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Book Review: “The Club of Queer Trades,” by G. K. Chesterton

18834844Genre: mystery; classic

Plot Summary: [from Wikipedia:] “The Club of Queer Trades is a collection of stories by G. K. Chesterton first published in 1905.  Each story in the collection is centered on a person who is making his living by some novel and extraordinary means…  To gain admittance one must have invented a unique means of earning a living and the subsequent trade being the main source of income.”

My Book Review: If you’ve come to this blog post thinking you were going to read something on sexual identities, sorry to disappoint.  Once upon a time the word ‘queer’ was used to mean ‘peculiar’.  (I suppose ‘peculiar’ means something else now, too.  We’re so creative as to assign a double meaning to every word that already exists.)

There are ordinary men who lead ordinary lives with their chosen ordinary careers. And then there are others who take a different route in life.  They are the eccentrics, the colorful, and the crazy.  …Or are we, as ordinary citizens, the crazies?

If someone asked you to invent a whole new career that had never been thought of before, do you think you could do it and make money from it? Not merely recycling an existing career, substituting one thing for another, but actually coming up with a line of trade that’s never been done before.  It’s harder than it at first seems.  Of course, there would have to be a market for it.  And in the case of many of the extraordinary tradesmen in this collection of short stories, their careers are kept secret either because of the nature of their work, or because they would be thought insane.

As one would guess, this leads to many bizarre circumstances of ordinaries encountering these oddbodies (or geniuses) in society. The facts are there in front of their noses, but they can’t make sense of them.  It takes a remarkable fellow straddling the best of both worlds to make sense of the mysterious cases brought before him.  It makes for a curious read.

4b4f62db81ff23d0d0a99f7b0870ecddAlthough I usually dislike short story collections, I was glad this was written as it was. I didn’t particularly feel in the mood for a novel-length Chesterton at the time.  Sometimes he’s best taken in ‘doses’ because he can be so thick in his nonsense.  🙂  Really, G.K. was such a Mad Hatter!  Chesterton is never for those wanting a nice little story.  And it definitely isn’t my favorite book of all time.  But I enjoyed reading it anyway, because he picks you out of the mundane and makes you view the world at a different angle.  It gives the brain a good exercise!

I would say my favorite chapter story was “The Adventures of Major Brown”, in which a man is caught in an awfully good escapade, but doesn’t realize how much fun it was until it was over! How often are we the same in life?  We read novels for “escape” or to pseudo-live other “experiences”, but when some adventure happens in real life we are too overwhelmed to enjoy it in the moment.  Then of course, there’s the debate over modern-day video games.  Guys are so eager to play at fantasy games because it feeds something deep in their souls- the need for adventure.  But what happened to living real life?  Life is full of exciting experiences if only we accept its opportunities.

You can listen to the audiobook on Librivox by clicking here.

If you liked this book, I also recommend…:

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Posted by on April 22, 2017 in Book Reviews

 

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On Librivox: The Story of King Arthur and His Knights

I hope everyone had a great Easter!

Is anyone in the mood for great adventures full of mystical maidens and chivalrous knights?  Librivox just recently catalogued a new narrated project by the author Howard Pyle: The Story of King Arthur and His Knights. This is a story that never ceases to interest people because of it’s classic characters.  Along with some other great readers, I got to take part in reading these tales (Sections 22-24).  My sections particularly documented the downfall of Merlin.  I had originally hoped to narrate the whole story of Merlin but the commitment became a little daunting and I passed it on to reader dominictreas.  However, it was fun to have flexibility in reading different character voices which is something I feel I’m good at.

I am currently in the process of narrating and editing my first solo!  Title to be revealed in due time…

 
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Posted by on April 19, 2017 in LibriVox

 

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Movie Review: Arthur & George

a132774421c11e3ae8cb67a56f895dcdBased on the book by Julian Barnes.

Version: 2015; starring Martin Clunes; Hattie Morahan; Michael Gregson

Genre:  mystery; period drama; biographical

Plot Summary: George Edalji is the son of a respectable vicar from India, under suspicion of murder.  Sir Arthur is a famous mystery writer grieving the death of his wife.  The two are fatefully connected and the latter takes it upon himself to clear Edalji’s name so he and his family can live in peace.  But things are not so clear cut and simple as they seemed at the beginning.  The details of the case get weirder and weirder, and the body count rises.  Can Arthur Doyle solve the mystery in time, or is George really guilty of the crimes?

My Review: Disclaimer*: I have not read the original book, so this review will not be comparing it to that novel.  Only as a story in and of itself, totally unrelated to the book.  

I’d been seeing the book at the library lately, and was itching to watch something other than Downton Abbey on PBS, so I gave this movie a shot. I’m so glad I did!

