Monday, January 31, 2011

A Graveyard to Let: Review

A Graveyard to Let (1949) by Carter Dickson. Carter Dickson is the alter-ego of John Dickson Carr. I love Carr under either name. He is one of the kings of the locked room/impossible crime mysteries. I have read numerous books under both names and he has never repeated a trick.

This one brings Sir Henry Merrivale to the US. On his way to Washington to visit friends, Sir Henry receives a message from another friend to come to his home in New York to witness a miracle. Before making his way to Mr. Frederick Manning's house, Sir Henry has a few adventures with the New York police and the New York subways. The miracle when it happens is a doozy....Frederick Manning dives into his swimming pool fully clothed and completely disappears--leaving his clothes behind One of the best bits for me is the sly reference by one of the policemen to The Dragon Murder Case by S. S. Van Dine. A very similar thing happened in Van Dine's the policeman says:

"But, look! This was about a guy who disappeared from a swimming pool too!...Yes, sir. Only it wasn't daylight, it was night; and they couldn't see one end of the pool."

It looks for all the world like Manning has disappeared to avoid being brought to book for embezzlement but, as always with Dickson/Carr, nothing is exactly what it seems. Then Manning shows up in the graveyard adjacent to his property with a couple of knife wounds. Will he make it? And who knew where to find the man who swam away? Will Sir Henry be catching a murderer instead of an embezzler?

The entire story is a delight (as Carter Dickson/Carr's always are). Sir Henry is his usual mischievous and mysterious self. And even reveals some rather surprising talents on the baseball field. Like a good magician, Dickson, manages to have the reader looking everywhere but at the right clue at the right time. I have yet to figure out one of these "impossible mysteries" and I don't mind being muddled by a master one little bit. It was interesting to see what twist Dickson put on the man disappearing from the pool. The only thing I was quite sure of was that it wouldn't be Van Dine's trick...and I was right about that. Four stars.

It's Not What You Read It's Where You Read It Challenge

Oh look what I found...thanks to Gina over at Hott Books (she's known as the Pied Piper of Reading Challenges, you know).

ANOTHER Challenge. What a surprise. BUT this one does not add any books to my ever-growing list. Not one. It just dictates where I read. Here's the scoop:

  1. Choose one place from each category. It's up to you - you can do one of the suggested places, or you can pick one from your life that you think fits.
  2. Read in that category for at least one hour. Ten minutes six times counts and sixty minutes one time counts, you get the picture.
  3. Wait for March 30, June 30, September 30, and December 30 to see if you're the lucky finisher that was drawn for a prize.
Twist Your House - somewhere inside your house that you have never sat & read before
Place of Commerce - somewhere that things are sold
Move - just somewhere where you are moving through space
Nature - sitting/standing on something that isn't manmade
You Don't Call HomeOut of state. At your neighbor's house. Hotel.
Probably Shouldn't - Think work, church, grocery shopping.
In Pairs - someone else in the room is reading their own book too

Seven hours of reading in a place that you probably wouldn't normally. That's the challenge. Sponsored by I Heart Monster. Go HERE for the full description and to sign up. You know you want to.

Here are my chosen places:

Twist Your House: On the futon in my son's room (one of the few places in my house where I haven't read...about the only other choice was the laundry room, but with our new stacked washer/dryer set up there really isn't a comfy--or semi-comfy--way to read in there) [Complete! 4/28/11]
Place of Commerce: weekly (sometimes twice-weekly) trips to Jiffy Treet (ice cream place) [Complete! 2/18/11]
Move: In the car to/from work [Complete! 2/11/11]
Nature: Outside under my maple tree [Complete! 5/5/11]
You Don't Call Home: The Hospital [Complete! 4/20/11]
Probably Shouldn't: At work [Complete! 2/9/11. Don't tell my boss....Oh wait, it's an English Department. I don't think they'll mind.]
In Pairs: With Hubby in the living room [Complete! 2/4/11 Now to talk him into Paris.]

Sunday, January 30, 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):
The Fashion in Shrouds by Margery Allingham
Rope's End, Rogue's End by E. C. R. Lorac
Zorro: A Novel by Isabel Allende (did not finish)
The Lost Garden by Helen Humphreys
Use Trouble: Poems by Michael S Harper
Flying Finish by Dick Francis
A Flaw in the Blood by Stephanie Barron

Currently Reading:
A Graveyard to Let by Carter Dickson: This book provides British Sir Henry Merrivale with a new setting in which to display his skill at solving mysteries: the USA. It all comes about when Sir Henry, en route to New York, receives a shipboard radiogram, inviting him to witness a miracle. Responding to the call like the old fire horse he is, H. M. finds himself entangled with New York police, New York subways, and American baseball. But whatever the name of the game, one count on the Old Maestro to get home free--thoroughly foiling the villains on his way.

