Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Top Ten Tuesday: Literary BFFs

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week's theme is your literary BFFs. I answered this question in shortened form for a Sunday meme that I participate in....It took me a bit to come up with five. Let's see if I can make ten.

1. Nancy Drew. So I could have all the fun of being involved in some really cool adventures...with the security of knowing that Nancy always finds a way
out of tight spots.

2. Phryne Fisher (the grown up's Nancy Drew). Again terrific adventures with the added bonus of lots of good looking men hanging around. Phryne's adventures are a little more dangerous than Nancy's...but I'd risk it.

3. Henry Gamadge (from Elizabeth Daly's mysteries). T
his is a man who knows books. I'd want to be his friend so he could direct me to all the vintage mysteries I have on my list to own. Plus...again involvement in some pretty cool mysteries of his own.

4. Kate Fansler (from Amanda Cross's mysteries
). Smart, witty, and loyal to her friends. One classy English professor. I love a woman who can reel off witty comments that make the men (and women alike) sit back and take notice.

5. Pam & Jerry North (from the Lockridge mystery series). Zany and madcap, Pam & Jerry know all the spots for shopping and dining in NYC. Good friends to have in the Big Apple.

6. Bunter from Dorothy L Sayers's Lord Peter W
imsey mysteries. A friend mentioned Lord Peter himself, but I wouldn't want Peter as just a friend....I'd be wanting to get Harriet out of the way and have him for myself. But Bunter is the perfect friend--loyal under fire, ready to charm any ladies who might have answers you need, able to produce toasted crumpets at a moment's notice.

7. Pooh & Piglet from the Winnie the Pooh stories. I'll take a bear with very little brain and timid piglet over a lot people any day.

8. Betsy & Tacy from the stories by Maud Hart Lovelace. Great girls and great friends.

That's it...but if you count the ones I've coupled together I've got more than ten.

Miss Hildreth Wore Brown: Review

Miss Hildreth Wore Brown: Anecdotes of a Southern Belle by Olivia deBelle Byrd is an absolutely amazing book. At just over 150 pages it is an incredibly fast and funny read. The anecdotes remind me of Erma Bombeck and Lewis Grizzard all rolled into one delightfully hilarious book of Southern comfort. The image of her husband leaping out of the car to have a showdown with their son only to have his pants fall around his knees..."I'm here to tell you, your sense of authority is greatly compromised when you are standing on the side of the road with your pants in a pile around your ankles." All the way to Olivia threatening to go bonkers and embarrass her son at every opportunity that presents itself. ("'Well, all I can say,' he answered, 'is that you're well on your way.'") These are stories that I'll remember long after I've passed this book on.

But as much humor as there is--and the book is chock full--there is wisdom embedded as well. I particularly liked her explanation of self-esteem:

You can tell children they are intelligent or beautiful or talented all you want, but that doesn't give them self-esteem. Self-esteem comes from trying and failing and finally succeeding. It comes from your own efforts and not those of your parents.

Southern humor sprinkled with Southern wisdom makes for an enticing combination that is impossible to resist. Combine that with a wonderfully accessible writing style and you have a real winner! I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys the South, witty anecdotes, family humor and just plain excellent writing. Four and a half stars out of five.

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

Teaser Tuesday

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 spoil the book for others.
*Share the title and author too, so other TT participants can add it to their TBR lists if the like your teaser!

Here's my teaser from Miss Hildreth Wore Brown: Anecdotes of a Southern Belle by Olivia deBelle Byrd (p. 73)

Like she said, a bargain is a bargain. And for Isabella a bargain is a bargain, whether it's for shoes or with God.

Monday, November 29, 2010

A Christmas Grace: Review

Anne Perry has dedicated her novel, A Christmas Grace, "to all those who long for a second chance." A highly appropriate dedication for a story that centers on Emily Radley and her efforts to give a second chance to the folk who live in her Aunt's Irish town. Emily is called at Christmas time to be with her aunt who is dying. She thinks she is going to lay to rest an old family feud--a second chance for her aunt as well, but finds that Susannah Ross is looking for help with more than that.

The people in the town that Aunt Susannah has come to love have lived under a cloud of suspicion for seven years--ever since a young man was washed up on their shores during a dreadful storm. Saved from the sea only to murdered later by one of their own. While Emily settles into her aunt's home, another storm rages bringing another shipwreck victim ashore. Is history repeating itself? And can Emily help the townspeople face what happened before and avoid a similar fate for the shipwrecked man? Emily also faces personal questions of family loyalty to an aunt who left her family for love and questions about the kind of love she (Emily) shares with her husband. It will take a special kind of Christmas grace to help Emily find the answers.

