Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Could Re-read Forever

I admit with so many shiny new books coming along I don’t re-read as much as I used to. Which is a shame because re-reading books is so enjoyable and it’s fun if you come across things you hadn’t noticed before…anyway this is more a ‘Books I have re-read multiple times but now haven’t touched in a while because sadly the day has only 24 hours and I need to sleep occasionally’.


James Barclay: Dawnthief1. James Barclay: Dawnthief

I think I almost immediately went back to re-reading some passages after finishing it the first time. The book just came around at exactly the right time for me and had everything I wanted (mages! elves! an unpredictable plot!) and unlike so many fantasy-novels death wasn’t cheap: with one exception everybody who died, stayed dead (and lots of people died) and the characters actually reacted to those deaths and also didn’t forget about them after a chapter. Now, this does make it sound like an odd choice for a frequent re-read but…well I’m odd 😉

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone2. The Harry Potter Series

I was a fantasy-loving teenager in the late 90s/early 00s. I am sure this is a very surprising addition to this list…




Alexandre Dumas: The Three Musketeers3. Alexandre Dumas: The Three Musketeers

TTM was among the first ‘grown-up’ books I read. I think I was about 12 at the time and it took me a while to get through. Once I had managed it I was very sad about the ending and called two of my stuffed animal Constance and d’Artagnan so at least those could be happy. I still re-read it a couple of times and my love for it has turned into a strange obsession where I’m not only reading the book but also watch so many movie-adaptations…

Some of them are great fun

Scenes of incredible cruelty in д’Артаньян и три мушкетёра (D’Artagnan and the Three Musketeers), 1978
Три мушкетёра (Three Musketeers), 2013, the only version that did the breakfast at La Rochelle properly
Black cats are for beginners. True villains have a huge black dog. д’Артаньян и три мушкетёра (D’Artagnan and the Three Musketeers), 1978
The Three Musketeers (1973) This movie is perfect and I will not hear anything against it.
Aramis regretting his life-choices in д’Артаньян и три мушкетёра (D’Artagnan and the Three Musketeers), 1978

Some are fun but you also wonder if the people who made the movie ever read the book

The Musketeers (2014). I prefer to pretend seasons 2 and 3 don’t exist
Charlton Heston doesn’t even need a black pet in The Three Musketeers (1948)
The Three Musketeers (1993). Where d’Artagnan is Inigo Montoya, Charlie Sheen Aramis, and Porthos a pirate

And some…also exist

D’Artagnan et les trois mousquetaires (2005). The less said about the magical falcons, demons and the orientalism the better.
The Three Musketeers (2011). At least Christoph Waltz had fun

Sorry. I just got carried away…be glad I don’t have more gifs from the really bad versions. North Korean spies-bad. David Hasselhoff and Thomas Gottschalk are in it-bad.

Fun fact: Nowhere in the book does it say that Rochefort wears an eyepatch, just that he has a scar near his eye. However, Christopher Lee wore one in the 74-version and since then approximately 2/3 of all actors playing him have done so as well.

The Musketeer (2001). I remember this movie being cringeworthy and yellow

Where was I? Right. Re-reading books

Terry Pratchett: Men at Arms4. Terry Pratchett: Men at Arms

The correct answer to ‘What is your favourite Discworld-book?’ is obviously ‘Give me a week to write an essay in which I examine every single book in detail.’ but…I love Men at Arms a lot. Because of Angua. I love Angua a lot.



Arthur Conan Doyle: Sherlock Holmes5. Arthur Conan Doyle: Sherlock Holmes

No, I’m not frequently re-reading the complete Sherlock Holmes but some stories I can re-read again and again. Or listen to again and again because Holmes stories are perfectly suited for audio plays. And I love my collection of the Peter Pasetti ones, even if they are based on different translations which means Holmes and Watson sometimes use the formal Sie and sometimes the informal Du with each other. (And let’s not get into the pronunciation of Holmes in some of them…)

The Rivals: Tales of Sherlock Holmes’ Rival Detectives

The Rivals: Tales of Sherlock Holmes' Rival Detectives

Title: The Rivals: Tales of Sherlock Holmes’ Rival Detectives

Lucy Coleman is a journalist who is supposed to write an article about the great Sherlock Holmes. Hoping that somebody who worked together with him several times can share some insight she seeks out Inspector Lestrade. But Inspector Lestrade is sick of Sherlock Holmes (and not only because he is described as rat-faced in these stories). Why is everybody talking about him when there were so many other detectives who solved cases that were just as impressive or even more so than those of Holmes? It doesn’t take Lucy long to persuade Lestrade to tell her about these Rivals.

Rating: D+

The framing of these stories is a bit odd: Lestrade doesn’t only tell the stories, he was involved in some of them. Sometimes only as a bystander who happens to be near the plot and sometimes replacing the character who was the assistant in the original stories. The actual work is still done by Dupin, van Dusen & Co.

The Murders on the Rue Morgue by Edgar Allan Poe

A brutal double-murder in a locked room. How could it have happened? And who would have the motive to murder an unassuming mother and her daughter? Not that detective Dupin is looking for a motive…he has a very unique idea about who the killer might be…(oh come on. Is there anybody left who doesn’t know what’s going on?)