Books that spark my interest:
Lord of Misrule by Jaimy Gordon (impatiently waiting for this one to be available from the library)
The Eustace Diamonds by Anthony Trollope (up next for various challenges)
Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald: An American Woman's Life by Linda Wagner-Martin OR
Zubin Mehta: the Score of My Life by Zubin Mehta (I am in need of a new "Z" book to replace the Zorro which I could not finish. These two auto/biographies looked like interesting candidates. I may wind up reading both.)

Meet Me on Monday (33)

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 paste into our own Monday post and we can all learn a little more about each and every one of us. To play along click on her meme name and join up with the linky.

This Week's Questions:

1. What do you put on your hot dog? Generally...ketchup and just a hint of mustard. But for preference coney sauce...good and meaty...with cheese!

2. Do you play Sudoku? Occasionally. A good friend of mine suggested it to me. But honestly, I prefer word Find-A-Word or Fill-It-Ins.
3. What is your favorite vegetable? While I do like least enough to eat them, I'm not really sure that I have a favorite. Um. Maybe cucumbers? In vinegar with onions. Yeah. I'll take that.

4. Do you color your hair? Nope. What you see is what you get--only a bit more silver in those locks. (And, yes, this is really me)

5. What is your favorite brand of clothing? Cold Water Creek. Hands down.

The Alphabet in Crime FIction: Letter D

Kerrie over at Mysteries in Paradise is sponsoring The Alphabet in Crime Fiction community meme. Your post MUST be related to either the first letter of a book's title, the first letter of an author's first name, or the first letter of the author's surname. So you see you have lots of choice. You could write a review, or a bio of an author, so long as it fits the rules somehow. (It is ok too to skip a week.) Link your post for the week back to Kerrie's site.

This week we are featuring the letter D.

And for me the letter D is for Carter Dickson. Carter Dickson is the alter-ego of John Dickson Carr. I love Carr under either name. He is one of the kings of the locked room/impossible crime mysteries. In fact, The Dr. Fell mystery The Hollow Man (1935), usually considered Carr's masterpiece, was selected in 1981 as the best locked-room mystery of all time by a panel of 17 mystery authors and reviewers. I have read numerous books under both names and he has never repeated a trick.

Currently, I am reading A Graveyard to Let written as Carter Dickson. This one brings Sir Henry Merrivale to the US. On his way to Washington to visit friends, Sir Henry receives a message from another friend to come to his home in New York to witness a miracle. The miracle has just happened....Mr. Frederick Manning (Sir Henry's friend) has just dived into his swimming pool and completely disappeared. The best of this bit so far is the sly reference by one of the policemen to The Dragon Murder Case by S. S. Van Dine. A very similar thing happened in Van Dine's the policeman says:

"But, look! This was about a guy who disappeared from a swimming pool too!...Yes, sir. Only it wasn't daylight, it was night; and they couldn't see one end of the pool."

The entire story has been delightful so far (as Carter Dickson/Carr's always are). I look forward to seeing what twist Dickson puts on the man disappearing from the pool. I'm quite sure it won't be Van Dine's trick.

A Flaw in the Blood: Review

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

First off...Fitzgerald didn't really have much to do with defending Queen Victoria from that would-be assassin. And actually worked for the defense of the perpetrator...arguing for a plea of insanity. Second, Queen Victoria can't stand Fitzgerald (or any Irishman for that matter) and the bigger mystery is why she summoned him at all. That's what Fitzgerald needs to puzzle out.

My take: Excellent period research. Barron has gotten her details of the middle 1800s exactly right. Enjoyed every bit of that (solid point). Wonderfully strong female character in Georgiana Armistead (Fitzgerald's ward). More of her would have gone a long way (solid point). The multiple narrator tactic--not so much. There are some books where this works very well. This is not one of them The portions that are supposedly narrated by Queen Victoria don't ring true and are more irritating than anything (negative point). If I had read one more "Look you" as an emphasis of Fitzgerald's Irish heritage I think I would have screamed. Even more irritating than the multiple narrator (negative point). Mildly interesting intrigue (point), but the "OMG ending" (that would be a blurb quote) just really doesn't strike me as all that believable. Overall: This book has a few strong points in its favor--historical details and a strong, likable character. However, these few favorable points are outweighed by negative ones. Two stars out of five.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Flying Finish: Review

