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For Book Butterflies Delving Elves
By: Esther M. Powell
Posted on: Wed, September 01 2010 - 1:09 pm

July 28, 2011

A Superior Death, number two of the Anna Pigeon series, enters a completely new world of water when she gets a position at Isle Royale National Park.

In the desert Anna rides horses.  Here she dives underwater and operates a boat.  I'm beginning to think that this character is going to be a Nancy Drew for adults!

If so, that's okay with me.  I read Nancy Drew as a kid and loved her.  She got to go everywhere and do everything!

Nevada Barr takes us to a part of the country we visited last summer, so even though we didn't get to the islands I at least had an environmental context to place the action.  I might understand the cold she describes a little better if I had stuck at least a toe into the water, but I don't think I did.

Outlandish in ways, but fun.

July 24, 2011

My daughter told me about Nevada Barr and her National Park mysteries, so I started with the first one, The Track of the Cat.

The heroine, with the unlikely name of Anna Pigeon, is a little difficult for me to relate to personally, but the thrill of the chase came on!

For once, though, I felt I knew who did it because of one small comment, and thought she should have, too.

Then again, there was time for the perpetrator to - but no, I wouldn't want to ruin it for you!

Barr's descriptions of the Southwest desert really evoked the hot and dusty experiences I used to have, including the squat to avoiding sitting in the dirt.

Cactus, parching thirst, empty canyons, secrets - it's all there for a read during a summer rain in green country!

July 16, 2011

Change of Heart by Jodi Picoult has its interesting elements and arguments, but so derivitive.

I could list a bunch of stuff that probably inspired this work, but why deprive you of the fun?

It is educational, if nothing else.  It just requires the reader to slough through so much stuff for the nuggets it offers.

Is it ultimately cynical, or does God work in mysterious ways?

Did this book influence the jury in the Casey Anthony trial?

What makes a person incapable of participating in his or her own defense?  Is silence golden?

Well.  If you decide to read this work of I am tempted to say nonliterature, have fun!  It won't be as time-consuming as it appears.  Time-wasting, well, I'll let you be the jury on that!

July 15, 2011

For those in the need of a little light summer reading, The Secret Lives of Dresses by Erin McKean might fit the bill.  It's kind of like a women's magazine story (don't sneer - sometimes they are quite humorous and perceptive!) only longer.  These characters are definitely entertaining. 

The central idea of dresses with stories is quite taking, and McKean likes words and playing with words. 

July 6, 2011

Finished a book while on vacation, another winner by Robertson Davies.  Makes me wish I could have attended this church as a child, even though I certainly had more than my share of fabulous church music at Valparaiso University.  (This was not the town church I usually attended, however.)

The Cunning Man is the life story (fiction) of a very unusual doctor.  His philosophy of medicine and healing and its origins makes for great reading.

Hint:  There is a connection between this novel and Murther and Walking Spirits.

One of the most engaging thing about Robertson Davies is his philosophical approach to love.  Quite refreshing, and helps put the whole experience into perspective for those of us who might be overemotional.

June 1, 2011

At first I was put off by Readers Digest's Jumped, Fell, or Pushed?

It was too much like a driver's manual, or one of those home do-it-yourself books.

But I managed to drag myself into its textbook-like layout and enjoyed it in the end.

Maybe the problem was that I already knew quite a bit from my who-dunnit reading?

(Hmmm, that was kind of an unfortunate association of "do-it-yourself" and "who-dunnit" but hey, what can I say?  Any book about crime is going to be devoured by the criminal element even more than by us voyeuristic types.

Authors Koehler, Moore and Owen deserve some credit for giving those who would break the social contract fair warning that advances are being made all the time in forensics.

Your perfect murder might go cold now, but it could become a hot property in a few years!

Hmm... I just had an idea.  Shouldn't a perpetrator of crime who allows another person to do time for his offense be charged with false imprisonment?

I was surprised by how many of the fifty case studies I had heard of, and shocked by a couple I hadn't.

Or - did I just repress the horrible knowledge of some of these crimes?  They are truly beyond belief.

One interesting facet of the book is descriptions by people who work in different forensic areas of a typical workday for them.

Hmmm... how about a crime series with a crime photographer as the crime-solver?

May 28, 2011

Enjoyed Lawrence Sanders' McNally books so when I saw Tales of the Wolf in LP I grabbed it for my mom.

Oops!  She's a little Victorian for this one, but she didn't say anything.

He reminds me a lot of the old Shell Scott mysteries, except that when Scott encountered a seductive woman, they disappeared and he re-entered the narrative a discreet half hour later.

This guy, an insurance claims investigator named Wolf Lannihan, describes his encounters with gorgeous hot-blooded women in equally exuberant and exultant prose.

No literal detail to speak of, but his isn't a closed door.  It is obfuscation by steam.

