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...



Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Pick of the Month & January Wrap Up

This year I will be combining my monthly wrap-up post with Kerrie's Crime Fiction Pick of the Month over at Mysteries in Paradise.


My January totals are not anything like what I wanted. I've had a slow start--in part because I still haven't figured out how to adjust my reading schedule around my new lunch-time schedule (which basically consists of me using up my lunch hour four days a week in errand-running--Ick!). Here we go...

Total Books Read: 11
Total Pages: 3001
Percentage by Female Authors: 27%

Percentage by US Authors: 82% (This is my high
est total yet for American--not my usual thing)
Percentage by non-US/non-British Authors: 0%
Percentage Mystery: 45%
Percentage Fiction: 91%
Percentage written 2000+: 18%
Percentage of Rereads: 9%
Percentage Read for Challenges: 100% {It's eas
y to have every book count for a challenge when you sign up for as many as I do.}

Number of Challenges fulfilled so far: 1 (3%)




AND, as mentioned above, Kerrie is sponsoring a new meme for those of us who track our reading. What she's looking for is our Top Mystery Read for each month. In January, I read five books that may count as mysteries (Murder & Magic is fantasy/mystery mash-up). I handed out no five star awards this time round and only two four stars. Since one of the four star picks was a reread (Murder Has Its Points by Richard & Frances Lockridge), my Pick of the Month for January is The Problem of the Green Capsule by John Dickson Carr. Click title for review.



Monday, January 30, 2012

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.

I missed posting last week, so the books read reflect two weeks' worth of books.

Books Read (click on titles for review):
The Masks of Time by Robert Silverberg
Unseen Academicals by Terry Pratchett
Future Crime: Anthology of the Shape of Crime to Come by Cynthia Manson & Charles Ardai (eds)
Proust & The Squid: The Story & Science of the Reading Brain by Maryanne Wolf
Murder & Magic by Randall Garrett
The Black Seven by Carol Kendall

Currently Reading:
The First Men in the Moon by H. G. Wells:
Mr. Cavor's delightful invention resisted gravity. Imagine it covering a large sphere - and in that sphere two daring travelers, their luggage, food, water ... and an ingenious method for steering straight to the moon! First published in 1901, it describes this thrilling voyage and a moon of his own splendid imagination. It is a beautiful land, alive with vegetation. There are mooncalves on it, and then, as his intrepid explorers push on, even stranger creatures who threaten and terrify them and fill their days with adventure...

Science and later fiction have given us perhaps more realistic views of the moon than Wells was in a position to at the turn of the century. But THE FIRST MEN IN THE MOON remains an engaging fantasy - by one of the most colorful and prophetic talents in literature.


Books that spark my interest:
The Time Machine by H. G. Wells
The Future on Ice by Orson Scott Card (ed)
The Jesus Incident by Frank Herbert & Bill Ransom
Twenty-Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne

[You will notice I'm still focused on science fiction titles...I'm in the midst of the Science Fiction Experience "challenge" sponsored by Carl V. SF will be the main item on the menu until the end of February.]



Winter Respite Wrap Up



I signed up for
The True Book Addict's Winter Respite Read-a-Thon hoping that it would help me get my reading mojo back and knock out some books for all those challenges I signed up for. Here's the run-down of what I managed to read this past week:

1.
Future Crime by Cynthia Mason & Charles Ardai, eds. (64 pages to finish the book) 1/23/12
2. Murder & Magic by Randall Garrett (266 pages) 1/28/12
3. Proust & the Squid: The Story & Science of the Reading Brain by Maryann Wolfe (308 pages) 1/28/12
4. The Black Seven by Carol Kendall (275 pages) 1/29/12

Well...the total of four books and 913 pages is a bit less than I wanted. But (knock on wood) it does seem that my little reading slump has been overcome. Hopefully, I'll be able to keep the pace up.

Thanks to The True Book Addict for sponsoring again this year!


Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Black Seven


The Black Seven by Carol Kendall is a first edition, debut novel that I picked up on one of my book-buying extravaganzas. Found this one in our local used bookstore, the Caveat Emptor. Before snagging this off the shelf, I had never heard of Carol Kendall before...probably because this would seem to be her only adult mystery. The story stars a twelve-year-old protagonist and she found that she enjoyed writing about children so much that she went on to publish two mysteries for children before writing The Gammage Cup, a fantasy novel which received a Newbery Honor in 1959 and which prompted two sequels.