Flying Finish is an aptly named mystery by Dick Francis. Published in 1966, I picked this one out for the Birth Year Challenge: Time Machine Version. I've read a couple of other Dick Francis books in the past, but I can't say that his mysteries really stick with me. This one will probably wind up going straight out my memory as well. It's a decently told story with a fairly interesting main character. But I can't say that Francis has ever sold me on his horse racing stories. I think perhaps if they were much more centered on the track and the actual horse racing, then he might do a better job of pulling me in. Every book I've read so far has dealt with some peripheral portion of the horse racing world. This one is no different.

Henry Grey, his main character, has been told that he has a bad disposition. His sister thinks so and so do his co-workers. Henry becomes convinced that all he needs is a new job; he's just tired of riding a desk all day. The only riding he really enjoys is as a part-time, amateur jockey. However, instead of trying his luck as a professional racer, he takes a job air transporting race horses and brood mares. He sees it as a way to get out of his rut and see a bit of the world...and maybe a way to change his fortune, if not his disposition. Things change all right...but how lucky is it when you find out that the planes are carrying more than horses? And your employer would rather you not know.

This is a fast-paced read. There's a bit of excitement in the final chapters...but no real mystery. The best part of the story--Henry's attachment to an Italian girl named Gabriella is interrupted (perhaps fatally) and the reader is left guessing at the outcome. Quite honestly, we could have skipped the "mystery" and gone with the human interest story and romance and I think it would have been a much better book. And, remember, this is a die-hard mystery fan talking here. Three stars--solid story-telling, but could have been better.

Saturday Snapshot: Jan 29

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.

This photo is from two Decembers ago. I was never more surprised than when my mom, dad & I went for a walk on the local walking trail and this handsome bird swooped down into the creek that runs along there.

Quote It! Saturday

Freda's Voice has an awesome Saturday meme for quote lovers called Quote It! And I have another blog, Quote Mistress, which is entirely devoted to the quotes I have collected over my lifetime. So my Saturday Quote It! may be found on my quote site. I'd love for you to visit...and be sure to visit Freda's Voice too!

Library Loot Jan 26 - Feb 2 (Take Two)

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 on Marg's site this week. And, of course, check out what other participants are getting from their libraries.

Second trip to the library this week...came away with two more books:

The Eu
stace Diamonds by Anthony Trollope: The third novel in Trollope's Palliser series, The Eustace Diamonds bears all the hallmarks of his later works, blending dark cynicism with humor and a keen perception of human nature. Following the death of her husband, Sir Florian, beautiful Lizzie Eustace mysteriously comes into possession of a hugely expensive diamond necklace. She maintains it was a gift from her husband, but the Eustace lawyers insist she give it up, and while her cousin Frank takes her side, her new lover, Lord Fawn, declares that he will only marry her if the necklace is surrendered. As gossip and scandal intensify, Lizzie's truthfulness is thrown into doubt, and, in her desire to keep the jewels, she is driven to increasingly desperate act.

Flying Finish by Dick Francis: Henry Grey takes a dirty, demanding job transporting racehorses by air. But when he discovers that he's actually transporting something altogether different, he has to call upon every ounce of resourcefulness he has to land with his life intact.

Use Trouble: Poems (Review)

Use Trouble: Poems by Michael S. Harper

From the back of the book: For decades, Michael S. Harper has written poetry that speaks with many voices. His work teems with poetry configured as awe, poetry as courtship, and poetry as elegy and homage. Infused with tales and riddles, sass and satire and surprise, Harper's poetry takes the form of psalms, jazz experiments, soft serenades, and radical provocations. In
Use Trouble, Harper renews poetry as the art of taking nothing for granted. He draws on his seemingly inexhaustible resources to pain, sing, sympathize, and sorrow. Here are his tributes to his father and family, his irrepressible playfulness, and his lifelong romance between poetry and music.

Um. Yeah. I guess I'm just going to have to take your word for it. Because for the first time since starting this blog I'm going to have to say--I just don't get it. I think I like these poems. Most of them anyway. They are full of rhythm and an elusive beauty that I can't quite get hold of. But I can't say that I understand them. I think I would have gotten a lot more out of this book of poetry if I could have studied in a class or with a reading group...somewhere where there could be some discussion. But reading it on my own....I just don't get it. And for that reason, I can't give this one a rating.

