I mentioned earlier, I’ve been re-reading the Billabong books – and enjoying them, but also laughing quite a bit. They’re so odd.

And yet, from what I’ve seen of the era, they’re exactly like pretty much every other novel written back then. (Except for murder mysteries, which are a different genre and function on entirely separate rules.)

For instance, all the main characters are upstanding and forthright chaps, who never do anything wrong, are good at everything they ever attempt, and are beloved by every person they come into contact with.

And then there’s the plotlines…


Well, just look at this.

rundown of events )


deird1: Fred looking pretty and thoughful (Default)

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