Friday, August 31, 2012

Friday Memes

Book Beginnings on Friday is a bookish meme now sponsored by Rose City Reader (who originally inspired the meme). 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 Gilion's place.

Here's mine from the prologue of The Fleet Street Murders by Charles Finch:
It was late in the evening, and a thin winter rain beat down over London's low buildings and high steeples, collecting in sallow pools beneath the streetlights and insinuating its way inside the clothes of the miserable few whom fate had kept outside.  Inside Charles Lenox's house, however, tucked on a short lane just off Grosvenor Square, all was warm and merry.

Quite a contrast.  Looks like the mystery is going to cover both the lower and upper classes.

The Friday 56 is a bookish meme sponsored by Freda's Voice. It is really easy to participate. Just grab a book, any book, and turn to page 56. Find a sentence that grabs you and post it.
Here's mine from The Fleet Street Murders by Charles Finch:
"He said to tell you, 'It's McConnell, the poor sod,' sir.  He said you'd know what that means."

Orange You Glad It's Friday

It's time for week two of Orange You Glad It's Friday.  This photo meme is sponsored by Hood Photo Blog.  The mission, should you choose to accept it, is to post a picture that you have taken or have permission to use with a little or a lot of orange, share your link at the site, visit others, and leave  comments if you wish.  I didn't see the meme until late last week, so this is my first orange offering.

I've been working all week on a tissue cover for my boss.  Her favorite colors are Orange (!), yellow, bright blues, and just about any other bright color you can name.  She's also a professor with an interest in, thus, the comedy/tragedy theme.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Theme Thursday: Driven to Distraction

Hosted by Reading Between the Pages

  • A theme will be posted each week (on Thursday’s)
  • Select a conversation/snippet/sentence from the current book you are reading
  • Mention the author and the title of the book along with your post
  • It is important that the theme is conveyed in the sentence (you don’t necessarily need to have the word)
*Link back to Reading Between the Pages

And this week's theme is Drive, Driver, Driven, Drove.  Here's the closest I could come in "The Adventure of the Mad Tea-Party" by Ellery Queen (short story in The Edgar Winners: 33rd Annual Anthology of the Mystery Writers of America):

He had just miserably made up his mind to seek out a booth, telephone his regrets, and take the next train back to the City when a lowslung coupe came splashing and snuffling out of the darkness, squealed to a stop, and a man in a chauffeur's livery leaped out and dashed across the gravel for the protection of the eaves.

"Mr. Ellery Queen?" he panted, shaking out his cap. He was a blond young man with a ruddy face and sun-squinted eyes.

"Yes," said Ellery with a sigh. Too late now.

"I'm Millan, Mr. Owen's chauffeur, sir," said the man. "Mr. Owen's sorry he couldn't come down to meet you himself. Some guests--This way, Mr. Queen."

He picked up Ellery's bag and the two of them ran for the coupe....

The coupe splashed along in the darkness, its headlights revealing only remorseless sheets of speckled water and occasionally a tree, a house, a hedge.

R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril VII

Seven years ago Carl V. started the R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril, or R.I.P. for short, event wherein we the people spend however little, or much, time we want over the months of September and October imbibing all things ghastly and ghostly. 

The purpose of R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril VII is to enjoy books and movies/television that could be classified (by you) as:

Dark Fantasy 

Or anything sufficiently moody that shares a kinship with the above.

No longer using the title "Challenge," Carl gives us two simple goals for R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril VII

1. Have fun reading.
2. Share that fun with others.

As Carl does each and every year, there are multiple levels of participation (Perils) that allow you to be a part of R.I.P. VII without adding the burden of another commitment to your already busy lives. There is even a one book only option for those who feel that this sort of reading is not their cup of tea (or who have many other commitments) but want to participate all the same.  Click on the ink at the top to join in.

R.I.P. VII officially runs from September 1st through October 31st. But Carl has given us the go ahead to break the rules. Start today if you want to!!!

Multiple perils await you. You can participate in just one, or participate in them all.

Here are my chosen Perils:

Peril the First:
Read four books, any length, that you feel fit (the very broad definitions) of R.I.P. literature. It could be King or Conan Doyle, Penny or Poe, Chandler or Collins, Lovecraft or Leroux…or anyone in between.