As mentioned, the story features Roderick "Drawers" Random--a precocious 12-year-old who fancies himself a small-town version of Sexton Blake. His father has him on a regimen of reading the classics--but Drawers has fixed himself up a secret hideout where he can read
Astounding Stories and other pulp magazines in peace. That is until the owner of the property where his cozy little shed shelters in the tangled, neglected garden manages to get himself killed. Then Drawers finds himself drawn into the real-life realm of mystery and excitement that surrounds his odd neighbors, the Twiggs.

Originally a large family living in Twigg Terrace and bullied by their eccentric father Tobias, the Twigg family--Jasper, Casper, Toby (Jr.), Dulcet, Cannas, (siblings all) and Tammany (their cousin--went their separate ways when Tobias died, an apparent suicide, five years ago. Detective Peter Mood has always had his doubts about the manner of Tobias senior's death, but with no proof and no encouragement from his superiors to investigate further he had been forced to leave the case alone. Then Casper, current head of the family, calls his relatives together to let them know he plans to restart the bullying campaign that ended with Tobias senior's death. Well, you can imagine how well that went over...and soon Casper is found beaten to death among Cannas's petunias (or whatever variety of garden flower she goes in for--it's not specified).


There are many clues and interesting items that are soon brought to Drawers' attention (and through him to Peter Mood)--from the rumor of the Seven Black Babies (which may or may not be gems) to the sprightly, talking starling to the regular parade of Twiggs who visit him in the Gas House (his humble hideout). They're all on a treasure hunt for the Babies; they're all trying to keep that fact from the others. And one of them is a murderer. But which one?


I'll just tell you upfront--this is not exactly the most intricate and literary vintage mystery. It's not even all that good as an example of the genre. But it is
fun. Drawers is an appealing character. And it's very entertaining to watch him make his way through adventures not unlike those his pulp heroes have faced--rats in the cellar, being jumped and searched, facing a gas-masked villain intent to kill. All the thrills and chills of the early adventure/detective stories. And his poor father--totally oblivious to everything. It's totally worth it just for Mr. Random's speech to Drawers about murderous strangers running amok in their small town.

"This morning's paper carries the story of a murder in this very neighborhood. No one you would know, of course--an older man. I really didn't read the whole story, but I gathered he used to live over on the next street. Therefore I think it wise that you should be careful not to speak to strangers. If they offer you candy or an automobile ride, you must refuse and get away from them quickly. Do you understand?"

"Yes sir. I'll be very careful."


"And Roderick..." His father hesitated. "Roderick, of course I know I don't need to say this, but if I were you I would be very careful not to go out after dark, even with any of your little friends." [Oh, how little he knows his son...]

"Yes sir," said Drawers. "I suppose, sir, it would be all right if I...talked on the telephone?"


"Yes, Roderick," Said Mr. Random gravely. "But don't let anybody lure you away from the house on a false errand."
 

I thoroughly enjoyed myself. Three stars--for good, decent fun.

Oh...and a favorite quote:

It's a lot easier to like people when they can't make life miserable for you any more.

**One small note: There is a usage of the N-word. It's not in reference to actual characters in the story, but it's a phrase of the time and may offend some.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Murder & Magic: Review


Step into another world...the world of Randall Garrett's Murder and Magic...a world where Richard the Lion-Hearted did not die at the Siege of Chaluz and the House of Plantagenet rules England and a mighty empire even in the 1960s. This is also a world where Magic is science and all the usual scientific methods are underwritten by magical laws and procedures. There is no blood-typing by microscope...it is all discerned by the Law of Sympathy. There are no doctors with pills and serums and potions, but religious Healers who cure more often by the laying on of hands than by the use of herbs. And, finally, it is a world where Lord Darcy, the Chief Forensic Investigator for the Duke of Normandy moves through a very Victorian-era version of the 1960s. He is the greatest detective of his time and uses all his powers of deduction--aided by the powers of the occult.