This is a beautifully told Christmas mystery. Perry has a wonderful sense of place and a particularly graceful way of giving her readers that same sense. I feel as though I had actually visited this small coastal Irish village. It was very touching to read this story of Emily's final gift to the aunt she had never known. Perry carries off the story without making it too sentimental and improbable. The ending is a bit flat, but over-all a fine story for the Christmas season. It also develops some interesting threads that could be taken up in later stories about Emily and her husband, Jack. Three and a half stars.

It's 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'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 to Journey and join in...and leave a comment here so I can check out what your are reading.

Books Read Last Week (click on titles for review):
Footsteps in the Dark by Georgette Heyer
A Blunt Instrument by Georgette Heyer
A Christmas Carol & Other Christmas Writings by Charles Dickens
A Christmas Grace by Anne Perry (finished just today)

Reading Now:
Miss Hildreth Wore Brown: Anecdotes of a Southern Belle by Olivia deBelle Byrd. Just received this review copy in the mail today. My very first review copy! I'm very excited. I've seen this mentioned on several blogs and thought it sounded good and Olivia contacted me to see if I'd like a chance to read and review. I jumped at it and will be jumping into it tonight. Hope to have a review coming at you soon.

Books that spark my interest:
Mistletoe Mysteries collected by Charlotte MacLeod (Christmas Challenge book)
Christmas Stalkings collected by Charlotte MacLeod (Christmas Challenge book)
A Foreign Affair by Caro Peacock
Death in Hellfire by Deryn Lake
Behold, a Mystery! by Joan Smith (which...if it takes long enough to get there, could count towards the Christmas Challenge, it's set in Regency England at Christmas time)
Deadman's Chest by Kerry Greenwood (the most recent Phryne Fisher--can't wait to start it!)

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Meet Me On Monday (24)

Meet Me on Monday is a blogging meme hosted by Java at 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 wondering, "who is this person?" I know them....but yet I don't know them! I want to know who the person behind all those words is 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 past 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 name and join up with the linky.

This Week's Questions:
1. What is your favorite way to eat chicken?
Fried chicken with extra crispies (preferably made by my mom). We'll pretend that there is no such thing as "calories" and "fat" and "cholesterol."

2. Have you decorated for Christmas yet?
No. I am way behind on all my Christmas-y type activities. Tree should be up. Cards should be made out. Shopping should be nearly done. Not this year....

3. What is your favorite article of clothing?
Hmmm. That depends on what mood I'm in. But usually, one of my Coldwater Creek outfits. I love their clothes.

4. Do you pay your bills online or write checks the old way?
I don't pay bills. That's one of the hubby's jobs. Most of the bills he pays are online. Just one or two require checks.

5. Do you make Christmas cookies? Not anymore. Used to when my son was a wee one. Mainly so he could "help" Mommy decorate. ("Helping" would seem to mean getting as much icing on oneself and as many sprinkles on the floor as possible. But we always had fun!)

A Christmas Carol & Other Christmas Writings: Review

My first installment for the Christmas Spirit Challenge—A Christmas Carol and Other Christmas Writings by Charles Dickens was just what the doctored ordered to get the Christmas season off and running. Although I have seen all sorts of adaptations of the famous Dickens story (everything from the Muppets to Scooby Doo to Fred Flintstone to Patrick Stewart [my personal favorite] to the classic 1951 version with Alistair Sim and the 1970 version with Albert Finney and Alec Guinness), I had never read the original story. I didn’t realize what I was missing…and what the various adaptations had added.

Reading the story would have been worth it for the initial description of Scrooge alone. There’s nothing like a Victorian writer for giving a complete description:

Oh! But he was a tight-fisted hand at the grindstone, Scrooge! a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire; secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster. The cold within him froze his old features, nipped his pointed nose, shrivelled his cheek, stiffened his gait; made his eyes red, his thin lips blue; and spoke out shrewdly in his grating voice. A frosty rime was on his head, and on his eyebrows, and his wiry chin. He carried his own low temperature always about with him; he iced his office in the dog-days; and didn’t thaw it one degree at Christmas.

And, of course, being so familiar with the story…it was like coming home when I was sinking into it. Dickens in A Christmas Carol is so much more delightful than the Dickens of Great Expectations (which I read and hated in high school). It was very comforting to watch Scrooge’s transformation as the Spirits made him visit his past, present and future. The party and dancing at Fezziwig’s was given much more attention than is usually the case in the films…and the descriptions were captivating. I also felt Scrooge’s true sorrow at his behavior as he witnessed the “present” Christmases of the Cratchit family and the other poor folks that the Spirit of Christmas Present presented him with. It is truly wonderful to watch Scrooge become human and join his fellows in celebrating Christmas. It would be nice, indeed, if everyone would keep Christmas all year round as Scrooge vows to do. There is a reason that this story is a classic.