Anyway, the investigations are mostly interesting and Lannihan's recounting of them as light-hearted as his bragging (I almost said bagging, ha-ha.)

The real mystery is, how does he manage to encounter such a high proportion of outstanding good looks?  Is lust as blind as love?

May 24, 2011

I've been interrupting my light reading with more light reading.  I picked up Marilyn Monroe Confidential mostly because it had some interesting pictures.

But oh, what an eye-opener it is!  Fascinating!

I will say no more except the other reason I picked it up is because I saw Don't Bother to Knock and was knocked over by her acting in that very serious film.  (Ever heard of it?)

Unfortunately the book did not even mention that film, but it does give insight as to perhaps why Marilyn did not break into the kind of roles she wanted at the money she desired.

It is by Lena Pepitone, who was Marilyn's wardrobe person and friend (etc.) for a decade or so, and William Stadiem.

May 18, 2011

I have been remiss in reporting my criminal reading.  Or do I mean crime reading?  That is, evidently, the only reading I have been doing besides the occasional mag.

First finished was P.D. JamesThe Private Patient which is, like everything else I have read by her, impressive and polished and enjoyable.  Unsolvable also, but I never particularly try to solve them, so that's all right.  It has a plethora of issues it deals with, so it held my interest quite effectively.

The one I read (ha, ha I mean finished - it's a tome!) yesterday is A Traitor to Memory by Elizabeth George.  I may have read it years ago, but maybe I just saw an episode on BBC or something.  This one is a nail-biter, but don't you do it!  Or you won't have any nails for the next six months.

A Traitor to Memory deals with lies and repression.  It is awesome in its power to describe passions, but being a musician's daughter, I have a lot of trouble believing in the last scene.  (You'll have to read it yourself and let me know how you feel!)

I also felt a little jerked around by the diary chronology of Gideon's memory recovery and the order of events happening in the "real world," but then that is also part of the fun.

If you like both authors and would have trouble choosing vacation reading, go by the length of your vacation.  The James is half as long as the George.  Both great mystery narratives.

My other recent reading I cheat a little by even mentioning, since it is a book called 100 Crooked Little Crime Stories three or four of which I have yet to read.  This is a good book for mystery-lovers who are visiting you, because the stories are mostly very very short.  Not nano-story short, but definitely minis.

The quality and type of story here varies widely, but almost all are quite competent.  And if they are not, what's to worry?  It is still a better way to spend your time than watching the four or five advertisements it takes to read one!

One caveat - it's another fat book made only for strong hands.  Oh - and you might not want to give it for bedside reading to a guest who has paranoid leanings!

April 18, 2011

Hilda Demuth Lutze has written another children's book, this one about Martin Luther.

It was good - for kids.

At least that's what I thought at first, and still do, basically.

But it has pretty stereotypical characters, and the more I thought about it the more I wondered how good that is for kids.

It's the question that doesn't seem age-old at all, but is.  How much illusion is good for a child?

In Luther's time children were not really considered children at all - just small adults.  Illusion was not fostered in them.

Nowadays we recognize that children are very different from adults, but what does that mean for us assigned to the task of preparing them for the world?

It would have been interesting if Demuth-Lutze had Luther deal with the character of "bearing false witness" since Luther, in the time she dealt with, certainly lived a lie.

In our society children are often given the positive, constructive views of our historical icons without a clue as to the more unsavory sides of their characters, thus making our further education one long process of disillusionment as well as (sometimes) more inspiration.

In the Kingdom of the Birds The narrating character, a boy, makes a decision at the end of the book that I think his father might not - but no, I don't want to ruin it for you!  Just in case you want to find out a little more about Martin Luther's life - or about what your kids might be reading.

Martin Luther's life was obviously keenly interesting - maybe interesting enough for an adult to read a balanced biography of the man!

April 7, 2011

The cover of a book somehow spoke to me from the used book sale.

Since the title, Winter-Sleeping Wildlife promised to tell me more of something I have been wanting to know, I brought it home.

It was only after I was in the middle of it did I realize it used to be in the library of my grade school!  While I was there!

It is kind of amazing to know that it might have been on display as a new book then, fifty years ago.

The book has an endearing illustration of a little curled up chipmunk on the cover, drawn by Carl Burger.

The author, Will Barker, has done a good job of introducing the whole range of creatures who hibernate, estivate or merely sleep a lot in North America in the winter.

The language, written for beginners in natural studies and children, is only occasionally confusing.

For anyone who already knows a lot or wants a very statistical approach, this book will be too simple and perhaps to outdated to be scientifically reliable.  But I, who know a little, still enjoyed the many unusual details of these animals' lives and habits.

I was an avid reader of fiction when I was in sixth grade, so I probably passed this little gem by.  I'm glad I got a second chance to read it!

  

April 2, 2011

After a while of reading Family Honor by Robert Parker (a Sunny Randall book) I realized I read it years ago, but since I didn't remember much I read it again.