Some bits that I like:

As you paint yourself, taking readings
along the vernacular of the language
you speak, imitate, create, abandon,
remember the tensions of change:
improvise, study the movements,
don't get lulled by the machines...

from "Archives: The Public Library II"


Rachmaninoff's Second is upon me;
I conjure all the opera music you knew,

how lush your contralto heart, how fine your gloss
of Kansas City piano music; how swift your frock

at the Comus; I watch you cutting papa's
hair; there ain't no hair like his under those deft fingers.

"Write nothing down,: you said;
no notes fine enough, not even ashes.

"Headset" (complete poem)

Friday, January 28, 2011

The Lost Garden: A Review

The Lost Garden by Helen Humphreys is a beautifully written book. At first it may seem a bit disjointed and difficult-going. But looking deeper, the reader finds that like, the lost garden of the title, the story is multi-layered and the best layers are hidden beneath the weeds and neglect.

Gardener Gwen Davis comes to the Devon countryside to lead a group from the Women's Land Army. These women have volunteered to grow vegetables for the war effort. Gwen is shy and has little self-confidence and finds it difficult to exert the authority necessary to get the women to work. With the help of Jane, a born leader, she gets the work sorted out and the war effort is undertaken.

More important for Gwen, she discovers a hidden garden. Her story unfolds as she brings the true nature of the garden to light. There are three portions to the garden: Longing, Loss and Faith. Each section planted with flowers that represent the nature that particular section. In the end, Gwen discovers that the entire garden was a garden of love. Her discovery mirrors the discoveries she makes about herself along the way. She discovers her own value, the value of love, and what it means to be home.

Like good poetry, I sometimes find it hard to really write about good writing without giving it all away. Here is a quote that I particularly like...I think it sums up Gwen's thoughts on Loss as it relates to love:

This is what I know about love. That it is tested every day, and what is not renewed is lost. One chooses either to care more or to care less. Once the choice is to care less, then there is no stopping the momentum of good-bye.

Four stars out of five. Read primarily for the Take A Chance Challenge--this was a Library Staff Pick book. They certainly picked a good one!

Friday 56

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

*Grab a book, any book.
*Turn to page 56.
*Find any sentence that grabs you.
*Post it.
*Link it up at Freda's site.

Here's mine from The Lost Garden by Helen Humphreys:

What I find in that desk drawer, unharmed by creatures or weather, is the head gardener's ledger. I take the book outside and sit on a bench in the sun, against the warmth of the brick wall, the gardener's journal open on my knees.

I've just started this book, so I haven't made it to page 56 yet. I'm wondering if the ledger is going to tell her about the "lost garden"?

Book Beginnings on Friday

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 liked or did not like that sentence. Link-up each week at Katy's place.

Here's mine from The Lost Garden by Helen Humphreys:

What can I say about love? You might see me sitting in this taxi, bound for Paddington Station--a thirty-five-year-old woman with plain features--and you would think that I could not know anything of love. But I am leaving London because of love.

I just think that's a very captivating beginning. What do you think?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Follow Friday 40 & Over (35)

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

The RULES to join in are very simple:

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

Library Loot: Jan 26 - Feb 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 on Marg's site this week. And, of course, check out what other participants are getting from their libraries.

Didn't get much from the library so far this week (will be stopping in again on there may be more goodies to report). Came home with two library books:

The Lost Garden by Helen Humphrey
s: In a haunting story of love in a time of war, Helen Humphreys has created a novel that is both heartrending and heart-mending. This word-perfect, heartbreaking novel is set in early 1941 in Britain when the war seems endless and, perhaps, hopeless. London is on fire from the Blitz, and gardener Gwen Davis has fled the devastated city for the Devon countryside. She volunteers for the Women's Land Army, an organization devoted to growing crops for the war effort. Shy and solitary, she is placed in charge of a disparate group of young women to revitalize the vegetable gardens of a beautiful but long-neglected estate where the grounds have fallen into ruins. Also on the estate, waiting to be posted to the front, is a regiment of Canadian soldiers. She falls in love with a soldier, finds her first deep friendship, and brings a hidden garden back to life.

Use Trouble: Poems by Michael S Harper: For decades, Michael S. Harper has written poetry that speaks with many voices. His work teems with poetry configured as awe, poetry as courtship, and poetry as elegy and homage. Infused with tales and riddles, sass and satire and surprise, Harper’s poetry takes the form of psalms, jazz experiments, soft
serenades, and radical provocations.

