Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween: My Favorite Trick-or-Treater

Even though he's now too old to go Trick-or-Treating, here's a Halloween greeting from my favorite Trick-or-Treater when he was a wee bit smaller:


Hope everyone had a fun and safe Halloween!

Meet Me on Monday! (20)


Meet Me On Monday is a blogging meme hosted by Never Growing Old, as she says: "Blogging is a funny thing...we tell our most intimate thoughts for all to read and yet most of the time I find myself sitting and wondering, "who is this person!?" I know them...but yet I don't know them! I want to know who the person is behind all those words so I thought of a great way for all of us to "meet" each other!"

Every Sunday she will post five
get to know you questions that we can copy and paste into our own Monday post and we can all learn a little more about each and every one of us!!"

To play along click on her meme and join up with the linky.

This Week's Questions:

****Disclaimer (should have posted this originially): ALL pictures have been snagged from the web. I don't have any uploaded pictures of my pets (all pets mentioned are from the past--I don't have any current pets).

1. Have you ever been on a cruise? No, but I'd love to one of these days. After I make a trip to the British Isles...that's first on the bucket list.





2. What is your favorite way to eat eggs?

That really depends on my mood. Usually, scrambled, I guess. But I also love me a good omelet. (With crispy bacon!)






3. What is your favorite reading material? Pretty much anything I can get my hands on. The girl has got to read. For preference: Golden Age Mysteries.

4. Name all the pets that you have ever had? In order of appearance: Cindy (chocolate point Siamese kitty); Herman (blue point Siamese kitty); Tosha (Poodle/Lhasa Apso mix) and Taffy (3/4 Lhasa & 1/4 Poodle). Taffy stayed the shortest time...she was Tosha's puppy and very jealous of her mama. We had to find her a good home. The Lhasapoo (yes, that's the name of the breed) pictured could be Tosha's twin.
















5. Were you ever a girl/boy scout?
Oh yeah. Brownies through Girl Scouts. Graduated to Cadets, but didn't really have an active Cadet group, so stopped there. Then, once I acquired my small person, I became a Co-Den Leader for his Cub Scout years and an Assistant Scout Master in Boy Scouts. Guess you could say I've done both. :-)





The Woman in White (aka The Book That Never Ends)

I interrupt this normal blog for a brief, but necessary rant...

It seems to me that I have been reading The Woman in White for several eons. I started it several weeks ago in an effort to earn my MA in the Everything Old is New Again Reading Challenge...and because it's been on my TBR list forever. Or at least since I read and loved The Moonstone. Is it just me or does Wilkie Collins just go on and on and on and on in this one? I'm a Victorianist at heart--or at least that's what I claim. And I normally enjoy the more descriptive, wordy way Victorian writers had...but Mr. Collins is getting on my nerves. Can we cut to the chase? Soon?

And now back to your regularly scheduled blog posts.

And The Winners Are....


Congratulations are in order for Coffee and a Book Chick and Jamie! These two are the lucky winners in my 100 Plus Followers Give-Away. I have contacted them and they'll be choosing their prize from the three packages advertised in the original post. For those who signed up but didn't win--don't despair--more celebrations will come in the future (I'm thinking the next milestone will be 250). And, I'm also trying to put together a reading challenge for the new year that will involve prizes for participants. Thanks to everyone for playing along and for following along!

Top 5 Sundays: Favorite Halloween Movies


Every week Larissa's Bookish Life hosts the Top 5 Sundays meme. Here's what you need to do:

1 - Write a post listing your TOP 5 choices within the theme she chose (or was chosen on a poll) for the week.
2 - Mention Larissa's blog on the post and link back to it.
3 - Feel free to use the Feature's image
4 - After you've finished your post, add you link (of the post, not your blog's main page) to the Mr.Linky at the end of that week's post.

5 – If you don’t have a blog to post, just leave your list in the comments =)

This week’s theme is Top Five Halloween (Scary) Movies.

Okay, I'll just admit it at the beginning...I'm a big weenie
when it comes to scary movies. I've never seen (and have NO desire to...) Halloween or Friday the 13th or even Psycho. So, my list may seem a bit tame to a lot of you. I go more for suspense...











A Comedy of Terrors

A Comedy of Terrors by Michael Innes (1st published 1940) is another of my vintage mysteries. I always look forward to reading a Innes novel. His writing is a little off-beat and humorous, but almost always smooth and satisfying. When I opened up A Comedy of Terrors, I was beginning to think I had picked up the wrong book. This has one of the slowest, most convoluted opening chapters of any Innes novel I've read so far. Fortunately I hung in there and in chapter two he righted himself and we were well on our way.

A Comedy of Terrors is the story of a reunion of the Foxcroft family. They have returned to their country estate for the holidays. Some have come to reconcile feuds; some out of curiosity about inheritance. They are a witty and talented family, full of artists and authors and full of eccentricities and schemes. They all have been given pistols so they can join in on Sir Basil's newest hobby--target shooting. But the party turns somber when it seems that someone has decided that Wilfred Foxcroft would make a much better target. Given the setting and the similarity in features among the male family members, there is soon some doubt whether Wilfred was the intended victim after all. Was the intended target really Sir Basil? Or maybe it was Cecil Foxcroft, Wilfred's brother. Motives and alibis become tangled and soon it becomes apparent that only detective inspector John Appleby will be able to untangle it all.