The shorter pieces, “Christmas Festivities” and “The Story of the Goblins Who Stole a Sexton,” which appear before A Christmas Carol in this collection (and, presumably, which appeared in journals prior to Carol’s publication) have elements that are found in the longer work. The family gatherings in “Christmas Festivities” are reminiscent of the party at Fred’s house and the transformation of the Sexton clearly echoes the transformation which Scrooge undergoes. Each of these shorter stories is a pleasant read, but it in the Carol that Dickens’s ideas are fully fleshed out.

The Haunted Man & the Ghost’s Bargain is another tale of transformation. Redlaw, the central character, is a chemistry teacher who broods on the evil which has been done to him and grief he has experienced in his past. One night, near Christmas, he listens to his servants talking of their good memories despite their circumstances (particularly of Philip…who has seen “87 years!” and had many things to overcome) and he falls into a particularly deep brooding state. A shadowy phantom of himself appears and offers him the chance to forget all the wrongs from his past. With this “gift” comes the power that will pass the “gift” on to those Redlaw comes in contact with. The result? Peace and happiness as Redlaw expects? Not so. Redlaw and those he comes in contact with fall into a wrathful state of universal anger. All but Milly, one of Dickens’s purely good female characters and a young boy that Milly has taken in who has known nothing but evil treatment until now. Finally, Redlaw—seeing the damage his “gift” has wrought—begs the phantom return and remove the gift. It is done…but only Milly’s goodness can counteract the anger and bring everyone back themselves. And it is Milly who presents Redlaw with the moral of the tale: "It is important to remember past sorrows and wrongs so that you can then forgive those responsible and, in doing so, unburden your soul and mature as a human being." Redlaw takes this to heart, and like Scrooge, becomes a more loving and whole person. Just in time for Christmas.

“A Christmas Tree” is a weird little story. It begins with the narrator sitting before a Christmas tree and reminiscing about his past Christmases…all the toys and presents of the past. Most of these presents seem to have scared him in some way. These memories give way to several stories of ghosts—ghosts seen by the narrator or by those he knows. And in the middle off these ghost stories the narrator informs us that he is dead. “But it’s all true; and we said so, before we died (we are dead now) to many responsible people.” I’m still not sure that I know what the point of this piece was.

“What Christmas Is, As We Grow Older” is also an odd little piece—talking about the changes in our views of Christmas as we age. The best part is this quote: “Therefore as we grow older, let us be more thankful that the circle of our Christmas associations and of the lessons that they bring, expands! Let us welcome every one of them, and summon them to take their places by the Christmas hearth.”

The final short piece, “The Seven Poor Travellers,” is nice story of a Good Samaritan. The narrator, a traveler himself, discovers that there is a house that welcomes six poor travelers (neither “rogues nor proctors”) to spend the night free of charge and gives them four-pence each. Now, as the housekeeper in charge of the house tells the narrator, four-pence doesn’t go very far in buying the travelers their dinner. So, the narrator decides that since it is close to Christmas he will provide a feast for the six travelers who spend that very night in the house. It is a nice little story about a man who sees a way to do a good turn for others and does it.

All of these stories showcase Dickens’s talent for description. Carol carries it off best with the descriptions of the various spirits and the scenes that they reveal to Scrooge—not to mention that initial description of the man himself. Some of the shorter pieces go on a bit too long, particularly when you consider that the story is much shorter than Carol. And in The Haunted Man Dickens outdoes himself…going on for two whole pages describing what winter is like when Redlaw is in his home. “When the wind was blowing, shrill and shrewd, with the going down of the blurred sun. When it was just so dark, as that forms of things were indistinct and big, but not wholly lost. When sitters by the fire began to see wild faces and figures, mountains and abysses, ambuscades and armies, in the coals. When….” And this goes on, as I said, for two pages. Some of the descriptions are very apt and effective, but there is such a thing as too much of a good thing.

Rating this collection is a bit difficult. I will rate it in sections and then give an average for the whole. Four and a half starts for A Christmas Carol—a nearly perfect piece of work. The Haunted Man and the shorter pieces garner three and a half stars. This gives the collection as a whole a four star rating. Overall, a great beginning to the holiday season.

The BBC List: Have Your Read More Than 6?