In Use Trouble, his first major collection since Songlines in Michaeltree, Harper renews poetry as the art of taking nothing for granted. In three groups--"The Fret Cycle," "Use Trouble," and "I Do Believe in People"--he draws on his seemingly inexhaustible resources to paint, sing, sympathize, and sorrow. Here are his tributes to his father and family, his irrepressible playfulness, and his lifelong romance between poetry and music.

I also stopped by the Library's Used/Donated/Discarded Bookstore and picked up an absolutely perfect Dover first Edition of Three Victorian Detective Novels edited by E. F. Bleiler. "Identifying the first modern detective novel requires feats of brain and leg power worthy of the classic ratiocinators. The history of the genre itself is something of a fine art, combining the pleasure of the chase, with the occasional reward of discovering a transitional work whose merits transcend the historical Three such milestones in detective literature are presented here. The Unknown Weapon by Andrew Forrester; My Lady's Money by Wilkie Collins; and The Big Bow Mystery by Israel Zangwill.

Booking Through Thursday

This week Booking Through Thursday wants to know: What’s the largest, thickest, heaviest book you ever read? Was it because you had to? For pleasure? For school?

I'm going to answer this twice.

The largest, thickest, heaviest book I ever read that I had to read for school was Moby Dick. In high school--I was dragged through that kicking and screaming. Hated every minute. Not an American Lit girl and did not want to read about Ahab and the whale.

The largest, heaviest, thickest book I ever read for pleasure was Ulysses by James Joyce. Why? Because I thought I ought to...being an English major and all. And interested in literature from that side of the pond. Did I enjoy it? Not particularly. Heck, I didn't even really understand it. But I'm terribly proud of the fact that I can say I did it.

Zorro: A Novel....Not Finishing

I picked out Zorro: A Novel by Isabel Allende to fit into the A-Z Reading Challenge that I signed up for. After's not that easy to find interesting books whose first word starts with Z. And, I always enjoyed watching the black and white Zorro films. So, gonna be a good read, right?

I'm afraid not. And I've decided to stick to one of my unwritten reading resolutions for the year and be a little more ruthless when deciding not to finish a book. In the past, I've always finished. Always. Because it just might get better. But this year I've decided if I get about 100 pages in and it's just not doing it for me...then I'm done. Unless there's an overwhelming reason that compels me to finish (like, perhaps, an author has sent me a book to review).

I think it quite likely that Isabel Allende can write and that there are probably a lot a readers out there who would appreciate her writing. She does have a flair for description. She manages to take me to the places that Diego de la Vega has been so far in his short life (he's not made it to Zorro yet). But I find her story-telling abilities to be less than stellar. She hasn't made me care about these people yet. The de la Vega house has just been razed by pirates, a number of people have been killed...and I just don't care. At this point, I can see the building blocks that will turn de la Vega into Zorro...but I don't really want to stick around and wait and see when that happens. Will I have to wait another 100 pages (I skim and it looks likely). Perhaps I might try this one again when I have a little more patience for the long transformation. But for now...put Zorro down as a Did Not Finish.

Now I'm off to look for other likely candidates to fill the "Z" slot in the reading challenge.

India Black Give Away!

India Black: A Madam of Espionage Mystery by Carol K Carr

Now that I have read this fabulous book and reviewed it (HERE), Carol K Carr and I want to give one of you lucky book bloggers the opportunity to win it.

Here's the synopsis:

In the winter of 1876, the beautiful young madam India Black is occupied with her usual tasks--keeping her tarts in line, avoiding the police, and tolerating the clergyman bent on converting her girls. But when Sir Archibald Latham of the War Office dies from a heart attack while visiting her brothel, India is unexpectedly thrust into a deadly game between Russian and British agents who are seeking the military secrets Latham carried.

French, the handsome British spy, discovers India disposing of Latham's body, and blackmails her into recovering the missing documents. Their quest takes them from the Russian embassy to Claridge's Hotel, from London to the English coast, all the while dodging the Russians intent to do them harm.

But it is their own tempestuous relationship they will have to weather as India and French attempt to resit the mutual attraction between them--an attraction that can prove as deadly as the conspiracy entangling them...

Here's what you need to do. It's all very simple. No fancy follow me here, there and yon for extra entries or post 14 different comments with all the different ways you follow and how you've posted about the contest, etc., and so on. In fact, you don't even have to be my follower to enter. You just need to have an interest in this fabulous book.

It would be really great if you would post about this give-away on your own blog to help us spread the word. But it is not required to enter.