I am not 100% sure if I’ve read that story before. I think I did but my dislike for Poe might also stem from any of his other works I had to read at some point. I did know the twist but that might as well be because so many mysteries make references to it. In any case, listening to the story did not change my opinion on it. It’s stupid. I’ll take any of the weaker Holmes stories over The Murders on the Rue Morgue any day.

The Problem of Cell 13 by Jacques Futrelle

S. F. X. van Dusen makes a bet: in just one week he will escape from a prison cell that is considered inescapable. The director of the prison is, of course, convinced that this is impossible.

But surprisingly it is not! All van Dusen needs is a friend who is in on his plan and willing to help. Well, and he has to hope that the wardens agree to fulfill his strange requests. But then it’s easy…well as long as the cell has the right architectural features. Which honestly makes it a lot less impressive. It’s also all very theoretical: there is no actual crime, nothing is really at stake, it’s just a story to show off how clever van Dusen is.

Murder By Proxy by Matthias McDonnell Bodkin

Jonathan’s uncle Tilley is hell-bent on stopping him from marrying Julia, the woman he loves. He can’t take away Jonathan’s inheritance since it’s entailed but he can refuse to support Jonathan as long as he lives.
When Tilley is murdered and Jonathan is the only one with an opportunity, h
is desperate brother calls on Paul Beck to save Jonathan from the gallows.

Unlike the previous stories, this is very much a classic mystery: an evil uncle, an upright young man who gets caught up in a horrible crime…and it needs a genius detective to discover the ingenious method the true killer used. It’s nothing new but Paul Beck (with his love for gardening) is a nice character. Though I might be slightly biased because in the audio play he is voiced by Anton Lesser, whom I love since Endeavour. A great show by the way and you should all watch it. There was a tiger, once.


Mystery of Redstone Manor by Catherine Louisa Pirkis

Loveday Brooke only wanted to visit St. Paul’s cathedral before she returns home to America but when she finds a dying man there she is drawn into a web of secrets and spies. Fortunately, Loveday is no damsel in distress and knows exactly what to do (even if she has to make it up as she goes along).

On the one hand, it’s very cool to have a female main character who really does things instead of fainting at the first vague sign of danger. But on the other, she has more in common with someone like Richard Hannay than with Sherlock Holmes and I’m just not that much into spy-stories. So my only basis for comparison is the movie The 39 Steps and unlike that Mystery of Redstone Manor does not make me wonder if the writer has ever met a woman so that’s definitely a plus.

The Problem of the Superfluous Finger by Jacques Futrelle

A woman storms into a physician’s practice and demands he should amputate part of her perfectly healthy finger. When he refuses she takes drastic measures. Only a genius like van Dusen can discover the reasoning behind her actions.

Because everyone else is an idiot. Including the bad guys who could have easily gotten away with it if they had had more than one brain cell between them. But as it is van Dusen only appears clever because everyone else is an idiot.

The Clue of the Silver Spoons by Robert Barr

Sophia Gibb asks Eugène Valmont for help. She has hosted a number of dinner parties, always with the same guests. Every time an item from one of the guests was stolen: a watch, some letters or money. The thief could only have been one of the guests but she trusts all of them. So who committed these thefts? And why?

The mystery is nice and has everything I want from that kind of story but Valmont got on my nerves approximately two seconds after he appeared for the first time. I have occasionally complained that many of Holmes’ rivals are just devices who move the plot forward at the right time but have no characteristics of any kind.
Valmont has characteristics: he likes food. Like really. Not any food, good food. He will literally not shut up about food. We first meet him in a restaurant where he eats and talks about eating. When Sophia Gibb asks for his help he immediately mentions the cook she employs who is apparently pretty famous…that’s not really a good characterisation.

The Intangible Clue by Anna Katherine Green

Lady Violet investigates the brutal murder of an old woman. The woman lived alone, the houses beside her own are empty so no neighbor could have seen or heard anything. The murder left nothing behind. So how should she solve this case?

This is the first story where the whole set-up of the framing-device goes badly wrong. Because at the beginning of The Intangible Clue, Lestrade announces that Holmes could solve a case where the only clue where five orange pips but that he never solved a case where there were no clues at all.
The no clues Lady Violet has are: footprints in the dust, a teakettle and an eyewitness who conveniently turns up. The way she reads these clues is still clever and impressive but not cleverer than anything Holmes does.

Apart from that (spoiler. Highlight to show) there is a strange scene at the end where they imply that Violet murdered her own husband. I don’t think that it is part of the original stories (but I only glanced over them) and I don’t see the point of it.

The Game Played in the Dark by Ernest Bramah

Max Carrados works on a case involving missing compromising letters which could derail an upcoming royal wedding. But in the middle of that investigation, he is asked to investigate the theft of valuable coins, and events take a surprising turn.

Max Carrados is a blind detective. And having a disabled main character in a story from that era does make for interesting reading. But it feels like Carrados has to ‘make up’ for his blindness by being even more of a genius than all the other genius Victorian detectives. Not only can he distinguish smells and sounds in an instant, he also makes his deductions in record-speed, and never worries about anything.
Many of Holmes’s contemporaries are dull because they have no character. Carrados is boring because he’s an absolute superhuman.

The Knight’s Cross Signal Problem by Ernest Bramah

A train-crash leaves more than 30 people dead. The cause seems to be a human error: the train-driver swears the signal light was green, the signalman swears it was red. While trying to figure out who is lying Carrados soon discovers that much more sinister forces are at play.

