Wednesday, July 31, 2013

July Wrap-Up and POM Award


Whee!  A bumper crop month!  Finally...and I finally managed to get on track with my GoodReads challenge.  No longer behind.  Let's see if we can keep that up!  Anyway...I'm continuing to combine my monthly wrap-up post with Kerrie's Crime Fiction Pick of the Month over at Mysteries in Paradise. And here we go with the totals:  

Total Books Read: 22
Total Pages:  4,062

Percentage by Female Authors:  59%
Percentage by US Authors:  50%

Percentage by non-US/non-British Authors:  0%
Percentage Mystery: 45%
Percentage Fiction: 82%
Percentage written 2000+: 36%
Percentage of Rereads: 14%
Percentage Read for Challenges: 100% {It's eas
y to have every book count for a challenge when you sign up for as many as I do.}  

Number of Challenges fulfilled so far: 12 (41%)


AND, as mentioned above,
Kerrie has started us up for another year of Crime Fiction Favorites. What she's looking for is our Top Mystery Read for each month. In July, twelve of the books I read count as mysteries:


The Mummy Case Mystery by Dermot Morrah (4 stars)
Dead Man Control by Helen Reilly (3.75 stars)
The Hollow Chest by Alice Tilton [Phoebe Atwood Taylor]  (3 stars)
Spotted Hemlock by Gladys Mitchell  (3 stars)
London Particular (aka Fog of Doubt) by Christianna Brand (4 stars)
Dead Old by Maureen Carter (2 stars)
The Case of the Careless Kitten by Erle Stanley Gardner  (3.5 stars)
Capacity for Murder by Bernadette Pajer  (4 stars)
Mist on the Saltings by Henry Wade (3 stars)
The Black Stage by Anthony Gilbert (3 stars)


As you can see there weren't any run-away winners--although I did had out three 4-star ratings.  If I have to choose a single winner for July's POM Award, then I'll have to go with...







The Mummy Case Mystery by Dermot Morrah.  This is a wonderful academic mystery--thoroughly steeped in atmosphere and brimming over with witty professors, dotty dons, and eager undergraduates.  And you know I love an academic mystery. 



 

Challenge Complete: Semi-Charmed



Photo via Ongering on Flickr
Back at the beginning of July I grabbed up another challenge.  I somehow missed the Semi-Charmed Book Challenge last year (those of you who know me well are probably wondering how I could possibly have missed a challenge....).  I don't know how that happened, but I couldn't let it go by again--it just sounded too cool.  And it was--I'm all done now.  But, hey, the challenge runs from July 1 to September 30. There's still time to see Megan's blog (link above) for full rules and to join me in challenge madness!

My Challenge Books:

5 points: Freebie! Read any book as long as it follows the rules: The Mummy Case Mystery by Dermot Morrah  [292 pages] (7/3/13)
5 points: Read a book that is less than 150 pages long (an exception to the rules): Twenty First Century Blues by Richard Cecil (98 pages) [7/13/13]
10 points: Read a book with a color in the title: The Black Stage by Anthony Gilbert [215 pages] ( 7/27/13)
10 points: Read a book that is not the first in its series (but must be in a series): The Hollow Chest by Alice Tilton [aka Phoebe Atwood Taylor] (#5 in Leonidas Witherall Series) [284 pages] (7/12/13)
15 points: Read a book it seems everyone but you has read!: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (387 pages) [7/16/13]
15 points: Read a banned book (must be found on one of these lists): The Call of the Wild by Jack London (banned classic) [my copy: 210 pages] (7/14/13)
20 points: Read a book written by a celebrity. Memoir or fiction book by someone already famous by another means. Photo by Sammy Davis, Jr. (photos by and commentary through taped interviews with the Rat Pack Era Celebrity--text written up and edited by Burt Boyar) [338 pages]  OR If You Ask Me (And of Course You Won't) by Betty White [259 pages] (7/19/13)
20 points: Read a non-fiction book that is not a memoir. Can be pure non-fiction or narrative non-fiction: The Mind of the Maker by Dorothy L Sayers (Christian Commentary) [229 pages] (7/31/13)
20 points: Read a book that takes place in a state you have never been in: The Case of the Careless Kitten by Erle Stanley Gardner (California) [246 pages] (7/23/13)
25 points: Read a book that is at least 400 pages long: The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger [536 pages] (7/10/13)
25 points: Read a book with a main character who shares your first name (or work with Megan for alternative): Dead Old by Maureen Carter (Bev Morris is the character) [289 pages] (7/22/13)
30 points: Read a book written by an author who was born or died in your birth year: Mist on the Saltings by Henry Wade (died May 1969) [255 pages] (7/26/13)

Point Total: 200  Complete! 7/31/13

August Mount TBR Reviews




Link up all reviews for this month below.






