ATTENTION CHALLENGE PARTICIPANTS

2015 Editions of the Color Coded , Mount TBR and Vintage Mystery Bingo Challenges--as well as Read It Again, Sam (due to popular demand)-- have been posted. I am also introducing my newest brain-child: Super Book Password. Please check it out!

As in the past, I will post sidebar links for sign-up posts as well as review headquarters once the new year begins.


Some of Bev's Favorite Quotes...



Sunday, July 31, 2011

Crime Fiction on a Euro Pass: Oxford, England

The idea of this challenge is to embark on a 12 stage European Journey in Eurail Pass style.

Kerrie is our travel agent and she have chosen 12 destinations for your journey over 12 weeks starting on Monday 1 August.


Our first stop on the Crime Fiction on a Euro Pass summer get-away is England. And I have decided to set my sights on Oxford. Home of Oxford University. But more importantly the home of many detectives such as Inspector Morse and Oxford don, Gervase Fen. The setting for many a British academic mystery....and the place where Harriet Vane finally comes to her senses and accepts Peter Wimsey's proposal of marriage.


Inspector Morse is a senior CID officer with the Thames Valley Police in Oxford. He is the owner of a Jaguar and a lover of the arts and music--particularly opera and even more particularly Wagner. He also loves good British ale and a fine cryptic crossword puzzle. Even thoug
h he is known for his sullen temperament, he is a very likeable character and a very shrewd detective.

The novels in the series written by Colin Dexter are:

Gervase Fen is a Professor of English Language and Literature at Oxford University. Fen is somewhat eccentric and somewhat absentminded, but he is very witty and adept at getting to the heart of the mysteries that fall into his path. The plots are a bit complex and fantastic, but the books are written with humor and wit and are full of literary references that make an English major's heart glad.

Books by Fen's creator, Edmund Crispin:

  • The Case of the Gilded Fly (1944)
  • Holy Disorders (1945)
  • The Moving Toyshop (1946)
  • Swan Song (1947)
  • Love Lies Bleeding (1948)
  • Buried for Pleasure (1948)
  • Frequent Hearses (1950)
  • The Long Divorce (1952)
  • Beware of the Trains (1953) (short story collection)
  • The Glimpses of the Moon (1977)
  • Fen Country (1979) (short story collection, published posthumously)

Gaudy Night by Dorothy L. Sayers is set almost entirely at Oxford. Alma mater of Lord Peter Wimsey, the fictional version of Oxford University also houses Shrewsbury College--the educational home of Harriet Vane. The all-female college is experiencing a bout of particularly poison pen letters and malicious practical jokes. The warden of the college does not wish to bring in the police and produce unwanted publicity for the school, so she calls upon Harriet Vane to use the knowledge gained as a mystery writer to bear upon the problem. Using the annual Gaudy (a reunion of "old girls" of the college) and later a research project as cover, Harriet begins her investigations. But the mystery proves to be a deep one and Harriet finds it necessary to call upon Lord Peter for help. While wrestling with the problems of the nasty "ghost" of the college, she must also wrestle with her feelings for Peter. Oxford provides the perfect backdrop for the final stages of the romance between these two intelligent characters.

Crime Fiction on a Euro Pass

Well, I gave it some thought and gave it some thought. Bev, do you really need to sign up for another challenge? Why, yes. Yes, I do. Kerrie over at Mysteries in Paradise dangled this little goodie in front of me back on June 26. I thought I could resist. I should have known better.

The idea of this challenge is to embark on a 12 stage European Journey in Eurail Pass style.

Kerrie is our travel agent and she have chosen 12 destinations for your journey over 12 weeks starting on Monday 1 August.

The challenge is simple really.
Connect your fellow to a blog post on your site that relates to crime fiction in the country we are visiting. The meme will enable us to share our knowledge and perhaps point out new reading opportunities to each other.

You can choose one of the following (or something more imaginative)
  • a book review (create a new one or revive an old one)
  • an author profile
  • a reading syllabus for crime fiction either set in this country, or written by authors from this country.
You may vary your choice from week to week, or set your own limitations.
It is ok to miss a week if life intervenes.

Sign up for the challenge now with Mr Linky - see Kerrie's site (link above).

Please advertise the challenge with a post on your own site after you've joined up on Mr Linky.
Feel free to use the logo.