In my review for Foreign Bodies I mentioned that I know I have to expect problematic content in old stories but that I also wonder why modern editors can’t take some care when selecting stories for new anthologies. And this is again the case here. The bad guy in this story objects to the actions of the British Empire in India…but since we can’t have a criminal with actually reasonable motives he’s actually just in it for the money because really all these Indians shouldn’t complain…or something.

And because that isn’t enough the audio play adds some Fenians that weren’t even part of the original story. The only reason for this is too add some more problematic elements to the story…tumblr_nb05e9Wl3H1tiqwkoo1_500

A Snapshot by Matthias McDonnell Bodkin

When old Carmondy is murdered the culprit seems to be clear. After all, he has done everything to stop his niece Margaret from marrying Gore even though he and Margaret love each other. Carmondy even threatens to expose a dark secret from Gore’s past. But as it turns out he wasn’t the only one with a motive.

Once again, I want to question the choices of the person who put together this anthology. Though this time it’s not because of any offensive contents but rather because the basic premise ‘evil uncle keeping young lovers apart and then gets murdered’ is exactly the same as the other Bodkin-story. (Or was he simply not a very original writer?)
Beck remains a character who walks the line between ‘dull plot-device’ and ‘quirky for the sake of quirkiness’ and behind the somewhat unoriginal plot, the story gets much darker than one would expect. There’s an allusion to sexual abuse (which might not have been in the original) and a proper look at the darker parts of the British Empire (looking at the author, this could well have been in the original but since the Beck stories aren’t available online I can’t confirm that). Overall, I enjoyed this one as well, even though this time Beck wasn’t played by Anton Lesser.

Seven-Seven-Seven City by Julius Chambers

Thanks to faulty telephone-wiring Edith overhears a couple planning to murder the woman’s husband. She has to stop them. But how, when she doesn’t know their names or where and when they are planning to strike?

Well, as it turns out there are convenient trains and church bells in the background that help Edith with locating the place the call came from (she won’t be the last detective that is helped by such coincidences but – considering the story was originally published in 1903 – she might well have been the first). Apart from the novelty of a phone-based mystery the story also offers also a surprising twist and a nice Miss Marple-like sleuth. Nothing outstanding but interesting.

The Moabite Cypher by R Austen Freeman

Lestrade is supposed to protect Pastor Wayne Kaplan, an American preacher who claims to have healing powers and who has received death-threats. Things take a surprising turn when he runs into Dr. Thorndyke – and then both of them into a dying thief who has a mysterious letter in his possession.

Well…despite the addition of the pastor this is still the same story about which I already talked and about which my thoughts haven’t changed.


In the end, I wasn’t too fond of this collection. For once because of the choice of stories: it turns out I’m not overwhelmed by either van Dusen or Max Carrados and they featured in two stories each. But I also think ‘bitter Lestrade screaming about detectives that were so much better than Holmes’ doesn’t work too well. It starts out OK, with him only pointing out that others also did great work but that everybody only talks about Holmes. But with time it turns into ‘actually Holmes sucked, he is only famous because of Watson, all other detectives were better and also Holmes and Watson were always mean to me’.

I don’t think that’s a particularly clever marketing strategy for a collection that has Sherlock Holmes in quite huge letters on the cover and which is probably aimed at people like me – people who like Holmes but are also curious about the other detectives of that time.

Alice Starmore: Glamourie

35069924Title: Glamourie
Authors: Alice & Jade Starmore

Glamourie is a Scots word meaning a charmed condition in which everything is invested with magical properties and possibilities. In this unique book, Alice Starmore leads us into the realm of glamourie and —like the witches of Gaelic folklore —casts spells with needles and a single thread. Taking her daughter Jade’s supernatural stories as inspiration, she uses the art of hand knitting to bewitch and bedazzle and illustrates the tales with elaborate costumes and accessories that portray fanciful and extraordinary ideas.
In creating these costumes, she has powerfully demonstrated the glamourie that can flow from the twin wands of a master magician.
While the first half of this book is an unrestrained flight of fancy, the second half contains full instructions for knitting beautiful garments based upon each costume, all written with Alice Starmore’s trademark accuracy and precision.
By developing each of these patterns from its associated costume, she has revealed how her mind works and how her imagination led her from the initial inspiration through to the final design.
Alice and Jade Starmore are from the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides, and its moody Celtic landscape is the backdrop to the stories, costumes, and designs they have created. The final stage of Glamourie was to take their creations back out into that landscape to be photographed. They trekked to special locations, far off the beaten track, and Jade’s spectacular photographs depict both the sweeping panorama and the minute detail of their beloved native isle. Three years in the making, this combination of photography and fable, of highly conceptual design and practical instruction, will enchant not only knitters but also those in the fashion and costume world and readers fascinated by Scottish and Gaelic legends.

Alice Starmore’s Tudor Roses featured patterns inspired by the Tudor women, each of which is introduced by a short text, told from the point of view of that women. It’s a really nice idea and the short texts made me curious enough to look up some of the women. (Because my knowledge of the Tudors begins with Divorced, Beheaded, Died, Divorced, Beheaded, Survived and ends with knowing that Elisabeth I existed). Glamourie does something similar: every design is introduced with a short story about the creature that inspired the design, written by Jade Starmore. Additionally, Alice Starmore talks about her creative process behind the design and some of her own thoughts about the creature or her own experiences with them.