The Mind of the Maker: Review

Oh, Dorothy L. Sayers, your erudition and classic university training are showing.  And showing me up!  I've been plugging away at The Mind of the Maker for four days--which is rather a long time for me for a book just over 200 pages long. But I found this one to be very slow going and way over my head, too. I usually find Sayers to be easy to understand, even when her classic university training is showing and she throws in Latin and French for good measure. I just can't grasp this one--the words go in the eyes, and just don't seem to find a foot-hold anywhere in the brain.  I'm just going to give y'all the synopsis from the book below and leave it at that.  No rating--I'm quite sure it's excellent (DLS always is), but I can't very well rate something that I can't really understand properly.  Oh, I get the analogies in their simplest forms and I get some of the illustrations she makes to prove her points while reading--but I couldn't properly explain to you right now this minute what she really said without cheating and peeking at the book.  Not if you promised me a million dollars.

Synopsis from the back of the book: This classic with a new introduction by Madeleine L'Engle, is by turns an entrancing meditation on language; a piercing commentary on the nature of art and why so much of what we read, hear, and see falls short; and a brilliant examination of the fundamental tenets of Christianity.  A mystery writer, a witty and perceptive theologian, culture critic, and playwright, Dorothy L. Sayers sheds new, unexpected light on a specific set of statements made in the Christian creeds. She examines anew such ideas as the image of God, the Trinity, free will, and evil, and in these pages a wholly revitalized understanding of them emerges. The author finds the key in the parallels between the creation of God and the human creative process. she continually refers to each in  a way that illuminates both.

Monday, July 29, 2013

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


The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, August 19th and runs through Sunday, August 25th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure, and the only reading competition is between you and your usual number of books read in a week. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 8.0 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. - From the Bout of Books team.


I just came off of the High Summer Read-a-thon--which really boosted my reading output.  I have been averaging 4 books a week this year--but during the read-a-thon, I managed nine.  I'm going to try and match that during the Bout of Books in August.  How about you?  Do you need a kick-start to get your reading going? Come and join us in the Read-a-thon!

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.
 
Thanks to Michelle@Seasons of Reading and her High Summer Read-a-thon, I got a ton of reading done last week. Here's list:
 

Books Read (click on titles for review): 
Dead Old by Maureen Carter
The Case of the Careless Kitten by Erle Stanley Gardner 
Capacity for Murder by Bernadette Pajer 
Mist on the Saltings by Henry Wade 
The Black Stage by Anthony Gilbert
Winnie-the-Pooh by A. A. Milne 
The House at Pooh Corner by A. A. Milne 
The World of Christopher Robin by A. A. Milne 
 

Currently Reading: 
The Mind of the Maker by Dorothy L. Sayers:  Dorothy Sayers sheds new, unexpected light on a specific set of statements made in the Christian creeds. She examines anew such ideas as the image of God, the Trinity, free will, and evil, and in these pages a wholly revitalized understanding of them emerges. The author finds the key in the parallels between the creation of God and the human creative process. She continually refers to each in a way that illuminates both.

   
Books that spark my interest:
Andersen's Fairy Tales by Hans Christian Andersen
The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton (only because I need it for challenges...I was uninspired when I tried it a month or so ago....Picked up the audio version--hoping that will work out better.)
The Scarlet Macaw by S.P. Hozy  
Murder by the Book by Eric Brown   
  

High Summer Read-a-Thon: Wrap-up


Thanks to Michelle@Seasons of Reading for once again sponsoring her High Summer Read-a-Thon! This little read-a-thon was just what I needed--I've gone from being about 7 books behind on my GoodReads Challenge goal to being on track.  Woo Hoo!  I didn't quite read what I planned--although I do think I wound reading as many books as planned--I just shoved some nostalgia reading with Winnie-the-Pooh in there.