This book is comprised of four short stories that are full of the flavor of Holmes and Watson, Wolfe and Goodwin and little bit of the cloak and dagger spy trade thrown in. And, "The Muddle of the Woad" has a definite air of tribute to Lord Peter Wimsey--The Nine Tailors in particular. Instead of bell-ringing, we have a focus on woodworking. But a great many of the character names used by Sayers in the bell-ringing scenes may be found here--Masters Gotobed, Lavender, Wilderspin and Venable all tip their hats to the Sayers work. And Master Gotobed is every bit as particular about his woodworking as Harry Lavender ever was about bell-ringing. There is even evidence given by the young woman of the piece--just as Hilary Thorpe provides a vital clue to Lord Peter.

Overall, Randall Garrett has given us a fine look at what the world might have been like in such an alternate history. And he mixes the best of fantasy and detective fiction to produce a very interesting collection of science fiction short stories. The mysteries are fairly straight-forward and most are fairly clued. The final (and shortest), "A Stretch of the Imagination," is the most Holmes-like with Lord Darcy appearing very much as the detective genius with admiring audience and few clues given to the reader, but it is the exception. A very entertaining book--coming in at 3 1/2 stars.


Proust & the Squid: Review


Chosen primarily for the Mixing It Up Challenge (as the entry for Science & Natural History), Proust & the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain by Maryanne Wolf sounded really interesting when I went on a hunt for something to fulfill the category. As the annotations told me, "The act of reading is a miracle. Every new reader's brain possesses the extraordinary capacity to rearrange itself beyond its original abilities in order to understand written symbols. But how does the brain learn to read? As world-renowned cognitive neuroscientist and scholar of reading Maryanne Wolf explains in this impassioned book, we taught our brain to read only a few thousand years ago, and in the process changed the intellectual evolution of our species."

As a book-blogger and, more importantly, as an avid reader from the age of four, I had no need to be convinced of the importance of reading and how very much humanity's intelligence depends on the critical thinking processes that have developed because of our "rewiring" our brain to be able to read. Our brains come prepackaged for oral and visual communication. We're all set to verbalize our needs and share information through speech. We're just as set to take in all the information given to us by our eyes. But, as Wolf says, we were not "born to read" (despite my definite feeling that I, most certainly, was born to read...I mean what would I do with myself if I weren't a reader?). It is only through training and repetition and the "rewiring" of brains...each child making the new connections necessary that allows him or her to read. In fact, according to Wolf, each child completes the 2,000 year process that led to early writing and the interpretation of those symbols in about 2,000 days. That is a miracle, indeed.

This was an interesting book. It gives details about exactly how our brains work when they read. And brains that read English and similarly-based languages differ from from those that read Chinese. We also learn some of the barriers that are involved that lead to reading disabilities--particularly dyslexia--and what those disabilities can teach us about the reading process.

It was also interesting to learn that Socrates had some of the same arguments against the written word that are being made against the transition to internet/visual-based knowledge. It became apparent that Socrates' fear that the ability to think critically would be lost as soon as information was "permanent"--written down so students wouldn't have to memorize it--was unfounded. In actuality, the process of becoming an expert reader encourages the critical thinking process. A recent essay on SAT scores echoes Socrates' fear. It asks "How Low Can They Go?" and tells how students are testing lower and lower on the SAT test portions that place more emphasis on reading skills than vocabulary--rewarding those with refined analytical skills and more prepared to evaluate the underlying meanings of a text. Wolf wonders if the reasons are because current students have had far more exposure to the internet and instant information or if there are other factors involved. I can only say that, as a representative of a college English Department, current students do seem to exhibit fewer and fewer critical thinking skills--at least in my experience.

My main disappointment with the book is that after talking about how she has written this book for the general public, she still is very entrenched in her scientific, scholarly mode and there is much more science thrown at the reader than I anticipated. It is not an incredibly difficult book to read, but it is technical enough that it might put off the more casual reader. Interesting and informative, I give it three stars.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday: Choose Your Own

Hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

Top Ten Tuesday is an original bookish meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Each week a new top ten topic is posted for followers to write about. This week we have been given free rein to choose our own Top Ten topic--as long as it's bookish it's a go. I've decided to do my Top Ten Covers from 2011 (that's covers of books I actually read, not books published in 2011).

