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69. The Princess and the Goblin (1872) George MacDonald
An eight year old princess and a young miner must find a way to save the kingdom from goblins...
I really liked MacDonald's style of writing. It's as if he is having a conversation with the reader, which wasn't something I would have thought writers would have done pre-20th century. MacDonald was a huge influence on C.S. Lewis, so I would recommend this for young readers and adults who love Narnia.

70. Green For Danger (1943) Christianna Brand
Set in a military hospital during the blitz; a patient dies on the operating table and a group of doctors and nurses fall under suspicion...
I figured out the killer's modus operandi, but the soap-opera of overlapping love triangles, jealousies, and secrets kept me distracted and second-guessing the killer's identity until the very last moment. The pieces are simple but Brand keeps shifting them like a kaleidoscope. I enjoyed all the characters' stories and their interactions. The WWII/blitz background gave it a tense atmosphere. I plan to read more Christianna Brand.

71. Rogue Male (1939) Geoffrey Household
A wealthy Englishman goes on a sporting-stalk to see if he can get an unnamed dictator (a thinly veiled reference to Hitler) within shooting range, but the hunter becomes the hunted...
Household painstakingly details every portion of the would-be assassin's flight and concealment. The story is a bit too drawn out in the last 1/3, but overall the atmosphere of tension is laid on so thick that you could cut it with a knife. I felt like I was right there with the narrator; both of us suffocating in a claustrophobic underground tunnel.

72. The Secret of Chimneys (1925) Agatha Christie (RE-READ)
A simple errand on behalf of a friend leads a man into the center of a murderous international conspiracy...
One of Christie's stories that is more adventure/suspense than mystery; although I enjoy seeing the characters that later appear in The Seven Dials Mystery, I don't like it near as much as most of her other stories. It's too convoluted and relies on one outlandish coincidence too many.

73. Towards Zero (1944) Agatha Christie
A failed suicide attempt, a school girl falsely accused of theft, a love triangle: just some of the unrelated puzzle pieces leading up to a murder...
Christie is pretty slick with the structure of this story. She spends more time than usual building up the setting and characters before the crime. And even though I could guess the killer and the method, I still couldn't get the real full picture until the very end. The motivation felt out of character in a way, but it's one I will definitely be re-reading because the inverted structure of the story was brilliantly laid out.

74. Paul Temple and the Margo Mystery (1986) Francis Durbridge
Novelist and sleuth Paul Temple investigates murder and drug smuggling...
75. Paul Temple and the Harkdale Robbery (1970) Francis Durbridge
After finding a dead bank robber in their own garage, the Temples begin a search for a criminal mastermind...
I'm a fan of Durbridge's work in radio and television serials, but I find his novels mediocre. One of the stories I was already familiar with in its (superior) radio-play form, and the other I kept imagining would be so much better as radio. I do think Durbridge was right to avoid describing Steve and Paul; between 30 years of radio serials and four movies everyone already has their own image of the Temples.

76. Strangers on a Train (1950) Patricia Highsmith
A sadistic psychopath shares his plan for the perfect murder with an architect he meets on a train...
It's less suspenseful than Hitchcock's film, but it's definitely darker and creepier. The book really gets inside the minds of the two lead characters. And for those familiar with the movie, the second half of the book is completely different. Very good, but I find the movie more satisfying.
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59. Entwined (2011) Heather Dixon
A retelling of The Twelve Dancing Princesses; confined to their castle while mourning their mother's death, Princess Azalea and her sisters join The Keeper in a nightly dance.
Delightfully written; I especially enjoyed all the onomatopoeia the author used in her descriptions, and that a good portion of the story focused on the relationship between the father and the daughters.

60. The Case of the Deadly Butter Chicken (2012) Tarquin Hall
Vish Puri investigates the death of a Pakistani cricketer's father, whose demise is linked to the mafia and the partition of India.
The sad and violent history between India and Pakistan is beautifully told. There was just the right balance between the serious facts and maintaining the humorous tone set in the earlier books in the series.

61. My Week With Marilyn (2001) Colin Clark
A young assistant on the set of The Prince and the Showgirl spends a memorable nine-days in close proximity to Marilyn Monroe.
I think Michelle Williams gave a charming and real performance as Marilyn in the film, but Clark's writing was rather flat.

62. Duty Free (2011) Moni Mohsin
A clueless self-centered Pakistani socialite plays matchmaker for her cousin.
Not an exact Jane Austen retelling as the blurb suggests. Apart from both being "clueless" matchmakers, the heroine bears a stronger resemblance to a meaner Lorelei Lee from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes than to Emma. She starts out unbearably irritating and self-centered, but later reveals more heart. And the endless malapropisms in the writing were funny.