My anticipated reading list:
1. The Necropolis Railway by Andrew Martin (9/7/12)
2. A Stranger in My Grave by Margaret Millar (9/10/12)
3. Vincent Price: The Art of Fear by Denis Meikle (9/13/12)
4. The Somnambulist by Jonathan Barnes (9/16/12)
5. The White Forest by Adam McOmber (9/18/12)

AND this year I'm upping the ante a bit and jumping in to also do

Peril on the Screen:
This is for those of us that like to watch suitably scary, eerie, mysterious gothic fare during this time of year. It may be something on the small screen or large. It might be a television show, like Dark Shadows or Midsomer Murders, or your favorite film. If you are so inclined, please post links to any R.I.P.-related viewing you do on to the Review Site as well.

I thought I'd do a mini-marathon with Vincent Price, one of the kings of classic horror films.  Definite viewings listed below.  And, depending on time, I may add more.

1. The Great Mouse Detective (1986) with Vincent Price as the voice of Professor Ratigan
2. Laura (1944) with Vincent Price, Gene Tierney, Dana Andrews & Clifton Webb. 
3. House on Haunted Hill (1959) with Vincent Price, Carol Ohmart & Richard Long.
4. Theatre of Blood (1973) with Vincent Price, Diana Rigg, Ian Hendry, Robert Morley, etc.
5. House of Wax (1953) with Vincent Price, Charles Bronson (credited Charles Buchinsky, Frank Lovejoy, Phyllis Kirk.
6. One Body Too Many (1944) with Jack Haley, Jean Parker, and Bela Lugosi
7. The Masque of the Red Death (1964) with Vincent Price, Hazel Court, Jane Asher & Patrick Magee

Other possibles: The Bat and The Tingler both featuring VP.

Declared Commitment Complete: 9/16/12

Monday, August 27, 2012

Crime Fiction Alphabet: Letter O

I have signed up for a second year of The Alphabet in Crime Fiction, a community meme sponsored by Mysteries in Paradise. Each week she'll be expecting participants to produce a post featuring a mystery/crime novel or novelist related to that week's letter.

I'm being good this week and staying with the group. So, I'm all set to tell you about my choice for the Letter O.  O is for O' Artful Death by Sarah Stewart Taylor.
O' Artful Death is the debut novel in a mystery series starring Sweeney St. George, an art historian from Boston who teaches on the art of death.  She has had a life full of difficult, emotional relationships and prefers to put all her energy into teaching and her interest in cemetery art.  Her best friend shows her a picture of a beautifully carved gravestone that looks more like a statue than a headstone and Sweeney is immediately intrigued by the oddities of the piece.  The headstone incorporates imagery that is out of place for the time (Victorian era) and she is even more interested when she finds that there are rumors that the young woman whose grave it marks may have been murdered.  
Her friend reveals that the stone is located in a cemetery near his home and he invites Sweeney to spend Christmas with his family and friends.  Reluctant to be mixed up in a family atmosphere, she first calls the descendent of the dead woman to find out more of the story.  Their conversation is interrupted and when Sweeney calls back the next day, she finds that the woman has died--apparently of a self-inflicted gun shot.  The art historian decides that there are too many mysteries for her inquisitive scholarly mind to pass up and she heads wither her friend to a mansion in the historic Byzantium Art Colony.  She plans to investigate the local archives and question any long-standing residents to see if she can hunt down the artist who created the piece.  She doesn't expect to stir up ancient crimes with a link to those of a more modern nature....and she certainly doesn't expect to find her self in danger of joining the dead in the mysterious graveyard.
This is a very decent first novel.  Sweeney is a flawed central character with lots of backstory and lots of emotional issues to work on in future novels.  She's a smart woman and walks the fine line between the classic damsel in distress (walking into all sorts of danger without letting anyone know what she's doing) and the ultra-confident, "expert" amateur who can take on whatever villain may come and never have a problem.  There are several red herrings--one commenter on Goodreads seems to think there's only one and it's TOO obvious--but for anyone paying attention, there are more.  I managed to latch on to the main clue/s and knew who the culprit was before the grand finale, but I didn't figure out quite all of the story.  Kudos to Ms. Taylor for maintaining some of the mystification until the end.  I look forward to reading more of the series. 