Here's what I managed (along with the books I listed that I didn't get to):
  • Dead Old by Maureen Carter [Picked up for a challenge--had to find a book with a main character who had my name.  Do you know how difficult it is to find "Bev" in fiction?]  (7/22/13)
  • Capacity for Murder by Bernadette Pajer: the newest installment in her Professor Bradshaw mysteries set at the dawn of the 20th Century.  I've been waiting and waiting for this to be available. (7/24/13)
  • Mist on the Saltings by Henry Wade (7/26/13)
  • The Black Stage by Anthony Gilbert(7/27/13)
  • London Particular (aka Fog of Doubt) by Christianna Brand (7/22/13)
  • The Case of the Careless Kitten by Erle Stanley Gardner (7/23/13)
  • The Scarlet Macaw by S.P. Hozy 
  • Winnie-the-Pooh by A. A.  Milne (7/28/13)
  • The House at Pooh Corner by A. A. Milne (7/28/13) 
  • The World of Christopher Robin by A. A. Milne (7/28/13)
  •  Murder by the Book by Eric Brown    
  • Andersen's Fairy Tales by Hans Christian Andersen
  • The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton (only because I need it for challenges...I was uninspired when I tried it a month or so ago....Just picked up the audio version--hoping that will work out better.

    I have a feeling the Wharton book just might not get done--fortunately I can sub other books if necessary.....

    Books Read: 9
    Pages: 2189
    Hours Read: 18

Sunday, July 28, 2013

The World of Christopher Robin: Mini-Review

The World of Christopher Robin contains both When We Were Very Young and Now We Are Six--two works of poetry for the young which I read in separate editions when I was a small person.  When I became a grownup with my own small person, I got this delightfully illustrated ("with new illustrations in full color") to share with my son.  He wasn't quite as interested in the poems as he was in the Winnie-the-Pooh stories.  I couldn't really blame him.  I seem to remember being a bit disappointed that there wasn't more Christopher Robin and Pooh in these books myself--at first.  But then I fell in love with the poems, so it came out all right anyway.

Rereading these poems was much more of an exercise in nostalgia than reading the Pooh books.  I can remember why I liked them (and I still smile over quite a lot of them)--but they don't hold the charm for me quite the way Winnie-the-Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner do.  It was a nice stroll down memory lane--and I'll keep the four star rating for that--but I don't somehow think I'll be reading them again unless my son presents me with a grandchild in the future.


Pooh Bear Mini-Reviews

As a special treat for myself (and to fulfill a couple of the "Reread 4 Books" requirements for the Book Bingo Reading Challenge), I'm rereading the Winnie-the-Pooh books by A. A. Milne.  First up:


Winnie-the-Pooh--in which we are introduced to Pooh, Piglet, Rabbit, Owl (sometimes spelled WOL), Eeyore, Kanga, Roo, and--of course--Christopher Robin.  In this collection of short adventures Pooh disguises himself as a rain cloud in order to try and fool some bees into allowing him to have their honey; Pooh and Piglet try to catch a heffalump; Christopher Robin and all his friends go on an Expedition to find the North Pole; Eeyore has a birthday; and Pooh helps Christopher Robin rescue Piglet from being surrounded by water.

and then



The House at Pooh Corner--in which Tigger is added to Christopher Robin's host of friends and we discover that Tiggers (despite what they might say) don't like honey, haycorns or thistles.  Further adventures include building a house for Eeyore, rescuing Roo and Tigger from their tree-climbing adventure, a search for one of Rabbit's friends and relations named Small, playing Pooh-sticks, and the un-bouncing of Tigger.

These were wonderful books to read as a child.  I loved the magical Hundred Acre Wood where bears and piglets and rabbits and donkeys and all the other animals lived and had adventures and played with their friend Christopher Robin.  They were also wonderful books to sit down and read to my son 20 years later--and to watch the original stories with him on VHS.  I really can't figure out why so many reviewers blast the Disney version.  Disney's Pooh is far more faithful to the text than a lot of the Disney features--whole pages of dialogue are transported to the screen*.  That is one thing I noticed in this reread.  A delightful little trip down memory lane.  The books were five stars when I first read them, they were five stars when I read them to my son, and they are five stars now.

{*I am not, of course, counting any of the "spin-off" Winnie-the-Pooh stories or more modern cartoons with this "Darby" character who has taken over.  I refer to the classic Pooh stories as seen on "Wonderful World of Disney."}

Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Black Stage: Review

The Black Stage by Anthony Gilbert is another of my vintage mysteries--first published in 1945. Anthony Gilbert is a pseudonym for Lucy Beatrice Malleson, a very prolific British mystery writer (over 70 novels written under this pseudonym alone--she had several others).

In this book Peter and Anne Vereker, two cousins, have returned from the war (WWII) to the family mansion back in Britain.  Peter is hoping to return to the past--where he helped his Aunt Tessa manage the property with a view to inheriting the Manor one day--and Anne is hoping to escape the shadow of hers.  Both their hopes are dashed when they arrive to find their aunt all set to announce her engagement to Lewis Bishop.  Bishop is out to make a place for himself in the sun and to cast all of Tessa's relations and devoted help into the outer darkness.  