Here we go:


1. Out of the Silent Planet (1938): I love the early Science Fiction look of the C. S. Lewis trilogy.











2. This is an incredibly fun book with an equally fun cover: The Thornthwaite Inheritance by Gareth P Jones.











3. Shroud of Darkness by E. C. R. Lorac: One of my vintage mysteries. A nice murder at a train station.










4. The Innocent Bottle by Anthony Gilbert. She doesn't look innocent, does she? I love the covers on the classic pocket size editions...











5. Ray Bradbury's classic Something Wicked This Way Comes. The cover absolutely gives the sense of the evil blowing into town....







6. Intruder in the Dust by William Faulkner: simple and poignant. The book? Not so simple...but poignant.










7. Who Needs Donuts? by Mark Alan Stamaty--a terrific cover for a terrific children's book.










8. The Herring in the Library by L. C. Taylor: I just love these simply drawn covers.










9. Bone Harvest by Mary Logue: What a placid cover. And a striking contrast for the thriller-style mystery that Logue has written.












10. The Club Dumas by Arturo PĂ©rez-Reverte. I just like the shadowy suggestion of the musketeer...



Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Teaser Tuesdays

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

*Grab your current read.Link*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 Murder and Magic by Randall Garrett (p. 40):

"A man's mind turns in on itself when he's taken up with hatred and thoughts of revenge," Master Sean droned on. "Or if he's the type who enjoys watching others suffer, or the type who doesn't care but is willing to do anything for gain, then his mind is already warped and the misuse of the Talent just makes it worse."


Monday, January 23, 2012

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 (click on titles for review):
Unseen Academicals by Terry Pratchett
Future Crime: Anthology of the Shape of Crime to Come by Cynthia Manson & Charles Ardai (eds)

Currently Reading:
Proust & the Squid: The Story & Science of the Reading Brain by Maryanne Wolf:
Wolf, a Tufts University professor of child development, is not content to discuss the cultural significance of reading; she asserts with convincing evidence that this activity has radically changed the very organization of the human brain. Using a multidisciplinary approach, she shows how research in neurology, psychology, sociology, and her own specialty has revealed the far-reaching cognitive and perceptual effects of perusing the written word.

Murder & Magic by Randall Garrett: Welcome to a world where Richard the Lion-Hearted did not die in the year 1199, but went on to found the mightiest and most stable empire in history. Where the laws of extra-sensory perception have been codified but those of physics remain unsuspected. Where Magic is a science, and science is an art. Now imagine that you are Lord Darc, the greatest detective of all time, in a world where crime and the occult walk hand-in-hand....

Books that spark my interest:
The Time Machine by H. G. Wells
The First Men in the Moon by H. G. Wells
The Future on Ice by Orson Scott Card (ed)
The Jesus Incident by Frank Herbert & Bill Ransom
Twenty-Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne



[You will notice the continued preponderance of science fiction titles...I'm in the midst of the Science Fiction Experience "challenge" sponsored by Carl V. SF will be the main item on the menu until the end of February.]


Future Crime: Review


Future Crime: An Anthology of the Shape of Crime to Come (Cynthia Manson & Charles Ardai, eds) is a collection of 15 short stories by Isaac Asimov, Robert Bloch, Harry Harrison, Larry Niven, C. J. Cherryh, Orson Scott Card and others. We have visions of DNA detectives who, once they have a sample from the culprit, can target the villain with a DNA-specific virus that will turn him green or make her smell so bad that even the most inept officer couldn't miss tracking them down. We have murder in a supposedly utopian society where everyone should be treated exactly the same because...well...because everybody looks exactly the same. And if nobody's different, then everyone should be equal, right? It does make it a little hard to track down the killer when everyone saw "her" but "she" looks exactly like all the others. And then there's the child raised to be a killer through the training he received from his teddy bear...because "I Always Do What Teddy Says." And what about a world where alibis are meaningless because everyone has teleportation and could be anywhere and back within the blink of an eye? Or..is it really murder if the act was committed by a servo-robot--or just an unfortunate accident?