 Favorite Quote:
It doesn't end, you know. The excitement of love. It never stops mattering. Don't make that mistake. [Bennett Dammers] (p. 276)

Challenge Complete: Color Coded

Finished another round of my very own Color Coded Reading Challenge.  Here are the books that make up my reading rainbow this year:

1. A book with "Blue" in the title.
The So Blue Marble by Dorothy B. Hughes (3/24/12)

2. A book with "Red" in the title.
The Cat Who Saw Red by Lilian Jackson Braun (5/22/12)
3. A book with "Yellow" in the title.
The Mystery of the Yellow Room by Gaston Leroux (3/19/12)

4. A book with "Green" in the title.
The Problem of the Green Capsule by John Dickson Carr (1/7/12)
5. A book with "Brown" in the title.
The Innocence of Father Brown by G. K. Chesterton (8/25/12)
6. A book with "Black" in the title.
The Black Seven by Carol Kendall (1/29/12)
7. A book with "White" in the title.
Stanford White: Letters to His Family by Claire Nicolas White, ed (6/5/12)

8. A book with any other color in the title (Purple, Orange, Turquoise, Pink, Magneta, etc.).
The Rose Window & Other Verse from New Poems by Rainer Maria Rilke (3/22/12) AND Strange Murders at Greystones by Elsie N. Wright (3/16/12) AND A Sprig of Sea Lavender by J. R. L. Anderson (3/31/12)

9. A book with a word that implies color (Rainbow, Polka-dot, Plaid, Paisley, Stripe, etc.). Death's Pale Horse by James Sherburne (8/27/12)

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 somehow managed to get off-track in the blogging world and completely missed out on all my usual memes last week.  Here is two week's worth of reading.

Books Read (click on titles for review):
The Innocence of Father Brown by G. K. Chesterton
Death's Pale Horse by James Sherburne 

Currently Reading 
The Edgar Winners: 33rd Annual Anthology by Bill Pronzini, ed: Each of these twenty-four stories won the Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best Mystery Short Story of its year.
Books that spark my interest:
A Stranger in My Grave by Margaret Millar
Some Danger Involved by Will Thomas 
The Case of the Blind Barber by John Dickson Carr

Death's Pale Horse: Review

I don't have a lot to say about this one. I expected Death's Pale Horse by James Sherburne to have all the elements I look for in a good historical mystery.  Setting: late 1800s (one of my favorite time periods) among the Saratoga horse racing scene.  Interesting and somewhat unsual protagonist: sportswriter Paddy Moretti.  Story revolves around Moretti trying to clear the first black jockey to ever ride at Saratoga of the murder charge--sounded like an exciting hook for the reader.  But I just could not get into the story.  It was very slow moving even though Paddy is scurrying hither and yon looking for a story that will get his editor off his back and secure his job.  Bodies appear (one in the dumbwaiter at the hotel!) and Paddy tries to solve the murders while he also tries to avoid thugs who are on his heels and the police who are angry that he has spilled the beans about the murders at the racetrack (we don't want to scare off anyone who might drop some cash in the town).  The denouement isn't all that exciting and I knew who the culprit was early on.  One star for a fairly disappointing read.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Saturday Snapshot: The Bean

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 pictures for close-up).
The bean in all its glory.

That's me with the camera.

Looking up at the bean from underneath.
Two weeks ago, I took a spur-of-the-moment trip to Chicago to get together with two college friends.  It was my first trip there since a sixth grade field trip that took us to the Field Museum and the Museum of Science and Industry.  One of the stops on this trip was to Millennium Park to take in a free concert.....and to get some cool reflective photos of the "bean" (aka the Cloud Gate sculpture). 

The Innocence of Father Brown: Review

I'm not entirely sure how I feel about G. K. Chesterton's The Innocence of Father Brown.  Part of that may be due to the fact that I feel just plain icky at the moment because of either a summer cold or allergies; it's a bit hard to think when one's head is all congested.  But, if a review is to be done, then it must be done while the reading is fresh.....  

Chesterton can certainly weave an interesting and mystifying tale.  Of course, part of the reason most of the short stories in this collection are mystifying is because they are so improbable.  And the clues aren't necessarily all on display in the way a fan of Golden Age crime would like.  It would be difficult--at least it was for me--for the reader to anticipate the solutions before the priest unravels the mystery.  But Father Brown is an endearing character and Chesterton uses such marvelous descriptions of place and weather and people that I didn't mind...too much.  Another sign that I really appreciated Chesterton's writing is the number of interesting and insightful quotes I managed to pick up for my collection (see below).