In addition to the opening chapter, this novel went out of the Innes norm in another way. The story is told in the first person by one of the members of the Foxcroft family. Innes normally employs the omniscient narrator for his John Appleby mysteries. So, it is a little unusual to read the story strictly from the point of view of Arthur Ferryman (cousin to the Foxcroft family). Over all, this was an enjoyable vintage mystery. Perhaps a bit more convoluted than most of Innes's novels. And the twist at the end is very surprising...I'll leave it to you to decide if that's a good thing. Three stars out of five.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Saturday Six

As I was scrolling through my blog updates, I found a post about the Saturday Six on My Neurotic Book Affair. She has posted about six books that she has around the house that she really wants to read but hasn't gotten around to for whatever reason. That sounded like a great idea... and, giving full credit to Shari at My Neurotic Book Affair, without further ado here are the books in my TBR stacks that I'd like to get to, but just haven't:

The Silk Stocking Murders by Anthony Berkeley. An early vintage mystery, first published in 1928. Roger Sheringham would not have ordinarily been curious about the suicide of chorus girl Miss Unity Ransome. However when he receives a cry for help from a country parson attempting to trace his missing daughter he finds himself involved.

Scarlet Women by J. D. Christilian. Historical mystery set in New York, 1871. A prostitute named Alice Curry is found murdered near the East Street docks. Not unusual, except that the clothes the victim is wearing belong to the missing wife of an aristocrat. Street-smart private investigator Harp takes on the case. When a restaurateur who was the closest thing Harp had to a father is also murdered, the two cases prove to be related.

City of Light by Lauren Belfer. Historical mystery set in Buffalo, NY 1901. Louisa Barrett, headmistress of Buffalo's most prestigious school, is at eas in a world of men, protected by the titans of her city. But nothing prepares her for a startling discovery: evidence of a murder tied to the city's cthedral-like power plant at nearby Niagara Falls.

The Praise Singer by Mary Renault. Historical. In the story of the great lyric poet Simonides. Mary Renault brings alive a time in Greece when tyrants kept an unsteady rule and poetry, music, and royal patronage combined to produce a flowering of the arts. (I won this in a library-sponsored reading challenge several years ago and just cannot seem to get to it.)

Our Lady of the Lost and Found by Diane Schoemperlen. Fiction with irreverent humor. On an apparently typical Monday morning, a middle-aged writer enters her living room and finds a woman standing by her fig tree. The woman is wearing a blue trench coat, white Nikes, and a white shawl over her hair. She is holding a purse and a suitcase. She is the Virgin Mary--and after 2000 years of petition, adoration, and traveling, she's in need of a little R&R.

A Flaw in the Blood by Stephanie Barron. Historical mystery. Windsor Castle, 1861. Prince Albert, the Queen's Consort lies dying and Victoria summons Patrick Fitzgerald, the clever, embittered Irish barrister who helped defend Her Majesty from a would-be assassin twenty years earlier. Within hours, Fitzgerald's beautiful ward is nearly murderd, his chambers are ransacked, and another girl lies dead. Could an unknown force want Fitzgerald silenced? And why? The answers are entangled in an electrifying tale of intrigue, seduction, and betrayal, partially narrated by Europe's most powerful monarch.

If you haven't discovered her blog already, click on the link above and check out My Neurotic Book Affair. A great blog!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life

Steve Martin's autobiography is one of my rare forays into nonfiction. Although Martin says that "in a sense this is not an autobiography, but a biography because I am writing about someone I used to know. Yes, these events are true, yet sometimes they seemed to have happened to someone else, and I often felt like a curious onlooker or someone trying to remember a dream." Born Standing Up is an incredible memoir of Martin's journey from doing magic tricks with a bit of humorous patter for the Cub Scouts to playing to audiences of 25, 000 and more. He gives us an authentic, honest look at the hard work and difficult decisions he made over those years. He shows us that stand-up comedy is lonely life and a difficult way to make a living. To be good, you have to play to an awful lot of half-empty houses, learning what works and doesn't work and how to make things work better. What I like best about the book is that Martin never name-drops....even after he reaches the years when he became famous every mention of Johnny Carson to Dan Ackroyd to Richard Pryor is in there with a purpose and that purpose isn't to say "look at all the famous people I rubbed elbows with."

Martin has a background in English classics and philosophy and it shows. He writes well. His prose is spare and direct and like a great punch line delivers the goods at just the right moments. Without meaning to, I think he portrays a great sense of the loss he felt at being isolated from his family and friends (while on the road in his early years of stand-up) and his nostalgia for some of the most surprising places. In fact his story begins with nostalgia when he leaves his first steady job at Disney Land's magic shop:

My final day at the magic shop, I stood behind the counter where I had pitched Svengali decks and the Incredible Shrinking Die, and I felt an emotional contradiction: nostalgia for the present. Somehow, even though I had stopped working only minutes earlier, my future fondness for the stor was clear, and I experienced a sadness like that of looking at a photo of an old, favorite pooch.

And comes full circle when, after the success of his last years in stand-up and early ventures into movies, he returns to Knott's Berry Farm (site of his earliest comedy routine work) to stand on the empty stage of the Bird Cage theater:

I stood on the empty stage and looked out at the empty theater and was overcome by the feeling of today being pressed into yesterday. I didn't realize how much this place had meant to me.

Driving home along the Santa Ana freeway, I was still unnerved. I asked myself what it was that had made this place capable of inducing in me such a powerful nostalgic shock. The answer floated clearly into my consciousness as though I had asked the question of a Magic 8-Ball: I wanted to be there again, if only for a day, indulging in high spirits and high jinks, before I turned professional, before comedy became serious.

