Books

A 1934 Murder Mystery With an Unlikely Culprit

Spoiler-Free Book Review:

The Nine Tailors by Dorothy L. Sayers

Rating: 7 out of 10 stars

Overview

Pros

  • Shows strong research
  • Unexpected twist ending
  • Interesting, complex protagonist
  • Complicated mystery
  • Chapter titles inspired by campanology

Cons

  • Some of the figurative language is poorly done
  • Ending is improbable

Review

I read The Nine Tailors by Dorothy L. Sayers for my Modern Christian Writers class. Honestly, other than a major setting being a church, I did not find the book especially religious in nature. I would say at least that it does not appeal just to a Christian audience–it will have much wider appeal.

My favorite aspect of this novel is the focus on change-ringing or campanology. I had never realized the ringing of bells such as those in a church was such a complicated, mathematical, graceful, and artful process. There is a whole set of terminology in change-ringing that Dorothy L. Sayers uses masterfully. The chapter titles are inspired by phrases and terms from campanology–for example “Tailor Paul is Called Before With a Single,” “Plain Hunting,” and “Mr. Gotobed is Called Wrong with a Double”.

Lord Peter Wimsey and his manservant Bunter are charming characters. Wimsey both confirms and denies stereotypes of the monocled aristocrat-detective. He is more empathetic than the typical Sherlockian detective, yet maintains that most people are idiots. Bunter is not a simple Watson either. He is knowledgeable about a variety of important and many obscure topics.

That being said, some of Dorothy L. Sayers’ language and diction was poorly constructed. For instance, she uses the simile “blind as an eyeless beggar”…which frankly, sucks. So she’s saying it’s as blind as…someone with no eyes? As blind as a blind person? Not only is that not creative, it’s also completely redundant.

The ending is far-fetched, but it is also hard to predict. I can see how some people would appreciate its originality while others may criticize its improbable nature.

In conclusion, I would recommend this book to mystery and music lovers in particular, but believe that many readers would appreciate the book’s creative aspects and strong research.

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Books, Writing

A Book Review of The Pattern Artist: a Piece Full of Twists and Surprises

The Pattern Artist

By Nancy Moser

(c) 2016, 2021

Spoiler-free book review by Joanne Brown

9 out of 10 stars

I already have a love for this author’s books …

I have read quite a few books by Nancy Moser – Just Jane, Mozart’s Sister, Washington’s Lady, and Masquerade, to mention a handful. She is normally an excellent read. I was not disappointed this time either: The Pattern Artist is another of her can’t-put-down books. Her characters are well done and her stories include vibrant depictions of the time periods through the actions and conversations between the characters as well as by the actual details she describes.

This book had the same, and without giving away the denouements of any of the suspenseful moments, I will tell you a little about it.

The set up:

The Pattern Artist begins in New York City in late summer of 1911: Annie Wood, a 19-year-old upper housemaid and two other lady’s maids, who are all from England and who just travelled from England with their employers, the Kidds family, are riding in a carriage to the Friesen’s place. Lady Newley (Kidd) and her daughter, the viscountess, Henrietta, are visiting for six weeks. Annie is enjoying the view and watching the people of New York, but the two other maids in the carriage with Annie are priggish and haughty towards the New Yorkers and America in general as well as towards Annie.

When the carriage arrives at the Friesen Mansion, we quickly discover that not only are the two lady’s maids uppity with Annie, but also, they have her do all the work they don’t want to do, or are unable to do, themselves. They leave her to take up their personal baggage.

The Friesen’s hall boy, 13-year-old Danny, notices and begins to help Annie. She is interrupted by her two companions, the lady’s maids, (their names are Miss Miller and Miss Dougard) telling her that the three of them need to go unpack and help Lady Newley and Miss Henrietta dress. While helping The young viscountess dress, they realize that already plump Miss Henrietta has put on weight. We find out that Annie has already let the seams out on the current dress. This is a normal problem regarding Henrietta, and so Annie will probably be letting the seams of more dresses out.

Miss Henrietta chooses her dress for dinner and tells the maids that the beading under the arms is abrasive. She wants to have it fixed for dinner.