Here’s the thing: Jade Starmore’s fables are…nice. Cute, a bit cheesy and full of important morals like everything must dienothing always stays the same or having your heart broken is painful. Now I’m not criticising the lack of literary merit in the intro-texts of a knitting book but they are a part of this book. And they are not that great.

Meanwhile, Alice Starmore’s notes about her inspiration read a lot like those food-blogs where you have to suffer through the blogger telling you all about the first time they ever experienced snow when really, all you want is that Christmas cookie recipe they promised. I do not care about any person enough to be interested in their experience of completely ordinary things. And I definitely do not care what the ravens near Starmore’s house use to built their nests.

But this is a knitting-book after all, and the important thing about that are the patterns and the photos. Because I have a few knitting books with very atmospheric photos that match the theme of the book but you barely recognize any details about the item because it’s just a tiny part of a blurry photograph. Or the model is wearing so many other fancy clothes and the background is so busy that you can’t really focus on what should actually be the focus of the picture.

This is definitely not the case in Glamourie.  The photos are gorgeous. All are taken outside in front of a simple background (the sea, a field or a big rock) that perfectly matches the garment, without taking attention away from it. The same goes for the clothes the models wear with the knitwear: they perfectly compliment them but never distract from the actual garment. There’s also a lot of pictures of the designs, giving you the possibility to see them from more than one angle and from closeup and further away. Some designs are even shown in two different colours, which gives you an opportunity to actually see how that looks like instead of just imagining it.

Now for the patterns… Well, first, you have to know that Glamourie is divided into two parts: Costumes and Designs. The costumes are directly inspired by the stories (and you can have a look at them here) and are mostly…well costumes. Very few people would wear any of these things in everyday life. The costumes do not come with patterns. They are in the book to show off gorgeous photographs and some mediocre writing.

The designs are what Starmore describes as costumes ‘with the usual constraints applied to them’. They come with a pattern and are more wearable than the costumes. And yes they are also very beautiful (you can see them here). I can also understand, that adapting some of the costumes (especially the Raven and the Lapwing) for different sizes would be hard and that not too many people would want to knit something so complex when it has very limited use as everyday wear. On the other hand, there are certainly a lot of people who would want to knit a nice cabled sweater, a pretty colourwork cardigan or a fancy poncho.

Only: Glamorie costs around £42. Do you want to pay that amount for a total of 11 patterns of nice cabled sweaters, pretty colourwork cardigans, and fancy ponchos? I’m not even saying that it’s not worth that amount. Because I see those photographs and all the work that has obviously been put into the costumes, the designs and the photographs themselves (a few of the clothes the models are wearing with the knitted items are also handsewn). They mention that this book took three years of work and I believe that immediately. But at the same time: I just checked and if I put my last eight Ravely purchases together I’ll end up with slightly less than that. And two of those were actually not single patterns but whole books (one with 16 patterns, one with 4). So that gives me more than twice the amount of patterns for less than the price of this book. In other words, I can go and buy a book with nice patterns and pay for those patterns and lots of pretty things surrounding those patterns or go on Ravelry (or in my LYS) and look at some nice single patterns or perhaps a different book with nice patterns that costs perhaps half of that. And I’m much more likely to do the latter because no matter how gorgeous the photographs are, I can’t do more than look at them and say ‘well aren’t they gorgeous?’. And while I do occasionally spend money on things that are pretty and nothing more, this is still a bit much for a book that will mostly be closed on a shelf somewhere.

ARC provided by NetGalley

February 20: Books I’ve Decided I’m No Longer Interested In Reading

Now here’s the thing: I do try to keep my Goodreads-shelves at least somewhat tidy. That means I have my to-read shelf which only has books that I already own (though not all of them because I’m lazy), a wishlist-shelf with books I really want (upcoming books in series I’m reading and books that came warmly recommended by trustworthy people), and a maybe-shelf with books that sound interesting but where I want to check out reviews/samples first before I make a final decision. Of course, sometimes that decision is ‘I do not want to read it’ but I honestly don’t remember too many books that I kicked off that list because I didn’t feel strongly about them in the first place.

So most of these are books I actually owned (or had at least borrowed) and then decided that I’d rather not. Also, I don’t manage 10 because I’m more likely to give a book at least a chance before I toss them.


Leonie Swann: Garou1. Leonie Swann: Garou

Once upon a time, Glennkill was a big hit in Germany. A crime-novel in which sheep solve the murder of their shepherd. I read it and found it…cute. Garou is the sequel to it but in the end, I decided that ‘cute’ alone isn’t enough to make me read the second book and the book wasn’t much more than cute.

Jane Austen: Emma2. Jane Austen: Emma

I have watched the movie and that was enough to tell me that I won’t enjoy the book, either. I just don’t like Emma, the character. She’s a horrible person who manipulates others because she thinks she knows better than they do what’s best for them.
Before you say anything: I’m aware that all Austen heroines (and heroes) have to learn their lesson and that Emma meant well but the thing is…I don’t care. She simply has character-traits that annoy me a lot and I don’t see why I should suffer reading about that for ages before she learns her lesson.