Well, Parker certainly is (now was, alas - we lost him last year) for human and dog liberation!  A lot of it is right on, and it is a good story, but it sure doesn't say much for being a woman detective without strong male friends and connections both in the underworld and law-enforcement world.

It is soooo didactic!  Worth reading, though, and this time I won't forget I read it already.  Unless I get Alzheimers or ischemic strokes like my dad.

I wonder if Robert Parker has much audience among the young.  Sometimes I hope he does, and other times - well.  They could do worse when it comes to values.

March 28, 2011

My first intro to T. Jefferson Parker - The Fallen.

This is a good one.  The protagonist is not hard-boiled but this is no cosy, either.

How can you not like a mystery that introduces you to synesthesia?  (Well, yeah, I had vaguely heard of some such thing, but now I am inspired to learn more about it.)

I'm wondering if this author has different people as the main detective in his various novels, or if I will get to have again the supreme comfort of having a questioner who can tell if the folks he is interviewing are - but no, you must read this book!  (That is, if you read this sort of fiction at all.  Or fiction at all.)

I can't tell you a thing more about it - that would ruin it for you!

March 27, 2011

Got introduced to a new mystery writer with The Death Contingency by Nancy Lynn Jarvis.  This is available in Large Print which is great for bad eyes or low-light conditions.

This is fun because it is written from the point of view of a real estate agent, so you can have an easy intro to some of their concerns.  Ha, that is a pun, too.  You hear real estate stories here from different points of view.

As a mystery, it is cool.  It's kind of a cosy but has a few too many shades of gray in it to leave the black-and-white crowd completely comfortable.

Even the ending is - but I won't say more.  Wouldn't want to ruin it for you!

March 25, 2011

Ever since I read that multi-millionaire Hetty Green, raised a Quaker, was responsible for her son losing a leg because she was too cheap to take him to a doctor, I have been curious about her.

Hetty by Charles Slack is a book to satisfy a lot of that curiosity.

The truth about that particular tale of parental neglect is, as usual, more complicated than the blurb I read to the point of making the blurb a lie.

This biography, though, is more than sympathetic and generous enough towards this weird character who is more full of contradictions than Scrooge McDuck.

The biographer calls her attempting to get free medical care by appearing in old clothing "unattractive."  I call it fraudulent.

If you are interested in color, this book is full of it:  local color, dramatic colors, drab colors, and the color of money.

March 24, 2011

Picture This is a kind of odd little book both psychological and artistic.

Molly Bang has a lot of fun with shapes and colors.  Playing with pieces of construction paper can be surprisingly emotion-arousing, evidently.  She introduces us to all sorts of concepts about relative size, shape and color with a medium accessible to all.

Well, almost all.  I would probably be sitting down trying these techniques with my mother right now, but I'm afraid she doesn't have the manual dexterity to try this without frustration.

It would have been fun to do this with my kids.

Have I sat down and played with paper myself as a result of reading this book?

Not yet - but I admit maybe I should!

March 21, 2011

Whew!  I'm behind on my book commentary, and not because I haven't read any good ones.

A Shooting Star, by Wallace Stegner, is the first work of his I have read written in modern (well, fifty years ago it was set contemporaneously!) times.

His heroine reminds me a little of one of F. Scott Fitzgerald's - she is a rich girl whose money cannot compensate for her early losses.  Well, hell, at least she had some compensation!

At this decade I would be inclined to wonder if the heroine has bor - but no, I wouldn't want to ruin it for you!

This is kind of a coming-of-age story at the age when so many of us really begin to grow up - middle age.

Writing well as always, Stegner succeeds in creating a whole Southern California milieu, and only once in my reading did he completely tip over into severe melodrama that made me go "Whaaa?"  For those less likely to overdramatise their lives than I, this book might just seem intentionally written for the movies.

Well, maybe it was.  What do I know?

March 5, 2011

Picked up a book with a kind of torchy and misleading title at the Book Sale Room a couple of weeks ago - I Married My Mother-in-Law.

It is a collection of essays by several writers edited by Ilena Silverman.

I cannot understand why I have never heard about this book!

Maybe the subject is just too touchy, but of course my present obsession with my partner's predicament, living with me under the same roof as my mother, made it too attractive to resist.

These are great relations.  The story-telling, not the people the stories are about!  (Well, that is not entirely true.  Some of the parents-in-law were wonderful - true companions and an inspiration to their relatives.)

The book is funny, shocking, touching and sometimes heart-wrenching.

Everyone who has ever had in-laws or contemplated marrying someone who wasn't an orphan should read it.

Or since they have parents, in the spirit of empathy with their partners, they should read it.

Hard to believe it won't hit a nerve somewhere!

And once you've read it, read about the authors.  That list may hold another surprise or two!

February 26, 2011

The average American supposedly only reads about three books a year.

If that is your average, be sure that The Zookeeper's Wife is one of them.