I've read 51! This is a slightly different list from the last time this went around.
Have you read more than 6 of these books? The BBC believes most people will have read only 6 of the 100 books listed here. Guess they don't know about book bloggers....I have read the books that are in bold. Books that are italicized I have abandoned for one reason or another. Those that are unmarked are yet to be read.
[Update 1/2/13: Have now read 55!]
[Update 4/29/15: Have now read 60]

1. Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
2 The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien
3 Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
4 Harry Potter series – JK Rowling (only the first book)
5 To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
6 The Bible
7 Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte
8 Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell
9 His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations – Charles Dickens
11 Little Women – Louisa M Alcott
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 – Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare
15 Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien
17 Birdsong – Sebastian Faulks
18 Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger
19 The Time Traveller’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch – George Eliot
21 Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell
22 The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald
23 Bleak House – Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams
26 Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
29 Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll [The correct title is Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, you BBC pinheads. Sheesh. what Katie said]
30 The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame
31 Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield – Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis [read only Wardrobe]
34 Emma – Jane Austen
35 Persuasion – Jane Austen
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – CS Lewis
37 The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Berniere
39 Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh – AA Milne
41 Animal Farm – George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney – John Irving [That’s Owen MEANY, no extra “e.” Get it together, BBC.]
45 The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery
47 Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
49 Lord of the Flies – William Golding
50 Atonement – Ian McEwan
51 Life of Pi – Yann Martel
52 Dune – Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities – Charles Dickens
58 Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck
62 Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History – Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road – Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding
69 Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick – Herman Melville
71 Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens
72 Dracula – Bram Stoker
73 The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett
74 Notes From A Small Island – Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses – James Joyce
76 The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath
77 Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal – Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession – AS Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens
82 Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple – Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte’s Web – EB White
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 The Faraway Tree Collection – Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93 The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks
94 Watership Down – Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet – William Shakespeare
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl
100 Les Miserables – Victor Hugo

Top 5 Sundays: Fictional BFF

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 Fictional Characters You Wish Were Your Best Friends.

1. Nancy Drew. So I could have all the fun of being involved in some really cool adventures...with the security of knowing that Nancy always finds a way out of tight spots.

2. Phryne Fisher (the grown up's Nancy Drew). Again terrific adventures with the added bonus of lots of good looking men hanging around. Phryne's adventures are a little more dangerous than Nancy's...but I'd risk it.

3. Henry Gamadge (from Elizabeth Daly's mysteries). T
his is a man who knows books. I'd want to be his friend so he could direct me to all the vintage mysteries I have on my list to own. Plus...again involvement in some pretty cool mysteries of his own.

4. Kate Fansler (from Amanda Cross's mysteries
). Smart, witty, and loyal to her friends. One classy English professor. I love a woman who can reel off witty comments that make the men (and women alike) sit back and take notice.

5. Pam & Jerry North (from the Lockridge mystery series). Zany and madcap, Pam & Jerry know all the spots for shopping and dining in NYC. Good friends to have in the Big Apple.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Saturday Snapshot: Nov 27

A meme hosted by Alyce @ At Home with Books.

All you have to do is to "post a photo that you (or a friend or family member) have taken and then leave a direct link to your post in the Mister Linky" on her blog. "Photos can be old or new, and be of any subject as long as they are clean and appropriate for all eyes to see. How much detail you give in the caption is entirely up to you." All she asks is that "you don't post random photos that you find online."

Apples on my son's apple tree. When he was way smaller than he is now (about 4, I believe), we went to pick out a tree for our back yard. I promised him that he could pick out the tree. My stubborn boy insisted on an apple tree because he wanted apples. I told him that I had no intention of spraying or netting the tree and that it would be unlikely if we ever saw apples on it. He was sure I was wrong. This year, he got to say "I told you so" to his mom.

What's In A Name 4

Yep. You got it...I'm signing up for "just one more" challenge. Thanks to Cheryl at CMash Loves to Read and Violette at The Mystery Bookshelf, this one has been on my radar for a little bit. I've finally figured out how I can get at least half of the books to cross-over with other challenges I'm doing...so I'm only adding three books. And besides, I've signed up for that "Outdo Yourself Challenge" too, so the more books the merrier, right? Right?

Heres' the scoop on the What's In a Name 4 Challenge for 2011 sponsored by Beth at Beth Fish Reads:

Read one book in each of the following categories...

*A book with a number in the title: 5 Bullets by Lee Thayer (read 1/12/30)
*A book with jewelry or a gem in the title: The Eustace Diamonds by Anthony Trollope (2/1/11)

*A book with a size in the title: The Giant Rat of Sumatra by Richard L. Boyer (5/17/11)

*A book with travel or movement in the title: The Dancers in Mourning by Margery Allingham (5/11/11)

*A book with evil in the title: Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury (5/5/11)

*A Book with a life stage in the title: Tom Brown's School Days by Thomas Hughes (5/13/11)

Challenge Complete: 5/13/11

The books may be in any format (printed, audio, e-book) and can overlap with other challenges. But you must read a different book for each category (six total). Creativity for matching the categories is encouraged! You don't have to list your books before hand and you don't have to read the books in the order given.

