Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Party Time! 300-Plus Follower Celebration Giveaway

It's here. It's party time! As promised, I want to celebrate YOU, my followers--all the wonderful people that I've met through this thing called blogging. All the folks that help to make up my 300-plus follower tally. Who knew when I started my little blog--my little online reading journal, as I thought of it--that there would be over 300 folks who would be interested in what I do. Thanks so much for stopping by, leaving comments now and again, participating in memes that I post, and joining me in some challenges over the past year and four months. But enough babbling...let's get this party started.

I would love to give credit for this image.
My son found it and sent it to me. He thought it was on deviantart,
but I can't seem to find it no matter how I search.

In celebration of a year's worth of blogging and the gathering together of followers, I have put together the following prize packages for a 300-Plus Follower Celebration Giveaway:

Prize #1: $25.00 gift card from Amazon.

Prize #2: $20.00 gift card from Amazon.

Prize #3: $15.00 gift card from Amazon.

Prize #4: A package of three gently used books (click titles for synopses from Amazon) The Dark Lantern by Gerri Brightwell, Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood and The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Prize #5: A package of three gently used books (click titles for synopses): The Egyptologist by Arthur Phillips,
Swan Song by Edmund Crispin, and Murder & Other Acts of Literature edited by Michele Slung (this last synopsis if from Barnes & Noble)

This particular giveaway is for followers who were signed up through my sidebar as of the time of this posting.* To enter please leave a comment below and, if you would, a mention of about how long you've been a follower [I don't expect exact dates :-) ] as well as your email address [example: phryne1969 AT gmail DOT
com]. All followers are welcome to enter! If an international follower wins one of the gift card prizes and Amazon won't work, then we'll arrange something through The Book Depository or whatever works. Entries will be accepted through midnight on Wednesday, September 7, and winners will be selected by random number generator on Thursday. I will draw the winners in order of prize package beginning with Prize #1 and will assume that all entrants wish to be entered for any of the prize packages unless told otherwise. The winners will have 48 hours to respond to an email to claim their prize.

*Yes, I did print out the listing of all 369 followers so I can check. I wanted this giveaway to be a celebration for folks who have been supportive up till now. I'd rather not put following as a requirement to enter and then have folks signing up just for a chance to win. If you're not a follower now, I'd just ask you to check out the blog. If you like what you see, I'd love to have you join the folks on my block. If not, more giveaways will come along in the future that will NOT require follower status.

Wondrous Words Wednesday

Kathy over at Bermudaonion's Weblog hosts Wondrous Words Wednesday. If you come across a word (or two) while reading that is new to you and would like to share your new knowledge, then hop over to Kathy's place and link up!

Here's what I've got this week from Perelandra by C. S. Lewis:

Reentrants: reentering angles

It was an irregularly shaped object with many curves and reentrants. (p. 37) [Angles and curves that is irregularly shaped.]


1. A strong yellow color.
2. A gum resin obtained from the sap of trees of the genus Garcinia, used as a yellow pigment and as a cathartic.

It was variegated in colours like a patch-work quilt--flame-colour, ultramarine, crimson, orange, gamboge, and violet. (p. 37)

easily crumbled or pulverized

Burrowing idly with his fingers he found something friable like dry soil, but very little of it, for almost at once he came upon a base of tough, interlocked fibres. (p. 40)

WWW: Wednesdays

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

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

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

Middlemarch by George Eliot: Dorothea Brooke can find no acceptable outlet for her talents or energy and few who share her ideals. As an upper middle-class woman in Victorian England she can't learn Greek or Latin simply for herself; she certainly can't become an architect or have a career; and thus, Dorothea finds herself "Saint Theresa of nothing." Believing she will be happy and fulfilled as "the lampholder" for his great scholarly work, she marries the self-centered intellectual Casaubon, twenty-seven years her senior. Dorothea is not the only character caught by the expectations of British society in this huge, sprawling book. Middlemarch stands above its large and varied fictional community, picking up and examining characters like a jeweler observing stones. There is Lydgate, a struggling young doctor in love with the beautiful but unsuitable Rosamond Vincy; Rosamond's gambling brother Fred and his love, the plain-speaking Mary Garth; Will Ladislaw, Casaubon's attractive cousin, and the ever-curious Mrs. Cadwallader.

Perelandra by C. S. Lewis: The second book in his classic space trilogy which begins with Out of the Silent Planet and ends with That Hideous Strength. Perelandra (Venus) has been invaded by the devil's agent in the shape of an English physicist Dr. Weston. Evil joins battle with good, represented bu Ramson the philologist, as Perelandra and its Queen face the choice between ascending to perfection or following an older world to corruption.