There are some interesting ideas in these pages. Unfortunately, some of them are better executed (no pun intended) than others...making for an adequate, but not brilliant collection of stories. Enjoyable, but not unputdownable. Somewhat thought-provoking without making you think too much. It is fun to see what sort of "future" crime some of the science fiction greats came up with from 1975-91. Some of those ideas don't seem quite so futuristic anymore.... Three stars for a decent outing.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Winter's Respite Read-A-Thon



I seem to have lost my reading mojo--motivation, whatever, that makes me want to read the books I have stacked up all over the place ready for reading
challenges. That being the case, I am going to sign up for The True Book Addict's Winter Respite Read-a-Thon. And, signing up for the read-a-thon should help me with my challenges, right? Because it's supposed to encourage me to read, read, read and therefore I will finish challenges more quickly, right?

Here are the basics:

The read-a-thon will run from 12 am January 23 to 11:59 pm January 29. You can sign up to participate at any time during the read-a-thon and it's flexible so you don't have to read all week.

I'm definitely in. Hopefully, this is just the jump start I need to get my reading going again. I will list the books I finish below along with links to reviews.

****Update: Starting Line--I started reading this morning before work. Am trying to finish up
Future Crime by Cynthia Mason & Charles Ardai, eds. (a science fiction short story collection).

1.
Future Crime by Cynthia Mason & Charles Ardai, eds. (64 pages to finish the book) 1/23/12
2. Murder & Magic by Randall Garrett (266 pages) 1/28/12
3. Proust & the Squid: The Story & Science of the Reading Brain by Maryann Wolfe (308 pages) 1/28/12
4. The Black Seven by Carol Kendall (275 pages) 1/29/12

Well...the total of four books and 913 pages is a bit less than I wanted. But (knock on wood) it does seem that my little reading slump has been overcome. Hopefully, I'll be able to keep the pace up.

Thanks to The True Book Addict for sponsoring again this year!


The Best of 2011 by Month

I meant to post this list a little earlier in the month....but things have been a bit hectic and I'm slightly behind. So, without further ado, here's a run-down of the best reads of 2011 by month.

January
Time to Be in Earnest: a fragment of autobiography by P. D. James 4 1/2 stars
Out of the Silent Planet by C. S. Lewis 4 1/2 stars
The Chinese Orange Mystery by Ellery Queen 4 1/2 stars
Cordially Invited to Meet Death by Rex Stout 4 1/2 stars

February
Death in the Garden by Elizabeth Ironside 4 1/2 stars

March
Shroud of Darkness by E. C. R. Lorac 5 stars
Whose Body? by Dorothy L Sayers 5 stars

April
Ten Little Herrings by L. C. Tyler 4 1/2 starsAn Author Bites the Dust by Arthur W. Upfield 4 1/2

May
What Alice Knew: A Most Curious Tale of Henry James and Jack the Ripper by Paula Marantz Cohen 5 stars
Howards End Is on the Landing by Susan Hill 5 stars
June
The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O'Farrell 4 1/2 stars

July
The Herring in the Library by L. C. Tyler 4 stars
The Case of the Deceiving Don by Carl Brookins 4 stars
Unnatural Death by Dorothy L. Sayers 4 stars
Bone Harvest by Mary Logue 4 stars
Tom Fleck: A Novel of Cleveland & Flodden by Harry Nicholson 4 stars

August
That Day in September by Artie Van Why 5 stars
Kathleen by Christopher Morley 5 stars
Shatterday by Harlan Ellison 5 stars

September
Strong Poison by Dorothy L. Sayers 5 stars
India Black & the Widow of Windsor by Carol K. Carr 4 1/2 stars

October
Olga: A Daughter's Tale by Marie-Therese Browne 4 stars
The Shortest Way to Hades by Sarah Caudwell 4 stars
Have His Carcase by Dorothy L. Sayers 4 stars
The Island of Dr. Moreau by H. G. Wells 4 stars

November
Busman's Honeymoon by Dorothy L. Sayers 5 stars
Gaudy Night by Dorothy L. Sayers 5 stars

December
Loose Cannons: Devastating Dish from the World's Wildest Women by Autumn Stephens (ed) 4 stars
Beware of Trains by Edmund Crispin 4 stars


Saturday, January 21, 2012

Theme Thursday: Come




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 Come (came, arrive, coming, etc).