He tells his story in an engaging manner that takes the reader along with him on his ride to success. We see him at his lowest points--when he thinks he's never going to make it and just might have to what his dad kept telling him...find something else to fall back on. Then we go with him as he rides to fame. The reader never feels like a voyeur who is peeking in on Martin's life--rather we see things from his point of view without the baggage of ego. Overall, an engaging, interesting and, to be expected from a comic, sometimes humorous autobiography. Four stars out of five.

The Friday 56


The Friday 56 is a bookish meme which has been hosted by Storytime With Tonya. It's really easy (and fun!) to participate.

*Grab the book nearest you. Right now.
*Turn to page 56 and find the fifth sentence.
*Post that sentence (plus one or two more if you like) with these instructions on your blog or in the comments section below.
*Post a link back to this blog and Storytime with Tonya.
*Don't Dig for your favorite book, the coolest, most intellectual. Use the CLOSEST!

Here's mine from Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life by Steve Martin:
(Page 56 is blank...so I'm using page 54)

My final day at the magic shop, I stood behind the counter where I had pitched Svengali decks and the Incredible Shrinking Die, and I felt an emotional contradiction: nostalgia for the present.

Book Beginnings on Friday: New Home!



Book Beginnings on Friday is a meme now hosted by Katy at A Few More Pages. Anyone can participate; just share the opening sentence (or two) of your current read, making sure that you include the title and author so others what your're reading.

Here's mine from Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life by Steve Martin:


I did stand-up comedy for eighteen years. Ten of those years were spent learning, four years were spent refining, and four were spent in wild success. My most persistent memory of stand-up is of my mouth being in the present and my mind being in the future: the mouth speaking the line, the body delivering the gesture, while the mind looks back, observing, analyzing, judging, worrying, and then deciding what to say next.

Friday Blog Hops

Hosted by Java at Never Growing Old

From Java's blog:
Are you a blogger over 40? Yeah, welcome to the club!
Please join in the fun and get to know your fellow bloggers!!




And since it's Friday again that mean's it's time for the Book Blogger Hop hosted by Crazy-For-Books. It's a time to talk about blogging and book topics and to venture out on the internet and visit other blogs. Visit the link to join in.

This week's question: What is the one bookish thing you would love to have, no matter what the cost?

Oh, that's an easy one. My own personal library--I would love to build on to the back of our house and have the library extend all along the back. Floor-to-ceiling bookcases with one of those lovely rolling ladders to reach to the top shelves, bookcases all in cherry, at least one deep window seat with plenty of cushions (not because th view is all that great, but just because I've always wanted a window seat to curl up and read in), and plenty of comfy chairs when I get tired of the window seat.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Give-Away Reminder #2


Just a reminder to all my wonderful followers...I am hosting a 100-Plus Followers Give-Away. And I want YOU to win! Please follow the link for full details. Sign up open through October 31.

Death in Clairvoyance

As I mentioned in my WWW Wednesdays post, Death in Clairvoyance by Josephine Bell is a late Golden Age mystery featuring doctor and amateur detective David Wintringham. I've read several mysteries by Bell, but haven't come across the good doctor before. The book reads as though he is a recurring character--to my mind, not a bad thing. I like the doctor's approach to mysteries and his four children are charming as small sleuths-in-training.

In this story, Wintringham and his wife attend a costume ball at a local hotel in the town where they are on holiday. Wintringham dresses as clown in a green and white white suite with white frills at the wrists and neck. A black skull cap and black half mask complete the costume. Later, he finds that five other men have appeared in the same costume. During the course of the evening Odette Hamilton, a clairvoyant, "sees" an encounter between two of the clowns that leaves one dead. It becomes apparent to her and her friend that she has had a vision of future events (because there is no body where it should be....yet). And they decide to try and keep track of all the clowns...to either warn or prevent. But six clowns prove too much for the two ladies and eventually events run their course in exactly the manner Mrs. Hamilton has foreseen. What she hadn't foreseen was that the murdered man was her estranged husband.

The rest of the novel has Wintringham and Inspecter Redbourne trying to track the movements of the other four clowns. Why did Hamilton come down to the vacation town? Who had a motive to kill? Is Mrs. Hamilton the clairvoyant she claims or is she trying to distract from her own motive? All of these questions face the detectives as they try to sort out the mysteries of the disappearing and reappearing clowns.

This novel is a charming, vintage mystery. Typical of the time period with a set number of suspects confined to a certain area and plenty of red herrings drawn across the path. A very enjoyable read...one that would have gone much quicker if I hadn't taken time out to watch Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window with my son last night. The supporting characters are finely drawn and more life-like than some of the era's cardboard cut-outs. It also sports an exciting ending that begins with Wintringham's children in danger...but not too much danger for this soft-hearted reader (I don't like intense kid-in-danger stories) and ends with a seance to flush out the guilty party. I recommend it to anyone who enjoys the mysteries of this period. A good solid three stars out of five.

All I Want for Christmas Is... (3)


All I Want for Christmas Is... is a feature/meme sponsored by Danya at A Tapestry of Words where we choose a book each week leading up to Christmas and say why it's made it onto our wishlists. And she'd love to see what books everyone else is hoping to get! So if you want to make your own blog post about it, please link up at Danya's site.


Here's mine for this week:


Dorothy L. Sayer's Love All/Busman's Honeymoon by Alzina S Dale (ed) : (synopsis from Amazon review by "A Customer"): fans of Dorothy L Sayers' Vane-Wimsey novels will fine Love All a delightful change of pace. The companion play to the dramatic version of the novel Busman's Honeymoon in this edition, Love All takes a very different approach to male-female relations. While she creates for Harriet Vane and Lord Peter Wimsey a fulfilling personal and professional relationship in Busman's Honeymoon, Sayers suggests in Love All that women can find emotional fulfillment, financial security, and artistic challenges all on their own.


