Monday, November 30, 2015

November Wrap-Up & P.O.M. Award

I'm enjoying another year of tracking reading progress and statistics for all things bookish on the Block. I will also be contributing to Kerrie's Crime Fiction Pick of the Month. Here's what happened here on the Block in November....
Total Books Read: 15 (Up a bit, but still gotta read more if I'm gonna finish those challenges)
Total Pages:  3,496 (also up a bit--but I'm not sure I'm going to make my goal of 40,000)
Average Rating: 3.5 stars
Top Rating: 5 stars 
Percentage by Female Authors: 40%
Percentage by US Authors: 60%
Percentage by non-US/non-British Authors:  0%
Percentage Mystery:  85%
Percentage Fiction: 100%
Percentage written 2000+: 20%
Percentage of Rereads: 7%
Percentage Read for Challenges: 100% {It's easy to have every book count for a challenge when you sign up for as many as I do.}  
Number of Challenges fulfilled so far: 28 (64%)

There are still way too many books that need reading for challenges and the only way I'm going to meet my 40,000 page goal is if I take the month of December off and do nothing but read.  And now for the P.O.M. Award in Mysteries.

As mentioned above, Kerrie had us all set up for another year of Crime Fiction Favorites. What she was looking for is our Top Mystery Read for each month. Of the fifteen books read in November, eleven were mysteries. Here are the mystery-related books read:

Murder in the Hellfire Club by Donald Zochert (2.5 stars) 

In Spite of Thunder by John Dickson Carr (2 stars) 
Murder with a Twist by Tracy Kiely (4 stars) 
The Bobbsey Twins' Search in the Great City by Laura Lee Hope (3 stars) 
The Red Redmaynes by Eden Phillpotts (3 stars) 
Call for the Dead by John le Carré (5 stars) 
Perpetual Check by Conrad Haynes (3 stars) 
Murder at the ABA by Isaac Asimov (2 stars) 
Chef Maurice & a Spot of Truffle by J. A. Lang (4 stars) 
A Question of Identity by June Thomson (3.5 stars) 
The Two Tickets Puzzle by J. J. Connington (3.5 stars)
Just looking at the star count, it's no surprise that November's POM Award winner is

Call for the Dead by John le Carré with 5 stars. After a beginning that had me wondering if I wanted to finish the book, le Carré reeled me in with his descriptive story-telling. A "toad"-like man may not have been my ideal spy when I began, but I was completely convinced of his abilities and his reality by the end. The picture of post-war Britain that le Carré paints is brilliantly rendered--I looked up from my book in the final chapters fully expecting to see the fog swirling round me and to hear the river traffic below the bridge. The story itself reads less like a spy-thriller to me than a more traditional mystery. Smiley is following up clues in the best Scotland Yard fashion. I absolutely will be on the look-out for copies of the other Smiley books.

The Two Tickets Puzzle: Review

A manufacturer, by the name of Preston is found dead under the seat of a railway carriage, wounded in several places. When the autopsy is complete, it is revealed that he was shot with bullets of two different calibres. Somebody made quick work of it--taking advantage of one of two uninterrupted stretches of the train journey. There are several likely suspects--from Preston's doctor, who is rumored to be carrying on with Preston's wife to his wife who married for money but didn't bargain on the type of man she was really marrying to the clerk from his factory, recently dismissed and mysteriously in possession of bank notes which Preston had just gotten from the bank that morning. 

Superintendent Ross is brought into the case by Superintendent Campden. They've just been collaborating over another case and Ross is with Campden when the call comes in about the body on the 10:35 train from Horston. Since it's unclear where on the journey the murder occurred, it's possible that the case could fall under either man's district. And, though it initially looks as though they'll be sharing the work, Ross and his Inspector Morningside are the detectives who take center stage in the investigation. Morningside is put to work identifying every passenger on that train--and he manages to hook up the surrendered tickets with the passengers in Preston's first class carriage and the third-class carriage behind it. The detectives are certain that the murderer must have been in one of those carriages if he was to approach Preston without being seen. Where did he come from and when did he leave?

There are added problems for the men to solve. Who shot farmer Chepstow's prize ram and why? Who threw Preston's attache case out the window? Why were there two calibres of bullets? Whose spectacles were smashed in the compartment? And what is the importance of a prank telegram and the car-jacking of a lawyer's car?