The stops on our journey will be
  1. Monday 1 August - England - this is our starting point, and as with all the countries we visit, you can choose exactly where your post takes us. My choice: Oxford.
  2. Monday 8 August - Spain/Portugal My choice is Madrid.
  3. Monday 15 August - France My choice is Le Bosquet.
  4. Monday 22 August - Holland/Belgium My choice is A C Baanjter
  5. Monday 29 August - Denmark My choice is Mikkel Birkegaard
  6. Monday 5 September - Germany My choice is Philip Kerr
  7. Monday 12 September Austria My choice is Vienna
  8. Monday 19 September - Switzerland My choice is Montarazz
  9. Monday 26 September - the Czech republic My choice is Prague
  10. Monday 3 October - Italy My choices are Tuscany & Florence
  11. Monday 10 October - Greece My choice is Corfu
  12. Monday 17 October - Turkey My choice is Istanbul
Challenge complete 10/16/11

Vintage Mystery Sunday: Rocket to the Morgue


It's Vintage Mystery Sunday and time to step into my vault of classic mysteries and choose one to feature that I read and loved before blogging took over my life and I began reviewing everything I read. This week's featured book is Rocket to the Morgue by Anthony Boucher (originally published in 1942 under his pseudonym H. H. Holmes). This is another vintage mystery find in that small, heavily-loaded-with-mysteries library in small town Indiana.


It revolves around the science fiction writer's world. The now-dead author Fowler Foulkes has reigned over the science fiction world in much the same way as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Holmes have presided over mysteries. His son, Hilary, fiercely protects the intellectual property of his father and does everything he can to keep that property producing the money to go along with the popularity. Hilary's attitude of inflexibility and greed has also earned him many enemies--especially among his father's science fiction colleagues. There are a couple of "accidents" that make him think that his life is in danger...and then a man named Jonathan Tarbell is murdered. Tarbell's death is connected to the Foulkes family by a rosary found in his pocket. The police are called in and Detective Inspector Terry Marshall arrives at the Foulkes home at the same time as a box of chocolates...a box of chocolates that seems to be ticking. And then there's a locked room mystery to be solved.

This was the first Boucher mystery I read. I didn't find the earlier work Nine Times Nine (to which this is a sequel) until much later. It isn't the all-time best mystery. It's a competent mystery and a fairly competent locked room mystery--but having read John Dickson Carr first spoiled me for greatness. What was so great about this book was that I read it during my transition period back to mysteries from science fiction. And the book revolves around the science fiction world. Authors of the Golden Age of SF are represented here...and those who know their SF lore will recognize them--and will catch all the in-jokes. It has been said that this book was Boucher's attempt to introduce SF to the mystery loving crowd. I would say that it might work just as well the other way around.

July Reading Wrap Up


I'm still keeping up with my love of lists and keeping track of all sorts of things (especially bookish things), so here are the vital statistics for the month of July:

Total Books Read: 19
Total Pages: 6413
Percentage by Female Authors: 45%
Percentage by US Authors: 53%
Percentage by non-US/non-British Authors: 11%
Percentage Fiction: 90%
Percentage written 2000+: 58% (this is definitely an all-time high for me)
Percentage of Rereads: 0%
Percentage Read for Challenges: 100% {It's easy to have every book count for a challenge when you sign up for the Out Do Yourself Challenge. Every book I read counts towards my goal of 220 books read in 2011}
Percentage Mystery: 68%

Number of Challenges fulfilled so far: Eleven!

I have also posted a couple of Best of 2011 (so far) lists:
Best Books of 2011 (so far)
Best Crime Fiction of 2011 (so far)

Tom Fleck: Review


Tom Fleck: A Novel of Cleveland & Flodden by Harry Nicholson is set in North-East England during the 16th Century. We follow Tom, a hardworking cowman on the Warren estate, as he looks for a way to escape his masters. He unearths a Tudor seal ring from the mud and that, along with a gold torque he helped his father dig up, will start him on the road to freedom. But it's a long and winding road--filled with danger and fighting. For Tom is also a gifted archer and the Scottish clans on the northern border are making preparations for war. After finding what looks to be a promising job with the King's Herald, Tom and his fellows are pressed into service to defend the northern border. Will Tom survive the battle and make his way safely back to his sister....and to Rachel, the beautiful woman he met when he sold the gold torque?

Harry Nicholson's writing and story-telling abilities take us straight back to the 16th Century with nary a bump in the time-traveling journey. As the reader settles in, the 21st Century drops away and it seems more than natural to meet men in chain mail and archers with long bows. Vivid word-pictures tell us exactly where and when we are. But Nicholson is at his very best with characterization. Tom is a likeable fellow--full of dreams and faults and very human. He's got a temper that he needs to learn to control and a streak of friendliness and kindness a mile wide. And the reader is rooting for him from the very start. The supporting cast are just as well-drawn.


Overall, a very interesting and well-told historical novel. Seeing the ending battles from Tom's viewpoint put us right in the middle of the fray. And gave us the story from the man on the ground rather than the knights and landed gentry leading the troops. A very good read with a lovely ending. It was so nice to read a story with a happy ending--not there aren't disappointments and losses along the way. So many modern writers seem to think they have to write depressing endings, because life so often is depressing and disappointing and they want to be "realistic." Sometimes it's good to have a good, old fashioned "happily-ever-after." Close enough to four stars--that's what I'll go with.


[Disclaimer: I have my review policy stated on my blog, but just to reiterate....This review copy was offered to me by the author for impartial review and I have received no payment of any kind. All comments are entirely my own honest opinion.]