As a mystery collection, it is very solid--offering entertainment and improbable crimes, and even one locked garden mystery a la Carr.  Enjoyable, but not off the charts--so three stars.

That woman's over-driven; that's the kind of woman that does her duty for twenty years, and then does something dreadful. [Father Brown] (p. 137; "The Wrong Shape")

You are my only friend in the world, and I want to talk to you. Or, perhaps, be silent with you. [Father Brown] (p. 145, "The Wrong Shape")

The modern mind always mixes up two different ideas: mystery in the sense of what is marvellous, and mystery in the sense of what is complicated. That is half its difficulty about miracles. A miracle is startling; but it is simple. It is simple because it is a miracle. [Ibid.]

The people who wrote the medieval ballads knew more about fairies than you do. It isn't only nice things that happen in fairyland. [Father Brown] (p. 152; "The Sins of Prince Saradine")

I never said it was always wrong to enter fairyland. I only said it was always dangerous. [Father Brown] (p. 153; "The Sins of Prince Saradine") can sometimes do good by being the right person in the wrong place. [Father Brown] (p. 156; "The Sins of Prince Saradine")

Very few reputations are gained by unsullied virtue. [Flambeau] (p. 159; "The Sins of Prince Saradine")

First there is what everybody knows; and then there is what I know. Now, what everybody knows is short and plain enough. It is also entirely wrong. [Father Brown] (p. 214; "The Sign of the Broken Sword")

What is the good of a man being honest in his worship of dishonesty? [Father Brown] (p. 226; "The Sign of the Broken Sword")

There is so much good and evil in breaking secrets....  [Father Brown] (p. 231; "The Sign of the Broken Sword")

A window in Merton's mind let in that strange light of surprise in which we see for the first time things we have known all along. (p. 235; "The Three Tools of Death")

If I ever murdered somebody, I dare say it might be an Optimist. [Father Brown] (p. 236; "The Three Tools of Death")

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Teaser Tuesdays

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

*Grab your current read.*Open to a random page.
*Share two "teaser" sentences from somewhere on that page.
*BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! You don't want to ruin the book for others.
*Share the title and author too, so other TT participants can add it to their TBR lists if they like your teaser.

Here's mine from "The Flying Stars" a short story in The Innocence of Father Brown by G. K. Chesterton (p. 75):

"Why," said the colonel, eyeing him with a certain sardonic approval. "I should suggest that henceforward we wear green coats instead of black. One never knows what mistakes may arise when one looks so like a waiter."

Crime Fiction Alphabet: Letter N

I have signed up for a second year of The Alphabet in Crime Fiction, a community meme sponsored by Mysteries in Paradise. Each week she'll be expecting participants to produce a post featuring a mystery/crime novel or novelist related to that week's letter. 
I hope our hostess and my fellow alphabet tourists will forgive me for wandering aimlessly about this summer and totally losing my way.  I skipped out on "J," managed to rejoin the group for "K," and got lost again on "L" and "M."  So....we're all ready for "N," are we?  Okay....

N is for Meredith Nicholson (hey!  this could make up for me missing "M" too!).  What do you mean you never heard of Meredith Nicholson?  Why, he's that best-selling author (newspaperman, politician, and diplomat) from Indiana.  Most of his writing focuses on the triumph of young love over various obstacles thrown in its path. This is true, in a way, even of the mystery novel that I read this year.  He was born in 1866 in Crawfordsville and had three books hit the bestseller list:

  • The House of a Thousand Candles (#4 in 1906)
  • The Port of Missing Men (#3 in 1907)
  • A Hoosier Chronicle (#5 in 1912)
Not nearly as well known today as his contemporaries, Booth Tarkington and James Whitcomb Riley, he is, however credited with helping to create a Golden Age of Indiana literature.  (We had a Golden Age of literature here in Indiana?  I never realized.  I mean--I knew about Tarkington and Riley, but can't say I ever thought of them in the same sentence as Golden Age.)  The main reason I know anything at all about Nicholson is that I did a reading challenge (no, really, Bev? you--do a reading challenge? surely not).  And the challenge required that we read one novel set in the state/province where we live.  By chance, I had picked up Nicholson's The House of a Thousand Candles at our library's used book shop sometime last year--so I promptly made that my choice.

For a much better look at Meredith Nicholson than I've given here, please click on his name.  And for a review of The House of a Thousand Candles, please click above.