Anne knows Bishop (and not under that name) from her war days, but it will cost her everything if she gives him away.  Before she has a chance to decide whether she should tell what she knows, Bishop is shot to death during a family "conference" in the library.  It's a classic scene--heated confrontation, the room suddenly goes dark, a shot rings out, and when the lights come up....Anne is holding the gun.  Aunt Tessa and the police are all set to believe the worst, but Peter calls on Arthur Crook--the rather unorthodox, uncouth barrister who always gets his client off.

That's when things really get interesting.  Another of the household is found hanged in a London hotel--complete with typewritten suicide note claiming responsibility for Bishop's murder.  Again, the police are all set to accept the obvious....until the police surgeon drops a bombshell into the midst of the inquest.  The supposed suicide was dead long before the folks in the neighboring hotel rooms heard him banging away at the typewriter. 

Crook interviews all of the participants in the fatal scene and decides he needs a re-enactment of the shooting to make all things clear--but it looks like he's going to prove not only that Anne Vereker couldn't have done it, but that no one could have.  Never fear--the untidy lawyer has one final trick up his sleeve.

This is rather slow-going at first.  Perhaps this is just Gilbert/Malleson's way--I notice that I made the same observation about The Innocent Bottle when I read it two years ago.  There is plenty of build-up and descriptions of the characters and their interactions all leading up to the murder which takes place about a third of the way in.  Once Crook becomes involved in the case, the book becomes much livelier and far more enjoyable.  I'll echo my previous review again--I think Gilbert/Malleson is much more effective when she's writing about her main character.  And that's a really good thing--the effective writing makes up for the fact that I was able to peg the guilty party straight away.  It was far too much fun watching Crook do his stuff for the lack of surprise to disappoint me.  A nice solid three-star outing.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Mist on the Saltings: Mini-Review

Mist on the Saltings by Henry Wade follows the relationships in a small seaside community in post-World War II Britain.  Most of the folks in Bryde-by-the-Sea are leading a very impoverished
life as a result of the war--from the struggling artist and his wife to the fishermen who are seeing their livelihood taken over by bigger fishing companies.  Into their midst comes an arrogant and successful author--a man who has no money worries and takes his pleasure where he will...including with other men's wives.

My experiences with Henry Wade's mystery novels have been very good. He is generally an excellent plotter and very strong on characterization and providing a clear sense of place.  And I have especially enjoyed his police detectives.  This novel seems to be a bit of a departure for Wade--although his characterization and scene-building are just as strong.  While billed as a classic British mystery, it could easily stand as a straight fiction novel alongside the likes of D.H. Lawrence.  The tension in the book is primarily from the relationships and the circumstances of the characters and has very little to do with the murder itself.  The investigation of the murder seems almost an afterthought and that may be why detectives in this novel have left so little impression on me.  

It shouldn't be difficult for the reader to know who did it...and even why.  The small red herring which is dragged across the path won't distract for long...if at all.  Overall, a strong story of life and relationships in Britain after World War II.  Not such a strong showing as am mystery novel.  Three stars.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Capacity for Murder: Review

Bernadette Pajer does it again in another electrifying installment of her Professor Benjamin Bradshaw historical mysteries.  Capacity for Murder is the third of the Bradshaw stories and in this one he takes on death by electrotherapeutics.  Bradshaw is an electrical engineering professor at the University of Washington at the dawn of the 20th Century.  By now he has been involved in two major criminal cases (documented in A Spark of Death and Fatal Induction) and he and his assistant Henry have been called in on enough electrical-related cases since then that they have acquired licenses as private detectives.

In this outing Dr. Arnold Hornsby of the Healing Sands Sanitarium sends an urgent message to Bradshaw, begging him to come and help him with a terrible "accident of an electrical nature."  Accident, indeed. Hornsby's son-in-law has been killed during a session of electrotherapeutics and the good doctor is on the verge of facing negligence charges at best and an accusation of murder at worst.  The local sheriff is ready to accept the death as an accident, but Bradshaw is convinced that someone rigged the therapeutic chair to deliver the deadly charge.  There aren't many suspects--the small staff and few patients--and there seems to be even less motive.  Then one of the guests dies from poisoning and Bradshaw follows a trail into the past to find a remorseless killer who is determined that nothing--not even the professor--should stand in the way of what they want.