Why I want it: I love the writing of Sayers. So far, I have not found anything by her that I do not like. I've read all the Wimsey novels, including Busman's Honeymoon and I'm very curious to see/read the play version. I understand that there are some differences. I am also intrigued by the description of Love All and would like to check it out.


(No photo available for this one....which may mean that Santa will have a hard time finding it to put under my tree.....)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A-Z Wednesday; The Letter L



It's A-Z Wednesday!! by Reading at the Beach.
To join in, here's all you have to do:

*Go to your stack of books and find an author whose first or last name starts with the letter of the week.
*Post:
1~ a photo of the book
2~ title & synopsis
3~ a link (amazon, barnes & noble, etc)
4~ go back to Reading At the Beach and a link to your post.


This week's letter is: "L"

Hanged for a Sheep by Frances & Richard Lockridge (click title for review)

Info from Amazon:
Publisher: Perennial, April 1994
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0060924888
ISBN-13: 9780060924881
Price: $11.50
Catetory: Mystery

Synopsis may be found in my review.


WWW: Wednesdays


WWW: Wednesdays is hosted by MizB over at Should Be Reading.


To play along, just answer the following three questions....

*What are you currently reading?
*What did you recently finish reading?
*What do you think you'll read next?

Current:
Death in Clairvoyance by Josphine Bell. A late Golden Age mystery. "Six masked and identically clad clowns meet at a fancy dress ball. One of them is murdered. Was the clairvoyant right in claiming that she foresaw the crime? The inspector believed that she recognized the dead man. Did she? Or was she herself to be the next victim? With a murdered clown, five suspects and several red herrings, Josephine Bell sets a pretty problem in dectection for David Wintringham, the doctor and amateur detective."

Finshed Since Last Wednesday (click titles for reviews):
The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: The War of the Worlds by Manly W. Wellman & Wade Wellman
The Woman in the Woods by (Charity) Lee Blackstock
Hanged for a Sheep by Frances & Richard Lockridge
Killing the Goose by Frances & Richard Lockridge
Dark Road to Darjeeling by Deanna Raybourn
Gilgamesh translated by Herbert Mason
Death of a Tall Man by Frances & Richard Lockridge

Up Next: I'm not entirely sure. I was looking over my stacks of TBR books last night and had a really hard time deciding what to do next. Took me quite a while to choose Death in Clairvoyance, although I'm really enjoying it. I have a notice from the library that Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life by Steve Martin is ready for me to pick up. So, that's looming in the near future.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Read My Review: Paranormal for Halloween


Read My Review is a chance for book bloggers to share new and old reviews, related to a theme. It is hosted by A Trillian Books. This week's theme is Paranormal.


What you need to do:

*Find one of your reviews that fits this week's theme (new or old review).
*Leave your link with Mr. Linky at the bottom of A Trillion Books' post.
*Visit some of the other reviews and leave a "quality" comment (a couple of sentences).
*Grab the button and post about Read My Review.

I don't read a lot of paranormal, supernatural, spooky, or creepy books. But I did read Madam Crowl's Ghost & Other Stories by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu not too long ago. Mid- to Late- 1800s ghost stories. Click on the title for the review.

Death of a Tall Man

Today found me reading another madcap mystery. Death of a Tall Man starts out with a typical day at the office of respected eye doctor, Andrew Gordon. He sees a group of patients in the morning, goes to the hospital for surgery, and returns for more patients before leaving for lunch. But the afternoon office hours are not destined to be typical. His nurse discovers him dead in his office--dead from the proverbial blunt instrument to the head. Lieutenant Bill Weigand faces the questions of who would want to kill the doctor and how did the murderer manage to do it under the watchful eye of the staff?

Pam North just happens to be in the neighborhood when she sees Bill Weigand's car go by--and, of course, she can't resist going along to see what's up. As she tells her husband, Jeffy, on the phone:

"Well, actually, it's a murder. I just sort of--well, I was just walking past and--" She stopped and she had the expression of somebody who has been interrupted. Bill listened, amused, to the sound of Jerry's voice coming from the telephone. The words were not distinguishable; the tone was unmistakable.

"I didn't," Pam said. It isn't fair to say I look for them."

As it happens, it's a good thing for Weigand that she happens along. Once again, her far-leaping mind picks up on subtle clues that eventually lead to the murderer. Weigand's problem is proof and the little matter of an alibi. But it all comes clear after the death of the tall man.

This was another fun read by Frances and Richard Lockridge, the husband and wife team who made New York City of the 30s and 40s their own. They people their stories with likable characters who are fun, funny, and believable. They also "people" their stories with likable animals, generally cats. Animals who have their own personalities and place in the story without being too cutesy. In this case, it's a tiny Siamese named Martini (or "Teeney" for short) who belongs to the Norths. There's just enough of Martini to add to the fun--which, I suppose, is just the right amount of martini for anyone. Four stars out of five.

Top Ten Tuesday: Halloween Books


Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish. This week's topic is your top ten spooky/creepy/scary books for the season.


I'm not much into horror or spooky/creepy/scary books, but here's what I've come up with:


1. The Complete Stories of Edgar Allan Poe A few murders in the Rue Morgue anyone? A little Pit and the Pendulum action?

2. The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving. Nothing like a headless horsemen to creep you out.

3. The Halloween Tree by Ray Bradbury. It's been a long time since I read this one, so I'm not sure how scary it is. But it's certainly appropriately named.

4. Madam Crowl's Ghost & Other Stories by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu. A collection of ghost stories from the mid- to late-1800s. Just read that recently. Click the title for a review.