Atmosphere, suspense, historical period setting—all the ingredients for the perfect mystery are present in this Masterpiece film! Everything from creepy music, tweed suits, Clunes’ Scottish accent, the glow of candles, and the crunch of autumn leaves contributed to the mysterious atmosphere that pervaded throughout all three episodes of the story.  It kept my attention well, and although I had to rewind to catch certain details and may not have followed the plot/motives entirely, I still highly enjoyed watching it. I’m not sure how much was based on actual truth or if it was pure fiction, but I found the actors believable, and Martin Clunes especially so in the role of Dr. Doyle.

During the course of the story, we discover that Sir Arthur is filled with remorse over the fact that he had an admiration for another woman while his wife was still living. I appreciated this element.  Later, Doyle pursues a relationship with the woman he loves, and when accusations are thrown against it, he insists he had never used her as his mistress.  The rest of the film is pretty clean, except for perhaps mild swearing, some unsightly animal killings and a rather gruesome death at the end.  Probably the most unsettling is the pervading sense of unease throughout, which I found to be quite fun!

If you’re in the mood for a spooky-strange mystery, I’m sure you will enjoy this Victorian-era flick!

 
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Posted by on March 17, 2017 in Movie Reviews

 

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Ocean theme on “Words & Music”

I’ve just finished listening to one of the most enjoyable programs I’ve listened to yet from BBC Radio 3’s “Words & Music” program.  Entitled “Life’s a Wave”, all pieces of poetry, prose, and music have been selected to fit a sea-faring theme.  Although some parts of it are a little dark, I thoroughly enjoyed listening to the voices of Lesley Sharp and John Shrapnel (both new discoveries for me).  I loved the quiet sounds Sharp’s voice made of the words no matter their meaning, and Shrapnel had such a burly, deck-scrubbed timbre that he made even “Moby Dick” sound fascinating!

Unfortunately, I waited a bit late to listen to it and pass it on, so there are only a dozen or so remaining days to listen.

 
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Posted by on March 9, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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Movie Review: Mrs. McGinty’s Dead

eb573d1180cc7b5cbff9aae960b7398fBased on the book by Agatha Christie.

Version: 2008; starring David Suchet.

Genre: mystery

Plot Summary: [from IMDb:] “A pair of photographs are the only clues that Poirot has to solve the murder of a village charwoman, and to prove the innocence of the victim’s lodger.”

My Review: To be honest, it’s been a long time since I read this particular Poirot mystery.  I remember it had a lot of female characters, and it was the first time I had read anything where the character Ariadne Oliver made an appearance.  I also remember I enjoyed the mystery a lot, because it featured a common storytelling technique of Christie’s, which is to involve a mystery with roots beginning far back decades ago and the detective must piece together how the current generation of characters are affiliated with the past.  I couldn’t recall the details, however, such as who was killed, who had done it or why.

This is one of the more recent Poirot productions starring David Suchet, compared with when they first started filming them in the 1980’s. The quality of it is very good, and I loved the creepy atmosphere of the film!  The period set contributed heavily to this, along with a swirl of yellowed dead leaves, and the signature Poirot music.  Love, love, love it!

Another thing I appreciated was that this murder mystery wasn’t gorey and it didn’t make me feel too uncomfortable. On the flip side, it could also be considered predictable.  I cannot verify if it stayed true to the book, but to the best of my memory I believe it was for the most part.  Poirot was his lovable old self, and the new role of Ms. Oliver (played by Zoe Wanamaker) was totally convincing as the Agatha Christie-herself-inspired character.

This movie makes for great autumn entertainment, so grab a comfy blanket, slippers, and hot cocoa, and have fun some evening!  🙂

 

 
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Posted by on February 14, 2017 in Movie Reviews

 

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Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey audio drama

1268e0d4b08f5af0307f286504a02e51I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas!  I enjoyed the entire season, but yesterday was also a blast spent with cousins playing games and interesting conversation all afternoon.

If you’re a Jane Austen-phile, you’ll enjoy the BBC’s audio drama version of Northanger Abbey which is playing now for a limited time on their Radio 4 website.  You can click to listen to it free here.  Lots of drama for the imagination- both ours and our heroine Catherine’s!

 
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Posted by on December 27, 2016 in Audio/Radio Dramas

 

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P.L. Travers Christmas story on BBC

fecd2322f1c2ac41ffb13199945eb571

I came across a beautifully dramatized Christmas story on BBC this afternoon, originally written as a short story by P. L. Travers.  It’s called “The Fox at the Manger” and the voices and music are lovely to listen to.  Actress Wendy Hiller lends voice as the narrator.  It would make a great bedtime story for children this holiday season.  It is available for a limited time only.

 
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Posted by on December 23, 2016 in Audio/Radio Dramas

 

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