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Book Buying Binge


So....the Caveat Emptor, a local rare and used bookstore, is celebrating its 40th anniversary this weekend and giving customers a 20% discount. I couldn't pass that up. AND the owner had just hauled out a bunch of "new" vintage mysteries from the back room. New to the store anyway. I came home with quite an armload. Here we go...

Compartment K by Helen Reilly(original pub date 1955): It had been planned, everybody thought, as a family weekend. The Canadian Rockies, a lodge--it was something to look forward to. Until an uninvited guest became part of the group. A man of mystery. A stranger. But there was no mystery about this: as the miles faded, a killer stalked the night and the stranger became a corpse. And he was, it turned out, not such a stranger after all....

Death Demands an Audience by Helen Reilly (orig. pub date 1940): The murderer wasn't shy. One victim was killed in a department store window. Another died before the startled eyes of a policeman on guard duty. The third breathed his last in a crowd coming out of a theater. Then the murderer tried the boldest move of all--with Inspector McKee as the intended victim.

The Lady in the Morgue by Jonathan Latimer (orig. pub date1936; my find--a pocket-size edition by Pocket Books 1944): Murder, murder--who's got the body? A lively mystery story that revolves around the cadaver of an unidentified, nude blonde found hanging from her own bathroon door. The corpse disappears, a morgue attendant dies, then a left-handed undertaker. A coffin is dug up--and found empty. And William Crane--alcoholic Private Detective--visits a taxi dance hall, steals twenty dresses, and then stands in (or lies in) for a stiff on a slab in the morgue.

Avon Mystery Story Teller by various authors (pub date 1946; Avon pocket size edition!): a collection of stories by Mignon G. Eberhart, William Irish, Agatha Christie, Craig Rice, Margery Allingham, John Dickson Carr, Edgar Wallace, & others.

The Widows of Broome by Arthur W. Upfield(orig. pub date 1950): Broome is a little, sun-drenched town on the barren northwest coast of Australia--the kind of place where everyone knows everyone else's business. How then did someone murder Broome's two most attractive widows and get away without leaving a clue?

Death at the Medical Board by Josephine Bell (orig. pub date 1944): It was wartime and Ursula Finton wanted to join some branch of the women's services so she could "do her bit." But her family had always said that she had "heart trouble" and she was worried about passing the medical exam. So, she had a London specialist give her a thorough exam and a paper stating in no uncertain terms that her heart was perfectly sound and always had been. Ursula figured she could sort it out later. But someone at the medical board was ready for her. Poor Ursula.

Bones in the Barrow by Josephine Bell (orig. pub date 1953): In the swirling London fog, dimly seen through dirty train windows, a young man witnesses what he believes to be a murder. Understandably, he is reluctant to make a fool of himself. Nevertheless he does eventually tell his story to the police. They find nothing. But later--much later--when spring has cleared away the fogs of winter and workmen are up on a certain roof repairing clogged gutters, they find some bones--the small delicate bones of a woman's hand...

Beware of Trains by Edmund Crispin (orig. pub date 1962): 16 short stories (all but two with Gervase Fen). These stories will test your crime-solving abilities. Crispin has provided all the clues you need to detect the solution, using logic and common sense. Can you meet the challenge?

The Red Lamp by Mary Roberts Rinehart (orig. pub date 1925): Jane wanted to leave Twin Towers the moment she arrived. She had a strange feeling about the old mansion, a chilling apprehension of doom that followed her through the creaking halls like a death shadow. The others thought her fears were groundless--until they felt the evil iridescence of the Red Lamp, and realized how terrifyingly right she was!

The Man in Lower Ten by Mary Roberts Rinehart (orig. pub date 1906): The first time Lawrence Blakely saw Alison West was in a photo. Her face was angelic, her eyes shining, her lips softly smiling. The next time he saw her was on an express racing through the night. She was the same girl--yet totally different, her face pale, her eyes darting evasively, her mouth drawn tight. Something evil hovered about this beautiful girl But did it come from within her, or without? Lawrence Blakely had to find out...

The Black Seven by Carol Kendall (1st edition hardback!! 1946): Drawers Random (christened Roderick because his father was obsessed by Smollet) was precocious beyond his twelve years. Drawers preferred the Gashouse, his secret lair where he could drink his beer in peace, to the literary gloom of the Random house. From beer and pulp magazines it was easy for Drawers to step into the realm of murder detective when things began to happen to his neighbors, the Twiggs.

These two by Thomson are not vintage mysteries (by my definition), but Thomson is a favorite author anyway. Inspector Finch goes by the name Inspector Rudd in American editions.

Shadow of a Doubt by June Thomson (orig. pub date 1981): Hawton Hall is an exclusive private clinic, presided over by the charismatic and ambitious Dr. Howard Jordan. Autocratic and unbending he may be, but the women on his staff revere him for his brisk professionalism...and perhaps more. For his timid, grey wife, however, he has little time to spare. To her he is abrupt, intolerant, even in public. No one is much surprised when one day Clair Jordan leaves the Hall and does not return. She has left him at last they exclaim, intrigued. Yet why should this event--surely a routine matter for the village bobby--come to Detective Chief Inspector Finch's attention at regional HQ.