5. Devil in the White City by Erik Larson. A little mass murder set around the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago. Very creepy.

6. The Maul & the Pear Tree by P. D. James & T. A. Critchley. Murders in 1811. Another creepy one.

A couple more classics:

7. Frankestein by Mary Shelley
8. Dracula by Bram Stoker

And I loved the Alfred Hitchcock collections when I was in sixth grade. Just creepy enough to be fun. Collections like:

9. Stories to Be Read with the Lights On

10. Stories That Go Bump in the Night.

I forgot one! I have to add a number eleven...

11. The Cabinet of Curiosities by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child. How could I have forgotten one of the most horrific books I ever read? I don't normally do this kind of thriller but it kept me gripped and on the edge of my seat the whole time. It features a 20th-century NYC
struck by killings that duplicate earlier murders, with the victims' spinal cords ripped away and clues pointing to a 19th-century scientist who sought the secret of immortality. Featuring fabulous locales, colorful characters, pointed riffs on city and museum politics, cool forensic and paleontological speculation and several gripping set pieces including an extended white-knuckle climax.

Teaser Tuesdays


Miz B of Should Be Reading hosts Teaser Tuesdays. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

*Grab your current read.
*Open to a random page.
*Share two "teaser" sentences from somewhere on that page.
*BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! You don't want to ruin the book for others.
*Share the titel & author too, so other TT participants can add the book to their TBR lists if they like your teaser!

Here's my teaser from Death of a Tall Man by Frances & Richard Lockridge (p. 72)

"We'll check, of course," he said. "Detectives must be suspicious, like it says in the book. Suspicious of shopping trips, suspicious of afternoons spent at desks, suspicious of young men on the loose in building lobbies at the appropriate times--young men who run away."

"And of girls of twenty in love with--flighty men?" Pam said.

By all means, of girls of twenty, Bill told her. Particularly when in love.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Musing Monday


Hosted by Miz B at Should Be Reading
This week's question: About how many books (roughly) would you say you own? (If you don’t have a clue how many, do you care to know? Why, or why not?)

I own 2173 books. Of those, almost half are mysteries (over half if you count my Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden collections). I have these extensively catalogued on a spread sheet, broken down by genre and duly marked as read when I've done so. (Yes, I'm a little anal about my books and book habits....). I've also logged all the books I've read which aren't mine (or at least I've tried to keep up with that)...starting in junior high.

Gilgamesh

Gilgamesh is one of the most ancient stories extant today. The original tellings of this ancient Sumerian mythic tale are said to date back to the third millennium BC. The story of the great king and his doomed friend was passed along to the Babylonians, who wrote their epic tale on stone tablets. The discovery of the tablets in the 19th century sparked new interest in the ancient story and since then it has proven as strong in mythic character as the stories from ancient Greece and Rome. This translation by Herbert Mason is exceptionally accessible and gives the reader the full flavor of ancient Sumeria without losing us in people and place names unfamiliar to us.

***Caution, contains spoilers. Shouldn't ruin your experience if you want to read this epic, but if you're picky about knowing details before you read--then perhaps you should stop now.***

The story is a simple one--revolving around the themes of love, friendship, and death and man's attempts to accept and understand tragedy. Told in epic form, it gives us a depth of feeling and intensity that is near unrivaled. We have the King, Gilgamesh, who has grown bored with his kingship and thus a little cruel. We have Enkidu, a man of the wild...primitive and closer to the animals than he has been to any other human. Events bring these two together and they form a friendship that is a precursor to all the great friendships of literary history (David & Jonathan, for example). Each brings his own strengths to the relationship, and together they are stronger than either alone. When Gilgamesh decides that he must fight monstrous Humbaba, Enkidu does not want to go on the dangerous journey, but once committed he encourages Gilgamesh when he needs it most. And later Enkidu faces down his own monster with the support of Gilgamesh. The gods, however, are not pleased with loss of two of their monsters and exact a payment from the friends. Enkidu must die and Gilgamesh spends the rest of the story trying to bring his friend back, trying to get others to understand the depths of his grief, and finally finding a way to reconcile himself to his great loss.

Favorite quote:

For being human holds a special grief
Of privacy within the universe
That yearns and waits to be retouched
By someone who can take away
The memory of death.

This is one of the finest and most accessible early classic translations that I have read. Herbert Mason's verse form and style are right on target and made this an easy read. Four and a half stars out of five.

PS: I forgot to mention that this book was my prize from Hotchpot Cafe for finishing my Birth Year Reading Challenge. Thanks for the awesome book!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

It's (Almost) Monday! What Are You Reading?


It's Monday! What Are You Reading, a bookish meme hosted by Book Journey, is where we gather to share what we have read this past week and what we plan to read this week. It is a great way to network with other bloggers, see some wonderful blogs, and put new titles on your reading list. So hop on over to Journey and join in...and leave a comment here so I can check out what you are reading.


I'm jumping in a little early...I anticipate a busy day tomorrow. Here are mine:

Books Read Last Week (click titles for reviews):
Lay On, Mac Duff! by Charlotte Armstrong
The Conference of the Birds by Jean-Claude Carriere & Peter Brook (based on the poem by Farid Uddi Attar)
The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: The War of the Worlds by Manly W. Wellman and Wade Wellman
The Woman in the Woods by (Charity) Lee Blackstock
Hanged for a Sheep by Frances & Richard Lockridge
Killing the Goose by Frances & Richard Lockridge
Started The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins, by just wasn't feeling it. So I finished up the week with Dark Road to Darjeeling by Deanna Raybourn. Will have to go back to Collins another day...

