Some of Bev's Favorite Quotes...



Attention All Challengers! S0....life here on the Block has been, shall we say, challenging since I got back from vacation. I cam back to work to no computer (not hooked up after our office move) and my laptop at home has gone on strike. It looks like the Check-in Posts for the Just the Facts & Mount TBR challenges will wind up happening at the end of July instead of the regularly scheduled mid-point. But they are coming. Stay tuned!

Sunday, January 31, 2016

February Read It Again, Sam Reviews







February Mount TBR Reviews





February Vintage Scavenger Hunt Reviews


The image linky seems to be working well for the Vintage Scavenger Hunt Challenge. Thanks to everyone who has been linking up their covers! I've really enjoyed seeing the images that relate to the challenge.







Sci-Fi Experience Reading Event: Complete

2016scifiexp300

When Carl V over at Stainless Droppings posted his Sci-Fi Experience reading event in December.  I umped in feet first and started lining up my SF reads. I took a wild guess and said that I would finish at least five by January 31st.  And....I've done it!


 
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)
 
 

Vintage Science Fiction Month: Complete

Vintage SF badge

From Redhead at Little Red Reviewer:

Throughout the month of January, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 I will be reading and discussing as much “older than I am” science fiction and fantasy that I can, and everyone is invited to join me!  We’ll be talking about time travel, laser guns, early robotics, first contact, swords and sorcery, predictions for humanity and the authors who came up with it all. Haphazardly, the defining year for “vintage” is 1979.  Read all about it herehere, and here and most recently here.  The only “rule” for this not-a-challenge is that your blog post must be during the month of January.


You too, can be on red alert for the Interstellar Patrol by using the badge above in your posts, or blog side bar, or wherever you’d like. 

To Join: Go to the Vintage SciFi Not-a-Challenge site.



What Qualifies:
Anything or anyone who created science fiction, or something speculative fiction-ish that was published (or recorded, or put on TV or the silver screen) before 1979.  It can be hard scifi, or not. Have aliens, or not.  Fantasy is OK too.  Jules Verne is perfect, so is Mary Shelley. Or maybe War of the Worlds, original Star Trek, C.L. Moore, Isaac Asimov, Andre Norton, Cordwainer Smith, Clifford Simak, Ursula K. LeGuin, Kurt Vonnegut, James Tiptree Jr, A.E. van Vogt, Frank Herbert,  I can go on forever here.

When Redhead posted the 2016 version, I jumped right in for another round. As in the past, my commitment was at least two science fiction reads in January. I even managed to sneak in an extra one!

1. The Purple Cloud by M. P. Shiel [1901] (1/2/16)
2. Imagination Unlimited edited by Everett F. Bleiler & T. E. Dikty [1952] (1/18/16)
3. The Platypus of Doom & Other Nihilists by Arthur Byron Cover [1976] (1/23/16)

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



Illustration by Abby Wright
(Given that it's 60 degrees here in Southern Indiana at the end of January that picture isn't as representative of the month as it normally is....)
 
I'm ready for 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. So, here we go--let's take a look at January....


Total Books Read: 14
Total Pages: 2908

[That's a bit of drop from last year (15 books and 3709 pages. But still a good start to the new year.]
Average Rating: 3.23 stars  
Top Rating: 4 stars 
Percentage by Female Authors: 43%

Percentage by US Authors: 57%

Percentage by non-US/non-British Authors:  7%
Percentage Mystery:  64% 

Percentage Fiction: 86%
Percentage written 2000+: 7%
Percentage of Rereads: 7%
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: 2--final posts coming (7%)



AND, 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. January found me with nine mysteries and one true crime novel--which is pretty good considering that I was participating in two science fiction reading events. Here are the books read:



Hunt with the Hounds by Mignon G. Eberhart (2 stars) 
Murder at Arroways by Helen Reilly (3.75 stars) 
The Girl in the Cellar by Patricia Wentworth (3 stars) 
Red for Murder by Harold Kemp (3.5 stars) 
Hardly a Man Is Now Alive by Herbert Brean (3 stars) 
Puzzle in Petticoats by Samuel M. Kootz (3.5 stars) 
Four Against the Bank of England by Ann Huxley [true crime] (3.75 stars) 
Which Doctor by Edward Candy (3.75 stars) 
The Triumphs of Eugene Valmont by Robert Barr (2 stars) 
Who's Calling? by Helen McCloy (4 stars)

As we can see, the only four star winner in the mystery category this month is Helen Mccloy with Who's Calling, one of my Dell Mapback editions. 



