Review: The Agatha Raisin Series by MC Beaton

I love Agatha Raisin. I came across this series of light British mysteries one day in the library. They are the perfect read for me for a snowy weekend. Agatha is quite a character – a bit of a cross between Miss Marple and Kinsey Millhone, while still being uniquely herself. I love mysteries – but I don’t like graphic violence. I also am bored by the “perfect” heroine who always seems to be a tough but beautiful cop, who is physically superb and about 32 years old. Agatha is a bit of a grump, middle aged, and at times accused of being “dowdy” (to her horror). She is intelligent, vain, a bit of a man chaser, and a chain smoker. Mysteries and murder seem to find her, and she always gets involved where she shouldn’t. I enjoy her adventures and hope that there are many more to come!
I give this series, which is still in active production, 4 Stars!

What’s on my Nightstand….

Currently, I’m reading:
“Agatha Raisin and the Fairies of Fryfam” by M.C.Beaton (love this series!)
“Moon Tiger” by Penelope Lively (recommended by a friend)
“The September Society” by Charles Finch (historical mystery)
and “The Crucible” by Arthur Miller (prepping for an audition)

Review: To Kill a Mockingbird – the play

To prepare for an upcoming local audition, I recently read the play version of Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird”, by Christopher Sergel. Having worked in a school that taught the novel, I feel I am familiar with it and have read it roughly 20 times. I was curious as to how the play would differ from the book, and/or be similar to the movie (1962 version starring Gregory Peck).

The play reads easily and seemed rather short to me (80 pages). The play is actually very similar to the movie in that it captures many of the same scenes and characters, while leaving out similar ones. Once again Scout and Jem are center stage, with Calpurnia their maid, Atticus their lawyer father, Miss Maudie, Miss Stephanie, the Ewells, the Radleys, Tom Robinson, and of course, the Truman Capote character of Dill.
Miss Maudie acts as narrator in the play, as opposed to Scout. The action moves quickly and is staged simply (for instance, the “mad dog” scene occurs with the dog being off in the wings and “seen” only by the actors). The message of the play stays the same, the courthouse scene is pivotal, and Boo Radley once again is the gentle recluse who saves the children.

Beyond the stage, I could imagine this play being used in class with readers for whom the original novel would be too challenging. It would be a great choice for working with adult literacy groups as well.
In my opinion, those truly seeking the essence of the novel should read the novel. And those who seek even more information on the novel’s characters and Harper Lee should read the fine book: “Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee” by Charles Shields.

I give this play 4 Stars — but I would give Miss Lee’s novel, of course, my coveted 5 Stars!!

Review: Dragon Bones

I really enjoyed Lisa See’s “Snow Flower and the Secret Fan”, so I took “Dragon Bones” out of the library to read. This is a modern day mystery set in China. “Dragon Bones” is actually the third in a trilogy of books focusing on Lui Hulan, an inspector in China’s Ministry of Public Security, and her American lawyer husband, David Stark. A death at the Three Gorges dam site appears more than an accident, and soon Hulan and David find themselves embroiled in mystery and intrigue involving several people’s greedy quests for power, and the archaeological site which is linked to the dam area. Findings of great magnitude and the essence of Chinese culture and history come into play, while Hulan and David try to unravel the clues before more deaths occur.

This was the first of the Red Princess mysteries by Lisa See that I have read, and it was very readable given the fact that I had not read its predecessors. I found this novel to be a page turner. I was taken in by the mystery, but also by the insights into Chinese culture and modern day happenings. I look forward to reading the other novels in this series, along with some of See’s other historical fiction. I feel she does a wonderful job in creating and developing her characters. However, be warned – she does not shirk from writing detailed (sometimes gory) descriptions of victims!

I give this book 4 Stars!