On January 1, Beth will publish 7 posts, each with a Mr. Linky (for each category and one for the wrap-up post) on her blog so you'll have a place to post review links (bloggers) or leave comments (non-bloggers) as you complete your challenge journey.

Library Loot: November 24-30

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 the button) and link it using the Mr. Linky on Claire's site any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries.

It's been a while since I've participated in Library Loot, but this is a good week to do so. I have quite a haul. I'm going to have to get busy or I'll be having to renew (or take them back if somebody else has put a hold on them) before I know it. Here are my current library goodies:

A Christmas Carol & Other Christmas Writings by Charles Dickens. I got this one all lined up so I would be ready to start reading for the Christmas Spirit Reading Challenge that I've signed up for. Dickens's classic story of Ebenezer Scrooge, plus other Christmas writings that appeared annually for his weekly journals. In all of them Dickens celebrates the season as one of geniality, charity and remembrance.

A Christmas Grace
by Anne Perry. Also picked up for the reading challenge. With Christmas just around the corner, Thomas Pitt's (one of Perry's celebrated detectives) sister-in-law, Emily Radley, is suddenly called from London to be with her dying aunt. She soon liearns that a tragic legacy haunts the once close knit community where her aunt lives. There are painful memories of an unsolved murder and fears that the killer may still live in the area. Determined to lighten her aunt's heart and help the troubled community, Emily sets out to unmask the culprit.

A Foreign Affair
by Caro Peacock. A more recent installment to this series was sitting on the "New Arrivals" shelf. I hate to jump into a series in the middle, so I went and grabbed Peacock's debut (both for her & the series). The year is 1837. Queen Victoria, barely 18, has just ascended to the throne of England, and a young woman named Liberty Lane has just had her first taste of sorrow. Refusing to accept that her gentle, peace-loving father has been killed fighting a duel, she vows to see justice done....

Behold, a Mystery!
by Joan Smith. This one has been on the TBR list for a long time. Set in Regency England at Christmas time (might work this one into the challenge as well), it features Jessica Greenwood, a well-born, yet poorly funded young lady who is serving as a companion to her Great-Aunt Hettie. The older woman is murdered and suspicion falls upon her four visiting nephews who are presumed to be the heirs. When the will is read, however, they discover that the fortune has been left to Jessica--provided she marries one of her four cousins. Otherwise, the money will be left to Aunt Hettie's dog, Duke. Jessica's dilemma isn't just which one of her less than perfect cousins to choose...she also must avoid choosing a murderer.

Death in Hellfire
by Deryn Lake. This one finds John Rawlings in disguise and infiltrating the infamous Hellfire Club. Debauchery seems to be a strong motivation for the club's meetings, but is there a more sinister element to these weekly weekends? Evil lurks in hidden corners and it seems the nobility have more than the usual share of skeletons to hide.

Dead Man's Chest
by Kerry Greenwood. The most recent Phryne Fisher mystery. I've been waiting (impatiently) for this to be available from the library. This time Phryne has promised everyone in her household a nice holiday by the sea with absolutely no murders, but when they reach their rented accomodations that doesn't seem likely at all. An empty house, a gang of teenage louts, a fisherboy saved, and the mysery of a missing butler and his wife seem to lead inexorably toward a hunt for buried treasure. Phryne knows to what depths people will sink for greed, but with a glass of champagne in one hand and her pearl-handled Beretta in the other, no one is getting past her.

And--if that wasn't enough--I stopped by the library's used/discarded book store and brought these home with me as well:

The Suspect
by L. R. Wright. At 80, George Wilcox hardly expected to crown his life by committing murder. It had happened so quickly, so easily, so unexpectedly...a near-perfect crime that wraps Wilcox in a web of guilt, honor, and secrets from the past. An unprovoked act that soon binds him to warmhearted town librarian, Cassandra Mitchell, and her new romantic interest, zealous Staff Sergeant Alberg. Together, they find themselves caught up in a crime whose solution transcends the logic of pure justice.

Alias Grace
by Margaret Atwood. Atwood takes us back in time and into the life of one of the most enigmatic and notorious women of the 19th C. Grace Marks has been convicted for her involvement in the vicious murders of her employer and his housekeeper/mistress. Grace claims no memory of the murders. Dr. Simon Jordan, an up-and-coming expert in the field of mental illness, is engaged by a group who seek a pardon for Grace. What will he find when he unlocks her memories?