It is, in part, about a poltergeist. A poltergeist who plays tricks on Archie Cranford's fiancee Frieda Frey. A poltergeist who calls her up and threatens mayhem if she comes to Willow Spring to meet Archie's mother and friends. A poltergeist who knocks on doors and disappears, who wrecks her guest room and writes messages in in lipstick, and who leaves ugly caricatures strewn about. I enjoyed both the psychological elements as well as the political commentary. One of the primary characters is Mark Lindsay, a senator who will soon be up for re-election. Lindsay is weary of the political scene--at least as he is forced to play it. And he gives us a nice peek at the way the politics of the day work (not so different from now). The mystery itself was entertaining and kept me thinking the entire time. McCloy provides interesting characters and Dr. Willing is always welcome as an investigator.


 



Who's Calling?: Review (Spoilers!)

*Please know that in order to discuss this novel in the way I wish to record it for my own reading journal--which, at its most basic, is the reason I blog--I cannot do so without spoiling a portion of the mystery. I do not provide the solution, but I do discuss an element vital to it. Read at your own risk.*


For this tale was more uncanny than any ghost story, more gruesome than any history of physical horror, and it concerned them all as intimately as their most secret thoughts. It was not just a tale to any of them. It was truth, torn from the living context of their experience. Worst of all, it was unfinished. None of them--not even the man telling  it knew whom the narration concerned most intimately or how it was going to end. (p. 185)

Who's Calling (1942) by Helen McCloy is about a poltergeist. A poltergeist who plays tricks on Archie Cranford's fiancee Frieda Frey. A poltergeist who calls her up and threatens mayhem if she comes to Willow Spring to meet Archie's mother and friends. A poltergeist who knocks on doors and disappears, who wrecks her guest room and writes messages in in lipstick, and who leaves ugly caricatures strewn about. Who's Calling is also about the murder of Archie's foolish, vain cousin Chalkey Winchester. Winchester's only faults seems to be a selfish interest in creature comforts and a tendency to regale all within the sound of his voice with stories of his complicated health. His lust for rich, decadent foods prove his undoing when he can't resist chocolate liqueurs laced with strychnine.

Dr. Basil Willing, McCloy's psychologist-sleuth, is convinced that the incidents are all connected and it is suggested that the culprit may be hidden in the most secure place possible--as a second personality within the psyche of one of the main characters. Is it possible to play tricks, travel, and even commit murder without knowing it? In Who's Calling? each person not only looks at those around them with suspicion....they also wind up suspecting themselves.

I find Dr. Willing's hypothesis and final solution very interesting. I am reminded of the film Sybil--which we had to watch in psychology class in high school--and the multiple personality disorder which Flora Rheta Schreiber attributed to her patient. That case has since become controversial with various sources claiming that Schreiber and her patient fabricated most of the experiences. But in those formative years of psychology the reports of secondary or multiple personalities were given credence and it is interesting to see McCloy use the idea in her murder mystery. The final twist she gives to the solution brings in further elements of psychology--but I won't given an ultimate spoiler and ruin the ending.

I enjoyed both the psychological elements as well as the political commentary. One of the primary characters is Mark Lindsay, a senator who will soon be up for re-election. Lindsay is weary of the political scene--at least as he is forced to play it. And he gives us a nice peek at the way the politics of the day work (not so different from now):

I have opinions on all questions of policy, foreign and domestic. That's the one thing a politician mustn't have--political opinions or principles. He can have prejudices--indeed he must  have prejudices and share all the popular political superstitions of the moment as ardently as he can. But he must not have principles. He must never let the  people suspect that they cannot eat their cake and have it. (p. 132)

Lindsay would much prefer to give up the political arena. But his wife, who is the real power behind the senate seat, isn't having any. 

The mystery itself was entertaining and kept me thinking the entire time. McCloy provides interesting characters and Dr. Willing is always welcome as an investigator. ★★★★


For more about Who's Calling? please visit Curtis at The Passing Tramp.

**********
Fulfills the "Telephone" category on the Golden Vintage Scavenger Hunt as well as "Poison" as the murder method in the Mystery Reporter Challenge.

All Challenges Fulfilled:  100 Plus Challenge, A-Z Mystery Author Challenge, Mad Reviewer, Mount TBR Challenge, My Kind of Mystery, Mystery Reporter, Outdo Yourself, Triple Dog Dare, Vintage Mystery Challenge, Women Challenge, Cloak & Dagger,

Saturday, January 30, 2016

The Triumphs of Eugène Valmont: Mini-Review

The irony of The Triumphs of Eugène Valmont (1906) by Robert Barr is that the book begins with Valmont's biggest failure and proceeds to relate various other incidents where Valmont does not exactly shine. Assigned to protect the legendary diamond necklace once destined for Marie Antoinette, Valmont's job is to ensure its safety until it has been sold at auction and is delivered toits new rightful owner. He is easily misdirected and defeated by an amateur and dismissed from the French police force. He is not dismissed because he failed. He is not dismissed because he arrested the wrong man. He is dismissed because he made France the laughingstock of Europe. 