63. Laura (1942) Vera Caspary
The life of a dead socialite captivates the policeman who is investigating her murder.
I've always liked the movie based on this story. So while there may not have been a surprise when it came the mystery twists, what I really enjoyed about the book was the use of alternating narrators. Caspary was able to give the characters unique voices.

64. The Wooden Overcoat (1951) Pamela Branch
Nothing goes as planned when a club for acquitted murderers and their bohemian neighbors try to dispose of a few dead bodies.
This is screwball comedy on paper; hilarious back and forth dialogues, some slapstick, and a bit of morbid humor. Anything that can go wrong, does go wrong, and I was in stitches.

65. A Dram Of Poison (1956) Charlotte Armstrong
A heartbroken husband's drastic decision puts the lives of innocent bystanders in peril.
There is an element of suspense, but it completely unconventional for a mystery-thriller. It's actually rather sweet and cozy.

66. The Turret Room (1965) Charlotte Armstrong
Confronting the powerful family that had him committed to a mental asylum under false charges, a young man discovers he has once again become the prime suspect for a violent crime.
There were some crazy twists in this and some even crazier characters.

67. The Hobbit (1937) J.R.R. Tolkien
Bilbo Baggins joins thirteen dwarves in a quest for treasure.
Loved this.

68. Murder Every Monday (1954) Pamela Branch
A London club for acquitted murderers relocates to the countryside and opens a school to teach the art of the perfect crime.
Didn't care for this one as much as I loved The Wooden Overcoat. There were some funny bits, but the pace didn't seem nearly as frantic or outrageous.
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51. Lock 14 (Le charretier de "La Providence") (1931) Georges Simenon
When canal workers stumble upon the body of a strangled woman, Maigret investigates life amongst the yachts and barges...
52. A Man's Head (La tête d'un homme) (1931) Georges Simenon
Maigret is not convinced that a man on death row is guilty, and instigates his escape, hoping the man will lead him to the real killer...
This series falls somewhere between a cozy Agatha Christie puzzle and hard-boiled noir. Our detective spends most of time seemingly wandering about, but just through simple observations is able to piece together the solution. They are not genius in the brain teasers department, but they were excellently written, suspenseful, and very atmospheric.

53. The Great Cake Mystery (Precious and the Puggies) (2010) Alexander McCall Smith
Before she founded the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, a young Precious Ramostwe solved her first case in her school classroom...
It's very short and written for young readers, but if you enjoy "The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency" series you might find it a pleasant once read. It's the same brand of humor and warmheartedness found in all Mma Ramotswe's stories.

54. A Red Herring Without Mustard (2011) Alan Bradley
Eleven-year-old sleuth Flavia de Luce uncovers a fresh slew of misdeeds involving a missing tot, a fortune-teller, and a corpse in her own backyard...
I loved the "voice" of Flavia (although I wish she didn't tamper with the crime scenes quite so much) since book one, but the mystery plots are getting more intricate with each installment.

55. Murder On The Ballarat Train (1991) Kerry Greenwood
Phryne pieces together the clues after a restful country sojourn turns into the stuff of nightmares: an amnesic young girl, rumors of white slavery and black magic, and the murder of an old woman...
I love the the glamorous flapper sleuth/adventurer image I have of Phryne, but so far this series has failed to wow me. They are alright, and I will more than likely be reading more. But of the two I've read so far, I start to get bored around the last 1/3 of the book.

56. Enthusiasm (2006) Polly Shulman
When hyper-enthusiast Ashleigh becomes obsessed with Pride and Prejudice she sweeps her best friend Julie up into her quest for Mr. Darcy. They start with crashing the dance at an all-boys' prep school...
If I had a time machine and gave this to a 10 to 15 years-younger-version of myself, it probably would have been one of my favorites. The two heroines and their friends have a lot fun. I enjoyed the humor, the classic literature references, and that they were involved in activities and had a life other than mooning over boys 24/7 (although there is still plenty of that, and plenty of sweet moments, too.)

57. The Butterfly Cabinet (2011) Bernie Mcgill
A Victorian lady is convicted of murder; 70 years later, a servant from the household tells her side of the story...
The 1890's household is well-detailed in snippets of flashbacks; back & forth between two distinctly-voiced women. One is in her 90's thinking back to her time as a servant. The other voice is the sometimes lyrical prison diary of the lady of the house. There is an eeriness that comes from the latter's matter-of-fact, prettily-told tale of child-abuse. However, it was neither scary, suspenseful, nor mysterious as the ominous cover hinted. Nicely written in places, wanders away from the main story a bit too much in the latter half, but overall it promised much more in the early chapters than it delivered with the very tame "twist" ending.