This was a difficult theme for me this week--maybe because I'm reading nonfiction. Here's what I was able to find in Proust & the Squid: The Story & Science of the Reading Brain by Maryanne Wolf:

Then, after you integrated all this visual, conceptual, and linguistic information with your background knowledge and inferences, you arrived at an understanding of what Proust was describing: a glorious day in childhood made timeless through the "divine pleasure" that is reading! (p. 10)

AND

Visual cells possess th capacity to become highly specialized and highly specific, and to make new circuits among preexisting structures. This allows babies to come into the world with eyes that are almost ready to fire and that are exceptional examples of design and precision. (p. 12)

Friday, January 20, 2012

Friday Memes

Book Beginnings 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 Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain by Maryanne Wolf:

From the Preface: i have lived my life in the service of words: finding where they hide in the convoluted recesses of the brain, studying their layers of meaning and form, and teaching their secrets to the young.

From the first chapter: We were never born to read. Human beings invented reading only a few thousand years ago.


**Well. I certainly feel like I was born to read....


The Friday 56 is a bookish meme sponsored by Freda's Voice. It is really easy to participate. Just grab a book, any book, and turn to page 56. Find a sentence that grabs you and post it.
Here's mine from Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain by Maryanne Wolf:

Four millennia ago Minoans built monuments and made art and jewelry of incomparable beauty, and they created systems of writing that continue to frustrate our best efforts at decipherment.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Unseen Academicals (and by the way--1st Challenge Done!)


So, I picked up Terry Pratchett's Unseen Academicals at my library's Friends of the Library Bookstore, 'cause, you know, it was all humorous and academic and stuff. With wizards and orangutans and dwarfs and goblins and golems and who knows what other kind of fantastical creatures (some of them don't know what they are, so why should we?). And I'd heard a lot about how amazing Terry Pratchett is, so I thought, Hey, why not give this a try? And then the Terry Pratchett Challenge came along and I was all--this must be fate, so I should read it. (And it made me feel all whimsical--can you tell? Is my whimsy showing?)

And then I read the story. Which goes something like this: The wizards at Unseen University are bumping along just fine. Teaching potions and chants and magic and all that good wizard stuff. That is when they're not eating their three square meals a day, plus tea time, plus, like, oh, maybe 42 snacks here and there. Life is good in the halls of wizardly academe. Until Ponder Stibbons, the Archchancellor's right-hand man, general keeper-in-line of all university things, and most importantly, the keeper of traditions, discovers that the University has been falling down on the job on one very important tradition--fielding a team to play "foot-the-ball" (soccer to you and me). If the wizards don't get their pointy-hatted act together and play a game right quick, they will lose a substantial endowment....and all eating opportunities save three meals a day (with vastly reduced portions). Very few of the wizards have ever seen a ball, let alone tried to foot it--but by golly their cheese tray choices are at stake. And then Lord Ventinari, Ankh-Morpork's benevolent tyrant, gets involved and insists that not only must they play their game, but in order to keep their very special Archchancellor's pointy hat they will need to win a game...without using magic.

While the wizards are busy trying to sort themselves out athletically, down in the cellars of UU romance is budding and an answer to their quandary is brewing. Trevor Likely, a chandler, and his fellow candle-dripper, Mr. Nutt, become involved with Juliet ( beautiful, fairly dim maid and kitchen help who also may be the greatest fashion model ever) and her friend Glenda, the University's night cook--who just happens to make the best pies and other pastry dainties ever. Trev is a handsome fellow and a darn good kicker--son of one of the town's most renowned foot-the-ballers. He loves Juliet who happens to be the daughter of one of the leading families in a rival team. He also believes that he's not fit to wipe her boots. Juliet thinks Trev is pretty keen as well--but can't understand why he doesn't even try to sneak one little kiss. Trev is friends with Mr. Nutt--a mysterious person who claims to be a goblin, but seems better educated than most of the professors at the university. At least he has a bigger vocabulary. But even beyond that he may not be what he seems. Events soon lead our foursome above stairs to mix with their betters and to show the wizards a thing or two about how the ball should be footed.

This book had its moments. There were some very funny bits. I particularly like Glenda and Mr. Nutt. I enjoyed some of the academic word-play and the satirical commentary on academic life (I always get a kick out of that--working in an English Department as I do). But it wasn't sustained. I found myself skimming the book and downright bored stiff in certain places (and that wasn't just when we were discussing "foot-the-ball" a bit overmuch). A fun read, a decent read. But not one that I'd highly recommend and certainly not one I'll read again. I understand from other comments that this may not be Sir Terry's best work...so perhaps if I come across an earlier book, I might give him another go. Not a high priority, however. Three stars for an okay outing.