3. Bernhard Hennen: Die Elfen-books

The first book Die Elfen (The Elves) came out shortly after the Lord of the Rings movies and very much tried to ride on its popularity. But to be fair: it’s not just Middle Earth fanfic with the serial numbers filed off. Both take inspiration from Nordic mythology but do very different things with them. And I even enjoyed Die Elfen, a lot. Enough that I got the final two books in the trilogy at once and also picked up the box-set with all the Elfenritter audiobooks without quite knowing how that series connected to the original one.

But when I took a closer look at Elfenwinter I noticed that it wasn’t actually a sequel to Die Elfen but set somehow at the same time but in a different place with different main characters. But the main characters (or rather one of them) was the main reason I enjoyed the first book so much. I decided to give Elfenritter a try then but didn’t even made it through the first book (I am so tired of fantasy novels with stories in which a thinly veiled version of Christianity threatens the Old Ways and tries to burn people). In the end, I threw all of them out.

Leigh Bardugo - Shadow and Bone4. Leigh Bardugo: Shadow and Bone

This is a book I never owned a copy of but I heard so much good about it, I really wanted to give it a try. And then I read Six of Crows by the author and it was…nice. Not great but not bad either and it made me curious about the sequel which I read… and didn’t enjoy at all. And the main reason for that was that it frequently read like an author’s first book. Bardugo tries to trick you into thinking something goes terribly wrong…only it all goes perfectly fine, the current POV-character is just lying to you. That’s bad style.

So after that my desire to try out an actual earlier work by the author diminished. And then the book came up in a discussion with a Russian friend and she screamed “Grisha! The powerful and intimidating mages are called Grishas. That’s like somebody writing a Germanic-fantasy novel where the mages are called Gretchen.” And I will never be able to unthink this which means I probably won’t be able to take the book serious anyway.

Colum McCann: Everything in this country must5. Colum McCann: Everything In This Country Must

I have not much to say about this except that I read ‘Hunger Strike’ by the author during my teenage ALL THE IRISH THINGS-phase and to be honest I was too young to really get it. I got Everything In This Country Must anyway because ALL THE IRISH THINGS and forgot about it. Recently I found it again, skimmed a few passages and decided that it wasn’t really my thing.




Dieter Breuers: Ritter, Mönch und Bauersleut: Eine unterhaltsame Geschichte des Mittelalters6. Dieter Breuers: Knights, Monks and Farmers – An entertaining history of the Middle Ages

I picked this up during a library sale because the chapter-titles were hilarious and history! Middle-ages! But since then I realized something: I don’t care about generic medieval history that much. I enjoyed Rebecca Gable’s Von Rastlosen und Löwenherzen about the English middle-ages (and if you know German I can only recommend it), I’ve read books about Russian and Irish history and want to dig deeper into those topics (and a few more) but I don’t need a book that focusses mostly on German/Western European middle-ages (and is of questionable veracity anyway, if the Amazon-reviews can be believed).

Foreign Bodies


Title: Foreign Bodies
Editor: Martin Edwards

Today, translated crime fiction is in vogue – but this was not always the case. A century before Scandi noir, writers across Europe and beyond were publishing detective stories of high quality. Often these did not appear in English and they have been known only by a small number of experts. This is the first ever collection of classic crime in translation from the golden age of the genre in the 20th century. Many of these stories are exceptionally rare, and several have been translated for the first time to appear in this volume. Martin Edwards has selected gems of classic crime from Denmark to Japan and many points in between. Fascinating stories give an insight into the cosmopolitan cultures (and crime-writing traditions) of diverse places including Mexico, France, Russia, Germany and the Netherlands.

Rating: B-

Anton Chekhov: The Swedish Match

A murder has happened. The victim was far from popular so there’s no shortage of suspect. Enter the eager detective who finds important clues (likes the eponymous Swedish match), makes lots of deduction (much to the chagrin of his colleagues) and just won’t stop investigating. His final conclusion shocks everybody…but is he right?

It actually reads more like an author had gone ‘I’m bloody sick of this Holmes and how every little scrap he finds tells him volumes. I’ll write a character using his methods and have him end up in a really awkward situation because of it’, only that The Swedish Match is from 1883, which is a bit early for a Holmes-parody, considering A Study in Scarlet wasn’t published till 1887

It’s not great: there are lots of coincidences, and suspects appear at the drop of a hat without having been mentioned before. No matter how many crime-novels you’ve read before you will not guess the resolution. It still is an amusing story and (as somebody who had to read Lady with Dog for university and went to see a questionable version of Uncle Wanja neither of which could awaken my admiration for Chekhov), it did make me curious about some of his other works, since the introduction mentioned he wrote quite a few detective stories.

Continue reading “Foreign Bodies”

Véronique Enginger: Retro Cross Stitch

36663314Title: 500 Patterns, French Charm for Your Stitchwork
Author: Véronique Enginger

Enter this deliciously vintage universe of 500 patterns and add a touch of nostalgia to your stitchwork. Recreate 1800s and 1900s fashion house designs and milliners’ catalogues. Take your cross stitch on a bon voyage into the past with traveling motifs like trunk labels of exotic destinations and railroad advertising posters. Other sections of patterns feature tea and coffee motifs, and daily life in vintage terms. Many of the designs include multiple scenes and motifs, offering you hundreds of components to use in a myriad of ways. Throughout, be inspired by “mood boards” of completed motifs, along with photos of projects that will show off your creations in daily life.