The altering of clothing is a job that a lady’s maid normally does, however, Miss Miller and Miss Dougan always pass this chore to Annie. Annie has a knack for it and over the five years that she has been doing this for the Kidds family, she has become very good at it, She actually likes doing it A LOT.

It is time for tea and the two lady’s maids tell Annie that she is not allowed to go for tea because the family’s clothing still needs to be hung up, AND the beading on the dinner dress needs to be fixed. They leave her alone to do the tasks while they themselves go have tea.

Annie is bummed because she hasn’t eaten since the family left the ship early that morning. She feels famished! As she begins hanging up the clothing from the trunks, Danny comes to visit her with tea and biscuits “cookies”. They chat for a few moments and Annie tells him that he reminds her of her brother who passed away when his appendix burst. He is a bit of a scamp, but quite loveable.

Danny discovers that Annie wants to be a lady’s maid someday. She has already worked her way from under housemaid … who has to take care of the chamber pots, to an upper housemaid who doesn’t, and gets to dust the knick knacks. He asks Annie if it is possible to work up to that position and she says that Lady Newley has implied that it will happen.

I’m not going to be a hall boy forever.’ … ‘What are you to be, then?’

‘An Adventurer.’ … ‘Do you have any specific adventure in mind?’

‘I’m open to whatever comes my way. I refuse to jiggy up my life by making hard ‘n’ fast plans. … ‘You’re a chancer.’ … ‘You take risks.’

‘That’s me. Wild and free. Free in spirit now, and free in body eventually.’ … ‘So you do have a plan.’

He hopped to his feet, raising his right fist to the sky. ‘I plan to be deliriously happy!”

Part of Danny and Annie’s conversation while sharing tea and bisuits/cookies.

Annie meets Iris that evening. Iris is Danny’s sister and a maid in the Friesen Manor too. She and Annie share an attic bedroom. Annie, Iris, and Danny soon become the best of friends.

Three early dilemmas …

  • Danny and Iris want to take Annie to visit Macy’s. However, they will have to sneak away from their duties to do it. Annie wants to go but isn’t sure how to go about getting out of the house … Should she ask permission? Should she sneak out and hope not to be caught?
  • Grasston, a first footman who works for the Friesen’s, begins to harass Annie, pinching her, leering over her, and making her very nervous. He has done this to Iris already, so much so that Iris is afraid of Grasston and Annie becomes rightfully anxious about him. Annie suggests they go to his supervisor or theirs, but Iris won’t do it for fear that Grasston getting angry and taking a revenge on them. Grasston also makes a comment about Miss Henrietta’s heaviness within Henrietta’s hearing. Annie stands up for Miss Henrietta telling Grasston to show some respect.
  • Annie discovers that Miss Dougan and Miss Miller have been taking credit for all the sewing and bead work Annie has been doing over the past years. Annie is horrified as she realizes that this takes away her chances of becoming a lady’s maid.

After the evening meal, Annie headed toward the back stairs. Suddenly Grasston grabbed her arm and dragged her into the laundry. … ‘What are you doing? Leave me alone.’

‘Sorry, … but you’ve made that impossible.’ … ‘I’ve been demoted to second footman for a week.’

‘It serves you right for being so rude. Miss Henrietta is a wonderful woman and a guest in this house.’

‘A big, fat, ugly guest.’

‘You are the ugly one. Ugly inside and out.’

‘You’d better watch out, Annie Wood. You can’t hide from me.’ He let go of her chin then swatted her behind before exiting the room.”

Part of the confrontation between Annie and Grasston in the laundry room the evening Grasston made his comment about Miss Henrietta’s heaviness.

Later…

Annie, Danny, and Iris end up spending a night asleep on the streets. The next morning Danny convinces the owner of Tuttles’ Bakery to give them breakfast, jobs, and a place to stay.

Hello, girls. Danny says you’ve had your money stolen and are in need of some food to fill your stomachs.”

Mrs. Tuttle Chapter 6

Even more later …

Annie gets a job working for Macy’s where she helps women choose patterns, fabric, and accessories etc. When the Butterick Pattern salesman, Sean Culver, comes to sell his wares, he flirts with her like crazy!