In fact, it is Valparaiso Public Library's next Brown Bagger Book Club choice (it will be discussed at noon on the second Tuesday in March (the 8th) so read it quick and join us!

If you are too far away, start a book club in your own local library and have an awesome first book to start with.

It is subtitled A War Story, but the war doesn't suppress all the interest and joy in the lives of this animal-obsessed family.  I learned new grim unbelievably horrible facts about the Nazis, but the courage and life force of these people and the animals around them does a great deal to leaven the work.

The rest is the magic wrought by Diane Ackerman, a literary journalist who enriches every paragraph with background facts and/or lively writing.

Got a pile of must-read books?  Save yourself from possible mediocrity and read The Zookeeper's Wife!  Put it on the top of the pile!

(Among other more important things, this book taught me to appreciate starlings, a major feat!  I heard a strange little "ponk" outside this morning while I was sweeping snow, followed by a series of little notes and songs that were quite charming.

First time a starling ever gave me a concert like that, and probably the first time I would have hung around to listen to it.)

February 15, 2011

Time for another escapist break with Jane Haddam!  (I thought.)

Well, it was escapist.  Cheating at Solitaire is a different world entirely - a world in which people have an intellectual discussion about Andrew Marvell while fighting through a blizzard on their way to possibly rescue someone involved in an accident.  Has this author ever walked in a real blizzard in her life?  It takes all your concentration to get to your destination, and if you don't want your teeth to freeze you keep your mouth shut!

It goes on from there.  I usually like this author, but this time she really hit so very hard.  The blows didn't hit me - er, most of them - but I don't see why someone who is so anti- social snobbery has to be such a literary snob.

And we all have our areas we know a little something about.  My dad was a harpsichordist who informed us that Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier was originally written for the clavichord, not the harpischord.

If you won't look down on me because I probably didn't get all Yeat's references in the one poem I've read I won't look down on you because you didn't know that thing about Bach.

No wonder Demarkian is so confused.  People's social niceties are so highly developed it is a wonder that we all don't know by now that murder is a crime!  Aargh!  Trope is trop!

Anyway, this book will give you something to think about.  Hopefully not starlets.

The whole world is only high school if you let it be. 

February 11, 2011  

At the last Valparaiso Friends of the Library big blow-out sale at the end of January, I saw two books that caught my eye.  Usually I only give the main title of books I write about here, but since it was partly the subtitles that grabbed me, I will tell all.

The first is Elder Rage - or - Take My Father...Please!:  How to Survive Caring For Aging Parents by Jacqueline Marcell (my copy is autographed, too, if anyone wants to pay me big bucks to buy it!)

The second is Caregiving:  How to Care for your Elderly Mother and Stay Sane by E. Jane Mall.

The catchy words in these titles, as anyone who has cared for an elderly parent knows, are "stay sane" and "survive."

Neither of these books is really meant for me.  The latter is a book by a mother, receiving some caregiving from her daughter, addressing members of the sandwich generation.  I really don't think it is for the caregivee to tell us caregivers how to stay sane - especially if one who rags on her daughter about the order in which she removes food from her plate at mealtimes.  (Literally!)  My partner said that is the point at which he would have put the book down.  I didn't, and of course I learned something.  I think.

The former book is about a father's rage.  My Dad was sweet as pie most of the time between my arrival at home and his death three months later.  (Any connection there?  Do ya think?)  My mother is not prone to rages for the most part, but the doctor's chapter at the end mentions verbal aggression.  Maybe that is why I related to the title - or maybe it was because it promised humor.

God knows we caregivers need humor!

Elder Rage is a great book to read so that you can feel lucky about your own relatively benign problems when it comes to caregiving.

It was about three or four times too long, though.  Marcell admits this towards the end.  With her book as a guideline, your sufferings will not have to equal hers.  Mine wouldn't have, simply because I don't have the energy to deal with all she frustration and crap she faced and coped with.

Everyone should read this book just to convince them that this society is still incredibly sexist, if they don't already know.

As I recall both books quote a grandmother as saying the same thing about teenagers and the old that I found wonderful   Am I going to tell it to you?  Hell, no!  Read the books!

Both books also use the word "ombudsman."  A helpful word to know, perhaps.  Am I going to tell it to you?  Hell, no!  Read the books!

Both books highly recommend not being upset by lack of siblings' involvement or help, for your own sake.  They also recommend telling people who are not the primary caregiver (you) to bug off if they try to preach or tell you what to do.  In the Caregiving book, she says how you arrange your lives is between you and your mom.  Okay by me!

If you only have time for one book, pick the one that fits your condition more.  If you like more humor and can't stand Bible-quoting, pick up Elder Rage.  If I keep one, that will be it.  It contains a wealth of hard medical and legal information you may need someday.

Do pick up one of them, though, or another possibly even better more recent book.  My only regret is that I didn't read something like this when I first came here six years ago.