Pajer continues to expertly weave her research into delightful historical mysteries. She has nailed the time period and made it her own--instantly transporting the reader to the early 1900s.  Deft handling keeps the intricacies of turn-of-the-century electricity from overwhelming the story. While it is an integral part of the series and the mode of murder, the details are never allowed to overshadow the characters and the plot.  And the characters are what make the story--from Bradshaw to his ten year old son to his assistant Henry, to his housekeeper Mrs. Prouty, to Missouri Freemont--Henry's niece.  All of these regular characters are well-drawn and interesting and distinct. I enjoy the way they interact with one another and how they fill the book out.  My only quibble is with Bradshaw and his ever-lasting doubts about following through on his feelings for Missouri.  Let's get that romance show on the road, shall we, Professor?  Four stars.


Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Case of the Careless Kitten: Review

In The Case of the Careless Kitten Perry Mason is once again doing his level best to get his client declared "Not Guilty"...the difference is, this time his client is Della Street!

Ten years ago Helen Kendal's uncle and town banker, Franklin Shore, disappeared.  He left behind a vindictive wife, a financially unsound brother, and a niece who loved....as well as a very healthy bank account.  His wife Matilda insists that he ran off with some floozie and refuses to believe he might be dead--mostly because she doesn't want to give up control of all his assets.  If he were to be declared legally dead, she'd have to give up $20,000 apiece to Helen and Franklin's brother Gerald.

But then Helen receives a phone call from a man claiming to be Uncle Franklin.  He tells her things that only her uncle should know and insists that she  "Contact Perry Mason" and bring him with her to meet him.  But Uncle Franklin is using an awfully circuitous route to get her to him.  She & Mason are to meet a man named Leech who will then bring them to meet Franklin Shore.

Before Helen can contact Mason, her kitten, Amber Eyes--one minute gay and playful,  is taken with horrible spasms and it is discovered that the poor kitten has been poisoned  From there things get interesting...there's Uncle Gerald's strange behavior...The finding of the body of a man assumed to be Leech in that lonely spot
...Aunt Matilda's insistence that Helen marry--not the soldier she loved, but the man her aunt prefers...the attempted poisoning of Aunt Matilda....the shooting of Helen's soldier boy...and the mysterious comings and goings of the gardener, Lunk.
 

Once Mason gets involved, Police Lieutenant Tragg and the D.A. are after him in earnest. Mason discovers the whereabouts of a vital witness and sends Della ahead to track him down.  By the time Tragg and company show up, the man they want is gone.  And then they decide to arrest Della for "hiding a critical witness or possible murder suspect."  They think they've got the lawyer cold this time, but Mason forces a speedy trial and proves Della's innocence with the help of the Careless Kitten.  Oh, and incidentally figures out what really happened in the case of the missing uncle, what was behind the poisoning, and who really shot who.

This is solid Perry Mason with the usual twists and surprise at the end. I enjoyed it very much.  The most intriguing thing about the book was having Della on the hot seat.  Mason initially takes on Gerald Shore as a client--but then really isn't needed much to defend him.  He has to spend his energy defending his own secretary in court.  I do wonder how that would really work out in life.  Would a lawyer be allowed to defend his employee in court? Particularly if he could be called as a witness against her? (Not that D.A. Burger even tries to call Mason as a witness against Della--but I would think he could have.) Three and a half stars.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Dead Old: Review

So...I picked up Dead Old by Maureen Carter for one reason and one reason only--Megan, the sponsor of the Semi-Charmed Reading Challenge, worked a "read a book with a main character who shares your first name" requirement into the challenge rules. There aren't exactly tons of Bevs/Beverlys out there in fiction-land.  After much hunting, I discovered the Detective Sergeant Bev Morriss series written by Carter and ordered up Dead Old from the library.  I'll just tell you up front....I won't be ordering up any more. I'm afraid my namesake isn't a particularly likeable lady.  She's headstrong, doesn't like to play by the rules, has a chip on her shoulder as big as a full-grown redwood tree, and thinks it's a grand idea to go on a drinking binge before going on duty (at least she doesn't drink while on duty, I suppose).  She's got an attitude problem with a capital "A" and can't understand why she was passed over for the acting Detective Inspector position.  Hmmm.  I wonder.

Oh...what's it about?  Well, elderly women have been attacked by a gang of teens--robbery with violence and the violence has steadily escalated.  When Sophia Carrington, a former doctor, is found murdered, the West Midland Police think she's the latest victim of the gang.  But Bev Morriss doesn't think it's quite so simple.  Sophia is found with a bunch of daffodils stuffed in her mouth...a definite departure from the gang's MO.  Bev is sure the flowers have a more personal meaning.  But no one wants to listen to her--she's ticked off enough people and stepped on enough toes with her blunders, outbursts, and bitterness.  And it doesn't help that the DI appointed over her has taken an immediate dislike to her.  Bev has to go against orders and work pretty much on her own (excepting the help of Oz her fellow officer and lover) to bring in the real killer.