To Make a Killing by June Thomson (orig pub date 1982): Bedridden, impoverished and almost forgotten, Max Gifford is at the end of his career as a painter. Only the loving care of his wife--a woman young enough to be his daughter--prevents him sinking into cynical despair. But then the owner of a smart London gallery proposes a major exhibition of his work, a suggestion to which Max and his wife readily agree. Here at last is their passport to fame and fortune--until a brutal murder puts an end to their dreams.

And one book from the Friends of the Library Bookstore:

Murder by 14 (ed by David C. Cooke): 14 great authors choose their best stories. Includes stories by Lawrence G Blochman, Leslie Charteris, Octavus Roy Cohen, Mignon G Eberhart, Frank Guber, Vincent Starrett, John & Ward Hopkins, Stuart Palmer, Q. Patrick, Hugh Pentecost, Ellery Queen, Craig Rice and Sax Rohmer.

Library Loot: July 27-Aug 2


Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire (The Captive Reader) and Marg (The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader) that encourages bloggers to share the books they've checked out of the library. If you'd like to participate, just write up your post, feel free to steal button, and link up using the Mr. Linky the hosting site each week. And, of course, check out what other participants are getting from their libraries.

The Loot from the Library is a bit sparse again this week. But hold on, because I scored big time at the local used book store and will just have to share in the next post.

1. Shatterday by Harlan Ellison. I loved Elli
son when I was a teenager and heavy into my science fiction addiction. The "Follow That Blurb" challenge that I'm doing has led me back to Ellison. It'll be interesting to see what I think of him now.


click HERE for synopsis

2. Cities in Flight by James Blish. Blish blurbs Ellison--so he's the next stop on the "Follow That Blurb" journey. This is one hefty book though. I may wind up choosing something a little less bulky by Blish.



click HERE for synopsis

Saturday Snapshot: July 30

Saturday Snapshot is a meme hosted by Alyce at At Home with Books. All you have to do is "post a photo that you (or a friend or family member) have taken and then leave a direct link to your post in the Mr. Linky on [her] blog. Photos can be old or new, and be of anything as long as they are clean and appropriate for all eyes to see. How much detail you give is up to you." All she asks is that you don't just post random photos that you find online.







Day lilies at the side of our house.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Friday Memes


Book Beginni
ngs on Friday is a bookish meme sponsored by Katy at A Few More Pages. Here's what you do: Share the first line (or two) of the book you are currently reading on your blog or in the comments section. Include the title and author so we know what you're reading. Then, if you are so moved, let us know what your first impressions were based on that first line and if you did or did not like that sentence. Link up each week at Katy's place.


Here's mine
from Tom Fleck: A Novel of Cleveland & Flodden by Harry Nicholson:

Wings clattered through branches. Tom Fleck stayed his axe in mid-swing as two wood pigeons flung themselves into the mist. He looked down at the dog as her throat rumbled. She raised a paw, shot him a glance, then--ears cocked--faced along the track. Metal clinked somewhere.



The Friday 56 is a bookish meme sponsored by Freda's Voice. It is really easy to participate.

*Grab a book, any book.
*Turn to page 56.

*Find any sentence that grabs you.

*Post it.

*Link up at Freda's site.
Here's mine from Tom Fleck: A Novel of Cleveland & Flodden by Harry Nicholson:

Five months now, he mused; Dad, why do good folks have to die?

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Theme Thursday: Any Action


Hosted by Reading Between the Pages

Rules
*A theme will be posted each week on Thursday
*Select a conversation/snippet/sentence from your current book that features the theme
*Post it and don't forget to mention the author and title of the book
*Event is open for the whole week
*Link back to Reading Between the Pages
This week's theme is Any Action.
Here's mine from Tom Fleck: A Novel of Cleveland & Flodden by Harry Nicholson (p. 61):

"We'll dig here. Let's work fast before we lose the light. We'll take care to do it the proper way. Stand up, son." He faced the east and called out in a chant. "All things that guard this spot, we beg you to let us enter. We are your kin and need to take from here only because we have hardship." He swung around to face south and chanted again; then to the west, and finally, to the north.

Booking Through Thursday: Night Owl?

Booking ThroughThursday
Question:
What’s the latest you’ve ever stayed up reading a book? Is staying up late reading a usual thing for you?

The latest I ever stayed up reading? 4 am. But I was a lot younger and not working full time then. Once in a while I'll find myself reading until 1 am now, but I try to make that on a weekend.

One story on this topic: About two months after we were married, my husband headed to bed at, say 10 pm, and asked me if I was coming too. I told him that I'd just be a minute..."I'm just at the good part." Next thing I knew it was 2 am. He's never let me forget that.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

WWW: Wednesdays

WWW: Wednesdays is hosted by MizB over at Should Be Reading. This is a weekly meme that I have been participating in for over a year now.