Everybody has an equal chance to win. Mr. Linky is not cooperating with me at the moment, so I would ask all those interested to leave a comment with the following information:

1. Your name/blogname (example: Bev [at] My Reader's Block)
2. Your email address (example: phryne1969 [at] gmail [dot] com)

I will use a random number generator (number assigned based on order of comments) to choose the winner. That's it. Entries will be accepted until Saturday, February 5 and a winner will be chosen on Sunday, February 6
. The publisher has limited the winners to US and Canada residents only. Once I have a winner I will contact you for a mailing address and share that with Carol so she can arrange to have your book shipped to you.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

WWW: Wednesdays

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

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

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


Zorro by Isabel Allende: A swashbuckling adventure story that reveals for the first time how Diego de la Vega became the masked man we all know so well.

Finished Since Last Wednesday (click titles for reviews):
Rope's End, Rogue's End
by E. C. R. Lorac
The Fashion in Shrouds by Margery Allingham
The Ampersand Papers by Michael Innes
Out of the Silent Planet by C. S. Lewis
Cordially Invited to Meet Death by Rex Stout
Black Orchids by Rex Stout
Live or Die by Anne Sexton
The X in Sex: How the X Chromosome Controls Our Lives by David Bainbridge

Up Next:
Perelandra by C. S. Lewis
Sir Nigel by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
The Lost Garden by Helen Humphreys
Use Trouble: Poems by Michael S Harper

Rope's End, Rogue's End: Review

In Rope's End, Rogue's End (1942) by E. C. R. Lorac we have the stand-by of British detective fiction...the English manor house. Wulfstane manor, a rambling old country house with many unused rooms, winding staircases, and a maze of cellars, had been bequeathed to Veronica Mallowood and her twin brother Martin. The last time the family of Mallowoods had gathered under the ancestral roof was on the occasion of their father's funeral, and there had been one of those unholy rows which not infrequently follow the reading of the will. Now, elder brother Paul has stopped by the family home on his way out of the country on a prolonged and long-deserved holiday. He wants to try one more time to get Veronica and Martin "to see sense" and allow him to provide the necessary funds to keep Mallowood in the style to which it should be accustomed. His sister and brother would rather live poor and let the place fall down around them than to be beholden to the brother who made their lives a misery when growing up. Added to the mix we have brothers Basil and Richard--and it seems that none of the Mallowoods like any of the others. Basil, like Paul, is a man of business in town--reputed to have done well. Richard has always been a traveler and never stayed in one place for long.

The unexpected family reunion takes place with fewer arguments than anticipated and the next morning Paul sets off on his journey. That's when things get interesting.
Basil receives mail that seems to be of the upsetting sort. Next thing we know a shot is heard, the locked door to the old playroom is broken down and there sits Basil (or rather what's left of him)--an apparent victim of suicide. Everything looks cut and dried to Inspector Long who has shown up on the scene intending to serve Basil for a warrant for embezzlement and who winds up with a corpse on his hands. Basil knew things were getting hot, the messages from town probably told him so (the remains are mere ashes in the fireplace), and he took the easy way out. But there are little odds and ends that just don't sit right with Inspector Long.

Enter Inspector Robert MacDonald from Scotland Yard. He, too, finds certain pieces of the puzzle not quite fitting and goes on to find that both Basil and his brother Paul have left their personal and business affairs in a much too tidy fashion. No fingerprints anywhere in either man's home. No personal papers lying about. Everything boxed up and shipped off to some mysterious safe deposit box. Why have these men cleaned up so faithfully behind them? Particularly Paul--about whom there isn't the least whiff of scandal? And then there's brother Martin who has disappeared since just before the suicide and hasn't shown up since. Where is he and why isn't his sister Veronica more concerned?

Inspector MacDonald follows the clues through the literal maze of the house and the theoretical maze of identity, double-lives, and financial woes to the startling conclusion. A very interesting example of a mystery from the forties. I picked up on one of the vital clues...but I had absolutely no idea what to do with it. Lorac had me baffled to the end. I always like that in a good mystery. Four stars.

Read My Review: Favorite Authors

Read My Review, Hosted by A Trillian Books is a chance for book bloggers to share new and old reviews--all related to a theme.

What to do:

*Find one of your reviews that fits this week's theme (you can be as creative as you like when choosing what fits). It can be new or old, good or bad.
*Create a post on your blog explaining your book choice and leaving a link to your review there.
*Leave your link with Mr. Linky at the bottom of her post.
*Visit some of the other reviews and leave a "quality" comment (at least a couple of sentences).
*Grab the button and let people know about Read My Review.

