ness talks books

crocodile on the sandbank: amelia is single until she isn’t

Let’s pretend I haven’t taken a long hiatus from this blog (HI HOW ARE YOU FORGIVE ME), and let me tell you about the first book from a series that I would happily tattoo on my body. (Though, because such real estate is limited, I’ll just write about it here.) It’s the Amelia Peabody series by Elizabeth Peters AKA Barbara Mertz and it is most excellent.

Amelia Peabody inherited two things from her father: a considerable fortune and an unbendable will. The first allowed her to indulge in her life’s passion. Without the second, the mummy’s curse would have made corpses of them all. 

goodreads blurb

This is … the beginning of everything. And I think, once you’ve read the whole series, it’s very much worth coming back to reread this one. You will gain an entirely new perspective. Different interactions will take on a great more worth and meaning once you’ve seen how everything plays out.

CROCODILE ON THE SANDBANK

I must admit – I view this book through rose-tinted glasses. With fond eyes. That sort of thing – but if you read this and think oh there’s stuff that I like but other things that are a little meh (cough the mummy cough) then continue on with the series because let me promise you: it only gets better. Everything is up from here. All the stuff you love will be present IN SPADES. Yes. I love this series. No, I don’t have any chill.

THE MYSTERY

There’s a curse! There’s a mummy haunting the archaeological camp! What will we do?? When in danger, when in doubt, run in circles, scream and shout! (I’m a poet …)

“Stop,” he ordered, in a low but compelling voice. “Do not take another step, or I fire! Dash it,” he added vexedly, “does the monstrosity understand English? How absurd this is!”

“It understands the gesture, at least,” I called, thrusting head and shoulders through the window. “Lucas, for pity’s sake, seize it! Don’t stand there deriding its linguistic inadequacies!”

It’s fun. Is it A++ Agatha-Christie-wishes-she-could-write-this? No. It’s not. It’s good, but it’s not great. But I’m not here for the mystery in this one. I’m here for the characters. More specifically, I’m here for Amelia Peabody and Radcliffe Emerson.

THE ROMANCE

Amelia starts off single as the last pringle in a pringle tube. She meets Emerson who is … cares for two things: his brother, Walter, and Egyptology. (And not necessarily in that order.) He is handsome. He is tall. He blusters. He immediately starts a battle of wits with Amelia.

Emerson: You, asking for advice? Let me feel your brow, Peabody, I am sure you must be fevered.

EMERSON, A MAN AMONG MILLIONS

It’s a delight to read. I adore it. I subscribe. This is my cup of tea. This waters all the crops I don’t have.

God help the poor mummy who encounters you, Peabody,” he said bitterly. “We ought to supply it with a pistol, to even the odds.

EMERSON, A MAN IN LOVE AND TERRIFIED BY IT

But for those who view his behaviour as Not Nice and excessively boorish, let it be known that he has Peabody’s number and his bark is worse than his bite. He might protest plenty but methinks he protests too much. Also he saves her life from a VERY DEADLY SNAKE and suffers a great deal of worry that he immediately tries to hide.

(He’s Victorian and they are all emotionally constipated. DON’T WORRY – WE WILL HAVE CHARACTER GROWTH.)

which they will handle with grace and aplomb

If you read ‘Amelia Peabody’s Egypt’ – you’ll find that there’s some excerpts from his own journal regarding these events. It’s perfectly delicious.

But let it not be said that Amelia doesn’t give as good as she gets. Forget the mystery, this book is really a tale of two people who are incurably fascinated with each other – and do their best to a) annoy each other and b) hide it in the midst of a potentially life-threatening situation.

I looked Emerson up and down. The clinical appraisal annoyed him, as I had known it would; he squirmed like a guilty schoolboy …

AMELIA PEABODY, EVERYONE

They are entirely suited to each other and – for the rest of the series – they are On Each Others Side. Married. Deeply In Love. But for this first book? We get to witness all the sparks flying. All of ’em. We get to see them reluctantly falling ever deeper in love.

There’s a secondary romance which is very Victorian-esque and suitably dramatic (but in the best way)

“To Walter! May he make Evelyn as happy as she deserves – or I will deal with him!”

“Spoken with characteristic tact,” said Emerson under his breath.