Detective Stories
chosen by Philip Pullman. A collection of unexplained deaths, mysterious dissappearances and daring thefts...includes stories by Isaac Asimov, Italo Calvino, Agatha Christie, Ellery Queen, Dorothy L Sayers, and E. C. Bentley.

The Ghost Writer
by John Harwood. (description by Ruth Rendell) It begins. as good ghost stories should, not in a haunted house, but in a stuffy and silent room scented with perfume and mothballs...This is a Victorain novel as well as what Henry James called a 'finished fantasy.' Portraits, photographs, lonely decaying houses, gorgeous scenery, pavilions, jewels, flowers and books abound. Strange parallels reveal themselves, but few coincidences. This is not melodrama and it is not horror. It is too well written and subtly constructed for that.

Quote It! Saturday

Freda's Voice has an awesome Saturday meme called Quote It! I have another blog, Quote Mistress, which is entirely devoted to quotes--I collect quotes like black clothes collect lint. So, my Saturday Quote It! may be found on my quote site. I'd love for you to visit...and be and visit Freda's Voice too!

Versatile Blogger Award!

Thanks to the Domestic Goddess at Diary of a Domestic Goddess, I have been awarded the Versatile Blogger award for the second time. Hurray! I still get as thrilled as a kid at Christmas over these things....Thank you!

Here are the rules:

  1. Share 7 things about myself

  2. Pass the award to 15 bloggers recently discovered

  3. Notify the blogger recipients

  4. Link to the blogger who gave the award

7 things about me:

  1. I did the Black Friday shopping experience yesterday. But I did NOT get up at 2:30 am in order to be at the doors at 3 am. There isn't a bargain in the world that could get me out that early.

  2. I am the proudest mom in the world right now. My son finally had his Board of Review and has been awarded Scouting's highest honor. He is now an Eagle Scout! (I take every opportunity I can get to announce this.)

  3. I have sung with the Brooklyn Tabernacle (twice). Each October they hold an awesome choir "school" where singers can have learning sessions with the choir and then sing with them on Sunday.

  4. Last summer, I spent five days in the Boundary Waters (between Minnesota & Canada) with my son and the scouts--camping, canoeing, & hauling all our gear over portages. I had a marvelous time; I'm glad I did it--but you won't catch me doing that hauling all the gear thing again.

  5. I don't watch cable tv at all (gave it up years ago and don't miss it a bit). Don't ask me who I think will win Idol or who will get kicked off the island next. Haven't a clue.

  6. Speaking of...Clue is my all-time favorite board game. Miss Scarlet. In the Library. With the knife.

  7. And speaking of mysteries...I'm hosting my very first reading challenge: The Vintage Mystery Reading Challenge. I'd love for you to check it out!

(15) Bloggers I’ve recently discovered:

1. Birdie's Nest

2. A Trillian Books

3. A Tapestry of Words

4. A Few More Pages

5. Coffee & a Book Chick

6. Freda's Voice

That's all I've got for now...I've already passed this award on before and several of my choices this time around have declared themselves "Award Free zones."

Friday, November 26, 2010

Vintage Mystery Challenge: My Commitment

I am definitely ready to lead the charge on this one (mysteries are, after all, my favorite genre). If you need the scoop on the Vintage Mystery Challenge (sponsored by me!), then click the challenge name.

My commitment (and, of course, I'm not eligible for prizes...I'm just in it for fun) and list:

Take 'Em to Trial: 16+ Books

Black Orchids
by Rex Stout (1941) [read/reviewed 1/21/11]
Cordially Invited to Meet Death by Rex Stout (1942) [read/reviewed 1/22/11]Colour Scheme by Ngaio Marsh (1943) [3/1/11]
The Silk Stocking Murders by Anthony Berkeley (1928) [read/reviewed 2/19/11]Shroud of Darkness by E. C. R. Lorac (1954) [3/10/11]
Rope's End, Rogue's End by E. C. R. Lorac (1942) [read/reviewed 1/26/11]
Lady Audley's Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon (1887)
The Leavenworth Case by Anna Katherine Green (1878) [read/reviewed 2/8/11]
Blood Upon the Snow by Hilda Lawrence (1944)
McKee of Centre Street by Helen Reilly (1933/4) [read/reviewed 2/23/11]
5 Bullets by Lee Thayer (1944) [read/reviewed 1/12/11]
The Chinese Orange Mystery by Ellery Queen (1934) [read/reviewed 1/13/11]
The New Adventures of Ellery Queen by Ellery Queen (1940)
The Innocent Bottle by Anthony Gilbert (1949)
Dividend on Death by Brett Halliday (1939)
[read/reviewed 2/27/11]
Murder on the Links by Agatha Christie (1923)
[read/reviewed 1/9/11]
The Nine Tailors by Dorothy L Sayers (1934) [read/reviewed 1/3/11]Police at the Funeral by Margery Allingham (1931) [read/reviewed 1/1/11]
The Fashion in Shrouds by Margery Allingham (1938) [read/reviewed 1/25/11]
A Graveyard to Let by Carter Dickson (1949) [read/reviewed 1/31/11]
Why Shoot a Butler by Georgette Heyer (1933) [read/reviewed 2/2/11]
You Can Die Laughing by A. A. Fair, aka Erle Stanley Gardner (1957) [read/reviewed 2/24/11]