While there are medium-sized and large patterns in this book, a lot are really tiny motifs: tea-cups, flowers, stamps, bottles…all in a nice vintage-style. There’s also a fair number of small patterns that are almost identical but for the colour scheme. Now, I don’t mind either of these things. I’m more likely to add a cute little motif to a birthday-card than to stitch a whole sampler (I don’t have any wall to hang it on anyway) and the motifs are the perfect size for small projects. I’m also fine with the near-identical patterns. Sure everybody can just replace one colour with another but that doesn’t mean that the colours work well together. It’s nice that someone else has done the work of picking matching colours for you.

My issues with this book are somewhere else: there’s barely any pictures of the finished projects. Sure, I’m not expecting pictures of every single finished item, including the tiny ones that are only a few stitches wide. But for the larger motifs, I would like to have a better idea of the look of the finished item than the pattern alone can give me. It is coloured so you have a rough idea of how it will look but ‘rough idea’ isn’t enough for 10+ hours of work.

And on another note: Dear Authors. Google Translate is not your friend. People who actually speak the language are.
One section has travel-motifs, including one that has Russia in Russian written on it. Only in the pattern, it’s spelled Россйя when it should be Россия (transcribed that would be something like Rossjja instead of Rossija). A few pages later there’s a caviar-box that says икрá (ikra) with a stress-mark over the last letter, which is how you would find the word in a dictionary but not anywhere in print. My guess is the author just looked up the word in some online-dictionary and the и/й is also just a stress-mark and no competent speaker told her that a) she wouldn’t have needed it and b) it makes it look like a different letter.

Other patterns also contain text in Spanish, possibly-Hindi, Japanese, Greek, Chinese and probably some other languages I just missed but I am very reluctant to stitch these since I assume the author took as much care with proof-reading those as she did with Russian. I don’t want to make a card for one of my multilingual friends only to hear:


There aren’t too many motifs with texts (that aren’t in French, but I do assume the author knows her own language) so I am not loosing out too much but this kind of sloppiness still bugs me. And, as said, there really aren’t enough pictures of finished objects. I enjoy the motifs in this book more than those in the author’s other book (Fables & Fairy Tales to Cross Stitch) which was too pastel for my taste but it at least showed how the end product will look.

ARC provided by NetGalley

February 6: Books That Have Been On My TBR the Longest and I Still Haven’t Read

Robert Kee: The Green Flag - A History of Irish Nationalism1. Robert Kee: The Green Flag – A History of Irish Nationalism

Remember the times before e-readers? When you could only take a few books on holidays because you couldn’t just take a second suitcase full of books with you? In these dark days, I went to St. Petersburg. And I had not taken enough books with me and there was only a limited choice of English language books in the book-stores. And since Irish history interests me I got that. And I even started it (because no books) so it’s not strictly speaking tbr-pile. But I only read perhaps 100 pages of it before I flew back and then got distracted by other books.

Sharon Kay Penman: When Christ and His Saints Slept2. Sharon Kay Penman: When Christ and His Saints Slept

When I did my A-levels Bavarian schools required something called Facharbeit to get them. It is supposed to prepare you for term-papers at university and has the same rules about length, citations etc. But you only have to write one and almost have one year to complete it. My topic was The Historic Background of Ellis Peters’ Cadfael Novels which mostly meant: The English Civil war between King Stephen and Empress Matilda. It is still sort of a step-child of English history topics. Everyone knows about the War of the Roses or Henry VIII and there’s tons of fiction and non-fiction written about them. Stephen and Matilda? Not so much. And when I wrote the paper it was even worse. I found exactly on non-fiction book about it. Which is why I got desperate enough to buy a novel about it in the hope there was something I could use. (I ended up quoting parts of the introduction…my teacher didn’t complain). But after handing in the paper I just did not want to hear anything about the topic for a while and then I forgot about the book.

Lady Gregory: Complete Irish Mythology3. Lady Gregory: Complete Irish Mythology

There is nothing much to say about this. I can very easily be persuaded to buy things that have ‘Ireland’ written on them so I picked that up somewhere because of that (and because it was cheap) but never was really in the mood for it.

Sally R. Munt: Murder by the Books? Feminism and the Crime Novels4. Sally R. Munt: Murder by the Books? Feminism and the Crime Novels

I think I bought that when I lived in Belfast. Round the corner of No Alibis, a book-store that specialises in crime novels. It’s an interesting topic but I always forget that I even own it. And then I go through my tbr-pile and see it again but just at that moment have something much more interesting to read…

Neil Gaiman: American Gods5. Neil Gaiman: American Gods

I bought it because I felt I should read something Gaiman wrote on his own (I only read Good Omens and loved that) but then a friend of mine read it and was not overwhelmed and usually, we have a very similar taste in books so my desire to read has dropped. And every time I see it I think ‘I could read it…or something I’d be more likely to enjoy’.

Erica Fischer: Aimée & Jaguar6. Erica Fischer: Aimée & Jaguar

When I just looked at this book I realised that it has a sticker from the library next to my school, which means I picked it up when they had a sale of their old books. It’s been a while since I went to school and the library or their sales so I also have this for a long time. But every time I pick it up I think about how depressing it will be…

Robert Graves: I, Claudius7. Robert Graves: I, Claudius

I picked this up after I started watching the show I, Claudius because Derek Jacobi was in it and I love him a lot (bonus task: he has a connection to one of the other books on here. Which?). I enjoyed the show and even started the book but then something more interesting came along and I forgot about it.