This is a very detailed police procedural--complete with diagrams and railway timetables. Superintendent is a very thorough detective who follows up all the clues and investigates all the references made by his witnesses. Perhaps a bit too thorough for some modern readers who expect a bit more action, but for vintage mystery buffs it is a fine example of detailed plotting and early police procedural. There is an exciting car chase with an explosive (quite literally) grand finale to help satisfy the need for action and the plot is explained in clear detail for those who may have missed some of the clues. Highly enjoyable vintage crime novel from 1930 by J. J. Connington who is better known for his Sir Clinton Driffield novels. ★★  and 1/2 

Thanks to Chad Arment and Coachwhip Publications for this lovely review copy.  The inestimable Curtis Evans provides an introduction with much insight and information on Connington (pen name for Alfred Walter Stewart) and his fiction.

[Disclaimer: My review policy is posted on my blog, but just to reiterate....The book was offered to me for impartial review  and I have received no payment of any kind. All comments in this review are entirely my own honest opinion.] 

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Charity Reading Challenge

Charity Reading Challenge
Host: Becky's Book Reviews
Duration: January 2016-December 2016
 # of books: You decide! Though Becky suggests a minimum of 4 books.

Read for a good cause! Buy books at a charity shop, or, even a friends of the library book sale, or, donate a certain percentage of money for each book you read for the challenge. You can choose your own goal of how many books to read, what charity you'll be donating money towards, how much money, etc. (For example, you might want to donate $1 for each paperback you read, or, $3 for every hardback you read. You can work out the details yourself.) For full details click on the challenge link.

I get a great number of my used books from our Friends of the Library [FoL] used book shop and their twice yearly sales as well as the Red Cross (now Hoosier Hills) Book Fair. I'll be reading books that I've gotten from there over the years--and don't worry, I'm sure I'll be spending more this year. My goal will be at least 12 books from the Friends of the Library and I'll also record each time I indulge my book habit there in 2016. I will also add in my usual book-binge at the Fall Community Book Fair sponsored by the Hoosier Hills Food Bank. It will be interesting to see how much I've given towards the library and other charities in one year. I've never kept track before.

1. Hunt with the Hounds by Mignon G. Eberhart [from FoL 9/20/13] (1/3/16)
2. The Girl in the Cellar by Patricia Wentworth [from Red Cross 9/28/12] (1/9/16)
3. The Triumphs of Eugene Valmont by Robert Barr [from Hoosier Hills Book Fair 10/9/15] (1/30/16)
4. The Doberman Wore Black by Barbara Moore [from FoL 3/28/15] (2/9/16)
5. The Fifth Passenger by Edward Young [from FoL 12/5/15] (2/10/16)
6. The Bridal Bed Murders by A. E. Martin [from FoL 10/13/12] (2/13/16)
7. The Spiral Staircase by Ethel Lina White [from Hoosier Hills Book Fair 10/9/15] (2/20/16)
8. The Bachelors of Broken Hill by Arthur W. Upfield [from Red Cross] (2/22/16)
9. Gently with the Painters by Alan Hunter [from Red Cross 9/28/12] (2/27/16)
10. The Philomel Foundation by James Gollin [Hoosier Hills Book Fair 10/9/15] (3/11/16)
11. A Lesson in Secrets by Jacqueline Winspear [FoL Book Sale 9/17/11] (3/13/16)
12. Elegy for Eddie by Jacqueline Winspear [FoL 8/1/13] (3/15/16)

Challenge Commitment Complete 3/15/16

Friends of the Library Spending
January 2: $5.35 (four books)

January 9: $1.34 (one book) 
February 11: $9.37 (five books--hardback)
April 28: $5.09 (three books)
May 5: $5.35 (two books--vintage hardback)
May 30: $10 (four books--hardback)
July 9: $5.75 (four paperback plus books & 2 records for husband)
July 21: $6.42 (four books)
August 11: $2.68 (one hardback)
August 27: $2.68 (one hardback)

Hoosier Hills Food Bank Community Book Fair
October 6th & 7th: $216 (103 books plus records & comic books for husband)     


Cloak & Dagger Reading Challenge

CDChallengebadge2016Stormi at Books, Movies & Reviews! Oh My! is a mystery and crime novel fan (like yours truly), so she wanted to do a challenge that incorporated all the different types of mystery and crime type novels. When the blog that use to do Cloak and Dagger Challenge gave it up, she decided to take it on and tweak it a bit to make it her own and she also asked Barb from Booker T’s Farm to help cohost it. I'm all about mystery books, so I'm definitely in for a year of criminal capers. There are several levels to choose from and some basic rules to check out. If you'd like to join the fun, click on the challenge name link above.