Mildred is a coworker who is not very good at her job. She is jealous of Annie because Annie is very good at hers. She tries various ways to get Annie in trouble. One of the things she does is accuse Annie of speaking poorly of the Butterick patterns. The reality of the situation is that Annie was working with a woman who didn’t like the sleeves of the pattern she was buying, and Annie, restating the problem made some suggestions about how to blend the sleeves of a different pattern, actually ended up selling the woman two patterns instead of one or none.

Grasston starts visiting Macy’s. He shows interest in Mildred. When Annie tries to warn Mildred about what Grasston is really like, Mildred thinks Annie is just jealous of Grasston’s interest because most of the people who come into the store gravitate to Annie.

Annie ends up learning to sew from Edna Holquist, the sewing machine sales woman at Macy’s. Later, Annie ends up becoming Edna’s housemate and good friend.

Bad things happen in Annie’s life … to keep the review still spoiler free, I will only tell you that Grasston is just a BAD GUY.

Sean Culvert continues to show interest in Annie. When Annie tells her side of the story about the two-pattern sell, she draws a quick sketch to demonstrate what she shared with the customer. Sean is so impressed that he tells the right people at the Butterick Pattern Company about her talent. He ends up getting her an interview for a job as a pattern artist for-home-sewers at Butterick’s. She is offered the job. She is not sure whether to take the job or not. She does love working at Macy’s.

Do you really think your destiny lies in selling fashion? Or designing it?

Edna to Annie Chapter 15

Then …

Annie takes the job at Butterick’s

Annie comes to the attention of a rich woman, Mrs. Eleanor Sampson, who tries to get Annie to leave Butterick and start her own line of reformed women’s clothing, clothing that will give the woman freedom of movement in these changing times. Annie is invited to dinner to discuss this idea. …

Annie likes working at the Butterick Pattern Company. She quickly learns about patterns and making clothing. She makes friends with Maude. The two pattern artists end up going to Paris for Butterick – and incidentally, so does Sean – to see the latest fashions. Annie and Maude are to view the styles and come up with similar designs and what we would call knock-offs.

While at one of the fashion houses Annie runs into Lady Newley and Miss Henrietta. Miss Henrietta has lost a lot of weight and is in Paris to purchase her trousseau as she is now engaged to be married. She tells Annie that her inspiration came from Annie’s courage.

Annie, Maude, and Sean get to tour a little bit of Paris on their own. A lovely scene occurs which is somewhat predictable in it’s happening, but not in its outcome. Mr. & Mrs. Sampson meet up with Annie in Paris and try to convince her again to leave Butterick’s and start a different type of clothing. They want to finance the whole endeavor. Annie isn’t convinced, but after finding out that they will all be going home on the same ship, she agrees to have a long conversation with them on the cruise back to New York.

Annie quickly made a tiny sketch on the piece of paper they’d each been given to note the models and dresses they liked. …Annie simplified the dress into what could become a sewing pattern.”

Chapter 28

Another moment of suspense . . .

April 10, 1912 Annie, Sean, and Maude are headed to their train to board their ship to sail home. When the porter at the train station wants to take Annie’s luggage. She declines. Her case has all her sketches and notes in it from the fashion shows and she doesn’t want to lose them. With five minutes left til boarding time, they run into Mr. and Mrs. Sampson. Amid the chaos, Annie hears a little French boy crying. She runs over to him but she can’t speak French. Sean can, so she calls him over. He discovers that the little boy’s mother is missing. And, she’s expecting a baby.

The conductor yells, “all aboard.” (But in French!)

Annie tells the gang she isn’t leaving this little boy alone and scared. Sean says if they miss the boat they will just catch another, so everyone stays to help the little boy find his mother. They do find the boy’s mother, and they do miss catching the boat.

Mr. Sampson made arrangements for passsage on another ship and booked three rooms at a nearby hotel – at his expense.”

Chapter 29

In the end …

On the boat Annie makes some life changing decisions … and if you want to know what they are, you have to read the book. LOL… and if you want to know how she lives out the decision – and what decisions she hasn’t reconciled yet, you will have to read the next book of this trilogy, The Fashion Designer. But, this book can stand alone, so by choosing it, you are not committing yourself to reading the entire trilogy. I just think you might want to. 😁

PS:

It’s really hard to write a totally spoiler free review! I have left some clues about the action, but I think I succeeded in not giving away the “aha moments.” This book was really a great read. So good that I immediately went and purchased the other two books in the trilogy. I gave the title of number two above. The third one is called The Shop Keepers.