Reading Now:
Gilgamesh translated by Herbert Mason

Books that spark my interest (most are carry-overs from last time):
Would like to give The Woman in White another try. We'll see.
Police at the Funeral by Margery Allingham
Death of a Tall Man by Frances & Richard Lockridge
Colour Scheme by Ngaio Marsh
Black Orchids by Rex Stout
Nero Wolfe of West Thirty-Fifth Street by William S. Baring-Gould

Meet Me On Monday #19


Meet Me On Monday is a blogging meme hosted by Never Growing Old, as she says: "Blogging is a funny thing...we tell our most intimate thoughts for all to read and yet most of the time I find myself sitting and wondering, "who is this person!?" I know them...but yet I don't know them! I want to know who the person is behind all those words so I thought of a great way for all of us to "meet" each other!"

Every Sunday she will post five
get to know you questions that we can copy and paste into our own Monday post and we can all learn a little more about each and every one of us!!"

To play along click on her meme and join up with the linky.


This Week's Questions:


1. Do you sleep with a night light on? No. I'm with Java on this one. The room has to be as dark as possible. But there is a night light in the bathroom for late night visits.

2. What do you drink with dinner? Water or diet 7-UP

3. Do you play the lottery? If so, how often? No. But there are times I wish I did...and that I were lucky enough to win.

4. How often do you go to the grocery store? Once a week. Unless I forget something.

5. Would you rather travel back in time 500 years or travel forward 500 years? Well, as long as I didn't have to STAY there...back 500 years. But I don't want to be stranded back there without running water and indoor plumbing and all the other conveniences of modern life.

Top Five Sundays: Books You're Not Reading But Should Be



Every week Larissa's Bookish Life hosts the Top 5 Sundays meme. Here's what you need to do:

1 - Write a post listing your TOP 5 choices within the theme she chose (or was chosen on a poll) for the week.
2 - Mention Larissa's blog on the post and link back to it.
3 - Feel free to use the Feature's image
4 - After you've finished your post, add you link (of the post, not your blog's main page) to the Mr.Linky at the end of that week's post.

5 – If you don’t have a blog to post, just leave your list in the comments =)

This week’s theme is Top Five Books You're Not Reading But Should Be.

At first I was a bit confused by this...I thought it was supposed to be books on MY TBR list that were guilting me...that I should be reading. But, then I realized, that we're supposed to list books that we love that we think everybody should be reading. (And why aren't you??? That's what I'd like to know.) Here's my list:

#5
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. A classic that everyone should read. I'm a bit ashamed that I only got around to it this Fall. Never had to read it in school.

#4 I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou. Heartbreaking. But an absolutely authentic story of growing up black in the 30s and 40s.

#3 The Deanna Raybourn Lady Jane Grey series. Start with Silent in the Grave and work your way through.
#2 The Gail Carriger series. Start with Soulless. Never thought I'd be into werewolves and vampires and steampunk until I stumbled onto this series.

#1 Dorothy L Sayers' Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries. Strong Poison if you read none of the others. But to start Whose Body? and go from there.

Dark Road to Darjeeling


The Dark Road to Darjeeling is the fourth Lady Julia Grey novel by Deanna Raybourn and the first that I've read since I started blogging. These novels follow Lady Julia from the investigation of her own first husband's death through other mysteries that bring her closer to Nicholas Brisbane, the private inquiry agent engaged by her husband prior to his death. Brisbane and Lady Julia find out the truth behind her husband's death as well as discover their growing interest in each other. In this fourth adventure, Lady Julia and Brisbane have finally wed and have spent eight months traveling for their honeymoon. While in Cairo, Lady Julia's sister, Portia, and brother, Plum, catch up with them and urge them to join them on a trip to India to aid an old friend, the recently widowed Jane Cavendish. There is some question about Jane's husband's death...was it really natural causes or was he helped out of this world by hands eager to claim his tea plantation? And what will that mean for Jane's unborn child? If she carries a boy, then his life may be in danger as well because the estate is entailed and can only be inherited by males.

Set in an exotic valley in the Himalayas, there is much danger and deception hidden behind the walls of the idyllic village. The Brisbanes have their work cut out for them...with petty thievery, gambling and even drugs providing additional motives. Did Freddy Cavendish find out something that wasn't good for him or was he really murdered for the estate? Added to the mystery, Lady Julia and Nicholas are having troubles settling in to married life. Julia has expected to be taken into partnership in Brisbane's detective work, but he is determined to keep her safe at all costs. Will their differences prevent them from finding vital clues...before it's too late?

These stories by Deanna Raybourn are very interesting historical and romantic mysteries. The pairing of Lady Julia and Nicholas Brisbane is a good one. Two strong characters who are very in love, but who are trying to find a marriage/partnership that will work for them both. Julia doesn't want to be stuck at home in the traditional "keep his slippers warm by the fire" role and Brisbane, to his credit, admires her courage and intelligence--but also fears for her safety. As he tells her, his job is not safe...he's been shot at, poisoned, beaten and worse. Watching their relationship develop as they work towards a solution is very interesting...almost as interesting as the mysteries themselves. Ms. Raybourn weaves a fine tale and leaves me guessing till the very end while creating beautiful settings and believable supporting characters. She manages the romantic angle without letting it overshadow the mystery. Four stars out of five.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Killing the Goose

I've gotten myself onto a little Lockridge reading jag. As I said in the previous review...these are great for those dreary fall days when all you want to do is curl up with a nice little cozy, madcap murder. Killing the Goose has Pam and Jerry North smack in the middle of another killing spree. First, we have a simple file clerk killed in a diner. It looks pretty cut and dried and Lt. Weigand and Sgt. Mullins are all set to close the case with the boyfriend as the killer....when Pam gets set on the clue of the baked-apple. That's makes it just a little uneasy. Then another woman is killed...this time on the other end of the social spectrum--a wealthy socialite. But then clues starting building up that seem to connect the two murders. It ends with Pam insisting, as only Pam can, that someone has stolen a famous voice from the radio. As Mullins would say, now it's just plain screwy.