Read Since the Last WWW: Wednesday (click on titles for review):
Lady Audley's Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon
The Arrow by Christopher Morley
The Name on the Bracelet by Margaret Sutton
Lord Peter Views the Body by Dorothy L Sayers
DeKok & Murder on Blood Mountain by A C Baantjer
The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club by Dorothy L Sayers
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Up Next:
The High Crusade by Poul Anderson
Hide and Seek by Wilkie Collins
Lucky Jim by Kinglsey Amis
Parnassas on Wheels by Christopher Morley
Savage Beauty: The Life of Edna St. Vincent Millay by Nancy Milford

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Book Thief: Review

I don't remember the last time a book made me cry. That is, before tonight. I just finished The Book Thief by Markus Zusak and by the time I closed the book, I was weeping. Is this book perfect, no. All-time finest written, no. But, Zusak, has certainly done his job as a writer. He has reeled me in, sometimes faulty prose and all, and made me care about his characters. And I couldn't bear it when my nearly all of favorites were gone at the end. Trust me, I'm not spoiling anything here. After all, the narrator of the book is Death and the book is about Germany during World War II--am I really letting any cats of the bag when I tell you that a lot of people die? I didn't think so.

This book has made so many lists and been so widely reviewed that I doubt that I'm going to say much that's original and a synopsis probably isn't necessary. But for those of you who, like me, don't get out in the world of modern books very often--here's a run-down:

This book is narrated by Death...who, of course, is always busy--but never more so than during the reign of Nazi Germany. The book begins with Liesel Meminger, her brother and her mother on train headed to Molching, outside of Munich, to place the children in a foster home. Death's first job in the book is to claim Liesel brother. A death that will haunt Liesel through nightmares for years. The story follows Liesel as she settles into a working-class neighborhood of tough kids, acid-tongued mothers, and loving fathers who earn their living by the work of their hands. The child arrives having just stolen her first book–although she has not yet learned how to read–and her foster father uses it, The Gravediggers Handbook, to lull her to sleep when shes roused by regular nightmares about her younger brothers death. And then although he is no great reader himself, her foster father takes pains to teach Liesel to read. Across the ensuing years of the late 1930s and into the 1940s, Liesel collects more stolen books as well as a peculiar set of friends: the boy Rudy, the Jewish refugee Max, the mayors reclusive wife (who has a whole library from which she allows Liesel to steal), and especially her foster parents. Liesel's friendships are particularly well-done--and most particularly the prickly friendship between her and Rudy. Depicting a friendship between a girl and a boy at that age is not an easy task.

The story of Liesel and Death's parallel narrative relating the horrors of war surrounding Molching give a very vivid picture of what life may have been like in the small towns of Germany. And the heart-breaking ending is so very well done, it makes up for some of the stilted writing and poor imagery found earlier in the book. (I just can't imagine a chocolate sky--for one thing.) Overall this is one of the finest young adult books I've ever read and certainly one that has most touched me. I could not put it down this evening (and only put it down throughout the day because I had to work). My biggest quibble is about the little asides that appear in bold. I think that some of that could have been left out altogether and the rest would have worked better if it had been incorporated into the story. Those asides put some major bumps in the reading road. Without those, this would have been a five star book. Four and a half stars.

I'm a Classic Dame...

Your result for The Classic Dames Test ...

Katharine Hepburn

You scored 14% grit, 29% wit, 52% flair, and 19% class!
{Flair, I've got flair!}
Katharine Hepburn
You are the fabulously quirky and independent woman of character. You go your own way, follow your own drummer, take your own lead. You stand head and shoulders next to your partner, but you are perfectly willing and able to stand alone. Others might be more classically beautiful or conventionally woman-like, but you possess a more fundamental common sense and off-kilter charm, making interesting men fall at your feet. You can pick them up or leave them there as you see fit. You share the screen with the likes of Spencer Tracy and Cary Grant, thinking men who like strong women.

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 The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (p, 48):

Insane or not, Rudy was always destined to be Liesel's best friend. A snowball in the face is surely the perfect beginning to a lasting friendship.

Top Ten Tuesday: Fall TBR

Hosted by The Broke and Bookish
TBR Pile: To Be Read Pile of books. Here is a list of books I hope to get to very soon in the Fall--I better or there are some challenges that just aren't going get finished.

1. Interview with a Vampire by Anne Rice
2. Savage Beauty: The Life of Edna St. Vincent Millay by Nancy Milford
3. The High Crusade by Poul Anderson (1960)
4. The Club Dumas by Arturo Perez-Reverte
5. English Music by Peter Ackroyd
6. Perelandra by C. S. Lewis
Perfect Reader by Maggie Pouncey
The Queen's Pawn by Christy English
9. Hide and Seek by Wilkie Collins
The Praise Singer by Mary Renault

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club: Review

The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club by Dorothy L Sayers is another lovely, classic, Golden Age mystery. Old General Fentiman is found peacefully passed away, sitting in his favorite chair by the fireplace in the Bellona Club. Nothing strange about a ninety-year-old gentleman falling asleep and never waking up. Or is there? Lord Peter Wimsey immediately notices a few oddities about the corpse, but as the doctor in charge doesn't say anything, he decides to refrain from pointing them out. But then the lawyers get involved. For it seems that it matters a great deal exactly what time General Fentiman moved on from this mortal coil. In fact, it matters about half a million pounds worth. Because General Fentiman's sister, Lady Dormer, has passed away on the same day and depending on who died first, somebody is going to be awfully wealthy.