This one just didn't work all that well for me.  It's hard to enjoy a story when you have no sympathy for the main character.  Most of Bev's problems seem to be of her own making--so it's hard to sympathize with her feeling that everyone (read everyone above her) is out to get her or do her down.  She seems to have a good head on her shoulders and good instincts and intelligence--it'd be nice if she'd concentrate on putting all that to her best advantage.  The crime itself was pretty interesting and I'm giving all of the star points (all two of them) for the mystery and the twists and turns the plot takes to get us to the solution.

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.
 
Here's this week's offering:
 

Books Read (click on titles for review): 
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Spotted Hemlock by Gladys Mitchell
Heirs & Spares by J. L. Spohr
If You Ask Me (And of Course You Won't) by Betty White
London Particular (aka Fog of Doubt) by Christianna Brand 
  

Currently Reading: 
Dead Old by Maureen Carter:  Elderly women are being attacked by a gang of vicious thugs in Birmingham. When retired doctor Sophia Carrington is murdered, it's assumed she is the gang's latest victim. But DS Bev Morriss isn't convinced. She is sure the victim's past holds the key to her violent death: that it's a case of terrifying revenge served cold. 


   
Books that spark my interest:
Andersen's Fairy Tales by Hans Christian Andersen
The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton (only because I need it for challenges...I was uninspired when I tried it a month or so ago....Just picked up the audio version--hoping that will work out better)
The Case of the Careless Kitten by Erle Stanley Gardner
Capacity for Murder by Bernadette Pajer: the newest installment in her Professor Bradshaw mysteries set at the dawn of the 20th Century. 
The Scarlet Macaw by S.P. Hozy  
Murder by the Book by Eric Brown   
  

London Particular: Review

London Particular (aka Fog of Doubt) was reportedly Christianna Brand's favorite among her own novels.  It tells the story of Raoul Vernet and his unexpected visit to the Evans home in London.  He chooses the night of a real "pea-souper" of a fog--also known as a London particular--to visit his former paramour Matilda Evans and arrange a chance to talk to her alone.  The night ends most unexpectedly indeed...Raoul will be struck down by a "mastoid mallet" in the hallway of the Evans' house and Inspector Cockrill--Cockie--will have to work his way through seven suspects to find the killer.  The only thing is...every step forward seems to eliminate one more suspect until there are none left.

Rosie Evans, Matilda's sister-in-law, is at the center of the mystery.  Rosie has returned from finishing
school abroad unwed and pregnant.  She's tells a different story of how this came about to each of her family members and friends--from Matlida, to her dotty grandmother, to Melissa Weekes (secretary/girl of all work), to her sometime boyfriend Damien to her brother's partner Dr. Edward Robert Edwards ("Tedward").  Her objective is to find someone who will help her fund a visit to an abortionist to solve her problem--and she tells the tale she feels most likely to work on the sympathies of each person.  Unfortunately, for Rosie, they all think she should have the child. The only one kept completely in the dark is her brother, Dr. Evans.  

When Raoul is killed, it seems that someone thought he had appeared to spill the beans about Rosie OR that he wanted to blackmail Rosie or someone else about the situation OR that someone thought he was responsible for Rosie's condition.  But who is that someone?   And...since everyone seems to be covering up for someone else...how in the world will Cockie and the other policemen be able to get to the bottom of it all?

This novel has some very neat plotting and  memorable characters.  The best of the bunch are the grandma who, to liven things up, regularly imagines herself the heroine of one of her lusty romance novels--"riding" across the desert (bedroom) and being forced leave her worldly goods behind (tossing them out the window) AND Matilda who carries on the most interesting conversations both with herself and others.  It also makes for an interesting murder mystery when there is no palpable, discernible reason for the death and all of the suspects know and like one another to the point of covering up and nearly all of them being willing to confess or at least be arrested to protect someone else.  It isn't uncommon for authors to use that theme with one character, but I don't believe I've read a novel where the confessions were quite so numerous.  Four stars.

High Summer Read-a-Thon: Starting Post


It's time to sign up for the High Summer Read-a-Thon sponsored by Michelle@Seasons of Reading! The Read-a-Thon will start on Monday, 7/22 at 12:00am CST and finish on Sunday, 7/28 at 11:59pm CST (adjust times according to your time zone).  If you haven't signed up yet, there's still time to hop on the link and join in.