58. A Town Like Alice (1950) Nevil Shute
A young Englishwoman living in Malaya becomes a prisoner to the invading Japanese army. A few years after the war, an unexpected inheritance takes her back to Malaya, and to the Australian outback...
My second Nevil Shute book of the year; while On the Beach was more evenly paced, I preferred this story. The beginning is a bit slow, and the end drags on too long, but in between it is excellent. The prisoner of war scenes in Malaya are particularly powerful.

May Books

May. 31st, 2012 09:18 am
[identity profile] myrna-nora.livejournal.com
36. Children of the Storm (2003) Elizabeth Peters
The Great War is over, and three generations of the Emerson family are together for a season of excavation and intrigue in Egypt.
I like the characters, but I feel like everything has already been done in the mystery/adventure department. These are starting to feel like a chore to read. I think I need a long hiatus from Ameila's family in order appreciate them again.

37. The Shadows in the Streets (2010) Susan Hill
DI Serrailler is called in to investigate what seems to be a killer with a vendetta against prostitutes, but then the wife of the church dean goes missing. Are the cases connected?
The story has a wide variety of characters, and a foreboding atmosphere that makes every character introduced (no matter how unconnected they seem to be from the rest) have the potential to be the murderer or to be murdered. Although I guessed the killer early on, it didn't destroy the suspense as I waited for it to unravel. (strong language warning)

38. The Lantern (2011) Deborah Lawrenson
After a whirlwind romance, Eve moves to a crumbling French manor with secretive, charming Dom. In the not too distant past, the house's former owner Benedicte is haunted by ghosts and family secrets.
The contemporary portions are a rehash of Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca minus Mrs. Danvers; unless the interfering Sabine was supposed to be her stand-in, in which case she really needs to work on her menace techniques. The alternating chapters are Benedicte remembering growing up in the same house in the 30s and 40s, and were more original and interesting. However, it was the intoxicating descriptions of southern France that really drew me into the story.

39. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie (2009) Alan Bradley
Precocious eleven-year-old chemist Flavia de Luce discovers a dead man on her family's property and considers it the most interesting thing to ever happen to her.
When I was Flavia's age, I lived in Agatha Christie books, and imagined myself an amateur sleuth. Flavia's adventure is my most outrageous imaginings with the precocious and intrepid meters turned up to eleven. I loved the "voice" of Flavia, but there was bit too much repetition when she was going over the clues and conclusion.

40. The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag (2010) Alan Bradley
When puppeteer and children's entertainer Rupert Porson has an unfortunate rendezvous with electricity, Flavia de Luce is on the case.
The novelty of having an 11-year-old poison-expert as a heroine has ever so slightly worn off, but I actually preferred the plotting of this 2nd novel. The flavor was reminiscent of one of those delectable village soaps that Jane Marple was forever observing.
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28. Artists in Crime (1938) Ngaio Marsh
Chief Detective Inspector Roderick Alleyn falls in love with one of the suspects, when he investigates the murder of an artists' model.
A mystery from the golden era of crime fiction -in the "cozy" genre, but surprisingly gruesome. The mystery was alright, and I liked the characters (reminded me a bit of Lord Peter and Harriet Vane).

29. The Wheel Spins (The Lady Vanishes) (1936) Ethel Lina White
One of the Iris Carr's companions in coach, a sweet old woman, suddenly disappears on long train ride.
The book that inspired Alfred Hitchcock's film. While I prefer an un-abridged audiobook, the abridgements usually don't bother me. But with this one I kept feeling like I might just be missing the stuff that would make this go from good to great. I liked what I read, but I'll have to keep my eye out for the paperback to find out what I was missing.

30. Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet (2009) Jamie Ford
In the wake of the attacks on Pearl Harbor, young Chinese American Henry Lee forges a bond of friendship and love with Keiko Okabe, a classmate of Japanese descent.
I think the writing could have been polished a bit more, but it was a well told story. The love story portions were of the movie-of-the-week variety, but still more sweet than overly sappy. However, the historical parts focused on some local history that I have always found interesting and that really made the story. The setting was a location I was familiar with, and that made it even better.

31. The Golden One (2002) Elizabeth Peters
1917, archaeologist Amelia Peabody and her family must once again confront danger. But it is son Ramses who faces the most dire threat, answering a call that will carry him to the seaport of Gaza.
Once again I enjoyed reading about Amelia and her family.

32. The Big Sleep (1939) Raymond Chandler
A dying millionaire hires Philip Marlowe to handle the blackmailer of one of his two troublesome daughters.
I like the language, style, and atmosphere. And for about 1/3 of it I was really engrossed, and then I started getting bored of the convoluted plot. Loved the dialogues throughout, but I can only take so much of the same description over and over of Carmen sucking her thumb, while Marlowe wanders from shoot out to shoot out.