Lord Peter is brought into the case by Mr. Murbles--his own man of business, as well as the representative for the Fentimans. Wimsey tries to convince the lawyer that it would be best if he were to convince his clients to settle, but it seems that Lady Dormer's legatee doesn't see it quite that way. What follows is a fun Golden Age romp with out of service telephones, the elusive Mr. Oliver, the mystery of the missing item from General Fentiman's clothing, and the question of why the elderly gentleman's knee swung freely when the rest of him was quite stiff with rigor mortis. There will be a trek across Europe and a party about glands before it's all over. And, of course, Lord Peter will follow all the threads to their proper source.

I always enjoy Lord Peter. And, while I have thought about it before, I was quite struck this time by how Ann Dorland seems to be a precursor to Harriet Vane. There's the artistic leanings, and the intelligence, and the respect that Lord Peter has for her. There's her sense of humor, her unhappy love affair, and part of the description of her looks--particularly the eyebrows. I definitely think that Harriet was percolating away in the mind of Sayers just waiting to appear in Strong Poison. A thoroughly enjoyable reread--with slightly more serious undertones than either Whose Body? or Clouds of Witness. We're given a very good look at what WWI, gassing, and shell-shock did to the young men who made it back from the war. Poor George Fentiman really thinks he might have been capable of poisoning his grandfather. Four stars.

I also would like to add that the filmed version of this with Ian Carmichael is absolutely delightful. The scenes with him and Mrs. Munns (landlady to George Fentiman and his wife, Sheila) is worth the price of admission. Not strictly to the letter with the novel--but great fun!

Five Best Books: Based on a True Story

The 5 Best Books meme is hosted by Cassandra at Indie Reader Houston.

This week we are asked to list our Five Best Books: Based on a True Story. I don't really read a lot of books that are based on true stories. I do read historical fiction and historical mysteries that may feature real people, but they don't necessarily relay actual events. I do read historical books based on true stories occasionally, though. Here are my top five of those:

1. The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey. The book that made me fall in love with Tey's writing. And got me interested in Richard III and the Princes in the Tower. Inspector Alan Grant of Scotland Yard, recuperating from a broken leg, becomes fascinated with a contemporary portrait of Richard III that bears no resemblance to the Wicked Uncle of history. Could such a sensitive, noble face actually belong to one of the world's most heinous villains -- a venomous hunchback who may have killed his brother's children to make his crown secure? Or could Richard have been the victim, turned into a monster by the usurpers of England's throne? Grant determines to find out once and for all, with the help of the British Museum and an American scholar, what kind of man Richard Plantagenet really was and who killed the Little Princes in the Tower.

2. Killer Angels by Michael Shaara: Recreates the Civil War at Gettysburg. My favorite novel about war. In the four most bloody and courageous days of our nation’s history, two armies fought for two conflicting dreams. One dreamed of freedom, the other of a way of life. Far more than rifles and bullets were carried into battle. There were memories. There were promises. There was love. And far more than men fell on those Pennsylvania fields. Bright futures, untested innocence, and pristine beauty were also the casualties of war. Michael Shaara’s Pulitzer Prize–winning masterpiece is unique, sweeping, unforgettable—the dramatic story of the battleground for America’s destiny. - (
Random House, Inc.)

3. Devil in the White City by Erik Larson. O
ne of my rare forays into true crime--particularly serial killers. But this one is so well written. A compelling account of the Chicago World's Fair of 1893 brings together the divergent stories of two very different men who played a key role in shaping the history of the event--visionary architect Daniel H. Burnham, who coordinated its construction, and Dr. Henry H. Holmes, an insatiable and charming serial killer who lured women to their deaths.

4. Katherine by Anya Seton (click title for my review): I'm not much into the medieval time period. But this one is very good. This classic romance novel tells the true story of the love affair that changed history—that of Katherine Swynford and John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, the ancestors of most of the British royal family. Set in the vibrant 14th century of Chaucer and the Black Death, the story features knights fighting in battle, serfs struggling in poverty, and the magnificent Plantagenets—Edward III, the Black Prince, and Richard II—who ruled despotically over a court rotten with intrigue. Within this era of danger and romance, John of Gaunt, the king’s son, falls passionately in love with the already married Katherine. Their well-documented affair and love persist through decades of war, adultery, murder, loneliness, and redemption. This epic novel of conflict, cruelty, and untamable love has become a classic since its first publication in 1954.