Will add review links and dates read as they come.

2011 Vintage Mystery Reading Challenge

Not only am I addicted to signing up for reading challenges...now I'm going to step on the other side and give a shot at sponsoring one.

Introducing: The 2011 Vintage Mystery Reading Challenge. A challenge for all you mystery lovers out there who already love mysteries from the years prior to 1960 and also anyone who's ever thought, "I should give Agatha Christie (Dorothy L Sayers...Sir Arthur Conan Doyle...etc) a try."

Here are the rules:

*All books must have been written before 1960 and be from the mystery category.
*Some suggested authors include: Agatha Christie, Margery Allingham, Dorothy L Sayers, Earl Derr Biggers, Georgette Heyer, Edmund Crispin, Cyril Hare, Ellery Queen, Elizabeth Daly, Cyril Hare, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Ngaio Marsh, S. S. Van Dine, Philip MacDonald, Rex Stout, Phoebe Atwood Taylor, Josephine Bell, Josephine Tey, Frances & Richard Lockridge, Michael Innes and Stuart Palmer. (Please remember that some of these authors published after 1960 as well--so keep an eye on the original copyright date.)

*You are welcome to count these books towards any other challenges as well.

*Challenge runs from January 1, 2011 to December 31, 2011. Sign up any time between now and November 30, 2011.

*I would love to see reviews of your challenge books, but it is not necessary to participate.
If you do not have a blog, post to the comments what your challenge level will be and then post again at the progess site (see below) when you have completed your challenge (include a list of books read).

*No matter what level you choose, please try at least two different vintage authors.

*The best part? A prize for everyone who completes their challenge. Once you declare your challenge level...you are locked in for that number of books. But you may change your list of books at any time. Let me know when you have met your challenge goal and I will send you a list of prizes (books) to choose from. Of course, the earlier you finish, the longer the list of books will be.

*Please post about the challenge on your blog (feel free to grab the image) with your declared challenge level.
ADDED: I now have a Progress/Reviw site up where you can keep me updated on books read and any reviews you post. Please go HERE for the post.

*Please enter your name/blog name and the link to your challenge post in the linky below.

ADDED: If the Linky disappears (which it may do, I'm trying to arrange to keep it), then please just leave a comment with a link to your blog. Thanks!
Challenge Levels:

In a Murderous Mood: 4-6 Books
Get a Clue:
7-9 Books
Hot on the Trail:
10-12 Books
Capture the Criminal:
13-15 Books
Take 'Em to Trial:
16+ Books


The Golden Age Girls*:
Read 5-7 books from female authors from the vintage years
Cherchez Le Homme
: Read 5-7 books from male authors from the vintage years

(*Please note that this is a play on the television show and not meant to indicate that all women are girls...though you may find that certain authors of this era believe so.)

Five Question Friday

Five Question Friday is a meme hosted by My Little Life (Five Crooked Halos).

Rules for Five Question Friday: Copy and paste the following questions to your blog post, answer them, then watch for the linky to appear Friday morning and link up! (I'll make sure to get this week's up bright and early for all you Black Friday shoppers...possibly even a bit after midnight?!)

Question for Friday, November 26th: Today's Questions all come right off the top of my wee lil' brain! (PS...feel free to come to my community to offer up your best question suggestions...we're in need of some new ones!)

1. What is your favorite part of a Thanksgiving meal? If I have a traditional Thanksgiving meal (which we didn't this year), then my mom's stuffing (real, bread stuffing/dressing--none of that cornbread stuff for me, thank you).

2. Are you a host or a guest for Thanksgiving this year? I hosted this year. Made my mom her favorite meal--my homemade Cashew Chicken and Fried Rice. I told you you were were non-traditional this year.

3. When you think of one Thanksgiving tradition, what comes to mind?
Family get-togethers.

4. You have two pieces of pie in front of you and you HAVE to eat one...do you choose pumpkin or pecan? Pecan. I hardly ever have the chance to have pecan...pumpkin appears at every Thanksgiving (even non-traditional ones).