This one is an exciting chain of events from the dramatic scene in the diner to the socialite's missing money to the unexpected happenings in the telephone booth to a grand finale in a radio broadcasting studio. Frances & Richard Lockridge keep the excitement high and action tense in this latest madcap mystery. It's possible that I'm getting the hang of Pam North's logic (which may be a scary thing given the way her mind leaps)--but I figured out who did it...I just couldn't figure out how. And it is scary to find oneself thinking like Pam. As we find in the book: "It startled Jerry, somewhat, to discover that Pam's thought processes had, in fact, coincided with those of Sergeant Mullins. For some reason this made him reel internally; it suggest that the whole world was about to come apart." But the world doesn't come apart. Things come together in the end and once again Pam & Jerry help Lt. Weigand get his man.

I absolutely love the Lockridge mysteries. They are light and breezy..but always satisfying.
Four stars out of five.

Hanged for a Sheep

Hanged for a Sheep by Frances & Richard Lockridge is one of the many adventures of Pam & Jerry North and their friend, Lieutenant Bill Weigand. The Lockridge books are my mystery comfort-reading--light, fun, madcap. Just what's needed on a dreary fall day when one just wants to curl up and not have to think too hard.

This outing finds Jerry away on business and Pam visiting her Aunt Flora. Just a nice family visit. Well, not really. Aunt Flora tells Pam that someone has tried to poison her....with arsenic. She wants Pam, as the "family private eye," to investigate, but not to tell the police. Aunt Flora has been married four times and had children by several of the husbands...and Aunt Flora has pots of money. So, there are plenty of suspects to go around. Then Aunt Flora's latest husband winds up dead from a pistol shot. What exactly is going on at this little family visit? As Lieutenant Weigand puts it (once he's called in): "So there we are. Nowhere much as yet. One poisoned, one dead, one missing; suspects to the right of us, suspects to the left of us. Everybody with opportunity; almost everybody with motive. A pistol missing; a bottle missing; a hunch missing. So Mullins and I go back to work."

I enjoyed this thoroughly as I always do enjoy the Lockridge stories. Pam is...well...Pam--with her brain running about three steps ahead and making leaps in the conversation that set heads spinning. But whether you understand her logic or not, she's generally right and often provides Bill Weigand with just the clue he needs to sew up another "screwy" murder. As his Sergeant Mullins says, "They're always screwy when you've got the Norths." He's right, but screwy in all the right ways. Four stars out five.

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Friday 56


The Friday 56 is a bookish meme hosted by Storytime with Tonya. It's really easy (and fun!) to participate.


*Grab the book nearest you. Right now.
*Turn to page 56 and find the fifth sentence.
*Post that sentence (plus one or two more if you like) along with these instructions on your blog or (if you do not have your own blog) in the comments section below.
*Post a link back to this blog and Storytime with Tonya.
*Don't dig for your favorite book, the coolest, most intellectual. Use the CLOSEST!

Here's mine from The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins:

"I see it--more unwillingly than I can say. To associate that forlorn, friendless, lost woman, even by an accidental likeness only, with Miss Fairlie, seems like casting a shadow on the future of the bright creature who stands looking at us now."

The Woman in the Woods

The Woman in the Woods by (Charity) Lee Blackstock is another one of those inverted mysteries. I've said before that I'm not a big fan of this kind of mystery. I enjoy pitting my wits against those of the detective in the story to see if I can figure out who did it. I'm not so much into sitting on the edge of my chair and waiting to see if the killer (who I know already) is going to get caught. This one does have an advantage over The Chocolate Cobweb, though. The characters talk sensibly and the story line is a good one.

This story revolves around a skeleton discovered by two schoolboys who have been playing truant. When it becomes apparent who the victim was, the next question is why would anyone want to kill her? She seemed like such a nice woman...friendly with everyone. Of course, the reader already knows who did it. The clues to her identity and to that of her killer are glowing neon signs...except to the people in the book.

Over all, Blackstock tells a good tale. It's a decent story and I found most of the characters to be engaging and believable. I would have enjoyed it a lot more if she had told it as a straight mystery story, though. I wonder if she had removed the telling paragraphs where the killer was revealed in the beginning chapters if I would have spotted him/her? Three stars out of five.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Follow Friday 40 & Over!


It's Friday and time again for the Follow Friday 40 & Over blog hop (which is in its 22nd edition). Sponsored by Never Growing Old, this blog hop asks: Are you a blogger over 40? Yeah, welcome to the club! Please join in the fun and get to know your fellow bloggers!!

The RULES to join in are very simple:

*Grab the button
*Add your link to the list on the blog site
*Visit as many blogs as you can
*Follow the ones you like (and comment to let them know you're following)

Message for Old & New Followers: Check out my 100-Plus Followers Give-Away! (click link)


All I Want for Christmas Is... (2)



This is a feature/meme sponsored by Danya at A Tapestry of Words where we choose a book each week leading up to Christmas and say why it's made it onto our wishlists – and she'd love to see what books everyone else is hoping to get! So if you want to make your own blog post about it, please link up at Danya's site.