I'll be going for my Special Agent's badge and reading 31+ books in the mystery and crime field.

1. Hunt with the Hounds by Mignon G. Eberhart (1/3/16)
2. Murder at Arroways by Helen Reilly (1/7/16)
3. The Girl in the Cellar by Patricia Wentworth (1/9/16)
4. Red for Murder by Harold Kempt (1/13/16)
5. Hardly a Man Is Now Alive by Herbert Brean (1/16/16)
6. Puzzle in Petticoats by Samuel M. Kootz (1/20/16)
7. Which Doctor by Edward Candy (1/28/16)
8. The Triumphs of Eugene Valmont by Robert Barr (1/30/16)
9. Who's Calling? by Helen McCloy (1/31/16)
10. The Clock Ticks On by Valentine Williams (2/3/116)
11. The Clue of the Judas Tree by Leslie Ford (2/6/16)
12. The Doberman Wore Black by Barbara Moore (2/9/16)
13. The Fifth Passenger by Edward Young (2/10/16)
14. The Bridal Bed Murders by A. E. Martin (2/13/16)
15. The April Robin Murders by Craig Rice & Ed McBain (2/17/16)
16. The Silver Anniversary Murder by Lee Harris (2/17/16)
17. Poacher's Bag by Douglas Clark (2/19/16)
18. The Spiral Staircase by Ethel Lina White (2/20/16)
19. The Black Rustle by Constance & Gwenyth Little (2/22/26)
20. The Bachelors of Broken Hill by Arthur W. Upfield (2/24/16)
21. Gently with the Painters by Alan Hunter (2/27/16)
22. The Calcutta Affair by George S. Elrick (2/28/16)
23. Make Death Love Me by Ruth Rendell (3/1/16)
24. The Day He Died by Lewis Padgett (3/3/16)
25. House of Darkness by Allan MacKinnon (3/7/16)
26. The Philomel Foundation by James Gollin (3/11/16)
27. A Lesson in Secrets by Jacqueline Winspear (3/13/16)
28. Elegy for Eddie by Jacqueline Winspear (3/15/16)
29. The Old Battle Axe/The Obstinate Murderer by Elisabeth Sanxay Holding (3/17/16)
30. Leaving Everything Most Loved by Jacqueline Winspear (3/24/16)
31. Dead Against My Principles by Kenneth Hopkins (3/29/16)
32. The Third Encounter by Sara Woods (4/1/16)

2016 Sci-Fi Experience Event


Once again Carl V over at Stainless Droppings is starting his Sci-Fi Experience reading event in December.  So...I'm going to be looking over my TBR stacks and lining up some SF reads for the rest of December and January.  I'm going to take a wild guess and say that I'll finish at least five by January 31st. Since the event ends in January, this will count towards my 2016 Challenges.

The goal? Just to read, discuss, and enjoy some science fiction.  No required reading levels.  Low pressure and fun!  So go on and join us!

Reviews not required, but if you'd like to share them then the Review Site can be found HERE.

My List:
1. The Wind's Twelve Quarters by Ursula K. Le Guin (12/9/15)
2. The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit by Ray Bradbury (12/15/15)
3. The Purple Cloud by M. P. Shiel (1/2/16)
4. Imagination Unlimited edited by Everett F. Bleiler & T. E. Dikty (1/18/16)
5. The Platypus of Doom & Other Nihilists by Arthur Byron Cover (1/23/16)

Friday, November 27, 2015

Challenge Complete: Alphabet Soup

I have completed the Alphabet Soup Reading Challenge sponsored by
 Dollycas at Escape With Dollycas Into a Good Book.