Other adventures include infiltrating an anarchist group and substituting a spectacular firework for a bomb (one of the few escapades that actually goes well); the discovery of an ingenious fraud that results in his paying the criminals five shillings a week; helping the wrong man escape prison; helping to commit a murder; and having the wool pulled over his eyes by a pair of young lovers.

Valmont is credited by various crime fiction authorities as "the first, most important humorous detective in English literature" (Steinbrummer & Penzler, Encyclopedia of Mystery and Detection). While it is true that I can see some elements of the pompous yet bumbling Inspector Clouseau in Valmont, I can't say that the humor is all that striking. Valmont is incredibly long-winded and repetitive in his narrative. And the irony of his inflated sense of his abilities doesn't provide the sense of the comic that one might expect. 

Not one of my most enjoyable forays into early twentieth century mysteries. ★★

***********
This counts for the "Town Scene" category on the Golden Scavenger Hunt.

All Challenges Fulfilled: Vintage Mystery Challenge, 100 Plus Challenge, Mount TBR Challenge, My Kind of Mystery, Cloak & Dagger, Title Fight, Century of Books, Charity Challenge, Outdo Yourself, Triple Dog Dare, Mad Reviewer

Friday, January 29, 2016

Mad Reviewer Reading Challenge




The Mad Reviewer Reading Challenge is to read and review (either on Goodreads, Amazon or your own blog) 104 books in one year starting January 1, 2016 and ending December 31, 2016.
Carrie is fully aware that not everyone has time to read 104 books, so she has set up various levels:

1.  Mad Reviewer: 104 books in one year. (2 books a week all year.)
2.  Crazy Reviewer: 52 books in one year. (1 book a week all year.)
3.  Slightly Sane Reviewer: 26 books in one year. (1 book every fortnight all year.)
4.  Sane Reviewer: 12 books in one year.  (1 book every month all year.)

She also has a full set of rules at the sign-up link. Head on over and check it out!

My Goal? Oh, you know me--I'm in at the Mad Reviewer Level. At least 104 reviews coming at you on the Block. I'll start listing them below....


