And Then There Were None, Shakespeare and Me, The Ten Thousand Doors of January

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie 

An odd assortment of eight people receive invitations to attend a dinner on a small island. None of the guests know the host personally, but all are persuaded to accept because of some vague connection or other mentioned in the invitation. When they arrive they are greeted by a cook and a butler, bringing their number to ten, with no host in sight. Framed on a wall is an old poem about ten little soldiers and how, one at a time, they meet their deaths. On the table are ten small figurines. 

Before long they hear the disembodied voice of their host greeting them, and to their horror he reveals each one's deepest secrets and then accuses every one them of murder. Denied the option of leaving when the boat that brought them to the island does not return, they spend the weekend trying to understand why this is happening and doing what they can to protect themselves. But one after the other they die, in a manner eerily predicted by the poem, and with each death another figurine disappears from the table.  

It's got everything you'd want in a mystery novel: secrets, tension, murder, as well as clues to help you figure everything out, but you probably won't. Published in 1939, it's written with a little more elegance and a little less flash than more contemporary offerings in the genre, but it's every bit as much fun. It occurs to me that a book about 10 murders should probably not be considered fun, but it's Agatha Christie She's fun.      

Shakespeare and Me, edited by Susannah Carson

This is a wonderful collection of essays by actors, directors and producers writing about their own love for, and participation in, William Shakespeare's plays. Each one is different and each one helped me see things in the plots and/or characters that I hadn't before. It was fascinating to look at the plays through their eyes and consider things from so many different creative perspectives. The writing is excellent, and the writers generous in sharing their experiences with, and their philosophies about, the characters, plots, settings and dialogue in the plays. There are thirty-eight essays in all, written by such illustrious persons as Sir Ben Kingsley, James Earl Jones, Ralph Fiennes, Joyce Carol Oates, and other legends of stage and screen. This book is an education, and so much fun. I came away determined to watch the plays I've never seen and to revisit some of my favourites. I loved everything about Shakespeare and Me.

The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow

January is a young girl living with a guardian while her father, in the guardian's employ, seeks out treasures all around the worlds, lots of worlds. These worlds are accessed through doors, doors that are not visible unless you're really looking, doors that are missed by most people. There is a nefarious organization trying to permanently shut the doors in order to keep our world from changing in ways that, in their thinking, are undesirable. But January has a gift, an ability to create, open, and close doors with written words. And so she resists them, putting her life at risk and creating all manner of upheaval, searching worlds for the father her guardian has told her is dead. 

I listened to the audio book, something I'm not used to, and I just couldn't get into it at first. But as I got used to being read to - a vastly different experience than reading yourself - I found myself more interested, eventually feeling an eagerness to get back to it to see what was happening. That's when I began to really enjoy it. 

I found the last part of it a little repetitive - they find her, she gets away, they find her, she gets away, etc..., but still, it was entertaining, the kind of  story that makes a good distraction from pandemics and such. I haven't read anything in the Fantasy genre for a long time, but this has opened that particular door for me, and I think I'll be going through more often.   


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