5. The Wench Is Dead by Colin Dexter. Another British Inspector solves a mystery from long ago from his sickbed.
It is only to entertain himself in the hospital that the impatient Inspector Morse opens the little book called Murder on the Oxford Canal. But so fascinating is the story it tells--of the notorious 1859 murder of Joanna Franks aboard the canal boat Barbara Bray--that not even Morse's attractive nurses can distract him from it. Was Joanna really raped and murdered by fellow passengers? Morse believes the men hanged for the crime were innocent. Now, in one of the most dazzling investigations of his career, Morse sets out to piece together the shattered past, hoping to expose the shocking truth about the Barbara Bray--and a beautiful wench who is journeying towards her death.

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 last week, so here's the list since my last post.

Books Read (click on titles for review):
Shatterday by Harlan Ellison
Lady Audley's Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon
The Arrow by Christopher Morley
The Name on the Bracelet by Margaret Sutton
Lord Peter Views the Body by Dorothy L Sayers
DeKok & Murder on Blood Mountain by A C Baantjer

Currently Reading:
The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club by Dorothy L Sayers: Ninety-year-old General Fentiman was definitely dead, but no one knew exactly when he died. The time of death was the determining factor in a half million pound inheritance. And Lord Peter would need every bit of his amazing skills to unravel the mysteries of: why the General's lapel was without a red poppy on Armistice Day, how the club's telephone was fixed without a repairman, and, most puzzling of all, why the great man's leg swung freely when the rest of his was stiff with rigor mortis.

Books that spark my interest:
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (still aiming to get to this one....other challenge obligations have gotten in the way)
The High Crusade by Poul Anderson
Lucky Jim by Kinglsey Amis
Middlemarch by George Eliot (if I'm brave enough)
Parnassas on Wheels by Christopher Morley

Bout of Books Read-a-Thon: Wrap-up

I had signed up for the Bout of Books Read-a-Thon running from August 22-28 and hosted by On a Bookbender. I listed my planned reading on my official starting line post. I wanted to knock out at least six books. On that count, I succeeded! Six books read!

Here was my planned reading:
1. Shatterday by Harlan Ellison (classic SF from the 70s)
2. Lady Audley's Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon
3. Lucky Jim by Kinglsey Amis
4. The Arrow by Christopher Morley
5. Middlemarch by George Eliot (if I'm brave enough)
6. Parnassas on Wheels by Christopher Morley

And here is what I actually got done:
1. Shatterday by Harlan Ellison (8/23/11) [318 pages]
2. Lady Audley's Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon (8/24/11) [286 pages]
3. The Arrow by Christopher Morley (8/25/11) [85 pages]
4. The Name on the Bracelet by Margaret Sutton (8/27/11) [216 pages]
5. Lord Peter Views the Body by Dorothy L Sayers (8/28/11) [253 pages]
6. DeKok & Murder on Blood Mountain by A C Baantjer (8/28/11) [189 pages]

I finished 89 pages of Middlemarch by George Eliot.

Total page count: 1436

Sunday, August 28, 2011

DeKok and Murder on Blood Mountain: Review

In Inspector DeKok's line of work, death is routine. After all, he works in the homicide section of the police department. But encountering resurrected dead men certainly is not. At the request of the Belgium police, Inspectors DeKok and Vledder discreetly attend the funeral of a murder victim. The body was fished out of Antwerp's Scheldt River, but has been brought back to Amsterdam to be laid to rest in Sorrow Field Cemetery. During the service DeKok looks around at the mourners and finds himself looking at a man long dead. Whispers of the gray sleuth's sanity are uttered and even Vledder insists he must be mistaken, but DeKok is certain of a darker, more sinister activity at play than just the ridiculous notion of ghosts. More bodies are discovered; apparently they too were poisoned and dumped into the river. DeKok must venture from his beloved city and travel to Bloedberg ("Blood Mountain"), a notorious neighborhood in Antwerp. It seems a certain Heaven's Gate Temple and the Holy Pact for the Dying hold the answers to both the living dead and the dead and buried.

DeKok has been compared to Maigret and I must say that I see the similarities. Vledder is often exasperated with him and is hard put to understand some of DeKok's deductions. Just as those around Maigret sometimes cannot understand how he operates. But I find myself liking Dekok much better. He explains more...and more quickly than Maigret does (at least in The Yellow Dog). Baantjer's prose is marvelous in translation. The descriptions of both people and places are vivid and very apt. I was quickly drawn into the story and swept along right to the end. I was completely enthralled, right up to the denouement and I loved the classic wrap-up scene at the end. I can well understand why Baantjer is the most widely read author in the Netherlands. Four stars out of five.