This weeks theme is Favorite Authors. One of my all-time favorites is Dorothy L Sayers. Her mysteries are literate, sprinkled with humor and strong characters. I love Lord Peter Wimsey. He could talk piffle to me all day. I've chosen one of her best, Strong Poison, to link up this week.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

What's On Your Nightstand?

What's On Your Nightstand is a monthly meme hosted by 5 Minutes for Books on the fourth Tuesday of every month. --to discuss what's on our nightstands (or bookshelf or under the bed or even in the bathroom) waiting to be read. We can also give a quick recap of what we've read that month, set a goal for the next month or take picture of all the books waiting to be read. It's also a place to tell how certain books made it to the nightstand (stack, whatever) and ask for suggestions for more. She just wants to offer a place for book lovers to get together.

This month she's also wondering if one of our New Year's resolutions was to read more.

Well, yes...I do want to read more. But I always do and I have loads of books on the nightstand (and under the bed and stacked on the floor and on shelves)...all waiting to be read. January has been a good month for me. Last year, I only read six books in the first month. So far this January, I've managed 14--more than doubling my reading output! Here's the list so far:

The Nine Tailors by Dorothy L Sayers (1/3/11)
Emma by Jane Austen (1/9/11)
Murder on the Links by Agatha Christie (1/9/11)

5 Bullets by Lee Thayer (1/12/11)
5. The Chinese Orange Mystery by Ellery Queen (1/13/11)

6. Time to Be in Earnest: a fragment of autobiography by P. D. James (1/18/11) 7. Publish & Be Murdered by Ruth Dudley Edwards (1/19/11)
The X in Sex: How the X Chromosome Controls Our Lives by David Bainbridge (1/21/11)
Live or Die by Anne Sexton (1/21/11)
Black Orchids by Rex Stout (1/21/11)
Cordially Invited to Meet Death by Rex Stout (1/22/11)
Out of the Silent Planet by C. S. Lewis (1/22/11)
The Ampersand Papers by Michael Innes (1/23/11)
The Fashion in Shrouds by Margery Allingham (1/25/11)

I've got a good 90+ waiting in the wings. These are all books that I've committed to reading for the various reading challenges I've signed up for (19 challenges!). But...I'm also committed to reading at least 219 books total for the year (courtesy of the Outdo Yourself Challenge), so I'm going to have to keep up the pace. How about you? Have you committed yourself to certain books for challenges? And have you managed to read more this January than last?

The Fashion in Shrouds

The Fashion in Shrouds (1938) is another entry in the annals of Margery Allingham's detective, Albert Campion. This time, as the back of the book tells us, we have homicide with style. Fashion is the by-word of the circle where murder strikes. Among these people, the suicide of Richard Portland-Smith [not George Wells as he is identified in the blurb] is old news. But Campion has refused to accept it as passe...and, in fact, has been asked by the man's father to get to the bottom of it. As Campion begins to follow the trail among politicians and the theatre, plane designers and fashion designers, he discovers secrets that may affect his own sister. More deaths follow and soon it becomes a question of which secrets have led to these bizarre murders. Is it adultery? Drugs? Blackmail? Espionage? Or a nice little recipe requiring all those ingredients? Campion takes a bold step in the finale to bring the perpetrator out into the open.

It may just be the state I've been in the last couple days (not feeling well)...but this particular Campion mystery seems just a bit more convoluted than most. And I have to say that I detested (yes, detested) Georgia Wells, the actress, from the moment she stepped into the scene. Someone really needed to slap her a good one early on. The mystery did hold my attention....I just barely got it solved before Campion's final scene. And some of the character interactions were very good. Overall, though, not one of Allingham's best. Good solid mystery. Mostly good characters. A decent, solid read for a three star rating.

Top Ten Tuesday: Children's Books

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish. This week we're being asked to list the Top Ten Books We Wish We'd Read as a Kid.

This was a bit of a toughie....I was quite the reader when I was young. Nothing's changed. But here's what I've been able to come up with:

1. The Tin Tin series by Herge. I didn't discover these adventures of the young Belgian reporter and his dog Snowy until I had my son. I would have LOVED these stories when I was growing up.

2. More of the Melendy Series by Elizabeth Enright. I absolutely adored The Four-Story Mistake. I wish I would have known that there were more books about this family.

3. Black Beauty by Anna Sewell. Like most girls I went through my "I love horses" phase. But I never got into the "I gotta read every book about horses that exists" like most of my girl friends. Can't explain why. Just didn't.