The first one of the series I got for free through a really cool site called BookBub. The other two I paid like $1.99 each through the same site. BookBub is a really cool site that offers newer titles for really cheap – to read online. If you subscribe to them, they send you an email a day with a handful of inexpensive offers based on your survey list, and most days there is a free book or few in the offers.

One Final thing!

If you liked what you read today on P. A. Wilson’s site, subscribe to her site so you can get more of similar! Thanks much!! Joanne, the newest, but oldest guest blogger!

Books, Christianity, Life

Sensible Shoes… A Sensational Read!

A sensational story that will profoundly touch your life!

A spoiler-free book review:

Sensible Shoes … A story about the Spiritual Journey

by Sharon Garlough Brown

Rating: 10 out of 10 stars

. . . we all have quite an adventure ahead of us.”

Meg p341


Sensible Shoes is the story of the spiritual journey of four unrelated women whose lives become interwoven as they walk through a three month retreat. Although the sessions are held every other week, the four become friends. They find much growth and healing as they share their dreams, desires, fears, and failures with one another.

Learn to linger with what provokes you.”

Dr. Nathan Allen, Charissa’s professor P 80

Four Pairs of Shoes

  • Meg Crane
    • Age 46
    • Widow
    • Mother died about 3 months ago
    • Recent empty nester
  • Hannah Shepley
    • Age 39
    • Associate Pastor
    • Has a compulsive desire to be needed: a “codependent pastor.” (P 81)
    • On a forced 9 month, fully paid, sabbatical.
  • Mara Garrison
    • Age 50
    • Eats to self-soothe
    • Has a sordid past
    • Unappreciated by husband and their two sons
  • Charissa Goodman Sinclair
    • Age 26
    • A married PhD student
    • A perfectionist
    • A professor wants his students to wrestle with God and have a personal experience with Him; This retreat should check that block.

. . . Restlessness is movement.”

Dawn, Mara’s therapist. P33

Mara knew the script by heart. Dawn would remind her that peace wasn’t the absence of conflict, but presence of God in the midst of the storm.”

P 33
http://www.labyrinthlife.com/free-stuff.html

Trying on New Shoes:


Retreat facilitator, Katherine Rhodes, introduces the retreatants to a passel of approaches to connect differently/better with God. Like trying on a new pair of shoes, sometimes a new way of encounter takes a little time for it to fit well. The list that follows and the descriptions are just a piece of what is fleshed out in the book.