Crime Fiction on a Europass--Denmark

Leaving Holland and Belgium behind, our next stop on our Crime Fiction Europass vacation get-away is Denmark. My destination of choice is Copenhagen--home of Mikkel Birkegaard. He is an author of fantasy fiction with a mystery/thriller twist. Birkegaard's debut novel, The Library of Shadows, was a bestseller in his native Denmark and has now gone on to be published in 21 languages. His second book, "Over mit lig" (Over my dead body), was published in Denmark in august 2009 and has been sold to Holland, Norway, Italy, UK and Germany. I've seen a lot of talk about The Library of Shadows out in the blogosphere and I'm very interested in reading it. I've added it to the long TBR list and hope to get to it sooner rather than later.

From the book blurb:

Imagine th
at some people have the power to affect your thoughts and feelings when you read, or they read a book to you. They can seduce you with amazing stories, conjure up vividly imagined worlds, but also manipulate you into thinking exactly what they want you to. When Luca Campelli dies a sudden and violent death, his son Jon inherits his second-hand bookshop, Libri di Luca, in Copenhagen. Jon has not seen his father for twenty years since the mysterious death of his mother. When Luca's death is followed by an arson attempt on the shop, Jon is forced to explore his family's past. Unbeknownst to Jon, the bookshop has for years been hiding a remarkable secret. It is the meeting place of a society of booklovers and readers, who have maintained a tradition of immense power passed down from the days of the great library of ancient Alexandria. Now someone is trying to destroy them, and Jon finds himself in a fight for his life and those of his new friends.

Vintage Mystery Sunday: Death Lights a Candle

It's Vintage Mystery Sunday and time to spotlight another classic mystery that I read and loved before I began blogging and reviewing every book I read. A lot of these books come from a time when I was a reader....period. No journaling, no notes. I kept a list of what I read and assigned a rating, but that's it. So quite a bit of my comments will be based on what my rapidly-aging, sieve-like memory will produce for me...that and the little jolts I give it by reading descriptions from the back of the books, the library website, Amazon, etc. I just want to take a moment each weekend and introduce you to some vintage mysteries that you may not know....or, perhaps, remind you of some golden oldies you may have read in the past.

This week I am highlighting Death Lights a Candle by Phoebe Atwood Taylor (1932). I had the great pleasure of borrowing the Pocket Book edition of Asey Mayo's second mystery outing from my good friend Richard. I was sorely tempted to run off with it....regular readers will remember how much I love those pocket-sized editions of classic mysteries. I was good and resisted temptation. But the story would have been enjoyable no matter what form the book came in. I have fondness for the "Codfish Sherlock," as Asey has sometimes been called. His down-to-earth detective work generally satisfies. And I remember it doing so in this case.
Prudence Whitsby and Asey Mayo team up once again to get to the bottom of a murder on Cape Cod. And there is no shortage of trouble around that March. Prudence accepts an invitation from Rowena Kible to the Cape in order to give her a break from Boston. They are then summoned to join a house-warming party across the street--a new mansion owned by Adelbert Stires. The party no more than gets started when some serious snow begins to fall. And where is their host? The small group of guests, their servants, and local handyman, Asey Mayo, are all trapped by the snowstorm--cut off from the world outside. But then Bert Stires manages to show up on foot. He is wet and cold and more than 24 hours overdue from when he left Boston, but no one thinks to ask where he's been or what happened to him. They will have missed their chance, because the next morning he is discovered in his locked bedroom, dead. The doctor proclaims death by poisoning, probably arsenic. But almost everyone is found to have arsenic among his or her possessions. And there are just about as many people with reasons to want Stires dead.

It's then that Asey takes charge of the investigation. Since his first outing in The Cape Cod Mystery, Asey has been elected as sheriff and he now has a badge to give him more authority in his labors. The snow piles up deeper and deeper and so do the questions. How was the arsenic administered? And by whose hand? As the book's title would suggest, there is a candle involved and Asey must decide how that light figures into the mystery before he can bring the crime home to culprit.

Lord Peter Views the Body: Review

Still taking a break from Middlemarch (I'm finding it a bit hard-going). I decided to read some nice classic Golden Age short stories from the hand of one of the queens of British mysteries, Dorothy L Sayers. Her collection, Lord Peter Views the Body, is a delightful gathering of stories featuring Lord Peter Wimsey. I have put together a brief note on each story. I enjoyed them all, but I will say that my favorites are "The Vindictive Story of the Footsteps that Ran," "The Biblulous Business of a Matter of Taste," and "The Learned Adventure of the Dragon's Head."

"The Abominable History of the Man with Copper Fingers": A story of jealousy and a well-known sculptor's plan for revenge. Fortunately, Wimsey is on hand to prevent the artist from completing the second half of his masterpiece.

"The Entertaining Episode of the Article in Question": Wimsey proves that a little knowledge of French can go a long way towards capturing a jewel thief.

"The Fascinating Problem of Uncle Meleager's Will": A clever old man leaves clues to his will in a crossword. Wimsey proves himself frivolous enough to decipher it.