AMELIA PEABODY, EXCELLENT AT TOASTS

So while this book isn’t the very, very best of the series, it’s still good, it’s Elizabeth Peters finding her writing legs. This has to walk, so the rest can run and prod everyone with a parasol. This is the origin story so that we can have the other adventures. And in true, origin story style, it even starts with a dead parent. (*Batman has joined the chat*)

happy reading!

books

good books and future-to-read books and nunneries

I’ve read about 180+ books this year. Here are some of the highlights that I’d recommend:

THE AMELIA PEABODY SERIES

Seriously. All of them. Especially The Falcon At the Portal, The Ape Who Guards The Balance, and He Shall Thunder In The Sky – it’s important to read the books before these ones because my gosh, it will hit differently. Ramses! My poor heart. Torn! Cut out of my chest! Sold on the black market to- okay, too far? Too far. (Also: RAMSES.) Oh! And The Deeds of The Disturber which is a personal favourite.

If you want to read an entire book series which sort of embodies The Mummy, with an epic heroine, her husband, son, and a cast of characters who will soon become dear friends … if you want to read about murder! humour! Egypt! Archaeology! Romance! This is the series for you.

Amelia Peabody bravely strides in where angels fear to tread, parasol brandished and steel-grey eyes flashing. She’s the sort of role-model we need.

THE ELEMENTS OF ELOQUENCE BY MARK FORSYTH

If you are a lover of words, this is a brilliant book to discover the world of rhetoric – Forsyth makes it all very delightful. I’ve hooted with laughter (YES. HOOTED. I AM USING THIS VERB) when reading this book. 10/10 would recommend. It has increased my love of language. I’m rereading it for the second time.

MEDITATIONS BY MARCUS AURELIUS

Okay. I saw this mentioned on Twitter by Russell Crowe (though I prefer to think that I discovered this in the bowels of a dusty, mystery-ridden library) and I was like hmm, that sounds interesting.

(It was interesting.)

I underlined a lot. It read like a personal diary, which in a way it was. It was like Ecclesiastes if Ecclesiastes was written by a Roman Emperor. I enjoyed it. I recommend it etc etc etc.

Photo by Thought Catalog on Pexels.com

A NATURAL HISTORY OF DRAGONS BY MARIE BRENNAN

Yes. It’s like the Amelia Peabody series in a way – but instead of mummies, she studies dragons. AHHHHHH. How could you not want to read that sort of thing? I haven’t read the rest of the series but this is one I would definitely continue.


The above are a few books that I read – I read *cough* quite a few romance novels (full of melodrama! pet penguins! very realistic circumstances!) and slipped in a few comics (Batman: White Knight was pretty good though it suffered from a lack of Catwoman.)

BOOKS I WANT TO READ NEXT YEAR:

I’ve got a list. Or at least, I had one mentally. Now I’ve got this one. Life is good. Here’s the list. Or part of the list:

  • My collection of Georgette Heyer murder mysteries (‘They Found Him Dead’ which honestly is up there with Falling In Love With His Wife levels of book titling)
  • One simply entitled ‘the nunnery book’ which I’ve been reading for approximately five years or more. It’s a history of nuns and it is very fascinating. So fascinating I’ve been spacing it out for … a long, long time.
  • Rereading a few favourites – the only zombie book I own and also Nine Coaches Waiting which is peek gothic lit as far as I’m concerned.
  • Finishing off a few books I started this year (Why We Sleep and Frankenstein which really are not related in the least.)

All in all, I have 45 books listed in my cramped hand. Of course, I may disregard some quite callously, and add a few more just for larks. Why not? Reading has, as ever, been a blessing this year – I’m sure it will be the same in 2021.

What books did you enjoy in 2020 / are looking forward to reading in 2021?

ness talks about life

reading books, writing books, and buying fish, and so on and so forth

I haven’t completely dropped offline, but my blog has been sadly neglected. Here’s some of the devious things I’ve been up to …

REREAD THE AMELIA PEABODY SERIES

It took six months – but it was six months of reading pleasure. More on this later, but let me tell you it was wonderful. (Also, read it in publishing order not chronological because by George … no, I shall save that little rant for later.)

In short, there isn’t a series I’ve read that surpasses this one.

BOUGHT BOOKS, READ BOOKS, STARED AT BOOKS

The book ban feels like quite a while ago, but I must say that my bookshelves are looking terribly interesting; there are some books that I’ll be soon reading about Georgian Britain and the Victorian era that just look so brilliant, I can’t wait!

