Consulting detective Macallister Fogg and his long-suffering secretary Mrs. Emma Boswell are back and better than ever in their second advent3.5 stars
Consulting detective Macallister Fogg and his long-suffering secretary Mrs. Emma Boswell are back and better than ever in their second adventure. At least, Fogg is better. Because when Lady Hufferton arrives on his doorstep with an unusual request—assassinate her great-great-great-great-great-uncle Dragoslav, an immortal vampire—the previously bumbling Fogg more than rises to the occasion. In fact, he’s suddenly so capable that Mrs. Boswell winds up having absolutely nothing to do with the case’s conclusion. Which wouldn’t be so bad (everyone is due a win sometime, right?) except Mrs. Boswell has inexplicably turned into a screeching harpy, hurling insult after insult at her employer: “lazy”, “impractical”, “impossible”, “idiotic”, and “stark raving mad”, to name just a few. Honestly, you end up feeling quite badly for poor, old Fogg, especially given his newfound competency.
Still, the story of Fogg v. Uncle Dragoslav is quite fun (more fun, I think, than Fogg v. the mummy), and I do love Hodder’s penny dreadful-inspired genre-mixing. I just hope Mrs. Boswell is a bit less tetchy in the future. Sheesh! ...more
In the years before the incomparable Sherlock Holmes drove away the competition, and despite his arrogant claim to be the first of his kind,3.5 stars
In the years before the incomparable Sherlock Holmes drove away the competition, and despite his arrogant claim to be the first of his kind, Baker Street was filled with consulting detectives. Among the investigators who worked out of that famous thoroughfare, none experienced such a capricious career as Mr Macallister Fogg . . .
So begins Mark Hodder in this, the first in a series of short stories starring his own London detective, the aforementioned Mr. Fogg, and his long-suffering secretary Mrs. Emma Boswell. And why, exactly, is she long-suffering? Because Mr. Fogg is, to quote Hodder again, a “feckless dabbler” when it comes to working as a detective, “concerned more with his mechanical inventions and chemical experiments than with the solving of his clients’ problems.”
In “The Master Mummer’s Mummy,” Fogg is primarily interested in driving his newly invented Horseless Wagon to the nearby town of Battersea, in order to provide a colleague with his latest discovery—an anti-gravity formula. Mrs. Boswell, however, is much more interested in solving the mystery of what the heck is going on in Battersea. Why are so many people wearing ancient Egyptian burial masks? Why are they listening to that strange man with the mummy? And who, exactly, is Am-Heh, Devourer of Millions?
It’s a fun story, blending together mystery, comedy, fantasy, and steampunk in equal measure, and a clever send-up of the Sherlock Holmes stories, with Boswell’s Watson constantly saving the bacon of Fogg’s great detective. All in all, a fine introduction to a new series. Bring on more Fogg and Boswell! ...more
Our fearless heroes--last seen scattered throughout space and time in The Restaurant at the End of the Universe--once again reunite, this time to saveOur fearless heroes--last seen scattered throughout space and time in The Restaurant at the End of the Universe--once again reunite, this time to save the universe from nothing less than utter annihilation. Yes, the ancient race of Krikkit has declared war on everything non-Krikkit, and only Arthur and the gang can prevent the impending Armageddon. Because, you know, why not?
Not quite as funny as its predecessors, mainly because of Adams’ inexplicable desire to keep his characters separated for as long as possible. Arthur is too good a straight man to keep away from zany Zaphod, and Zaphod is too funny a character to keep MIA for so long. He doesn’t even show up until chapter 9! And then promptly disappears again until chapter 26! ANNOYING.
Still, I did enjoy meeting one new character--Zem the talking mattress. Zem’s passage ranks right up there with the sperm whale’s from book one. Hilarious!