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

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

Current:
Seven Gothic Tales by Isak Dinesen: Originally published in 1934, Seven Gothic Tales, the first book by "one of the finest and most singular artists of our time" (The Atlantic), is a modern classic. Here are seven exquisite tales combining the keen psychological insight characteristic of the modern short story with the haunting mystery of the nineteenth-century Gothic tale, in the tradition of writers such as Goethe, Hoffmann, and Poe.

Tom Fleck by Harry Nicholson:
The year: 1513. The place: North-East England. Tom Fleck, a downtrodden farm worker but gifted archer, yearns to escape his masters. He unearths two objects that could be keys to freedom: a torque of ancient gold and a Tudor seal ring. He cannot know how these finds will determine his future. Rachel Coronel craves an end to her Jewish wanderings. When the torque comes to rest around the neck of this mysterious woman, an odyssey begins which draws Tom Fleck into borderlands of belief and race. The seal ring propels Tom on a journey of self-knowledge that can only climax in another borderland - among the flowers and banners of Flodden Field. [Goodreads]


Read Since the Last WWW: Wednesday (click titles for reviews):
Heartless by Gail Carriger
The Prop by Pete Hautman
No Body by Nancy Pickard
Random Walk by Lawrence Block

Up Next:
The Affair of the 39 Cufflinks by James Anderson
Shatterday by Harlan Ellison
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
The High Crusade by Poul Anderson

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Random Walk: Review


Random Walk by Lawrence Block is another stop on my Follow That Blurb Reading Challenge journey. Originally written in 1987, this book is a departure from Block's usual mystery/thriller fare...something I chose deliberately. It was beginning to look like my Blurb journey was going to begin and end with mysteries. I was kind of hoping the trip would be a little more varied. So, when Block blurbed my last read (No Body by Nancy Pickard) I just kept scrolling through his work to see what might strike my fancy. And came across this unusual novel. Very unusual. I would say that 90% of the book is schizophrenic.

Yes. There are two main stories going on throughout most of the book. First, we have the story of Guthrie, a bartender who's fairly happy with his life--going along just fine--when all of a sudden one day while he's waiting on a friend who's having an abortion he hears a voice tell him to take a walk. So he does. Quits his job. Sells his car. Cleans out his bank account of all but the minimum and just starts walking East. That's all he knows--gonna head East from Oregon. Doesn't know why, other than it just feels right. Along the way, he encounters other kindred spirits who just join him. At the same time as he's getting his message from the astral plane or wherever, Sara in Fort Wayne, Indiana begins to go blind. And decides that she's meant to go blind so she can see better. She quits her job; takes her son out of school; clears out as much cash as she can; and hops on a bus headed West. So she can meet up with Guthrie and company. As they walk they pick up more and more people and all sorts of New Age-y, mystical, healing-power, find yourself, center-yourself-breathing, heal the planet stuff begins to happen. As Guthrie says, by the time they reach the East Coast the reader shouldn't be surprised if the group isn't able to keep on walking on the water of the Atlantic Ocean and go trekking through Europe.

In story number two we have Mark, a power-hungry businessman and serial killer who gets his sexual jollies from knocking off as many women as possible. He's been at it for eight years--previously taking it slow and only killing at random as he travels for business. But lately the hunger has built and he decided to up his travel schedule for the summer and see how many he can do before the cold weather hits. His path keeps circling closer and closer to that of Guthrie's group....what will happen when the New Age peace and love and healing meets such a definite evil?

Despite the serial killer in storyline number two, as I mentioned above this is NOT a thriller. We're not waiting to see if Mark gets caught and there's definitely no detecting and mystery going on (unless you count the mystery of the New Age stuff). This story is a journey. It's not about where they're going; it's about what happens while they're on their way. It's about growth and personal healing. I'm not much into the whole New Age philosophy, but there are definitely some pieces of the message in this weird book that the human race could stand to learn. That we're all in this together. That what we do to others affects us--who we are and what we are. That if we treated each other and the world we live in better, then we just might make it. And the world would be a lot better for it.

Like I said, this is one weird book. I didn't know quite what to do with it. But I was compelled to keep reading. Couldn't stop if I wanted to. That must be a sign of powerful writing--even if I don't entirely agree with the message being conveyed. Three and 3/4 stars (almost four)--all for that powerful writing.

Teaser Tuesdays

MizB 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 title and author too, so other TT participants can add it to their TBR lists if they like your teaser.

Here's mine from Random Walk by Lawrence Block (p. 77):

Well, I don't know as I'd stick it that far. I was never one to walk if I could ride or stand if I could sit. Or sit if I could lay down, far as that goes. But I got to tell you, I been tryin' to drive away from you and not havin' too much success with it. You got any objection to me taggin' along? If either of us don't like it, well, all they got to do is say so and we can go our separate ways.


Monday, July 25, 2011

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?