5. Are you a Black Friday Shopper? Every other year when my parents spend Thanksgiving with us. I go shopping with them. But when it's Thanksgiving with the husband's family, I sleep in on Black Friday.

Friday 56

The Friday 56 is a bookish meme which is hosted by Freda's Voice. 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.
*Post a link back to this blog and Freda's Voice.
*Don't dig for for your favorite book, the coolest, most intellectual. Use the CLOSEST!

Here's mine from A Christmas Carol and Other Christmas Writings by Charles Dickens. This one is from A Christmas Carol itself:

"Your welfare!" said the Ghost.

Scrooge expressed himself much obliged, but could not help thinking that a night of unbroken rest would have been more conducive to that end.

Book Beginnings on Friday

Book Beginnings on Friday is a meme now hosted by Katy over at A Few More Pages. It was first started by Becky at Page Turners and inspired by Rose City Reader.

How to participate: Share the first line (or two) of the book you are currently reading on your blog or in the comments. Include the title and author so we know what you're reading. Then, if you like, let us know what your first impressions were based on that first line, and let us know why you did or did not like the sentence. Link up over at Katy's page every Friday.

Here is mine from A Christmas Carol and Other Christmas Writings by Charles Dickens. It's actually from "Christmas Festivities," the first story in the collection:

Christmas time! The man must be a misanthrope indeed in whose breast something like a jovial feeling is not roused--in whose mind some pleasant associations are not awakened--by the recurrence of Christmas.

[I say "Amen" to that! And "Yay" for finally being able to start on my Christmas Spirit Challenge! ]

A Blunt Instrument: Review

Continuing on with my personal Georgette Heyer read-a-thon, I finished up her A Blunt Instrument late last night after all the Thanksgiving festivities were over. I wanted to get it done so I'd be all set to start on my Christmas Spirit Reading Challenge books today.

A Blunt Instrument is another delightful vintage 1930s mystery. Heyer is a master of witty and interesting characters. In this outing Neville Fletcher, the victim's nephew and one of the primary suspects, leads the cast in charming backchat and succinct bon mots. Although it initially looks like no one could possibly have a motive to bash Ernest Fletcher, the "perfect gentleman," over the head, Superintendent Hannasyde begins uncovering dirty little secrets right and left. Soon it becomes apparent that almost everybody had a motive, but now the difficulty lies in the fact that according to the established times and movements nobody could have done it. A pretty problem indeed. It isn't until a second murder occurs and Hannasyde realizes what the two murders have in common that all becomes clear.

In addition to Neville, who makes it his business to drag red herrings and entertaining conversation into the picture, we have a detective novelist who just wants to see how the police really operate (while doing her best to shield her sister), a police constable who quotes scripture and sees sin and corruption everywhere, and Sergeant Hemingway (Hannasyde's right-hand man) who can't help but egg the constable on. Who killed Ernest Fletcher? Was it the nephew (Fletcher's heir) who has been in debt up to the eyeballs? Or perhaps the novelist's sister who hoped to make a search for those inconvenient IOUs? Maybe it was the sister's husband--more jealous of Fletcher than he lets on? Then again, it might be the ex-boyfriend of a young starlet whose heart was broken by Fletcher--not because he cared for the girl you understand, but in an effort at blackmail that went wrong. As usual, a lot depends on who's telling the truth and what time everything really happened.

This is a fast-paced, fun little period mystery. Certainly not an intellectual challenge, but light and breezy and Heyer does have a way with words. She is adept at producing just the right atmosphere and just the right dialogue. Four stars out of five.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

All I Want for Christmas Is.... (7)

All I Want for Christmas Is.... is a feature/meme sponsored by Danya at A Tapestry of Words. It is where we choose a book each week leading up to Christmas and say why it's made it onto our wishlists. And Danya would love to see what books everyone else is hoping to get, so make your post and link up at Danya's site.

This week's choice: The Unfinished Clue by Georgette Heyer...one of the last Heyer
mysteries needed to complete my reading of her work.

Synopsis (from Amazon): Sir Arthur Billington-Smith is not a nice person: he is arrogant,
opinionated, and abusive. His verbal abuse makes life a constant misery for his hapless wife, Fay. One truly awful weekend when Fay is trying to host a house party, Arthur's son and heir, Geoffrey, brings home Lola de Silva, a Mexican cabaret dancer who is wonderfully obtuse, vastly colorful, and totally unsuitable as a future Lady Billington-Smith. Arthur is absolutely incensed and takes his rage out on everyone. Therefore, when he is found stabbed to death in his study later in the day, all those in the house become suspects.