I do have a few favorite quotes, though:
"There are all kinds of darkness, and all kinds of things can be found in them, imprisoned, banished, lost or hidden. Sometimes they escape. Sometimes they simply fall out. Sometimes they just can't take it any more."

"The last thing she wanted was to see her friend getting ideas in her head. There was such a lot of room in there for them to bounce around and do damage."

"The Librarian was not familiar with love, which had always struck him as a bit ethereal and soppy, but kindness, on the other hand, was practical. You knew where you were with kindness, especially if you were holding a pie it had just given you."

And, by the way, this completes my Terry Pratchett Reading Challenge. I signed up for one book and I'm all done!

Booking Through Thursday: Skipping Ahead


This week's Booking Through Thursday question:

I saw this article the other day that asked, “Are you ashamed of skipping parts of books?” Which, naturally, made me want to ask all of YOU.

Do you skip ahead in a book? Do you feel badly about it when you do?

Normally, no I don't. If I'm skipping ahead, then that means the author isn't doing their job properly. It means that they're not holding my interest and I'm wondering if anything more exciting is happening soon....because if it's not, I'm going to start thinking about not even finishing the book.



Wednesday, January 18, 2012

(Just) One More Challenge


Like neer at A Hot Cup of Pleasure, I thought I had signed up for all the mystery-related challenges that might interest me in 2012. Winds up I'm wrong. Jen over at Jensbookthoughts.com is hosting a second year (how'd I miss it last year??) of her Criminal Plots Reading Challenge. The rules are pretty simple--in a nutshell: read six books this year in six predetermined categories. For full details and to sign up click on the challenge link above. Since we can count books from other challenges, my madness isn't really as bad as it seems. I'm only adding ONE new book (that's right, just one) and if any of my other mystery challenges had a book with a weapon in the title I wouldn't have had to add that one. (Who knew that I could read so many mysteries with NO weapons in the title?).

Here's my plan:

1. Novel with a weapon in the title:
A Dram of Poison by Charlotte Armstrong (5/17/12)
2. Book published at least 10 years ago: The Black Seven by Carol Kendall, pub.1946 (1/29/12)

3. Book written by author from Indiana (the state I live in):
The House of a Thousand Candles by Meredith Nicholson (from Crawfordsville, IN) [6/17/12]
4. Book written by an author using a pen name:
The Morning After Death by Nicholas Blake (aka Cecil Day Lewis: Poet Laureate, Great Britain 1968-1972) [5/14/12]
5. Crime novel whose protagonist is the opposite gender of the author:
Nothing Can Rescue Me by Elizabeth Daly (protagonist--Henry Gamadge) [2/18/12]
6. Stand-alone novel by author who writes at least one series:
So Many Steps to Death (aka Destination Unknown) by Agatha Christie (Poirot series, Miss Marple series, etc) [5/25/12]

Birth Year Reading Challenge 2012

For the third year in a row Hotchpot Cafe is sponsoring the wonderful Birth Year Reading Challenge. This year, in addition to the regular option to read books from your own birth year, we are being offered the chance to select the birth year of someone special that we would like to honor. And the challenge is called, appropriately enough, Birth Year Reading Challenge 2012--Honors. I actually thought about this last year--how nice it would be to pick the year of your mom or dad or spouse or kid or bff and see what cool books were born the same year as they were. You know what they say...great minds think alike and J. G. has granted my wish. For full details on the challenge, click on the link above and join in!



I love this challenge (and I'm a Challenge Addict), so, of course I'm jumping in. With both feet--'cause, you see, I've got two people that I'd like to honor. And they both have some pretty good books that just happen to have been hanging out on my TBR list for a while. So, I'm in twice. [I really wanted to do honor to three people--Sorry, Dad, but the list of books for your year didn't do a whole lot for me.] My plan--to read four books from each year (total of eight books to meet my challenge). I'll probably read more ('cause I'm one of those overachievers that J. G. talks about over on the challenge site)...but my commitment is eight.