Here's my plan of action for the week:
  • Dead Old by Maureen Carter [Picked up for a challenge--had to find a book with a main character who had my name.  Do you know how difficult it is to find "Bev" in fiction?]  (7/22/13)
  • Capacity for Murder by Bernadette Pajer: the newest installment in her Professor Bradshaw mysteries set at the dawn of the 20th Century.  I've been waiting and waiting for this to be available. (7/24/13)
  • Mist on the Saltings by Henry Wade (7/26/13)
  • The Black Stage by Anthony Gilbert(7/27/13)
  • London Particular (aka Fog of Doubt) by Christianna Brand (7/22/13)
  • The Case of the Careless Kitten by Erle Stanley Gardner (7/23/13)
  • The Scarlet Macaw by S.P. Hozy 
  • Winnie-the-Pooh by A. A.  Milne (7/28/13)
  • The House at Pooh Corner by A. A. Milne (7/28/13) 
  • The World of Christopher Robin by A. A. Milne (7/28/13)
  •  Murder by the Book by Eric Brown    
  • Andersen's Fairy Tales by Hans Christian Andersen
  • The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton (only because I need it for challenges...I was uninspired when I tried it a month or so ago....Just picked up the audio version--hoping that will work out better.

    I probably won't get through all these...but I'm sure gonna try! 

    Books Read: 9
    Pages: 2189
    Hours Read: 18

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Library Loot: A Prodigal Returns


It's been quite a long time since I've participated in Library Loot, a weekly event co-hosted by Claire and Marg that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries.

Mainly, I've been absent because I am making a dedicated effort to read books off my own shelves. I've picked up a book from the library here and there in order to meet some challenge requirements, but never enough to feel like I needed to make a special post. However, this week I scooped up several books that I just had to tell you all about....

Current Loot:
  • Capacity for Murder by Bernadette Pajer: the newest installment in her Professor Bradshaw mysteries set at the dawn of the 20th Century.  I've been waiting and waiting for this to be available.
  • The Scarlet Macaw by S.P. Hozy: Entwined mysteries unfold in two time periods in Singapore as artist Maris Cousins, devastated by the sudden death of her mentor, gallery owner Peter Stone, becomes immersed in fictional stories of love and betrayal from the city's past, mysteriously left to her by Stone. Soon she is caught up in circumstances involving smuggling and even murder. [Picked up for a reading challenge]
  •  Murder by the Book by Eric Brown: London, 1955. When crime writer Donald Langham's literary agent asks for his help in sorting out 'a delicate matter', little does Langham realize what he's getting himself into. For a nasty case of blackmail leads inexorably to murder as London's literary establishment is rocked by series of increasingly bizarre deaths.    
  • Dead Old by Maureen Carter: Elderly women are being attacked by a gang of vicious thugs in Birmingham. When retired doctor Sophia Carrington is murdered, it's assumed she is the gang's latest victim. But DS Bev Morriss isn't convinced... [Picked up for a challenge--had to find a book with a main character who had my name.  Do you know how difficult it is to find "Bev" in fiction?]  
Recently Read from the Library (click titles for reviews:
Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons
The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
Photo by Sammy Davis, Jr. [text by Burt Boyar] 
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern 
If You Ask Me (And of Course You Won't) by Betty White

Friday, July 19, 2013

If You Ask Me: Review

If You Ask Me (And of Course You Won't) is a lovely memoir by Betty White.  Not strictly an autobiography, it is much more conversational than that.  Imagine sitting down with Betty and just chatting about her 70 years in television.  She takes us from topic to topic--touching on everything from her lifelong love affair with her husband, Allen Ludden, to her profound love of animals; from her earliest television appearances to her current success with Hot in Cleveland.  And mixed in it all are tidbits of wisdom for everyday life:

Walk in to every situation with a positive, open mind.  Allow yourself time to experience a situation before forming an opinion.

You don't just luck into integrity. You work at it.

One thing they don't tell you about growing old--you don't feel old, you just feel like yourself.

If you live without passion, you can go through life without leaving any footprints.

This is a very pleasant, very quick read.  I sat down and finished it in a single evening (2 hours, tops).  No huge revelations--no secrets of Hollywood.  Just a nice stroll down memory lane with an incredibly nice and funny lady.  Thanks for chatting with me, Betty.  Three stars for a good, solid read. 
 