Oh, and Jacqueline?  It is "Let it be...let it be... let it be..."  But your probably know that by now!

February 3, 2011                              Valparaiso, IN

For a view of sexism in academia, read Honest Doubt by Amanda Cross, who under her real name was a professor in an ivy league university.  What the hell - it is a good murder mystery, too with a refreshing (but easily discouraged) P.I.

M.C. Beaton's A Highland Christmas, by contrast with Amanda Cross's determined cynicism, is cosy and warm and doesn't even have a murder in it.  Also refreshing!

Murther and Walking Spirits by Robertson Davies reminds me of why I like (no, love!) Robertson Davies!  Maybe his Canadian birth set him up for feeling second rate all his life (I'm reading a big fat biography of him right now, so maybe I'll find out that this is not so) but I think he is first rate!  I'm delighted that he was so terribly prolific because I will be able to return to him for a long long time.

I wish this book had been double-spaced or something at the end.  It is a very clever ending, but it is too easy to just rush through it at a pace that really renders it too insignificant.

Insignificant it is not, but I had to go back and reread it to get the best out of it.

I do love Robertson Davies!  He is definitely a "friend of the maximum!"  Worldy-wise and spirit-wise also.

January 25, 2011                               Valparaiso, IN

Over my vacation, I read Knit, Purl, Die by Anne Canadeo.  When I returned I found it in some stuff and thought I finished it.  Oh, what do you know, I already did.

Memorable.  Probably the best thing about it is the title, but go and read it if you like cosies.  It's okay, if you can stand the proximity of knitting and food and drink throughout the book.  It makes me nervous.  These things really do not mix well in my life.  Maybe I'm just messier than most.

One cut above Knit, Purl, Die might be The Betrayers  by Bill Pronzini which is about as barren as the former is fuzzy.  I just could not engage with the characters enough to care about these interwoven (same detective agency) tales on one theme.  The Nameless Detective intrigued me, but he ended up having a first name.  Gee, I wonder what the last one is supposed to be?  I might have enjoyed these more if I knew San Francisco better.

The only one I really enjoyed was Robert Parker's Painted Ladies.  It is classic Spencer, but what happened to Susan Silverman?  When did she get so insecure and needy?  Well, not all the time, but still.  This is one with enough interest to keep you reading.

The others?  Oh, read them while you're knitting. 

January 20, 2011

As I get older, I think maybe I have seen it all or heard it all, but of course someone can always still shock me.

This book, The Help, shocks me.  For one thing, growing up middle-class in the North insulated me from the social phenomenon that is the full-time maid - housekeeper - nanny caregiver.

I really did not realize what a soft life these southern belles lived.  I contributed much more to the family chores as a child than these women did as adults, seemingly!  Not hard because as far as I can tell they did nothing but shop for clothes and interact with their kids a little.

Occasionally when my children were small I would hire someone to help me with the cleaning every week for a month or two.  They usually told me when they were ready to do something else (although one pair of cleaners told me they were going to go back to school the same week I was going to tell them not to bother coming back.  Amazing what cooked rice dried onto a kitchen floor will do to inspire a person's ambitions!  (All except mine, it seems.))

But enough about me.  I had NO IDEA that this kind of extreme segregation was still (or rather, ever - whole libraries available to whites only ??!??) going on into the sixties.  To tell the truth, I still have trouble believing it.

It is hard to comprehend the ignorance and stupidity of people who allow those of a different race to care for the most intimite details of their children's care, yet think that a separate bathroom is necessary.  And that is to give these whites the benefit of sincerity, which may be overdoing it.

On the other hand, it is not only the whites who break the social contract.  There are people on both sides of the racial divide in this book that I wouldn't have for friends.

The book, a Valparaiso Book Club choice, was one I was tepid about reading, but it sucked me in almost as much as Larsson's books did.  Once I got into it, I didn't want to put it down.

I also liked Kathryn Stockett's reason for writing it.  Reminds me of how I feel about some long-gone underappreciated teachers!

Last night I stayed up past eleven to finish The Help.  For me, an ungodly hour!

January 16, 2011

Sorrowfully, I have finished Stieg Larsson's trilogy about Lisbeth Salander.  It is the kind of reading that causes great internal conflict, because although you want it to last forever, you can't stand to put it down to prolong the experience.  Dang!

For anyone who likes mystery/thriller/journalistic investigation of the fiction variety this is the biggest blessing to come along in years.

Oh, well.  The day I finished The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest we got the movie The Girl Who Played with Fire from Netflicks.

At least I have one more movie to look forward to!

This third volume got kind of intricate in describing the Swedish secret police, but it was interesting anyway, and any fears that that section would lose me (as I got lost in the sewers of Paris in Les Miserable) got swept away in the ensuing action.

Whew!  My favorites in quite a while, this trilogy!