1. The Purple Cloud by M. P. Shiel (1/2/16)
2. Hunt with the Hounds by Mignon G. Eberhart (1/3/16)
3. Murder at Arroways by Helen Reilly (1/7/16)
4. The Girl in the Cellar by Patricia Wentworth (1/9/16)
5. Red for Murder by Harold Kemp (1/13/16)
6. Hardly a Man Is Now Alive by Herbert Brean (1/16/16)
7. Imagination Unlimited edited by Everett F. Bleiler & T. E. Dikty (1/18/16)
8. Puzzle in Petticoats by Samuel M. Kootz (1/20/16)
9. The Platypus of Doom & Other Nihilists by Arthur Byron Cover (1/23/16)
10. Oh My! by George Takei (1/24/16)
11. Four Against the Bank of England by Ann Huxley (1/25/16)
12. Which Doctor by Edward Candy (1/28/16)
13. The Triumphs of Eugene Valmont by Robert Barr (1/30/16)
14. Who's Calling? by Helen McCloy (1/31/16)
15. The Clock Ticks On By Valentine Williams (2/3/16)
16. The Painted Veil by W. Somerset Maugham (2/5/16)
17. The Clue of the Judas Tree by Leslie Ford (2/6/16)
18. The Doberman Wore Black by Barbara Moore (2/9/16)
19. The Fifth Passenger by Edward Young (2/10/16)
20. The Bridal Bed Murders by A. E. Martin (2/13/16)
21. The April Robin Murders by Craig Rice & Ed McBain (2/17/16)
22. The Silver Anniversary Murder by Lee Harris (2/17/16)
23. Poacher's Bag by Douglas Clark (2/19/16)
24. The Spiral Staircase by Ethel Lina White (2/20/16)
25. The Black Rustle by Constance & Gwenyth Little (2/22/16)
26. The Bachelors of Broken Hill by Arthur W. Upfield (2/24/16)
27. Gently with the Painters by Alan Hunter (2/27/16)
28. The Calcutta Affair by George S. Elrick (2/28/16)
29. The Avengers: A Celebration by Marcus Hearn (2/29/16)
30. Make Death Love Me by Ruth Rendell (3/1/16)
31. The Day He Died by Lewis Padgett (3/3/16)
32. House of Darkness by Allan MacKinnon (3/7/16)
33. The Philomel Foundation by James Gollin (3/11/16)
34. A Lesson in Secrets by Jacqueline Winspear (3/13/16)
35. Elegy for Eddie by Jacqueline Winspear (3/15/16)
36. The Old Battle Axe/The Obstinate Murderer by Elisabeth Sanxay Holding (3/17/16)
37. The Big Smoke by Adrian Matejka (3/20/16)
38. Leaving Everything Most Loved by Jacqueline Winspear (3/24/16)
39. Dead Against My Principles by Kenneth Hopkins (3/29/16)
40. The Third Encounter by Sara Woods (4/1/6)
41. Death in Profile by Guy Fraser-Sampson (4/3/16)
42. The Jade Venus by George Harmon Coxe (4/7/16)
43. The Indigo Necklace Murders by Frances Crane (4/12/16)
44. The Case of the Black-Eyed Blonde by Erle Stanley Gardner (4/12/16)
45. The Limehouse Text by Will Thomas (4/13/16)
46. One Foot in the Grave by Peter Dickinson (4/18/16)
47. The Chalk Circle Man by Fred Vargas (4/21/16)
48. Death in Cyprus by M. M. Kaye (4/22/16)
49. The Pocket Book of Ghost Stories edited by Philip Van Doren Stern (4/24/16)
50. Death by Hoax by Lionel Black (4/25/16)
51. Chili Con Corpses by J. B. Stanley (4/28/16)
52. Line Up for Murder by Marion Babson (4/28/16)
53. Our Jubilee Is Death by Leo Bruce (4/30/16)
54. Powder & Patch by Georgette Heyer (5/4/16)
55. Dead Man's Riddle by Mary Kelly (5/9/16)
56. The Family Tomb by Michael Gilbert (5/10/16)
57. Running Blind by Desmond Bagley (5/11/16)
58. The Bobbsey Twins at London Tower by Laura Lee Hope (5/13/16)
59. Gownsman's Gallows by Katharine Farrer (5/16/16)
60. Murder at the Savoy by Maj Sjowall & Per Wahloo (5/20/16)
61. The Litmore Snatch by Henry Wade (5/21/16)
62. Good Blood by Aaron Elkins (5/23/16)
63. The Paper Thunderbolt by Michael Innes (5/29/16)
64. Murder in Amsterdam by A. J. Baantjer (6/3/16)
65. Midnight in Lonesome Hollow by Kathleen Ernst (6/4/16)
66. The Cinnamon Murder by Frances Crane (6/6/16)
67. A Is For Arsenic by Kathryn Harkup (6/8/16)
68. The Mystery Woman by J. U. Giesy & Junius B. Smith (6/12/16)
69. The Silent Women by Margaret Page Hood (6/13/16)
70. Certain Sleep by Helen Reilly (6/16/16)
71. The Seven Wonders of Crime by Paul Halter (6/19/16)
72. The Eagle Has Landed by Jack Higgins (6/19/16)
73. Murder in Any Language by Kelley Roos (6/21/16)
74. Bodies & Souls edited by Dann Herr & Joel Wells (6/28/16)
75. The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: The Titanic Tragedy be William Seil (6/28/16)
76. The Norths Meet Murder by Frances & Richard Lockridge (6/30/16)
77. High Rhymes & Misdemeanors by Diana Killian (6/30/16)
78. The Decagon House Murders by Yukito Ayatsuji (7/3/16)
79. A Pinch of Poison by Frances & Richard Lockridge (7/5/16)
80. All Fall Down by L. A. G. Strong (7/6/16)
81. The Ticking Clock by Frances & Richard Lockridge (7/8/16)
82. Checkmate to Murder by E. C. R. Lorac (7/10/16)
83. The Poet's Funeral by John M. Daniel (7/12/16)
84. The Devil in Bellminster by David Holland (7/13/16)
85. The Red House Mystery by A. A. Milne (7/15/16)
86. The Warsaw Anagrams by Richard Zimler (7/17/16)
87. Too Good to Be True by J. F. Hutton (7/20/16)
88. A Cold Day for Murder by Dana Stabenow (7/22/16)
89. A Dead Man in Athens by Michael Pearce (7/28/16)
90. The Nine Tailors by Dorothy L.Sayers (7/28/16)
91. The Mirabilis Diamond by Jerome Odlum (7/31/16)
92. Servant's Problem by Veronica Parker Johns (8/4/16)
93. Murder on Trial by Michael Underwood (8/7/16)
94. Invitation to Murder by Leslie Ford (8/11/16)
95. Murder Every Monday by Pamela Branch (8/13/16)
96. A Parade of Cockeyed Creatures OR Did Someone Murder Our Wandering Boy? by George Baxt (8/14/16)
97. A Death for a Darling by E. X. Giroux (8/19/16)
98. Design for Murder by Erica Quest (8/20/16)
99. Unhallowed Murder by Simon Nash (8/20/16)
100. The Spy Who Came in from the Cold by John le Carre (8/24/16)
101. The Silent Witness by R. Austin Freeman (8/25/16)
102. The Master of Mysteries by Gelett Burgess (8/30/16)
103. The House of the Arrow by A.E.W. Mason (8/31/16)
104. The Enchanted Castle by E. Nesbit (9/3/16) 
 Challenge Complete: I will, of course, keep reviewing the rest of my books this year...