Ann Bronte: The Tenant of Wildfell Hall8. Ann Bronte: The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

I read and enjoyed Jane Eyre and while I can understand every person who despises Wuthering Heights I certainly found reading it an experience. So it’s logical that I would also check out the last Bronte-sister. But classics, much like non-fiction always run into the danger of catching a lot of dust on my shelves before I pick them up.

Gyles Brandreth: Oscar Wilde and the Murders at Reading Gaol9. Gyles Brandreth: Oscar Wilde and the Murders at Reading Gaol

This is one of those books where I don’t even have a halfway good reason why it’s been on my tbr-pile for so long. It certainly looks like it would be quite a quick read (unlike the rest of the books on this list) but I just never read it.

Marcel Reich-Ranicki: Mein Leben10. Marcel Reich-Ranicki: Mein Leben

This, on the other hand, is again a book of intimidating length (she said, despite never having any trouble with fantasy doorstoppers) and one that will also be not an easy read because the author also talks about his experiences during the Holocaust. Additionally, I have already listened to the audio-book but only the abridged one on two CDs (of a book with 500+ pages). Still it always makes me go ‘well, I have already read it…kind of’.

The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes: Thorndyke & Pringle

As part of my The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes Project I’m reading other Victorian (and occasionally Edwardian) detectives. I decided to start with R. Austin Freeman who wrote the Dr. Thorndyke and the Romney Pringle stories (the latter together with John Pitcairn (and under the pseudonym Clifford Ashdown)).

Today’s stories – two with Thorndyke and one with Pringle – were all filmed as part of The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes ITV-series and can be found in the accompanying book.

I have read Thorndyke-stories before and he is one of the rivals I’ve really enjoyed. Thorndyke occasional shares Holmes’ tendency to tell a man’s life-story from the way his clothes and hands look but most of the time he is more grounded in real science. As forensics/the history of forensics has fascinated me since my mother gave me her Jürgen Thorwald’s The Century of the Detectives-books, Thorndyke does have a soft spot in my heart. Even if he does occasionally share the blandness of many of Holmes’ colleagues.

I haven’t read any of the stories previously, but the two Thorndyke episodes were the only ones I watched from the TV-show. (However, I have forgotten everything about them, except for a memorable but plot-irrelevant scene from The Moabite Cypher).

Romney Pringle, on the other hand, is someone I hadn’t heard of before so I don’t know what to expect at all.

A Message from the Deep Sea (Dr. John Thorndyke)

A young woman is found murdered with a strand of long red hairs in her hand. When the police discover that her romantic rival has long red hair they don’t look further. Dr. Thorndyke, however, does.

Overall, the story is rather average but I do find it interesting that this is a case featuring a murdered young woman when I can barely remember Holmes-stories featuring women as murder-victims. And the women in this story also feel more real. Jealousy is not the most original of plots but a refreshing difference from Doyle’s beloved ‘I never did anything immoral. However, there was this one time I did something I won’t give any details about but which was in no way wrong. And if my husband who dearly loves me but who also is such an honest man would learn about this time where I didn’t do anything wrong he would die of shame.’-blackmail plots. Of course, everybody just wanted to be published in Victorian times and so it’s not like this story is full of juicy details. But I can’t deny that most of Freeman’s female characters feel more real than Doyle’s.

The mystery itself is pretty average. Of course, the police and their experts are useless and of course, only Thorndyke is clever enough to look further than them. Not unusual for these kinds of stories. Neither is Thorndyke’s penchant for a presenting his findings in a very dramatic way. But I couldn’t help thinking that (Spoiler: Highlight to show)

it seems like a bit of a stretch that only Thorndyke noticed that the hair wasn’t torn out does seem.

So: fun but nothing special.

The Moabite Cipher (Dr. Thorndyke)

The police fear that a certain person is part of a group that plans an assassination attempt on a high-ranking person. Unfortunately, their attempt to shadow him misfires and the suspect ends up dead. The only clue he was carrying with him is a message written in an incomprehensible cipher.

A mysterious cipher! An even more mysterious man who is worried about his brother’s health! And of course, it needs Thorndyke’s genius to figure out the connection. (Well, and a Marsh test).

That is exactly the kind of story I love. It has twists and turns and ends up somewhere you would have never guessed at the start. Sadly, it is also yet another instance of ‘this ominous foreigner who is also Jewish and did we mention ominous and probably evil?’, which is a frequent occurrence in Thorndyke-stories.


The Assyrian Rejuvenator (Romney Pringle)

By chance, Pringle discovers a company that cons people with a machine called ‘The Assyrian Rejuvenator’ that promises eternal youth. He decides to step in…

Wikipedia describes Romney Pringle as ‘reformed con-artist’ but this story seems to be from a time where he wasn’t yet reformed for all he does here is conning a different con-artist and then continuing that con on his own. And well…that’s not particularly endearing. I enjoy the occasional heist-story about loveable and clever rogues taking money from questionable characters that have more money than they can ever spend but it’s not that kind of con. Pringle isn’t even extraordinarily clever. He’s cunning and at the right place at the right time. His victims are average people who are somewhat stupid.

It seems that this is the first Pringle-story, so I assume the actual ‘reformed’ part will come in the later ones but I’m not exactly burning to check them out.