P.S.  On a more serious note, these works make you aware of something that was really close to the author's heart, and should be close to the hearts of all women.  I think, far from being too graphic in the abuse of women, they make me realize how common and everyday such abuse really is.  If you have never experienced any abuse, it doesn't mean others have not!  How can any description of torture be "too graphic" if it is just a verbal depiction of what actually happens?

I'm not saying to wallow in the misfortunes of others in all your daily thoughts.  But please don't shut out these books because they deal with real problems in the world.  Hell, pretty much anything worth reading deals with problems of one sort or another.  We really are a "nation of wusses" if we can't even read about what other people have had to live through!

December 6, 2010

The Ballad of Frankie Silver by Sharyn McCrumb is hardly what you could call escape reading, touching as it does on some dismal history.

Still, it is interesting, and shows that what we consider part of our American rights did not really exist from the beginning of the Republic.  Since McCrumb was dealing with reality in one of the cases, I trust that she gave accurate reporting of the rights of prisoners in North Carolina in the 1830's.

If you don't want to read some boring polemic against the death penalty, read this book.

All the arguments may not be here, but some compelling ones are.

December 1, 2010

The Black Cat by Martha Grimes seems more whimsy than mystery.  Or more mystery than necessity!

Well, I enjoyed it, but not as much as The Black Cat enjoyed its big fat red herring!

November 19, 2010

Another Elizabeth George book came out recently.  Luckily I didn't see it until the reserve list was depleted.

Careless in Red is a great title and the book is great, too.  It is a Lynley mystery and set in England, so I kept getting fooled into thinking George is English, but she lives in Washington State.

It's a long novel, with lots of characters and complexity, but it doesn't have the focus (in a negative way) and frustration levels of some of her other work.

I liked it a lot.  But haven't any of these small-town people heard of psychotherapy?  It seems that even in backwaters the citizens would have some idea of treatment for familial dysfunction.

Oh, well.  Maybe the assumption is that people don't want to admit they need help, and that, more often than not, seems to be the truth.

Anyway - lots of perspective on surfing and surfing lore that respects the sport and lets us get a glimpse, at least, into its complexity.

Interesting take on sexual matters, too.  At least George knows about psychology, even if her characters seem to be either completely conscious of their motives, or completely clueless!

November 7, 2010

Egad!  Another book for my required reading list!  This is the kind of book I joined the book club for:  Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder is brilliant.

Fascinating stuff, and a real inspirational experience for anyone who wants to learn about how nonprofits can make it in the real world, and how one person (or better yet, in this case a few really energetic people) can be effective at all different levels of power and all around the world.

Of course Paul Farmer is practically a saint.  Hell, I think Tracy Kidder is practically a saint for letting himself in for the roller coaster rides involved in being cotraveller with Farmer.

Practically as readable as a novel if you don't read the notes (I didn't - they are in the back of the book) and a good introduction to the world that was Haiti.  (This book was published in 2003;  more disasters and scourges have happened since.)

How can one book encompass all the different experiences this book does?  Well, one clue is that it is literary journalism.  The other is that it is about Paul Farmer, of whom I had never heard before I read Mountains Beyond Mountains.

Farmer is brilliant, too.

I'm surprised we haven't seen the cosmic light of his energy making a glow in our southern skies!

October 27, 2010

Practically flew through U is for Undertow, until I was 2/3 of the way through.

Boy, this time Sue Grafton pushed just about every button I possess!

So hard is she on the hippies (she portrays an extreme case, I'll admit) that you can't help but wonder if she has some personal issues and/or experience with them (us - my generation.)

I always thought that Grafton was younger than I, and this book made me look more closely at her.  The issues she covers in U is for Undertow are almost too relevant to my history and personal life.  Maybe, I thought, she was injured in some ways by the hippy generation.

So I look at Grafton's website, and lo and behold, she is seventy years old!

Very modern and liberated in some ways, but coming of age in the fifties marks you for life, I guess!

Oh well, I love her series, in spite of her and Kinsey's spite (which she actually seems to be getting over in U.)

Grafton tells several stories in this one, all of them interesting.

Too bad her version of karma is sure different than my reading would be.  I'm kind of surprised that she didn't find a way to hold that little girl - oops!  Mustn't say too much!

Maybe Millhone's often overly hostile way of looking at the world is rubbing off on me!

October 24, 2010

Finished Red Threads by Rex Stout and was astounded to learn that Inspector Cramer - but no, I don't want to ruin it for you!

Obviously an early work and much more fanciful and silly than Stout's usual, this work was still great middle-of-the-night reading on my new Kindle.  I kind of like reading early works by my favorite authors - it really lets you see where they started and how they evolved.

Maybe some day you, too, can hope to be published.  The only trouble is, it is much harder to break into publishing than it used to be.  (Or has all that changed now with self-publication and Internet sales?)