"The Fantastic Horror of the Cat in the Bag": A high-speed motorcyclist gets a nasty surprise when he opens a bag picked up from a cloak room.

"The Unprincipled Affair of the Practical Joker": Wimsey uses a lovely bit of sleight of hand to silence a blackmailer.

"The Undignified Melodrama of the Bone of Contention": Wimsey delves into the mystery of the death coach--a ghostly coach pulled by headless white horses and driven by a headless coachman.

"The Vindictive Story of the Footsteps That Ran": His lordship solves a murder by noticing which way the footsteps ran.

"The Bibulous Business of a Matter of Taste": Will the real Lord Peter please stand up? Or at least correctly identify six varieties of wine. A story of not one, not two, but three Wimseys.

"The Learned Adventure of the Dragon's Head": Wimsey and his nephew find an old pirate treasure. My favorite of these stories--I love the interaction between LPW and "Pickled Gherkins."

"The Piscatorial Farce of the Stolen Stomach": Great Uncle Joseph chooses an unusual hiding place for his wealth.

"The Unsolved Puzzle of the Man with No Face": Wimsey solves a murder using clues provided in the discussion amongst his fellow train travelers.

"The Adventurous Exploit of the Cave of Ali Baba": Lord Peter is reported dead....and events that follow lead to the capture of a gang of criminals.

The stories are fun. Not a lot of detail, but that's to be expected with short stories. Sayers does manage to pull the reader right in regardless. Four stars--but, then, I am biased. I love all things Wimsey.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Saturday Snapshot: August 27

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. (Click picture for close-up.)

This is a shot of New York City from the air at night. It was taken as we left NYC in 2009. I'm posting it today as I think of those in New York--and all along the East Coast--while Hurricane Irene rages. Praying that everyone will be safe!

The Name on the Bracelet: Review

The Name on the Bracelet is a classic young adult mystery starring Judy Bolton. Written by Margaret Sutton in 1940, it is part of a mystery series very like Nancy Drew. Judy's dad is a doctor and Judy still has her mom and an older brother thrown in the mix. For those who thought Nancy a bit too privileged (rich dad who let her go on all sorts of trips to ski lodges and what-not; her own little roadster; etc), Judy is a bit more down-to-earth. She is employed as a secretary to a local lawyer and has thoughts of marriage and a family.

This particular mystery begins with a break-in at Judy's home. It looks like someone has been going through the doctor's office, but he doesn't see that anything is missing. Then Judy realizes that the burglar has stolen something....a piece of pie and some slices of ham. Did the intruder go to all that trouble for a bit of food? The next clue is a bankbook that must have slipped from a pocket when the intruder was bending over his midnight snack. The bankbook belongs to a man with an account in New York City. Judy is just contemplating a trip to New York (she has a vacation coming) when she receives a telegram announcing that one of her close friends (who just happens to live in NYC) has had a baby and would like her to visit. And in the midst of all this Judy becomes engaged to the lawyer she works for--accepting his grandmother's heirloom engagement ring.

Then Judy is off to the city. When she reaches the hospital where her friend, Irene, is preparing to go home with her newborn, she meets another young woman, Jane, who has shared the room. The two mothers have become fast friends. Events really pick the hustle to leave the hospital Judy's diamond falls out of its setting and disappears. Then Jane and one of the babies vanish. Later, Judy and Irene's husband discover that the common parents' fear of coming home with the wrong baby has happened.....somehow Jane managed to walk away with little Judy Irene. Judy is soon off on the trail--searching the big city for a missing mother and child as well as her diamond.

Of course, there are a lot of coincidences in this book. It all dove-tails together quite nicely for a neat and tidy ending. But that's one of the good things about these mysteries. Judy (or Nancy or the Dana Girls or....) always gets her man--or woman as the case may be. Good triumphs and the criminal is always caught. The clues all come together and it makes for a nice happy wrap-up. This was a comfy little read that was just the break I needed from reading Middlemarch. Not too taxing and just pleasant. I never came across the Judy Bolton mysteries when I was growing up. Otherwise, I'm quite sure I would have gobbled them up in the same way I did the Nancy Drew stories. It was nice to revisit my childhood with this one. Three stars

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 Quote It! may be found on my quote site. I'd love for you to visit...and be sure and visit Freda's Voice too!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Five Best Books: Genre Reads

5 Best Books is a weekly meme hosted by Cassandra at her blog, INDIEREADERHOUSTON Each week we're handed a new topic - this week, 5 Best Genre Reads.

Well...let's see. I'm a mystery-lover. I talk about mysteries quite a lot here on My Reader's Block. I wonder if I can come up with a list that isn't entirely made up of titles I keep plugging all the time. I think I'll narrow it down and go with my top five academic mysteries. For my purposes an academic mystery must have one or more of the following: a professor or teacher acting as the primary (amateur) detective; a professor or teacher as the victim, culprit or essential main character; and/or a school or university setting.