Since all the stories were also filmed for the eponymous series I (re)watched them as well. The Pringle-story manages to make him even more unlikeable: he doesn’t only con innocent people, he also endangers them. I think that this particular flavour of 70s humour isn’t my cup of tea.

The two Thorndyke-stories, on the other hand, make me wish we had gotten a whole series of him. Though they admittedly took some artistic license with canon and ‘Holmesified’ Thorndyke a bit; on the page, he never insisted “You know exactly as much as I do Watson Jarvis, you can also solve this case as well as I can”. They also added a vain streak that isn’t quite as prominent in the books. But they also gave him a snarky Jarvis who has no qualms pointing exactly that out. More episodes with that duo could have been really enjoyable (especially since the also reduced the number of ominous Jewish people in the adaptations…which in one case meant turning a character Irish but…it’s the thought that counts…)

Véronique Enginger: Fables& Fairy Tales to Cross Stitch

cover126557-mediumTitle: Fables& Fairy Tales to Cross Stitch
Author: Véronique Enginger
Create lovely new “once upon a time” keepsakes with these 44 cross stitch patterns, blending the traditional style of France with a charming contemporary simplicity. The designs are eye-catchingly lovely with their subtle colors, gentle humor, and delicate lines. They’re all here: wily foxes, big bad wolves, city mice and country mice…not to mention princesses, enchanted worlds, and fun rhymes. Many include multiple scenes and motifs, offering you dozens more components to use in a myriad of ways. Along with the patterns, enjoy instructions for 22 projects to show off your stitchwork: luggage tags, mobiles, cookie tins, quilts, a cuddly toy with its own sleeping bag, and more.

The book is divided into three chapters: Fables, Fairy-Tales and French Nursery Rhymes, every one offering between 10 and 20 cross-stitch patterns inspired by them. Each comes with a photo of the finished cross-stitch. Most of those are large pictures (ca. 120*130 stitches) illustrating a scene from the story and it would be hard to pick out a small part of it to stitch it as a seperate picture. But a few are more a collection of smaller images, where it would be easy to take out one to e.g. decorate a card (and the fairy tale chapter even includes a set of small patterns for generic fairy tale images like dragons and witches).

The book also offers instructions for projects that can be made out of the finished cross-stitches: a pillow, a sleeping bag for stuffed animals, a book-cover, an apron and much more. The instructions call for one specific pattern for each item but since most of those are for the whole images that are all of similar size, nobody stops you from replacing The Princess on the Pea with Snow White on the pillow.

Now the pattern themselves are…very very cutesy. I don’t think I will make any of the large pictures for myself but stick to decorating smaller items like birthday-cards with butterflies or crowns. I’m not saying that I was expecting a dark and subverted interpretation of fairy tales. But it is possible to illustrate those stories and stay true to them without drowning everything in pastels.

ARC provided by NetGalley

[Podcasts] Deadly Manners

deadly+manners+site+homeDeadly Manners is a 10 episode, dark comedy murder-mystery series set in the winter of 1954. It follows the events during the night of the affluent Billings family annual dinner party with their distinguished, eccentric guests. However, all is not fun and games as shortly after the party starts, a snowstorm begins to rage outside, trapping all the partygoers inside their host’s mansion. When a murderer starts killing off those in attendance, the guests must figure out who is responsible, or at least how to stay alive — lest they be next. 

Listen to it here (or wherever you listen to podcasts)

Deadly Manners‘ biggest problem is that it doesn’t quite know what it wants to do. Poke fun at old-timey country house murder mysteries where the guests are always surprisingly unperturbed by multiple people dropping dead in a short time-span? Because it does that now and then. Guests lament that the dinner will take longer with a body in the kitchen or exclaim that the fourth murder now really makes the hostess look bad and I grinned at a few of these bits. But I also couldn’t help thinking of the older adaptations of And Then There Were None or Edgar Wallace’s Das Indische Tuch which played exactly that ridiculousness completely straight, with stoic butlers asking if Sir already knows how many plates will be needed for the breakfast tomorrow or – if it turns out that after another sudden and unexpected death – there is one plate too many, remove it with the same stoicism. And compared to that Deadly Manners always comes over as trying too hard. It drops these sentences in the middle of a conversation without caring about what comes before or after them.

But perhaps Deadly Manners has a slightly more serious intent and wants to make a point about old-timey country house murder mysteries always being very white and straight as well as very apolitical? Because among the main characters is a black woman (originally from Liberia and adopted by white American parents at a very young age), a Jewish couple and some secret Lesbians and McCarthy’s ghost makes his appearance (not literally). But they never really go deep into any of this. Half the characters drop some casual antisemitic stuff in between finding yet another body and discovering yet another dark secret. Olivia, the adopted daughter, argues about the effects of colonialism on Liberia and gets essentially told not to worry her pretty little head about this. But those scenes also hang in thin air. There are no consequences, nobody has a genuine change of heart.  It feels like somebody had had an all-white script and decided it needed to be more diverse, swapped some characters but not given it any more thought.

And all of this ended in a finale that possibly also wants to poke fun at the kind of mysteries that lay open every character’s past sins in the final chapter but it just didn’t work for me. It was too far-fetched, too ridiculous and silly. Perhaps I wouldn’t have minded it as much if the rest of it had captured me more. But as it is, I’ll give the possibly 2nd season a miss.