Red Thread quotes some Native American ("Indian" in the book - I'm hearing that the term "Indian" is okay with Native Americans now?) poetry, rather awkwardly citing the translators.  That verbal aspect of Native American culture has certainly been downplayed in recent decades.  I kind of like that I can look up those translators' names any time I want in my Kindle!

No way Kindle can replace used books for me because of the price factor, but with this little elegant little case to hold it I couldn't be happier.

No matter how large the tome, it will be manageable while lying down!   

October 23, 2010

I guess it's school time again because I actually picked up a non-escapist nonfiction book - William Cronon's wonderful Changes in the Land.

How anybody could be more holistic and interdisciplinary in his approach to that over-revered and little -known or -understood time in the history of this continent, I don't know.

Ever wonder why there are so many Ye Olde Mills around that are no longer running?  Their disuse began long before the introduction of electricity!

Ever wonder why European peoples pushed Westward even as early as the seventeenth century?

Ever wonder why Lewis and Clark were so astounded by the amount of game they encountered on their great journey that started in St. Louis, Missouri?

Well, if you read this book, you'll realize why you should have.

When I was a teen-ager, I was astounded that a family friend expected me to feel cultural guilt for the Holocaust that happened before I was born.  I didn't.  It happened in the Old World before I was born, and had nothing to do with me.

In spite of the fact that Cronon has been about as fair-minded and even-handed as anyone could possibly be, for the first time in my life I experience cultural guilt.

I have the life I have now because my forefathers participated in what happened here over two hundred years ago.

Of course, in a sense the Native Americans weren't the only ones who were innocents, and they weren't the only ones who were guilty.

But ecologically, their way of life made way more sense.

Read all about it in Cronon's easy to read, SHORT book.  But watch out!  It may change your understanding of what, exactly, "our" America is based on and the value of what it has become!

Another one to put on my required reading list!

October 16, 2010

Delighted to see another Sara Paretsky novel.  Is it my imagination, or is there a surge of production from writers who have been producing a novel less frequently lately?  I like to think that maybe this is the case, and maybe the failure of the stock market has driven people to write who otherwise might not have.

If so, all the better for our enjoyment, although I see Paretsky has written another novel recently I have not read.  More to look forward to!

Hardball is right up there with Paretsky's best, although Warshawski is beyond belief.  Well, that's okay!  We women love a manly heroine.

Her character, in addition to being brave, is well-nigh saintly (in my opinion - V.I. herself is always guilt-ridden!) in relation to her younger cousin.  The introduction of this character makes me think we may have a team to look forward to.

Or not.  The cousin has a definite boundary problem, and V.I. has definite boundaries.

This has got to be partly inspired by Chicago's  expose(accent over the e)s of cop brutality in recent years!  Paretsky has never been one to wear rose-colored glasses, however, when it comes to the Chicago police.

An engrossing read.

October 10, 2010

Read The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman for another book club meeting.  This is a book for young'uns which I spent the first 88 pages considering putting down.

The only thing that kept me going was the realization that maybe I might have a grandchild some day, or have to spend some time with a very young person who actually reads (they do exist, I'm told, because of Harry Potter.)

It is a testament to how not important I feel I am that I finished this book.  Oh - that and the fact that around page 129 or so I finally started to get into it.  So.  I read it through.  Okay literature for children if you think it is time to start introducing them at an early age to moral ambivalence.  I certainly am not enough of a child psychologist to pronounce judgment on that matter!

It is kind of fun to watch Neiman integrating werewolves and others into a world that incorporates more nightstalkers than just themselves.

I just tore through (for me, that is the appropriate word.  Others might make it an evening's reading) Crossfire by Dick and Felix Francis.  It certainly manages to produce the turns and twists we are used to expecting from a Dick Francis novel.

The two of them together make a good thriller.  The hero in this one has done deeds and has an attitude toward violence unlike any other Dick Francis hero I have read, but in the end, behaves pretty much - ooops!  Don't want to ruin it for you!

Here's to you, Felix!  We will certainly feel the loss of your father, but you are making a great start in filling his shoes.

We hope you enjoy your writing, and we hope you can keep them coming!

October 6, 2010

The Girl Who Played with Fire (by Stieg Larsson) has grown up, and this second volume of Larsson's trilogy, while describing an entirely different underworld than the first (which was really more of a classic missing persons/murder mystery) has many of the same characters.

It is incredible to me that Larsson, under death threat himself, managed to write these books about the abuse of women.

Sure, it's fiction, and sure it's not!

The stress of living in hiding all the time surely killed Larsson, and his descriptions of Salander's attempts to keep hidden (except when she chooses to step into the light) are heartfelt.

Clever, clever writing - and escape only into a world worse than the one you normally occupy - I hope, for your sake!

September 28, 2010

I've been thinking that escapist literature is nothing to be ashamed of.  That is the reading I turn to when my personal life becomes more difficult and stressful, and it sure beats taking a gun and shooting at people.