1. Bodies in a Bookshop by R. T. Campbell (synopsis & my thoughts available by clicking title)

2. Gaudy Night by Dorothy L Sayers:
When Harriet Vane attends her Oxford reunion, known as the "Gaudy," the prim academic setting is haunted by a rash of bizarre pranks: scrawled obsentities, burnt effigies and poison-pen letters — including one that says, "Ask your boyfriend with the title if he likes arsenic in his soup." Some of the notes threaten murder; all are perfectly ghastly; yet in spite of their scurrilous nature, all are perfectly worded. And Harriet finds herself ensnared in a nightmare of romance and terror, with only the tiniest shreds of clues to challenge her powers of detection, and those of her paramour, Lord Peter Wimsey.

3. Death in a Tenured Position by Amanda Cross:
When Janet Mandelbaum is made the first woman professor at Harvard's English Department, the men are not happy. They are unhappier still when her tea is spiked and she is found drunk on the floor of the women's room. With a little time, Janet's dear friend and colleague Kate Fansler could track down the culprit, but time is running out....

4. The Weight of the Evidence by Michael Innes: Meteorites fall from the sky but seldom onto the heads of science dons in redbrick universities; yet this is what happens to Professor Pluckrose of Nestfield University. Inspector Appleby soon discovers that the meteorite was not fresh and that the professor's deckchair had been placed underneath a large, accessible tower - he already knew something of academic jealousies but he was to find out a great deal more

5. Death's Bright Dart by V. C. Clinton-Baddley:
The speaker stepped to the podium. The audience waited expectantly. But before the celebrated scientist could utter a word, he clutched his neck, gasped and fell to the ground--the victim of a poisoned dart. Clearly someone at the conference could handle a primitive blowpipe with deadly precision. The inquisitive Dr. Davie did some research of his own and discovered that each of the distinguished scientists had something to hide. Now he had to discover which one was venomous enough to kill in order to protect his secret.

Booking Through Thursday: History

This week Booking Through Thursday asks: When is the last time you read a history book? Historical biography? You know, something that took place in the past but was REAL.

The last historical book I read was
Robert Kennedy: In His Own Words by Edwin O. Guthman & Jeffrey Shulman, eds (you may click the title for my review) back in July. This was a written version of interviews with Robert Kennedy in the time directly following John F Kennedy's assassination. The topics cover everything from the campaign for JFK's presidency to the Bay of Pigs to Civil Rights.

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 Middlemarch by George Eliot:
Miss Brooke had that kind of beauty which seems to be thrown into relief by poor dress. Her hand and wrist were so finely formed that she could wear sleeves not less bare of style than those in which the Blessed Virgin appeared to Italian painters; and her profile as well as her stature and bearing seemed to gain the more dignity from her plain garments, which by the side of provincial fashion gave her the impressiveness of a fine quotation from the Bible--or from one of our elder poets--in a paragraph of to-day's newspaper.

The Friday 56 is a bookish meme sponsored by Freda's Voice. It is really easy to participate.
*Grab a book, any book.
*Turn to page 56.

*Find any sentence that grabs you.

*Post it.

*Link up at Freda's site.
Here's mine from Middlemarch by George Eliot:

I throw her over: there was a chance, if she had married Sir James, of her becoming a sane, sensible woman.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Arrow: Review

The Arrow by Christopher Morley is his first book to disappoint. Up till now I had thoroughly enjoyed each book I had read by him. There is little of Morley's wit and humor in this telling of the fable of Cupid and Psyche.

What we have is a young American man headed by steamship to England as a Rhodes scholar. Aboard ship he becomes very susceptible to the moods of the sea and especially entranced by a little grey dress. "It was an exquisitely attractive thing, a sort of cool silky stuff with crisp little pleats. Its plain simplicity made it admirably piquant. Somehow I had the feeling that anyone who would wear so delicious a costume must be interesting." He thinks about the dress often during the journey, but never manages to meet its owner. Once in England, he is sampling the delights of London before heading to college and is suddenly stuck by an arrow while in the middle of Picadilly Circus. It is an arrow that only he can see...but which is quite sharp and he must be careful how he stands or walks lest he jab others without meaning to. He has, quite literally, been struck by Cupid. He spends some time trying to remove the thing, visiting a doctor about it, and finally appealing to his Embassy. He is sent to a lecture (to take his mind off his troubles) and there he meets a young woman in a similar predicament.

This is a somewhat interesting story of what happens when Cupid's dart strikes home. As a fable itself, it's not bad. But it definitely lacks the usual Morley pizazz. After Kathleen and The Haunted Bookshop my expectations were quite high. The excitement and adventure just were not there. Two and a half stars.