  • Walking a Labyrinth
    • This concept totally intrigued me. Unlike a maze, a labyrinth is a single path that winds about, arrives at a center point, then leads back to the original entry point. It doesn’t have any obstructions or dead ends.
    • The journey is one of prayerful walking.
    • There is no specified amount of time for walking a labyrinth.
    • Although there is no right way to pray the labyrinth, many people divide the prayer into three parts:
      • inward journey: the time to notice what is distracting/hindering/competing for one’s time with Jesus. It is this part when one takes the time to confess wrongs, let go of burdens, and look at what fears are binding one.
      • center: a time to pause, to be, to rest in God, a time to receive what scripture/insights/revelation/peace/presence God is choosing to reveal.
      • outward journey: a time to allow the Holy Spirit to strengthen and empower, a time to ponder the insights received in the center.
  • Lectio Divina
    • Lectio Divina means sacred reading. From as far back as the middle ages, Lectio Divina is a slow, prayerful way of taking God’s Word into oneself.
    • By lingering over the Word, one is able to cooperate with the Holy Spirit in order to encounter the living God.
      • Read aloud, or have another person read aloud, a passage of scripture. Listen for a word or phrase that seems to choose you. Don’t analyze it or think about it. Just listen.
      • Read the same passage aloud a second time, or have the same person as before read it aloud again. While listening this time, ponder that word or phrase. Ask why it speaks to you at this time. What is God saying to you? What does it have to do with your life right now?
        Do not be afraid to feel and think!
      • After pondering/wrestling with the word or phrase, begin to converse with God about it. Listen for the Holy Spirit’s prodding and reassurance as you talk with God.
      • Finally, just rest in Him. Don’t worry about using words, just be in His love.
  • Reading the Bible devotionally as prayer
    • Allow God’s personal Word be precisely for you! For example: change the name of the person being addressed to your name!
    • Focus on God’s graciousness and power instead of your personal fears and worries.
    • Remember this type of reading is not reading the text historically, but instead, focusing on God’s promise of love. Allow God to draw you into intimacy with Jesus.
  • Praying the Examen
    • This form of prayer was developed in the 16th century by Ignatius of Loyola. It is a way of talking through the details of one’s day with Jesus. The examen helps one quiet oneself in order to recognize the work of the Spirit and God’s presence throughout the day. It allows one to pay attention to details of the day.
    • It is a prayerful replay of the details of the day, both the life-building and the life-draining moments.
      • As one ponders the day, there are moments that seem to invite lingering/pondering. That is the Spirit’s invitation to notice those moments.
      • Some possible questions to help get into focus: (from p 178)
        • “When were you aware of God’s presence today? When were you aware of God’s absence?”
        • When did you respond with love, faith, obedience …. resistance, avoidance?
        • When did you feel most alive, energized, drained, troubled, agitated?
      • Once the day has been reviewed, confess the things that need confessing and allow the Spirit to bring forgiveness and grace.
      • Consider how you can choose better and live more attentive to God’s call to love tomorrow.
      • “Ask for the grace to recognize the ways God makes His love known to you.”
  • Palms up/Palms down prayer
    • This form of prayer is simple … but not easy! It uses physical movements to help focus the praying person on letting go and receiving.
    • The person begins by thinking of all the worries, troubles, concerns, anxieties, distractions etc and faces the palms of the hands downwards releasing those things to God.
    • When ready, the person turns the palms upwards to receive what gifts God has to give.
    • Release and receive as many times as needed.
      • note: sometimes it is hard not to pick one’s troubles back up, so it may take many times of releasing to let go … and vice versa, sometimes it is difficult to accept God’s blessings and it may take receiving them over and over before one truly takes ownership of the gifts.
  • Wilderness Prayer
    • Read prayerfully and slowly Genesis 16:7-10 – the story of Hagar in the wilderness.
    • At this is a major decision-making moment in Hagar’s life, a crossroads, the Angel of the Lord asked Hagar 2 questions:
      • Where have you come from?
      • Where are you going?
    • Ponder these same questions. Journal your responses after asking the Spirit to bring to mind those people, places, things, and events which brought you to this crossroads.
  • Self Examination
    • Self Examination is not about perfecting oneself. It is about listening and responding to the Holy Spirit.
    • It is a time to allow God to nudge so that one can recognize where there is resistance to Him.
    • It is cooperating with the Holy Spirit by saying YES to God’s movement in one’s life.
    • Several texts and suggested sets of questions are listed in the book to accompany this
  • Rule of Life
    • This is an intentional structure – likened to a trellis – designed to free one to respond to the Holy Spirit’s nudges. It helps a person orient and grow towards Christ along that structure.
    • The focus is to deepen intimacy with God. It is not a resolution. It is not a focus on fixing or controlling a behavior. It is not a list of dos and don’ts or obligations.
    • A Rule of Life is prayed about and developed after prayerful listening.
      • A Rule of Life is meant to reflect who a person is becoming in Christ.
  • Praying with Imagination
    • By putting oneself in the scene of a Bible passage, using the senses to create the scene in one’s mind, and being a person in that passage the scene becomes alive and exposes things God may want to reveal.
    • There is no worry about being historically accurate: ie no need to know how the people dressed or what the accent sounded like … it’s about being in the moment as part of the story.

The Spirit of God is always speaking to us, but we need to slow down, stop, and give more than lip service to what God is saying. We need to get off autopilot and take time to look and listen with the eyes and ears of the heart.”

Katherine Rhodes: Retreat Facilitator. P 51

Pros & Cons

I loved this book and have recommended it to a number of people already. It is one that caused me to think differently about how I relate to God. It gave me examples of where to begin and how to progress. I truly found it to be life altering! The cons are essentially non-existent, and the pros are so strong that I give the book a 10 out of 10.