First, up 1947. This is the year of Gloria, my mom. Not only is my mom totally great and deserving of the honor just for being a wonderful mom--but she also gets the credit for introducing me to Nancy Drew and starting me on my long love affair with the written word in general and mysteries in particular. Mom gave me her set of 5-6 Nancy Drew books that had been a Christmas gift from her mom back in the '50s and I never looked back. I'm not sure that Mom realized that she was creating such a dedicated biblioholic when she did that.....

Books from 1947:

1. The Clue in the Old Album by Carolyn Keene (3/22/12)
2. Full Moon by P. G. Wodehouse (3/23/12)
3. New Graves at Great Norne by Henry Wade (5/31/12)
4. Swan Song by Edmund Crispin (4/3/12)
5. Dancing with Death by Joan Coggin (12/5/12)

My second honoree burst onto the scene in 1955. Richard is a dear friend who gets the credit for my most recent obsession--book blogging. Again, I'm not sure he knew what he was doing when he told me about his blog (animal/picture-oriented), but had I not checked out his blog and his daughter's (at his suggestion) and moved from there to discovering a whole world of book blogging I don't think I'd be out here in the blogosphere today.

Books from 1955
1. A Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh (3/6/12)

2. Compartment K by Helen Reilly (7/15/12)
3. So Many Steps to Death by Agatha Christie (5/25/12)
4. Surprised by Joy by C. S. Lewis (7/31/12)
5. The End of Eternity by Isaac Asimov
6. Less Than Angels by Barbara Pym
7. Captain Cut-Throat by John Dickson Carr
8. Sinners & Shrouds by Jonathan Latimer

Commitment Complete: 7/31/12.  But still reading!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Teaser Tuesdays

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

*Grab your current read.Link*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 Unseen Academicals by Terry Pratchett (p. 40):

The last thing she wanted was to see her friend getting ideas in her head. There was such a lot of room in there for them to bounce around and do damage.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Musing Mondays

This week’s musing asks…

What devices –if any– do you read books on? Do you find it enjoyable, or still somewhat bothersome? Or: If you only read the print books, why haven’t you chosen to read on any devices?



No e-readers for me yet. And, quite honestly, I have no desire for one. Give me a real live hold-it-in-your hands book every time. Part of it is that feel of a "real book in my hands" experience...but a big part is also the fact that I spend 80-90% of my day (work and blogging) onscreen. When I read for pleasure, I want it to be a totally different experience from work...and I'm not going to get that if I'm staring at another glowing screen.

I can see advantages. If I traveled more than I do, it would be nice to carry one light-weight e-reader instead of the 10 books I think I need to get by on vacation. I have a friend with vision issues who has just discovered how much she loves to read because she can now change the font to something that is easy on her eyes. That's all good--and I definitely don't see e-readers as evil inventions taking over my hard copy favorites. But e-readers are still not for me.

[Click the image to join in]

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 (click on titles for review):
Prayers to Broken Stones by Dan Simmons
The Masks of Time by Robert Silverberg

Currently Reading:
Unseen Academicals by Terry Pratchett: The wizards at Ankh-Morpork's Unseen University are renowned for many things—wisdom, magic, and their love of teatime—but athletics is most assuredly
not on the list. And so when Lord Ventinari, the city's benevolent tyrant, strongly suggests to Archchancellor Mustrum Ridcully that the university revive an erstwhile tradition and once again put forth a football team composed of faculty, students, and staff, the wizards of UU find themselves in a quandary. To begin with, they have to figure out just what it is that makes this sport—soccer with a bit of rugby thrown in—so popular with Ankh-Morporkians of all ages and social strata. Then they have to learn how to play it. Oh, and on top of that, they must win a football match without using magic.


Books that spark my interest:
The Time Machine by H. G. Wells
The First Men in the Moon by H. G. Wells
The Future on Ice by Orson Scott Card (ed)
Murder & Magic by Randall Garrett
The Jesus Incident by Frank Herbert & Bill Ransom
Future Crime by Cynthia Mason & Charles Ardai, eds.
Twenty-Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne

[You will notice the preponderance of science fiction titles...I'm in the midst of the Science Fiction Experience "challenge" sponsored by Carl V. SF will be the main item on the menu until the end of February.]