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


Books Read Last Week (click on titles for review):
Bone Harvest by Mary Logue
Robert Kennedy: In His Own Words by Edwin O. Guthman & Jeffrey Shulman, eds.
Heartless by Gail Carriger
The Prop by Pete Hautman
No Body by Nancy Pickard

Currently Reading:
Seven Gothic Tales by Isak Dinesen: Originally published in 1934, Seven Gothic Tales, the first book by "one of the finest and most singular artists of our time" (The Atlantic), is a modern classic. Here are seven exquisite tales combining the keen psychological insight characteristic of the modern short story with the haunting mystery of the nineteenth-century Gothic tale, in the tradition of writers such as Goethe, Hoffmann, and Poe.

Random Walk
by Lawrence Block: A fantastic journey starts one step at a time. Guthrie's got a voice in his head, and it's telling him to go for a walk. So he does--across America. Along the way he meets up with other souls searching for something more from life. And at his side is Sara, a woman whose natural sight has been lost but replaced with mystical visions. Before long remarkable things are happening to all of the walkers. Meanwhile, Mark, a successful businessman who happens to be a serial killer, is also roaming the American landscape. Will Mark cross paths with Guthrie and his soulful band, and if he does, will good triumph over evil?


Books that spark my interest:
The Affair of the 39 Cufflinks by James Anderson
Shatterday by Harlan Ellison
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
The High Crusade by Poul Anderson


Sunday, July 24, 2011

No Body: Review


No Body by Nancy Pickard is a fun and funny mystery that I picked up as part of my Follow That Blurb Challenge journey. This is the third story in Pickard's Jenny Cain series, but I had no problem stepping into the book without having read the first two. The story begins with Jenny's old sixth-grade teacher visiting the graves of her forbears only to be caught in a mud slide that reveals that her ancestors, along with 131 other "residents" of the New England cemetery are no longer resting in peace. In fact, they're not resting there at all. Following directly on the heels of this alarming discovery, the corpse of Sylvia Davis, secretary to the local funeral home, is found in the casket with John Rudolph just as his wife is preparing to see him safely stowed in the new cemetery. Rudolph's widow makes several scenes and then makes an appointment with the report Lewis Riss to tell what she knows. Before she can keep that appointment, she, too, is found murdered. It's up to Jenny to solve the two mysteries--the one with too few bodies and the one where the corpses keep multiplying.

Jenny Cain is a bright, witty character. She has a way of getting people to talk and finding out what they don't want her to know. She also makes her share of mistakes before getting to the final answer and this makes her very human. The writing is brisk and easy going down--making for a fun, quick read. There is enough humor to offset the rather depressing subject matter of funerals and funeral homes and graveyards. The mystery has enough twists in it to keep the reader guessing till the end. Three stars for a nice, pleasant afternoon read.



Saturday, July 23, 2011

Theme Thursday: Smile


Hosted by Reading Between the Pages

Rules
*A theme will be posted each week on Thursday
*Select a conversation/snippet/sentence from your current book that features the theme
*Post it and don't forget to mention the author and title of the book
*Event is open for the whole week
*Link back to Reading Between the Pages
This week's theme is SMILE (laugh, grin, giggle, guffaw, etc).
Here's mine from No Body by Nancy Pickard (p. 2):
"It has happened, Faye, I said in mournful tones. "I knew it would someday. Leave a man alone in a room with tax forms for too many years, and eventually he cracks up. A man can take a lot, you know, prisoners of war have proved it time and again...torture, deprivation, loneliness. But the tax forms of the United States government are beyond the capacity of a sane man to behold and withstand, and every time our representatives, in their wisdom, 'improve' and 'shorten' the damn things, accountants all over the country get that much closer to the precipice that Marv here has obviously just plunged over."
"Coffee, Marvin?" Faye inquired with false and humorous sympathy. "Aspirin?"
"Whiskey?" I suggested more usefully.
His grin grew even more gleeful, and he rubbed his hands together as if he were rolling dice. I began to wonder if my normally sane and sober accountant was adding with all his numbers.

Library Loot: July 20-26


Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire (The Captive Reader) and Marg (The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader) that encourages bloggers to share the books they've checked out of the library. If you'd like to participate, just write up your post, feel free to steal button, and link up using the Mr. Linky the hosting site each week. And, of course, check out what other participants are getting from their libraries.



My Loot (a little sparse this week):

No Body by Nancy Pickard: The third story featuring Jenny Cain is fast-moving, sparked by humor and an unusual plot. Jenny, still serving as the
head of the Port Frederick Civic Foundation, relates events that stun the population in her New England town when a mud slide reveals the disappearance of 133 bodies, supposedly interred during the 19th century in the old cemetery. At the same time, the corpse of Sylvia Davis is found in the casket with John Rudolph just before he's due to be buried in the new cemetery. The next day, Rudolph's widow is murdered, and Jenny sets out to gather evidence on possible killers. Her prime suspect is a young gravedigger and drug addict who dominates the center stage in macabre scenes before Jenny solves the puzzle of the town's vanished ancestors and identifies the present-day evildoer.