Heirs & Spares: Review


Synopsis:
It’s 1569. Elizabeth I sits on the English throne, the Reformation inflames the Continent, and whispers of war abound.
But in Troixden, just north of France, the Lady Annelore isn’t interested in politics. Times are hard, taxes are high, and the people in her duchy need her help just to survive. Her widowed father is a good man easily distracted by horses, and her newly knighted childhood friend…well, he has plans of his own.
Then Annelore receives a call she can’t ignore.
When Troixden’s sadistic king died childless, his younger brother William returns from exile to find his beloved country on the brink of civil war. He’s in desperate need of the stability that comes with a bride and heirs. But Annelore, his chosen queen, won’t come quietly.
Now the future of Troixden lies in the hands of two people who never wanted the power they’ve received and never dreamed that from duty and honor they might find love and a path to peace.
Heirs & Spares is one part history, two parts palace plotting, and a whole lot of juicy romantic intrigue. Break out the spiced wine and sink in to this rousing read.
My Take:
Heirs & Spares is a marvelously researched peek into the 16th Century and what life among the well-born might have been like.  I thoroughly enjoyed this historical fiction/romance which tells the tale of Lady Annelore and her journey to become queen.  She is very reluctant to leave her home and her life-time friend and love, Sir Bryan.  But when the King commands, you must obey.  She is selected as one of three ladies from the kingdom among whom King William will choose his bride.  When she receives the summons, she hopes against hope that she can convince the King that she is unsuitable as a royal bride.  But circumstances develop that make it impossible for her to make her case and the King decides to take her as his bride after meeting her only once.
Annelore's father is so proud of her, that she does not wish to disappoint him--but she will have to overcome her fear of the King's family.  Fears brought on by King William's cruel brother.  Is it possible that William could be so very different from his relatives?  Is he a man that she can learn to love as well as King whose wishes must be obeyed?  And will their union truly calm the disquiet in the kingdom?
Spohr's storytelling is almost pitch-perfect with delightful details of the countryside in the fictional kingdom of Troixden.  The characters are very real and distinct and I now have a great affection for King William and Queen Annalore.  The story is both self-contained with a very satisfying ending and yet manages to leave the door open for the sequel. I look forward to reading more of their story in Part II of the Realm Series (due out in 2014).  Four stars.
About the Author:
Jennie L. Spohr is the author of Heirs & Spares and several short stories. An incurable Anglophile/Europhile who has studied the trials and tribulations of royals since she watched Princess Diana take that long walk to the altar, she turned her attention to historical fiction and fictional monarchies after studying the Reformation in graduate school. When not writing, Spohr produces and hosts a popular podcast called The Kindlings Muse (www.thekindlings.com) about ideas that matter in culture, including books, film, and music. She is an ordained minister and lives with her brood in Seattle.
Visit her online at www.jlspohr.com.
[Disclaimer: My review policy is posted on my blog, but just to reiterate...This review copy was offered to me for impartial review and I have received no payment of any kind. All comments are entirely my own honest opinion.]

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Spotted Hemlock: Review

Spotted Hemlock by Gladys Mitchell:

As will happen when you have an all-male college situated near an all-female college, there is quite a bit of shenanigans going on.  And not just the late night, clandestine affairs.  The young men of Highpepper Hall, known for their "rags," decide to pull a prank on the ladies of Calladale College--agricultural school for women.  They round up some rhubarb and some dead rats and go planting in the middle of the night.

In the meantime, one of the young women has gone missing and Dame Beatrice Bradley is called in to try and track down where Norah Palliser might have run off to.  When the ladies of Calladale discover the nasty additions to their gardens, they decide to return the favor and gather up the rhubarb in preparation for their own late night escapade.  They plan to stash the plants in an ornamental horse carriage which serves as a pub sign for a local establishment (which just happens to lie at the back door of the men's college)--but their plans go awry when they discover that the carriage is already occupied.  Hidden inside is an unrecognizable body wearing a Calladale blazer.

Norah's mother identifies the body as that of her daughter (a girl in her twenties), but Mrs. Bradley is puzzled  by the fact that the body seems to be that of an older women.  Is Norah, in fact, the woman who has died of hemlock poisoning?  And if so who gave it to her and how did she get into the carriage.  If it's not, Norah, then whose body is it and why is she wearing Norah's blazer?  There's an "evil" step-papa in the offing, a missing pig-lecturer (who lectures about pigs and their care, not to pigs),  a cuckolded husband, a thieving sister, and a mother who doesn't seem terribly upset over her daughter's death.  It's up to Mrs. Bradley to get to the bottom of things....and it will require a reenactment of a headless horseman's ride to do it.

This is a very solid vintage mystery by Gladys Mitchell.  I, of course, loved the academic setting and thought the mystery decently plotted and strewn with plenty of red herrings.  The rounds of interviews with suspects and family members and girls in the school got a tad bit tedious--but overall a good read.  Three stars.