When last seen in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy our intrepid heroes were zipping across space in a desperate attempt to evade the various groupWhen last seen in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy our intrepid heroes were zipping across space in a desperate attempt to evade the various groups hoping to imprison, torture, and/or kill them. Seems like a strange time to get the munchies, doesn’t it? But anything goes in a Douglas Adams story, so the gang decides to pop into the restaurant at the end of the universe--literally--for a quick nibble. But--surprise!--things soon go awry, and before you can say, "Don't panic," Zaphod and Trillian are off meeting the Ruler of the Universe, while Ford and Arthur get a firsthand look at the beginnings of life on Earth--and it isn’t pretty.
Another funny read from Adams, thanks largely to Zaphod’s increased role. He’s got charisma! Or, as Adams might say, he’s one froody guy. Although I do wish the characters weren’t separated so much. Still, all in all, a fun, zany read. 3.5 stars.
I’m not, generally speaking, a fan of science fiction, but I did enjoy this zany offering from Douglas Adams. Then again, it’s not straight scifi, butI’m not, generally speaking, a fan of science fiction, but I did enjoy this zany offering from Douglas Adams. Then again, it’s not straight scifi, but rather a merger of scifi and comedy--scifomedy, if you will. Nyuk-nyuk-nyuk.
Anyway, the story begins with the destruction of Earth to make way for a hyperspace bypass. Mild-mannered Englishman Arthur Dent manages to escape the catastrophe with the help of his friend Ford Prefect, who is, it turns out, an alien from Betelgeuse 5 and not, as previously claimed, a fellow Englishman from Guildford. Together Arthur and Ford hitchhike across the galaxy, getting into all kinds of trouble and meeting a slew of crazy characters, including: Marvin, the melancholy robot; Trillian, another Earthling escapee; and Zaphod Beeblebrox, the more-than-a-little-loony Galactic President who proves that two heads aren’t necessarily better than one. Oh, and a sperm whale. Can’t forget the sperm whale!
It’s a funny story, thanks primarily to Adams’s wacky sense of humor and his ability to satirize cultural foibles both great and small. Also, a surprising, ah, disregard for Christian theology. So heads up on that if that offends you.
Overall, though, a very amusing book and an excellent start to Adams's space trilogy in five parts. 3.5 stars. ...more
14-year-old Maddy Smith isn’t your average country bumpkin and everyone in her village knows it. They blame her “ruinmark"--the strange, rust-colored14-year-old Maddy Smith isn’t your average country bumpkin and everyone in her village knows it. They blame her “ruinmark"--the strange, rust-colored sigil on her hand--which they say marks her as a witch. But the mysterious traveler One-Eye claims the rune-shaped sign is not a defect, but a destiny--albeit one she may not survive. For it will take all of Maddy’s illegal magic to make it to the end of this twisty-turny tale into the heart of old Norse mythology. And, no, I won’t even attempt to explain the plot more than that, suffice to say that it’s amazingly good, very much like something Neil Gaiman would write after OD-ing on too much Eddas. And now it’s over. Sigh. Sometimes 526 pages just aren’t enough! ...more
A history of England from 1399 to 1649, written by a 16-year-old Jane Austen who had her tongue firmly in cheek.
Declaring herself a “partial, prejudicA history of England from 1399 to 1649, written by a 16-year-old Jane Austen who had her tongue firmly in cheek.
Declaring herself a “partial, prejudiced, & ignorant Historian” on page one, she proceeds to mangle and muddle all the historical facts she can think of in a delightfully droll parody of every dry history textbook you have ever read. Henry IV, we are told, ascended to the throne “after having prevailed on his cousin & predecessor Richard the 2d to resign it to him, & to retire for the rest of his life to Pomfret Castle, where he happened to be murdered.” Henry VI is condemned solely for having been a Lancastrain, while Richard III is deemed “very respectable” for having belonged to the house of York. And Henry VIII’s only virtue, apparently, was “not being quite so bad as his daughter Elizabeth,” herself a “pest to Society” who persecuted the “amiable” and “innocent” Mary Queen of Scots.