Random Walk by Lawrence Block: A fantastic journey starts one step at a time. Guthrie's got a voice in his head, and it's telling him to go for a walk. So he does--across America. Along the way he meets up with other souls searching for something more from life. And at his side is Sara, a woman whose natural sight has been lost but replaced with mystical visions. Before long remarkable things are happening to all of the walkers. Meanwhile, Mark, a successful businessman who happens to be a serial killer, is also roaming the American landscape. Will Mark cross paths with Guthrie and his soulful band, and if he does, will good triumph over evil?




The Prop: Review


Peeky Kane plays poker for a living. She's pretty good at it. She has learned to read what a player will do based on the twitch of an eyebrow, a swift movement of a lip, or an intake of breath. She's a pro...a prop player at an Arizona casino owned by the Santa Cruz tribe. So far she's been able to make a nice little living off the people who come to the Casino Santa Cruz card room. But then things begin to go wrong. First Peeky finds herself in a fixed game, bringing home about $7,000 in one night's work. Then a gang of clown-masked robbers manage to run off with a million of the casino's dollars--killing four people in the process. Peeky recognizes one of the gang as a casino employee and then finds that another robber is much closer to her than that. Added to the mix is the revelation from her son-in-law that her daughter Jaymie has a drug habit--one that she's been supporting by raiding her mom's stashed money. Can things get any worse? Peeky is called upon by one of the most powerful members of the Santa Cruz tribe to help him get to the bottom of the troubles at his casino. She will have to use her gambling instincts and powers of observation to help her save the casino, her daughter, and herself.

I have mixed feelings about this one. I love the character of Peeky. She's strong, sassy, engaging, and flawed. She's human enough that you're immediately on her side. The writing is just as addictive as if the reader had been bitten by the gambling bug. There's plenty of action and double-dealing. That's the pluses. On the negative side, there's an awful lot of killing--more than I usually like in my mysteries. And the murders are so senseless. It's also a bit more noir than I'm used to. And all the things that happen to Peeky....well, I felt like it was enough already. Three and a half stars for great writing and terrific characters.

Saturday Snapshot: July 23

Saturday Snapshot is a meme hosted by Alyce at At Home with Books. All you have to do is "post a photo that you (or a friend or family member) have taken and then leave a direct link to your post in the Mr. Linky on [her] blog. Photos can be old or new, and be of anything as long as they are clean and appropriate for all eyes to see. How much detail you give is up to you." All she asks is that you don't just post random photos that you find online.



We are dog-sitting at the moment. This is Collette. She belongs to my husband's mom and she stays with us every time hubby's mom & step-dad take a trip. She's quite the little sweetie!

Friday Memes (on Saturday)

I'm running way behind on my blogging....It's been a crazy week at work and then what with the heat, I've not felt like doing much of anything when I get home. So here's what I would have put up yesterday....

Book Beginni
ngs on Friday is a bookish meme sponsored by Katy at A Few More Pages. Here's what you do: Share the first line (or two) of the book you are currently reading on your blog or in the comments section. Include the title and author so we know what you're reading. Then, if you are so moved, let us know what your first impressions were based on that first line and if you did or did not like that sentence. Link up each week at Katy's place.


Here's mine
from The Prop by Pete Hautman:

"Jackpot went off again last night, Peeky. Seventeen grand."



The Friday 56 is a bookish meme sponsored by Freda's Voice. It is really easy to participate.

*Grab a book, any book.
*Turn to page 56.

*Find any sentence that grabs you.

*Post it.

*Link up at Freda's site.

Here's mine from The Prop by Pete Hautman:

I come to sitting upright on the sofa in the lounge with someone holding a cool wet towel to my temple.


Thursday, July 21, 2011

Booking Through Thursday: Repeats

btt button

This week's Booking Through Thursday question:

What’s the first book that you ever read more than once? (I’m assuming there’s at least one.)

What book have you read the most times? And–how many?

The first book that I "read" more than once was Here's a Bunny (I have no idea who the author was). It was a cloth book for my little toddler hands which my Aunt Helen gave me. I demanded that any available adult sit and read it with me over and over and over again. Probably the first book that I really read for myself more than once was Mr. Brown Can Moo, Can You? by Dr. Seuss. I loved that book.

I'd have to say that the book I've read the most times is Strong Poison by Dorothy L Sayers (or possibly any of her other Lord Peter Wimsey books). And I've reread them more times than I can count.

Heartless: Review


Heartless is the latest in Gail Carriger's series starring Lady Alexia Maccon, formerly Alexia Tarabotti. She is a preternatural--born without a soul who lives in an alternate Victorian era where vampires, werewolves and other supernatural creatures have been accepted into mainstream British society. In this outing Alexia is approached by a mad ghost, babbling about a threat to the queen. Even though she is well along in her pregnancy (she waddles, for heaven's sake!), Alexia is soon on the trail--following clues that lead her into her husband's past. Added to that, she must deal with a sister who has joined the cause for votes for women, Madame Lefoux and her latest invention, and a plague of homicidal zombie porcupines, the latest in the vampires' efforts to kill her unborn child (and incidentally Lady Maccon as well). Will Alexia get to the bottom of the plot to kill Queen Victoria? Will she survive the plots against her own life? And just what sort of child will she give birth to--if she's given the chance?

