Thursday, December 12, 2019

Review: A Vast Conspiracy: The Real Story of the Sex Scandal That Nearly Brought Down a President

A Vast Conspiracy: The Real Story of the Sex Scandal That Nearly Brought Down a President A Vast Conspiracy: The Real Story of the Sex Scandal That Nearly Brought Down a President by Jeffrey Toobin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read this for two reasons: first, because of the planned season for American Crime Story based in part on this book. Second, having been alive during this time period, I was interested in how it was written.

This is about the Clinton impeachment. And as I read, I remember how it unfolded in the media; I remembered what I thought at the time. I learned things I didn't know, had a better grasp of what was and was not going on.

I'd read that Monica Lewinsky is a producer for the planned season, and I'll say this: this book is not always kind to her. So that she is involved in this makes me respect her all the more: and I do respect the hell out of her, for what she's gone through, and what she's done since.

Back to the book: I'm impressed with how much research was done, and how many people the author talked to, to get so much information, and then to put it together in a narrative that makes sense. If, like me, you're old enough to remember this, it's worth the read to discover what you didn't know. Or, also, to see if as time has passed, any of your judgments have changed.

And if this is "history" to you, it's worth it to read, because what happened then didn't end then. It's helped shape today's political landscape.









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Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Review: The Thirteen Problems

The Thirteen Problems The Thirteen Problems by Agatha Christie
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My commitment to reading Miss Marple in order continues!

Except I read not this version, but the ones in the book of the complete Miss Marple stories.

I like the short stories very much, and I especially liked how these stories were told. A bunch of folks sitting around sharing mysteries they've encountered; Miss Marple manages to figure out each one. And she figures out each story from what is in the story itself; I was reminded of Encyclopedia Brown, actually. Now, some things a modern reader or non British reader may not get; but it was still all there, in the text, to figure out on one's own.

So far, the worst I'm seeing in the books is strong classism -- people knowing their place, as it were, and liking it that way. And of course the British looking down at everyone who isn't them, usually presented in how they view "foreigners."

This is the book I read; and for reasons I'll go into later, I think a Miss Marple read is best for adult and only for those interested in how Christie crafts stories.


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Thursday, December 05, 2019

Review: The Murder at the Vicarage

The Murder at the Vicarage The Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As promised, I've begun my read of the Miss Marple mysteries. I almost wrote "reread" but I honestly am not sure which ones I've read and not read.

So: this was written in 1930 and is set in a small English village and I do wonder if that English country life depicted was true then or not.

What I found interesting:

Miss Marple is not the main character, or the person telling the story. The narrator is the vicar, and it's at the vicarage where the dead body is found. Miss Marple is one of the old ladies of the village, and she pops in and out of the narrative. Ultimately, she does solve the mystery, largely because she knows human nature, the good, the bad, and the ugly. And her knowledge comes from a life lived in a small village, and how living in that small area, living in place where you truly know your neighbors -- you learn that people are capable of terrible things. She's not naive.

I also found it interesting that, based on the publication date, Miss Marple mustn't have been intended as someone who anchors a long series because it was published in 1930. And as you'll soon see, the next Miss Marple novel was written in the 1940s.







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Tuesday, December 03, 2019

Review: Truly Devious

Truly Devious Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What a perfect mystery!

The setting: a remote boarding school for smart and unique teens. Stevie Bell is there for her first year and is a bit intimidated by her classmates. She's just an average kid from an average background; the specialty that got in her into the school?

Her expertise: true crime. Ellingham Academy is the site of an infamous case: back when the school was founded, almost 100 years ago, the school's rich founder lived at the school (or rather, the school was on his estate.) His wife and daughter were kidnapped; ransom was paid, but they were not returned. No one ever figured out who did it, with one of the only clues a note signed "Truly Devious."

Stevie is determined to solve the decades old crime. But in the meanwhile, there is school and classmates, adjustments, parties.

And then: someone is found dead. And Stevie has a real life mystery to solve.

Stevie finds out that death in person is a lot different than death in books, on TV, in podcasts.

OK, I am trying to avoid any spoiler of "who dies" and "who disappears" and what happened. Let me say: I loved this book. I adored the remote setting, very country house mystery in the set up. I loved how the old crime and its aftermath was discussed and portrayed: if you've read up on old crimes such as the Lindbergh kidnapping, you'll nod your head in recognition, in a good way.

I loved the mix of teens -- the school is just for juniors and seniors, and each is unique, and some are endearing and some are annoying. Just like any teen. I loved Stevie trying to figure out her surroundings. I also loved that Stevie has anxiety, and it's part of who she is, but it's not the point of the story.

This is the first in a trilogy. The death that takes place in the book is solved; but the Truly Devious mystery, that's part of the trilogy.

Any last words? I want to visit Ellingham Academy. Just without kidnappings and murders.






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