Wonderfully witty. Wonderfully wry. And an important look at the girl who would go on to pen Pride and Prejudice in just a few short years time. ...more
Beatrice and Benedick can’t agree on anything—anything!—except that they absolutely, positively, 100 percent cannot stand each other. But do they bothBeatrice and Benedick can’t agree on anything—anything!—except that they absolutely, positively, 100 percent cannot stand each other. But do they both protest too much? Their friends certainly think so, which is why they band together to trick these two prickly paramours into falling in love. The result? A plotline full of masked balls, mistaken identities, and what have to be the cutest "accidentally" overheard conversations in the history of theater. Think The Taming of the Shrew minus the rampant sexism, or, better yet, Pride and Prejudice plus a screwball comedy. Delightful!
But—alas!—Beatrice and Benedick must share equal stage-time with another pair of would-be young lovers, Hero and Claudio, who are, I’m afraid, as bland as unbuttered toast. Yes, these two dumb-dumbs are so lovestruck in each other’s presence that they can hardly speak, much less engage in the witty repartee favored by Beatrice and Benedick. Still, their plotline shifts from chew-your-arm-off boring to “WTF?” when Claudio falsely accuses Hero of infidelity, causing everyone to get a case of the dramas more befitting in Romeo and Juliet than this supposed comedy.
Truthfully, this play probably deserves a mere three stars based on the bizarre tonal shifts in the Hero-Claudio plotline, but I love Beatrice and Benedick too much to ever give their play so little. Four stars it is! ...more
All five of Oscar Wilde’s most famous plays in one handy-dandy volume: Lady Windermere's Fan, A Woman of No Importance, An Ideal Husband, Salome, and,All five of Oscar Wilde’s most famous plays in one handy-dandy volume: Lady Windermere's Fan, A Woman of No Importance, An Ideal Husband, Salome, and, of course, The Importance of Being Earnest, easily the best of the bunch. It’s a comedy of manners about two well-to-do ne’er-do-wells who must both pretend to be the same fictitious character, Ernest Worthing, in order to successfully woo their respective sweethearts. Because a girl can’t trust a man if he isn’t Ernest, right? Yes, it’s a silly premise, but the dialogue is wonderfully witty and wry, so who cares? Lady Windermere’s Fan, A Woman of No Importance, and An Ideal Husband simply can’t compare. They’re still witty, sure, but they’re much more concerned with moralizing and melodrama. (Oh the melodrama!) Still, the only out-right drama is Salomé, a salacious retelling of John the Baptist’s beheading. It’s a highly symbolic, sensual play, and probably my favorite thing after Earnest. ...more
Everyone in the town of Verona, Italy, wants to marry the beautiful Bianca. But--alas!--her father refuses to let her wed until her older, tart-tongueEveryone in the town of Verona, Italy, wants to marry the beautiful Bianca. But--alas!--her father refuses to let her wed until her older, tart-tongued sister Kate takes a husband of her own. Enter Petruchio, a canny young man looking to make some big bucks--which is exactly what Bianca's suitors promise him if he marries Kate. So how will he wooseduce tame his bride-to-be? Why, with a charming mixture of starvation, sleep deprivation, and such honeyed words as:
"She is my goods, my chattels, she is my house, My household stuff, my field, my barn, My horse, my ox, my ass, my anything."
Romantic, no? No. In fact, it’s hard to believe that Shakespeare, penner of such sensational heroines as Juliet and Viola, could ever produce this sexist drivel. Because he certainly didn't do women (or men) any favors with the character of Kate (or Petruchio). Blah!...more
I originally read Emma as a paperback several years ago and did not, I'm afraid, enjoy the experience. AT ALL. The main character was so silly and selI originally read Emma as a paperback several years ago and did not, I'm afraid, enjoy the experience. AT ALL. The main character was so silly and self-centered that it ruined the whole story for me: "We're supposed to root for her?! HER?!! REALLY?!?!" Recently, however, I was convinced to give this audio version a try, and, boy, am I glad I did! The narration by Nadia May is top notch! Not only is she a British woman, so it sounds like Jane Austen herself is reading to you, but May is also adept at using her voice to highlight the humor in Austen's writing, thereby making Emma (who is still as silly and self-centered as ever) much easier to take. And that is DEFINITELY a good thing. ...more