4. Likewise other animal books like Lad, a Dog. My best friend must have read every horse and dog book carried by our school and public libraries. Again, I just didn't. No real answer for why.

5. Anne of Green Gables (and the rest). One of those growing up books/series that I missed. I've tried to go back to them--but I just don't do well going back to children's/YA series like that.

6. Corduroy by Don Freeman. Another book discovered when looking for books for my son when he was little. Delightful story about a bear.

7. Beatrix Potter books (Peter Rabbit, etc). Ditto above.

8. More of the "Color" fairy tale books by Andrew Lang. I grew up with The Blue Fairy Book. Who knew that there were eleven more colors? I would have devoured them.

9. Edgar Eager books. Another author discovered with my son.

10. The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster. I've read it...but didn't discover it until I was a teenager. I would have enjoyed it more as a kid.

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

Here's mine from The Fashion in Shrouds by Margery Allingham (p. 29):

Jealousy is one emotion but hatred is quite another and much more rare in a civilized community. Once it is seen it is not easily forgotten.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Baker Street Challenge

I should know better than to try and fight the siren song of a good challenge. Especially when I have books sitting on the TBR piles that will just fit right into the needs of the challenge.

So, I'm signing Baker Street Challenge, an annual reading challenge for one of the most iconic and enigmatic literary figures, Sherlock Holmes. We'll be celebrating Doyle's original stories as well as the rich world of new adventures his works have inspired.

The Rules

1. Choose a goal from the reading tier below and add your name to the sign up page.

2. The challenge will run from January 1 to December 31, 2011. You can sign up for the challenge at any time before December 31, 2011.

2. You do not have to choose your books in advance. You may change your reading list at any point in the challenge.

3. Overlapping with other challenges is fine.

4. Audio books and eBooks are allowed.

5. Feel free to post reviews or general thoughts about your reading to the Baker Street Challenge blog. Please e-mail me at bookishruth [at] gmail [dot] com to be added as a contributor.

Reading Tier

Three Pipe Problem: 3 books
The Sign of Four: 4 books
Five Orange Pips: 5 books
Seven Percent Solution: 7 books

Ready to sign up for the challenge or need more info? Head over to the Main Page or the Sign Up page.

I'm signing up for the Five Orange Pips. Here are my planned books (since I've read all of the canon, I'll be doing pastiches for the most part):

1. The Giant Rat of Sumatra by Richard L Boyer (pastiche) [5/7/11]
2. The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Holmes by Loren D Estleman (pastiche) [8/2/11]
3. The White Company by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (non-Holmes) [3/29/11]
4. The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: The Scroll of the Dead by David Stuart Davies (pastiche) [9/7/11]
5. Sir Nigel by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (a non-Holmes book by Doyle) [8/21/11]
6. The Language of Bees by Laurie R. King (pastiche)

Commitment complete: 9/7/11

Winter Respite Read-a-thon Wrapup

This was, I think one of my better read-a-thon outings. Of course, I always hope to read way more than I do, but I managed to complete 7 books, finish one as my starter book and get a little bit into a 9th by the time it was all over. Here's my read-a-thon haul:

1. Time to Be in Earnest: a fragment of autobiography by P. D. James (p. 130-259) [Finished 5:30 pm, 1/18/11]

2. Publish & Be Murdered by Ruth Dudley Edwards (217 pages) [Finished 1:30 pm, 1/19/10]

3. The X in Sex: How the X Chromosome Controls Our Lives by David Bainbridge (181 pages) [Finished 1:30 pm, 1/21/11]

4. Live or Die by Anne Sexton (90 pages) [Finished 7:00 pm, 1/21/11]

5. Black Orchids by Rex Stout (140 pages) [Finished 10:00 pm, 1/21/11]

6. Cordially Invited to Meet Death by Rex Stout (128 pages) [Finished 4:00 pm, 1/22/11]

7. Out of the Silent Planet by C. S. Lewis (160 pages) [Finished 9:45 pm, 1/22/11]

8. The Ampersand Papers by Michael Innes (192 pages) [Finished 10:00 pm, 1/23/11]

9. The Fashion in Shrouds by Margery Allingham (24 pages) [Couldn't finish...had to go to sleep at 11:00 pm]

Total pages: 653

Thanks to Michelle at The True Book Addict for hosting! Thanks also to Christy English for offering her book as prizes--one of which I just found out I won. Woo Hoo!