Lady Audley's Secret: Review

Lady Audley's Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon (1887) is another classic example of the Victorian-era mystery novel. It was at one time one of the most popular mysteries in the English-speaking world. It went through eight editions in the first year alone, sold upwards of a million copies, and it never went out of print during Braddon's life-time. It takes the Victorian sensation novel and turns it on its head, giving the reader a strong central character--you may not agree with what she does, but at least she doesn't sit back and let life happen to her. Lady Audley's Secret has subterfuge, kidnapping, jealousy and fraud all thrown into the mix and shaken up for good measure.

At the beginning it is a simple story, Lord Michael Audley falls in love with Lucy Graham. a lovely, friendly young woman who has come to the area as a governess to the local doctor's children. They are married a
nd life settles down in Audley Court. Then Robert Audley, nephew to Lord Audley, meets up with an old friend just returned from the goldfields of Australia. George Talboys left home to seek a fortune and has now returned with pockets well-lined to bring his wife and son the support they deserve. But misfortune begins with George's first evening in England--there is a notice of the death of Helen Talboys. Robert accompanies George to verify that this is, indeed, his wife, and George is heartbroken to find that it it true. Robert then devotes his time to trying to help George recover--offering him amusements and diversions. Eventually, they plan a trip to Essex....where lies Audley Court and where George Talboys will disappear. As Robert tries to discover what has happened to his friend, he becomes more and more convinced that Lady Audley holds the secret. But he fears what that secret might mean for his beloved uncle.

Like many Victorian novels of the time, it is no secret (pun intended) who the villain of the piece is. The bulk of the story is about what exactly the villain has done, how Robert will manage to find the evidence to bring justice, and just exactly how many layers there are to the secrets gathered at Audley Court. I found myself saying over and over again, "Aha, now I know it all." Which was, after all, a bit silly when there was still half to a third of the book to go. But Braddon managed to give that impression....and then once I was sitting smugly thinking I knew what was what, she added another twist and revealed another layer. A very enjoyable classic mystery. Four Stars. [Finished 8/24/11]

Mini Skirt Mayhem

Well, it's up. My entry in Carol's Mini-skirt competition is up and ready for the judges consideration. You may find my entry at Carol's Facing 50 With Humor. Please stop by and check it out. (And if you can think of a way to bri-- er, talk nicely to the judges about my entry, I'd appreciate it.)

LinkDon't forget--Carol writes an absolutely hilarious blog and has also written a book called Mini Skirts and Laughter Lines. And if you fancy a laugh, then join me at the Mini Skirts and Laughter Lines On-Line Book launch on September 16th. Great giveaways, prizes and best of all giggles will be happening at her site (link above). You'll want to sign up. She'll be hosting giveaways and prizes all day. There will even be a chance to win a Kindle. It should be a lot of fun with competitions, laughs, extracts from her hilarious novel, guests to check out, new people to meet and I even heard on the grape vine that she will actually be appearing on a video link!

Mini Skirts and Laughter Lines
Published by YouWriteOn/June 2011
ISBN: 9781908481811
Available from WHSmith, Waterstones, Amazon, etc.

Winner Alert: Plum Lucky

Lucky...that's the key word here. Because by the time this post is over we're going to have one lucky winner of the Janet Evanovich novel which has been up for grabs here on My Reader's Block for the last week. Let me warm up the Custom Random Number Generator. Punch in the number of eager entrants.....Listen to it whirr and clank and rumble. And out pops.......Number 2!

That means that the Lucky winner of Plum Lucky by Janet Evanovich (hard back edition) is commenter #2: Freda Mans!

Let's have a big round of applause for Freda. An email is going out to Freda in just about two minutes and she will have 48 hours to confirm her winnings with me. Congratulations, Freda!

Keep those eyes peeled. More Giveaways are on the way--I'm almost set for that 300+ Follower Giveaway!

Freda has already confirmed with me! Eager to get her hands on that book..... Congratulations again!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

WWW: Wednesdays

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

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

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


Lady Audley's Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon:
Lucy Graham marries lord Michael Audley and all seems well, until Lord Audley's nephew's friend goes missing whist on a visit to Audley court and fingers start pointing towards the girlish though mysterious Lady Audley ... A fast-paced Victorian thriller that will delight audiences today as well as it did 100 years ago, Lady Audley's secret has subterfuge, kidnapping, jealousy and fraud all thrown into the mix and shaken up for good measure.

Read Since the Last WWW: Wednesday:
The Master of Ballantrae by Robert Louis Stevenson
Kathleen by Christopher Morley
Three Victorian Detective Novels by E. F. Bleiler (ed)
Sir Nigel by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Shatterday by Harlan Ellison

Up Next:
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
The High Crusade by Poul Anderson
Lucky Jim by Kinglsey Amis
The Arrow by Christopher Morley
Middlemarch by George Eliot (if I'm brave enough)
Parnassas on Wheels by Christopher Morley