(Also I’m currently reading ‘How To Be A Victorian’ by Ruth Goodman and DID YOU KNOW THAT THE VICTORIANS GAVE THEIR BABIES OPIUM???!!! HOLY CHEESE CRACKERS, MY DUDES!)

Also a book about Alexander Dumas?! I’m eying up the Count Of Monte Cristo too.

Still haven’t finished a Dickens. I’ll get there. Eventually. Probably. Yup. ‘fo sure.

FINISHED WRITING A BOOK

Originally given the dignified working title of ‘Unicorn Poop’, these days it is called A Suffragist Abroad and will be coming your way next year. As long as I can get past this editing stage, that is.

Lord willin’, a friend and I will be having a writer’s retreat in a little cottage on the coast in November where A Suffragist Abroad’s edits will be completed. While, I’m there, do I expect to:

  1. solve a crime
  2. walk through mist-laden countryside in a nightgown and cloak
  3. stumble upon an ancient mystery that’s been hidden for centuries

… yes. Yes, I do.

BOUGHT A FISH TANK. ALSO: FISH

This is still quite recent. The tank is called ‘Abbey Road‘ and John, Paul, and George have been recently introduced to it. I’m sure it will go swimmingly. (No. No apologies will be made for this pun. NONE.) But I’m also terrified that I’ll wake up and find them all dead and floating on the top and oh my word what have I done- AGONY!!! BEYOND POWER OF SPEECH!

ETC.

Life doesn’t feel as though it is wildly adventurous, but there is more than enough to keep me busy and I find it hard sometimes to carve out the time for dedicated reading sessions – but that’s okay too. There are books lounging in every corner of my room and all of them are interesting.

(I sometimes feel bewildered by the sheer amount of choice I have – which is admittedly a very privileged position to have.)

I’m trying to learn that it’s alright to not live up to my own expectations (which I never reach and are always far, far too high), it’s alright to plod, it’s alright to take things slow – just … just keep going.

I hope you are doing well – thank you for stopping by!

happy reading 🙂

Quotables

Murderers, Dead Bodies and Overthrowing the Government – Quotables

I went to America … and read twelve books of the Amelia Peabody series by Elizabeth Peters (as you do). I wrote down several amusing quotations. (I would be sitting in a chair and giggling. Yes, people noticed. No, I didn’t mind. My humour was tickled, you see, and when my humour is tickled nothing short of a giggle or a smile will do to indulge it,)

Lion in the Valley (Amelia Peabody, #4)Ordinarily I would agree with your premise, Peabody – that there cannot be many individuals in Egypt who yearn to make off with Ramses – but I have learned to my sorrow, we seem to attract criminals as a dog attracts fleas. I should feel hurt if we had fewer than five or six murderers after us.

– Lion in the Valley

Abdullah clapped his hand to his brow. “Not a dead man, sitt. Not another dead man … ” A flicker of reviving hope returned to his stricken brow. “Is it a mummy you mean, sitt? An old man?”

– Lion in the Valley

… and the same commentator remarked, “It is the Sitt Hakim. No doubt she will cut off the man’s arm,” to which his companion replied eagerly, “Lean back so that I can see better”

– also Lion in the Valley.

“Well, of course,” Emerson said virtuously. “That is my method. Tact, subtle persuasion.”

“Such as calling Mr Budge a rascal and threatening to knock him flat?”8268480

– Hippopotamus Pool

If all else fails, we will simply have to drug our attendants, overpower the guards, raise the oppressed peasants to arms and take over the government

– The Last Camel Died at Noon

I greatly enjoyed reading some of this series. If you are looking for a husband-and-wife archaeologist/mystery-solvin’ team that has plenty of wit and action and a fair dose of history (the author had a PhD in Egyptology after all) then check these books out. And you don’t even need to travel half-way across the world to read them. Like me. If you fancy reading the ebook version, the entire series is £0.77 per book on Amazon, so it isn’t dear at all.

Is there objectionable content? One of the things that marred my reading of the later books was the occasional use of Christ’s name as a swear word which for me, as a Christian, is blasphemous and jarring. But the character who uses it (to illustrate his new maturity? Adulthood? Je ne sais pas) … just,  read one of the earlier books in the series, when he is just a wee laddie. Next to William Brown (of Just William fame), he is my new Favourite Fictional Child. The End.