Sizzling Sixteen is just another of Evanovitch's laugh-a-page productions.  Ho-hum.  It was only about three weeks since I was number 18 on the reserve list, and I ripped through it in a couple of days (for some people that would be hours.)

Been trying to analyze what is so likeable about these books, and I've decided it is the remarkable lack of self-righteousness and blame in the characters.  Downright refreshing, it is.

This one has Plum, Ranger, Morelli, Lula, Hobbits and more.  One unfortunate turn is Plum's lover-in-absentia ex machina - no, I wouldn't want to ruin it for you!  Just don't get too hung up on sexual mores, Stephanie!  We want a Plum, not a prune!

September 24, 2010

I continue with my escapist reading, just having finished A Dilly of a Death by Susan Wittig Albert.

As much a compendium of dill lore and dill jokes as a murder mystery, I am tempted to add more dill to my diet - internally rather than externally!

Readers, beware!  When you get done with this light-hearted cucumber cozy, you will be thoroughly pickled in dill.

No matter, though.  I've read others of Albert's China mysteries, and there are plenty of antidotes.

September 22, 2010

Good grief, The Outsiders was our Valparaiso Book Club Book and yet again we had a book for the very young.  About high school, by a sixteen-year-old Hinton, it was a best-seller, had a movie made from it, and still sells.

Having said that, I kind of had to discipline myself to read it.  An intellectual challenge it is not.  Have you ever heard the opera Mozart wrote when he was eleven?  It's kind of like that - this is a book best read by preteens.  Could be a cautionary tale.

And after all, it didn't predate West Side Story.

But hey, I wish I had written a best-seller when I was sixteen!  (I think.)

September 16, 2010

I hadn't picked up a Jane Haddam Gregor Demarkian book for a long time, partly because of meagre library resources and partly because I couldn't remember which ones I had read and which ones I had not.  As I have said many times, this is my lousy memory and no fault of the author.

I enjoyed Wanting Sheila Dead very much.  Gregor Kevorkian may not be in the best psychological health, but Haddam obviously is!  Not only is it a clever double mystery with at least one of them a completely new way of killing someone that I have never heard of before (and devilishly ambiguous!) but it is a clever book in general.

It dishes up entertainment for both the very old and the very young, and I'm going back to the library to see if there is another novel by Jane Haddam available that I haven't read yet!.

September 9, 2010

The Danger is fascinating.  I'm afraid that this was my second reading, but since I read so much Dick Francis fifteen and twenty years ago, I am in as much suspense as ever I was.

Someone said to me that some of his early ones are some of his best, and the last I mentioned (last month or thereabouts) and this one have me thinking maybe they are right.

The action in The Danger takes place in three countries and two continents.  More than that I cannot say, except it will educate you as well as entertain!

This is not your classic murder mystery.

September 7, 2010

Maybe it was the vacation, maybe it was the end of summer, but my appetite for escape literature is unrelieved by any sort of intellectualism or boredom with made up people.

Diane Mott Davidson's Sweet Revenge strikes me as familiar, but maybe it is just because Goldy is.  I've read at least one of her books before and, as I recall, ranted at her snobbishness a little.

Can't tell from the search engines, though, but I will try again soon.  Anyway.  This is a fun mystery.  I think Davidson is pretty good at being lively and creating interesting characters.  Goldy is ridiculous, though, in her penchant for courting disaster, and any real person with such impulses wouldn't survive to age four, let alone forty.

And I guess Davidson's philosophy is, if you can write forty pages, it might as well be four hundred.

Honestly!  Just because your readers want to wile away their time doesn't mean we want to wile away that much while!

I am always astounded at how short many of an earlier generation of awesome mystery writers kept their books.

Why can't this current group of writers emulate them?  Just 'cuz I indulge in an occasional cozy doesn't mean I want it so overstuffed I can't find the teapot!

Cut cut cut cut cut!

September 1, 2010

Ragtime in Simla!  What fun!  What local color!  What interesting lively characters like something out of Christie or Dickens or - no, I'm coming to close to mention of an author that one of the characters evokes.  Read it and see if you can guess who I'm referring to.

Barbara Cleverly is perhaps a little too clever here and there in this book, but it really is like a classic mystery novel in many ways.  Folks nostalgic for that form should enjoy it, though it is much more romantic and dramatic and complicated - one might almost say messy.

Is Ragtime in Simla ragtime?  It kind of reminds me of a work by Beethoven.  You think it is about to wind down, but then it winds up again and keeps going.  Who cares?  It's fun.

I love reading about characters drinking Assam tea, one of my favorite brews.

Set in 1919 and ensuing years, so addicts of up-to-date police procedurals will not willingly open this.

But if you want a taste of India and the cool of an important mountain city in the summer, I don't believe you will be disappointed.

It's part of an intended series featuring Detective Joe Sandilands, so it looks as if there is more to look forward to!

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