It may well be that the bloom is off the rose on this series. Either that or Carriger is gearing up for another good one in Timeless (due out in March 2012). Soulless was really good. Blameless was good, but not great. Changeless was fabulous. And now Heartless is just okay. Alexia and her Lord Maccon are still marvelous characters. I could "listen" to their dialogue all day. But the action and story line in this one just isn't quite up to snuff. I found myself forcing my way to end...I shouldn't have to do that. I'm also not entirely sure that I like the way Carriger ended things in this one. It's really hard to write a decent review when everything you want to talk about is a spoiler....Let's just say that I'm giving this one a bare three stars and leave it at that.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

WWW: Wednesdays

WWW: Wednesdays which is hosted by MizB over at Should Be Reading. This is a weekly meme that I have been participating in for over a year now.

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

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

Current:
Heartless by Gail Carriger: Lady Alexia Maccon, soulless, is at it again, only this time the trouble is not her fault. When a mad ghost threatens the queen, Alexia is on the case, following a trail that leads her deep into her husband's past. Top that off with a sister who has joined the suffragette movement (shocking!), Madame Lefoux's latest mechanical invention, and a plague of zombie porcupines and Alexia barely has time to remember she happens to be eight months pregnant. Will Alexia manage to determine who is trying to kill Queen Victoria before it is too late? Is it the vampires again or is there a traitor lurking about in wolf's clothing? And what, exactly, has taken up residence in Lord Akeldama's second best closet?




Read Since the Last WWW: Wednesday (click titles for reviews):
The Case of the Deceiving Don by Carl Brookins
Unnatural Death by Dorothy L Sayers
The Mystery of the Third Lucretia by Susan Runholt
Bone Harvest by Mary Logue
Robert Kennedy: In His Own Words by Edwin O. Guthman & Jeffrey Shulman, eds.


Up Next:
Seven Gothic Tales by Isak Dinesen
The Affair of the 39 Cufflinks by James Anderson
The White Woman on the Green Bicycle by Monique Roffey
Heartless by Gail Carriger
The Prop by Pete Hautman

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Teaser Tuesdays

MizB 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 title and author too, so other TT participants can add it to their TBR lists if they like your teaser.
Here's mine from Heartless by Gail Carriger (p. 24):

"If you don't feel that it is forward of me to ask, are you here to kill me, Lord Ambrose?" She inched away from the carriage door, reaching for Ethel [
her gun].



Robert Kennedy: In His Own Words (Review)


There are some books that are right for certain times. Certain books that if you don't read them as a child, you won't ever appreciate properly if you try to read them as an adult. Books that when you pick them up and read them affect you in such a way that they never would have if you'd read them a year ago...or a year from now. For me I think, Robert Kennedy: In His Own Words is such a book. When I was in high school I did a huge research paper on Robert Kennedy. I got really interested and started reading more and more even after the paper was finished. One of my good friends gave me this book as soon as it came out in a trade paperback edition back in 1989. But for whatever reason--the demands of college, perhaps--I never read it. I kept it on the TBR pile and kept putting it off. That was a mistake.

It's not that I'm not interested in RFK anymore. I am. I read a really good book about him last year, Robert F. Kennedy: A Memoir by Jack Newfield, and was totally caught up in the history again. But this book is a very different thing. It is composed of transcripts of interviews conducted in 1964, 1965 and 1967 with RFK as part of an oral history for the John F. Kennedy Library. There are a lot of details about events that took place before I was born and which, in the years since my intense research, have grown very fuzzy in the memory. I would have appreciated this book so much more if I had read it when the research was much fresher.

But, that said, this is still a very good book. When it came out, I'm sure it made quite a splash. It gave the reading public the never-before-published inside view of what went on in the White House and the Attorney General's office during the JFK presidency. Details of the Bay of Pigs and the civil rights campaign and early years of Vietnam straight from the the president's most trusted adviser. Through most of the interviews, Kennedy has a very matter-of fact tone--a man just telling what happened and how he participated. Then there are sections that are very touching which give a view of the deep respect and friendship that had grown up between the two brothers. He shares the hopes and aspirations that he and JFK had for what they hoped would be JFK's second term in office. He also speaks quite openly--and irritably--about Lyndon Johnson and about how their very tenuous relationship deteriorated so rapidly in the days after his brother's assassination. And he ends with tentative musings about what might be ahead for him.

A very informative book. Chock full of details. A valuable resource for anyone interested in the presidency of John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy's involvement during those years...or both. Three stars....if I had been able to read this sooner, I'm sure I would have rated it higher.