January 1, 2015 – December 31, 2015

The Alphabet Soup Challenge means that by December 31, 2015
your bowls must be full of one book for each letter of the Alphabet.

Each Letter Counts As 1 Spoonful

Basic Details
This challenge will run from January 1st, 2014 until December 31st, 2014.
You can join anytime.  You do not have to review the book.  
For those pesky Q, X AND Z titles the word with the challenge letter can be anywhere in the title.

Here are the books read for the challenge:

A: Asimov's Choice: Black Holes & Bug-Eyed Monsters by George H. Scithers, ed (1/9/15)
B: Bones in the Barrow by Josephine Bell (5/29/15)
C: The Case of the Painted Girl by Frank King (1/6/15)
D: A Dead Man in Istanbul by Michael Pearce (1/14/15)
E: The Eye in the Museum by J. J. Connington (5/8/15)
F: The False Inspector Dew by Peter Lovesey (4/1/15)
G: The Great Dinosaur Robbery by David Forrest (5/15/15)
H: Harlan Ellison's City on the Edge of Forever by Ellison; Adapted by David & Scott Tipton (6/5/15)
I: I KIlled: True Stories of the Road from America's Top Comics by Ritch Shyder & Mark Schiff (2/10/15)
J: Jewelled Eye by Douglas Clark (9/1/15)
K: Keep Cool, Mr. Jones by Timothy Fuller (8/24/15)
L: Lost Laysen by Margaret Mitchell (2/17/15)
M: Mother Finds a Body by Gypsy Rose Lee (1/12/15)
N: Night Train to Paris by Manning Coles (3/14/15)
O: One Touch of Blood by Samm Sinclair Baker (2/5/15)
P: Police Procedurals by Martin H. Greenberg & Bill Pronzini (1/9/15)
Q: A Question of Identity by June Thomson (11/27/15) 

R: Ride the Pink Horse by Dorothy B. Hughes (1/3/15)
S: Some of Your Blood by Theodore Sturgeon (2/13/15)
T: Ten Thousand Light-Years from Home by James Tiptree, Jr. (1/2/15)
U: The Underdog & Other Stories by Agatha Christie (3/17/15)
V: The Vanishing Corpse by Ellery Queen (10/31/15)
W: The Wilberforce Legacy by Josephine Bell (4/19/15)
X: Xenogenesis Book 1: Dawn by Octavia Butler (11/5/15)
Y: Young Mrs. Cavendish & the Kaiser's Men by K. K. Beck (7/4/15)
Z: Rod Serling's Twighlight Zone Revisited adapted by Walter B. Gibson (1/20/15)

A Question of Identity: Review

The archaeological society thought they were prepared for any remains they might find when digging in George Stebbings's back field. Of course, they expected those remains to be at least two centuries old rather than a mere two years, so they're a bit surprised and dismayed when their efforts reveal the moldering fragments of a boot and what is left of the foot within. When they realized they had a much more recent corpse on their hands, they called in Inspector Rudd (originally Finch in Great Britain) to handle the case. 

Rudd has a lot of questions as he begins the investigation. Not the least of which is who is this man? There is nothing in the shallow grave to identify the man, his fingerprints have disappeared from what's left of his fingers, he had false teeth (missing), so there are no dental records to trace. The only thing found near him is a silver-plated crucifix. And why was the man laid out as if someone had taken great care over the ceremony of his burial? Rudd also wonders about the burial site itself. It's quite a distance from both Stebbing's home and that of his nearest neighbor, Geoff Lovell as well as being well away from the road. Whoever killed the man and buried him would have had to tote the body a fair ways from any likely spot.

As Rudd and his assistant Sergeant Boyce start asking questions they find a likely candidate for the corpse. But finding enough evidence to prove their victim's identity positively winds up being trickier than they thought. It all ends with a dramatic show-down at the home of one of the farmers. But will Rudd be in time to prevent any more murders?