Since I missed the first posting, I'm going to post two Christmas wishes.



First up--The Affair of the 39 Cufflinks by James Anderson: Who ever tires of the zany British country house murder? Lord Burford, for one. When his wife wants to allow nine guests to stay at their country home ("just for the night"). Lord Burford protests that the last time they had a large number of guests stay there had been unfortunate incidents. Lord Burford's misgivings were understandable. After all, the "unfortunate incidents" had been murders. But these people were travelling a long way for the funeral of an elderly relative. There was nowhere else for them to stay in the village, so the Earl really had to offer them accommodations at Alderley, the Burfords' Carolean mansion. Things started to go wrong when one of guests claimed she had knowledge that would ruin the others' reputations. But nobody took that seriously. Until, that is, she was found murdered...

The Affair of the 39 Cuff Links, lighthearted sequel to The Affair of the Bloodstained Egg Cosy and The Affair of the Mutilated Mink, delighfully captures the atmosphere of the 1930s country-house mystery. I absolutely adored the Egg Cosy and Mutilated Mink stories. I would love to get my hands on this one.


Second--Panic Party by Anthony Berkeley: Mr Pidgeon is the unlikely and lucky owner of a large yacht and a desert island. Gentleman sleuth Roger Sheringham is one of the members of the party Pidgeon invites for a cruise. When the ship and its crew return to port without them, the party are marooned for a fortnight on the private island. Sheringham is shocked to discover Pidgeon has organised the whole thing as an experiment. He has brought them together to enact a bizarre murder and detection game. But then the madness starts and tragedy strikes.

This was written in the 1930s and I'm a big fan of Golden Age mysteries. I wouldn't mind seeing a whole pile of mysteries from that era under my tree!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Sherlock Holmes & The War of the Worlds

In The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: The War of the Worlds, Manly W. Wellman and Wade Wellman have taken the Sherlock Holmes we all know and love and joined him up with Doyle's other brilliant character, Professor Challenger. These two analytical men investigate and try to come up with a response to the alien invasion previously chronicled in H. G. Wells' War of the Worlds. There are several startling revelations...one in particular about Holmes and a few that "set the record straight" (as Watson would put it) about the events In London during the attack.

Overall, the Wellmans do an adequate job of telling their story and incorporating the worlds of Doyle and Wells. It is a bit disjointed in places...evidence that the novel was originally published as several "articles" which were meant to tell the "truth" about the Martian invasion. I think the portions which focus on the Professor's and Watson's point of view work best. Some of the writing from Holmes' point of view don't ring quite as true. I definitely enjoyed the interactions between Holmes and Challenger, and I am now eager to read the works that feature the egotistical professor.


***Spoiler Alert***
My major quibble with the story is the supposed romance between Holmes and Mrs. Hudson. There is no way that anyone will get me to believe that Watson, dull as he is sometimes portrayed, would have missed that relationship's reality. AND, given the good doctor's inclination to describe and have great sympathy for the beautiful women who employ Holmes as clients, you can't tell me that he wouldn't have mentioned that Mrs. Hudson was a youngish (30-ish), blonde, blue-eyed, statuesque, beauty. If there's anything the doctor notices, it's a pretty face.

Three stars out of five.

WWW: Wednesdays


WWW Wednesdays is hosted by MizB over at Should Be Reading.

To play along, just answer the following three questions....

*What are you currently reading?
*What did you recently finish reading?
*What do you think you'll read next?

Current:
The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: The War of the Worlds by Manly W. Wellman & Wade Wellman: Sherlock Holmes, Professor Challenger and Dr. Watson meet their match when the streets of London are left decimated by a prolonged alien attack. Who could be responsible for such destruction. Manly & Wade Wellman's novel takes H. G. Wells's classic story of Martian invasion and throws Holmes into the mix, with surprising results.

Finished Since Last Wednesday (click titles for reviews):
The Divine Comedy: Paradise by Dante Alighieri (trans by Dorothy L Sayers & Barbara Reynolds)
The Chocolate Cobweb by Charlotte Armstrong
The Art of the Sonnet by Stephen Burt & David Mikics
Blameless by Gail Carriger
Lay On, Mac Duff! by Charlotte Armstrong
The Conference of the Birds by Jean-Claude Carriere & Peter Brooks

Up Next (from my latest garage sale book-haul):
The Woman in the Woods by (Charity) Lee Blackstock [book blurb: She had been an odd little woman, but harmless and quite delightful. Why would anyone want to kill her?]

Police at the Funeral by Margery Allingham [Synopsis: The imperious Caroline Faraday runse her house like a Victorian fiefdom, unconcerned with the fact that it's 1931. The Faraday children--now well into middle age--chafe at the restrictions, but with no money of their own, they responde primarily by quarreling amongst themselves. Their endless squabbling is tedious but nothing more until one of them turns up missing and then dead, followed shortly by his petulant, whining sister. Though neither will be much missed, decency demands that Caroline Faraday hire the nearly respectable Albert Campion to investigate their untimely ends.]

Colour Scheme by Ngaio Marsh [Synopsis: Often regarded as her most interesting book...Ngaio Marsh herself considered this to be her best-written novel. It was a horrible death--Maurice Questing was lured into a pool of boiling mud and left there to die. Chief Inspector Roderick Alleyn, far from home on a wartime quest for German agents, knew that any nubmer of people could have killed him: the English exiles he'd hated, the New Zealanders he'd despised or the Maoris he'd insulted. Even the spies he'd thwarted--if he wasn't a spy himself...

Killing the Goose, Death of a Tall Man, or Hanged for a Sheep by Frances & Richard Lockridge