Top Ten Tuesday: Since the Beginning

Top Ten Tuesday is an original bookish meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Each week a new top ten topic is posted for followers to write about. This week we are asked to list our Top Ten Favorite Books since beginning our blog.  
I first started my blog in April of 2010.  Here are my top choices (today--I might pick other five and 4 stars winners on a different day):

From 2010:
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee 
*Honorable Mention

From 2011:
Shatterday  by Harlan Ellison
Shroud of Darkness  by E. C. R. Lorac
Kathleen  by Christopher Morley

From 2012:
A Good Death by Elizabeth Ironside 
A Spark of Death by Bernadette Pajer  
Dracula by Bram Stoker 
Titanic 2012 by Bill Walker   

Monday, August 20, 2012

It's Monday! What Are You Reading

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is a bookish meme hosted by Book Journey. It's where we gather to share what we have read this past week and what we plan to read this week. It's a great way to network with other bloggers, see some wonderful blogs, and put new titles on your reading list. So hop on over via the link above and join in...and leave a comment here so I can check out what you are reading.
I somehow managed to get off-track in the blogging world and completely missed out on all my usual memes last week.  Here is two week's worth of reading.

Books Read (click on titles for review):
Mysterious Incidents at Lone Rock
Gideon's Month by J. J. Marric
The Anatomy of Death by Felicity Young
Sense & Sensibility by Jane Austen
Crime on Her Mind: Fifteen Stories of Female Sleuths from the Victorian Era to the Forties by Michele B. Slung, ed  
Mrs. Jeffries Stands Corrected by Emily Brightwell

Currently Reading 
The Innocence of Father Brown by G. K. Chesterton: Twelve astonishing cases handled by the most amateur detective of all. No sleuth was ever more professional than the famous little moon-faced priest with his large umbrella. He hardly knows a fingerprint from a footprint, but somehow he has unfailing intuition--perhaps a sympathy for the criminal mind...And Father Brown gets results.
Books that spark my interest:
A Stranger in My Grave by Margaret Millar
Some Danger Involved by Will Thomas 
The Edgar Winners: 33rd Annual Anthology by Bill Pronzini, ed
The Case of the Blind Barber by John Dickson Carr

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Mrs. Jeffries Stands Corrected: Review

Mrs. Jeffries Stands Corrected is the ninth installment of the Victorian era cozy mystery series by Emily Brightwell.  Mrs. Jeffries is the housekeeper for Inspector Witherspoon of the Yard.  Little does he know how much his domestic staff helps him in his least usually.  This particular novel could just as easily be called "Mrs. Jeffries Is Locked Out"--not locked out of the house, but locked out of the case.  She's been telling Inspector Witherspoon all along (as she feeds him clues that the servants have gathered on his behalf) that all he needs to do is listen to his "inner voice."  So, that's what he decides to do....and not share any details over sherry like she's become accustomed to him doing.  He's being all secretive and the servants are hard-pressed to to come up with information on their own.

And what are they investigating?  Well....Haydon Dapeers is the much disliked owner of several pubs in London and the book begins with the grand opening of his newest establishment.  It's also his birthday, so it's quite an event--with all sorts of people milling about.  All sorts of people who had a reason to wish Dapeers dead.  And before the evening is over, he is--knocked on the head and then fatally stabbed in the back.  While Mrs. Jeffries and the other servants are investigating the possibility of murdering ministers, brutal barmaids, wicked wives, or lethal lawyers (who happen to be up to their eyes in gambling debt), Inspector Witherspoon is following his inner voice on a path of his own. Witherspoon's servants are worried that his inner voice (which is not his housekeeper's this time) will lead him back to the records room where he was a clerk before he brilliantly solved his first murder. They become especially alarmed when he announces that he has a plan to catch the villain.  Will they discover the murderer in time--or has the inspector really solved this one on his own?

This is a fun, cozy series--sort of like brain candy.  Not a lot of heavy duty thinking, but it's just the thing when you want something comfortable and light.  It's always fun watching the servants scramble around to hunt up clues and sneak the information to Witherspoon without him noticing.  This one has an interesting twist though--with Witherspoon going out on his own.  That was fun too--watching the servants be all upset about not having the inside track.  And does Witherspoon out-investigate them?  Well, you'll just have to read it and see.  Three stars for a nice comfy read.