This is a very atmospheric piece by June Thomson. From the beginning, Rudd senses the desperation and tragedy surrounding the players in the drama. He isn't able to put all the pieces together until it is almost too late, but the clues are there for those who can pick them up. Desperation is the moving force behind the murder and the reactions of those Rudd questions. Finding the reason for the emotion unlocks the puzzle for him. A Question of Identity is another very good police procedural from Thomson with Rudd featured as an insightful detective attuned to the psychology of both murderer and witnesses. ★★ and a half.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Cruisin' Thru the Cozies

Yvonne at Socrates' Book Reviews is hosting the sixth annual Cruisin' thru the Cozies Reading Challenge! And, of course, I'm signing right up.  For a full run-down of the rules, hop on the link above.

To find out exactly what a cozy mystery is, check out This site is dedicated to cozy mysteries and does a great job of defining them as well as giving a list of cozy mysteries. This challenge is NOT restricted to what is on their list, it's just to be used as a guideline in case you need some hints on what to read.

For my participation, I'm going for:
Level 2 - Investigator - Read 7-12 books
I may level up at some point, but my challenge will be complete when I hit the Investigator range.
1. Hunt with the Hounds by Mignon G. Eberhart (1/3/16)
2. The Girl in the Cellar by Patricia Wentworth (1/9/16)
3. Hardly a Man Is Now Alive by Herbert Brean (1/16/16)
4. The Doberman Wore Black by Barbara Moore (2/9/16)
5. The April Robin Murders by Craig Rice & Ed McBain (2/17/16)
6. The Silver Anniversary Murder by Lee Harris (2/17/16)
7. The Black Rustle by Constance & Gwenyth Little (2/22/16)
8. Dead Against My Principles by Kenneth Hopkins (3/29/16)
9. Death in Cyprus by M. M. Kaye (4/21/16)
10. Death by Hoax by Lionel Black (4/25/16)
11. Chili Con Corpses by J. B. Stanley (4/28/16)
12. Our Jubilee Is Death by Leo Bruce (4/30/16)
Completed (4/30/16)

What an Animal IX

I'm ready to sign up for the What an Animal Reading Challenge IX.  Yvonne at Socrates' Book Reviews began hosting this challenge in 2010, when she took it over from Kristi at Passion for the Page.  If you love reading books about animals or just have a lot of books on your TBR shelf with animals in the title or on the cover, come join us in the challenge. There are several levels--click the link to get the full details and to sign up.
I'm going to start with Level 1 (read six books). I may level up...but my commitment will be complete once I get my six.

1. Hunt with the Hounds by Mignon G. Eberhart (1/3/16)
2. Red for Murder by Harold Kemp (1/13/16) [heifer on cover; heifers play important role]
3. The Platypus of Doom & Other Nihilists by Arthur Byron Cover (1/23/16)
4. The Doberman Wore Black by Barbara Moore (2/9/16)
5. The April Robin Murders by Craig Rice & Ed McBain (2/17/16)
6. Dead Man's Riddle by Mary Kelly (5/9/16) [boar's head on cover; boar and fox masks play an important role]

Challenge Complete!

7. The Paper Thunderbolt by Michael Innes (5/29/16) [lion & lamb head puppets on cover]

What's in a Name 2016

What's In A Name 2016 logo

This is the sign-up post for the ninth annual What’s In A Name challenge, originally started by Annie, handed to Beth Fish Reads, and now continued at The Worm Hole
The basics

The challenge runs from January to December. During this time you choose a book to read from each of the following categories: 

  • A country (try not to use ‘Africa’!) Suggestions: Daphne Du Maurier’s Jamaica Inn, Xiaolu Guo’s I Am China, Martin Wagner’s Deutschland)
  • An item of clothing (Su Dharmapala’s Saree, Ann Brashare’s The Sisterhood Of The Traveling Pants, Javier Moro’s El Sari Rojo; Pierre Lemaitre’s Vestido De Novia)
  • An item of furniture (Marghanita Laski’s The Victorian Chaise-Longue; C S Lewis’s The Silver Chair; Goslash;hril Gabrielsen’s The Looking-Glass Sisters)
  • A profession (Adriana Trigiani’s The Shoemaker’s Wife; Mikhail Elizarov’s The Librarian)
  • A month of the year (Elizabeth Von Arnim’s The Enchanted April; Rhoda Baxter’s Doctor January)
  • A title with the word ‘tree’ in it (Ai Mi’s Under The Hawthorn Tree; Elle Newmark’s The Sandalwood Tree)

 Here are my proposed titles from my stacks:

1. Four Against the Bank of England by Anne Huxley [Country] (1/25/16)
2. Puzzle in Petticoats by Samuel Melvin Kootz [Clothing] (1/20/16)
3. The Bridal Bed Murders by A. E. Martin [Furniture] (2/13/16)
4. Which Doctor by Edward Candy [Profession] (1/28/16)
5. The April Robin Murders by Craig Rice [Month] (2/17/16)
6. The Clue of the Judas Tree by Leslie Ford ["Tree"] (2/6/16)

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Augie Wren's Christmas Story: Mini-Review

My first review for the Christmas Spirit Challenge is going to be a mini-review for a mini book. Michelle, our lovely hostess, sent me Paul Auster's Auggie Wren's Christmas Story as part of my prize package for a previous year's challenge. It is a slim volume with a lovely Christmas fable--without Santa or reindeer or snowmen or Christmas trees. The most holiday-type thing in the story is a very unconventional Christmas dinner. How can this be?

It is a tale about a writer who has been asked by The New York Times to write a Christmas story to be featured on Christmas morning. But he doesn't want to write one of those mushy, gushy, sentimental stories that serve as "wishfulfillment dreams, fairy tales for adults." He wants an unsentimental Christmas story even though he knows it is "a contradiction in terms, an impossibility, an out-and-out conundrum. One might as just as well try to imagine a racehorse without legs, or a sparrow without wings." So, the next time he ventures into his favorite cigar store, he tells his friend Auggie Wren his troubles. Auggie tells him that if he'll buy him lunch, he'll tell him the best Christmas story ever. The best because it's absolutely true. 

This is Auggie's story about a shoplifter, a lost wallet, a blind grandmother, and that unconventional Christmas dinner that I mentioned above. It is a fable that encourages us to question whether a lie can ever serve as the truth and who is the giver and who is the taker. Auggie learns a little something about himself and what Christmas might really mean. ★★★★ for a surprisingly lovely unconventional Christmas story.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Chef Maurice & a Spot of Truffle: Mini Review (in honor of Hamilton, the mini-pig)

CM: Snatched from below our noses!
AW-S: It was three days ago, Maurice. Our noses weren't even out of bed.
~Chef Maurice; Arthur Wordington-Smythe

When Chef Maurice plunges into the realm of investigation, all he thinks he's going to find is a new source of a very expensive truffle. What a coup for Le Couchan Rouge, his little restaurant in the south of England! But before he knew where he was, he had landed smack dab in the middle of a murder investigation and had acquired a mini-pig in the bargain. Hamilton, the mini-pig, was, of course, necessary--since Chef Maurice needed a champion truffle finder to help him track down the source of the mysterious truffles. But the murder he could certainly do without. After all, the victim was Ollie Meadows his wild herb and mushroom supplier and how was Chef Maurice supposed to make all those delectable mushroom dishes if Ollie was no longer delivering various forms of fungi? Things get serious when Hamilton is pignapped and the inquisitive chef receives a threatening note. He convinces his friend Arthur Wordington-Smythe to play Hastings to his Poirot (no, really--this book is an obvious hat-tip to Christie's creation) and the two are off, Camembert and crackers in hand, to track down the miscreant. The two amateur detectives will encounter a missing dog, a stolen map, an angry gun-totin' uncle, and magic mushrooms before they get to the bottom of the mystery.

I have the Puzzle Doctor at In Search of the Classic Mystery Novel to thank for bringing J. A. Lang's delightful cozy mystery series to my attention (click link for his review of Truffle). And he didn't steer me wrong. This book which offers a tribute to Agatha Christie has a plot that definitely follows in her footsteps while injecting a good deal of humor. I laughed out loud several times throughout the story just picturing our heroes in their detective efforts. And this is one of the few times when an author writes from animal points of view and it actually works. Hamilton's take on the world and brief snippets from Wordington-Smythe's dog and a few cows are great fun. Chef Maurice is over the top, but in a good way--he doesn't distract from the plot and, at bottom, he seems like a very nice guy. The supporting case--from his Hastings-like side-kick to his assistant chefs to the local PC--are great fun and the book serves as a very good introduction to Lang's cast of characters. ★★★★ for a fun, cozy series debut.