  • Pros
    • Great characterization. I fell into each of their stories and felt their joys and pains. The struggles were real.
    • Easy for multiple age groups to connect to the story.
    • Rated PG-13 . . . clean language, no steamy details.
    • The spiritual exercises are described through the journeys the characters take, AND are many are described in one page like a handout the retreatants received so anyone interested could try the exercises at home.
    • some of the topics introduced through the lives of the characters make for great conversation openers with a teen audience.
    • This book is Christian, not denominational. I could not tell, by reading the story, what sect the author is.
    • It ends satisfactorily. Although it is the first of a series, the story stands alone. And I want to read more, for sure!
  • Cons
    • I don’t have any cons for this book, but I do have a caveat: Although these spiritual exercises could be shared with a younger audience, the stories are sometimes explicit and would need to be edited out for younger kids.

While it is essential to read God’s Word, we must allow God’s Word to read us.”

P 102

Final thoughts

Read this book with an open heart! Enjoy it. Enjoy the journey with the protagonists! It will stay with you for a long time.

Perhaps God wants to reveal something to you . . .”

Dr. Nathan Allen, Charissa’s Professor. P 81

Movies

From the Stone Age to a New Age

Spoiler-Free Movie Review

The Croods: A New Age

Rating: 7 out of 10 stars

Intro

I didn’t expect this movie to be very good, but it was actually fun. The first Croods movie was a bit better, but unlike with many sequels, the sequel wasn’t eclipsed by the original.

Background

The Croods: A New Age was released in 2020 and is the sequel to the popular 2013 film The Croods. It fits into the genres of adventure and comedy.

This movie stars Nicolas Cage, Emma Stone, Ryan Reynolds, Catherine Keener, Cloris Leachman, and Clark Duke.

Summary

The old-fashioned Croods meet the Bettermans, a family who perceive their way of life as superior to that of cave people.

Pros

  • Introduces new and complex characters
  • Did not take the expected route with Eep and Dawn
  • A hilarious teenage relationship with believable conflicts
  • A humorous take on modernity vs. traditionalism
  • Fun music

Cons

  • Stretched belief beyond reason at one point
  • Not as good as the original

Review

Characters

The Betterman adults are hospitable and passive aggressive at the same time. We probably all know someone like the Bettermans, who act kind but perform small acts that scream “I don’t really like you.” Their sense of superiority to the Croods is obnoxious to someone who is aware of all the Croods have been through and their intimate family dynamic.

Dawn is less skeptical and closeminded than her parents. She accessorizes with a sloth named Sash, and immediately can relate to Guy and his pet sloth Belt. She has a sense of adventure that has been held back by her parents, who fear the dangers beyond the wall.

Relationships

Eep and Guy deal with all the ups and downs of a teenage relationship throughout the movie. Meeting the Bettermans puts a wrench in the relationship, but part of it is the fault of the adults. The gushy way they are in love at the beginning of the movie is hilarious even for me–even though I am not a big fan of romance.

I love that Eep and Dawn are thrilled to meet each other. Even though they could have seen each other as potential rivals for Guy’s attention, they are not sucked into that trope and over-simplified. They genuinely like and admire each other.

Themes

The theme of modernity vs. traditionalism was the strongest and most apparent theme. The Bettermans shower, use toilets–and they even have a compost bin. But the Croods have scars–and stories. They have kill circles and sleep piles.

I love how the Bettermans are not depicted as being simply…better. More modern, sure, but they have their own set of flaws. The movie shows that parts of older-fashioned life and parts of modern life can be successfully integrated into something that truly is better.

Music

The best song from this movie is “I Think I Love You” by Tenacious D. It’s fun and quirky, fitting the theme of the movie well.

Believability

The most unbelievable part of the movie has to do with a part involving Eep’s peanut toe and is critical to the plot. It just felt like it was odder and less believable than the entire rest of the movie.

Conclusion

Even though it was a weird movie and definitely not the kind of movie to take seriously, it was overall an enjoyable movie. If you want a movie to laugh at with friends and family, I would recommend it.

Rating System

If you are interested in how I rate movies, check out my rating system.

Links

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