33. Inspector Ghote's First Case (2008) H.R.F. Keating
Newly-promoted Inspector Ghote investigates the suicide of a British memsahib.
This is a prequel to a series that I've never read before. I'm not exactly hooked, but I liked it enough that I might try another in the series.

34. Sparkling Cyanide (1945) Agatha Christie
Six people reunite to remember beautiful Rosemary Barton, who died nearly a year before. None of them can forget Rosemary, but did one of them murder her?
Ms. Christie rehashed the plot of one of her short stories into a full length novel; it is practically identical in places, but the solution does have a different twist. But having the space to flesh out the characters (chapters alternate between different viewpoints) really makes this one. All this time I hadn't bothered to read this one, because I thought I already knew it, and it turned out to be one of my favorite Christie's.

35. The Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy, and Hard Times (2002) Jennifer Worth
At the age of twenty-two, Jennifer Worth leaves her comfortable home to move into a convent and become a midwife in post war London's East End slums.
I adored the TV series, and the book is just as good. It had the power to make me laugh and reduce me to sobbing tears.
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7. Mildred Pierce (1941) James M. Cain
A woman opens her own restaurant in Depression-era California, and finds winning the affections of her arrogant daughter her most difficult task... I really enjoyed the Cain crime stories I read recently, and decided to try out some melodrama. His words are so evocative of the '30s &'40s I know from the black & white classics. I did enjoy the woman becomes self-reliant storyline, but there were so many times I wanted to grab her by the shoulders and shake some sense into her. Her horrid daughter Veda must be one of the snootiest, b****iest characters in book history!
8. Bellwether (1996) Connie Willis
A sociologist who studies fads and a chaos theorist are brought together by a misdelivered package... The start was slow and it did seem like some of the jokes were just recycled over again. But the ending wove the meandering plot threads together so beautifully and perfectly, that it charmed me.
9. Quiet as a Nun (1977) Antonia Fraser
TV reporter Jemima Shore investigates the death of a childhood school friend, a nun who seemingly starved herself to death in a locked tower... This probably could have been developed into a much longer novel, but it was a good quick mystery with an unsettling atmosphere. The only disappointment is the heroine is an adulterer, I hopes she dumps the pompous boyfriend by the next book.
10. Borrower of the Night (1973) Elizabeth Peters
Art historian Vicky Bliss is challenged to find a long missing masterwork hidden in a medieval German castle... It is an alright mystery/adventure, but it's hard not to compare it to her other works. I prefer Peters's Victorian heroine to this contemporary heroine.
11. Endless Night (1967) Agatha Christie
A newly-wed couple build their dream home on land that is said to be cursed... The plot recycles a couple patented Christie twists from 30-40 years earlier in her career, but there is something bizarre in the tone of the novel that makes it unique. The narrator is a working-class man and the story is a bit gothic romance, with the murder mystery in only the last 1/4 of the book. I knew the story from the film version, but that didn't stop me from being sad and creeped-out all over again.
12. Death Comes to Pemberley (2011) P.D. James
Six years after the marriage of Darcy and Elizabeth, Lydia Wickham arrives on their doorstep screaming that her husband has been murdered... Law & Order: Regency *DUM-DUM* The story, with its mystery twists and turns was good, but it lacked Austen's wit and charm. I was disappointed that the the only substantial conversation Darcy and Elizabeth share is when they are rehashing the events of P&P. If my expectations hadn't been high, I probably would have enjoyed this more.
13. Carry On, Jeeves (1925) P. G. Wodehouse
The inimitable valet, Jeeves disentangles the hapless Bertie Wooster from a series of misadventures... Fun and hilarious.
14. North from Rome (1958) Helen MacInnes
An American playwright is caught in a hazardous game of international intrigue, centering upon a narcotics ring and cold war politics.... The very beginning was intriguing, and then it sort of derailed into plot exposition for quite a few pages, but by the mid-point I was enjoying it again. It was overall mediocre, but it is a *type* of book I enjoy, so I'll probably be reading more from this author in the near future.
15. Lord of the Silent (2001) Elizabeth Peters
Egyptologist Amelia Peabody and her family return for another year of excavations... Another *excellent* entry in the series.
16. Fer-de-Lance (1934) Rex Stout
Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin investigate the murders of an immigrant and a college president... It brought back memories of the TV series I watched a decade ago. The mystery plot plays second fiddle to the entertaining dialogues and characters.
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1. The Falcon at the Portal (1999) Elizabeth Peters
Another good entry in the series. However, the ending is so frustrating that I had to dive right into the next book to see how it turned out.
2. He Shall Thunder in the Sky (2000) Elizabeth Peters
I knew some spoilers going into the series, but I didn't know *how* it would get there. This story contains some wonderful plot advancements for the Peabody-Emerson family AND a great WWI tale. This one along with the first two and the one where Emerson has amnesia are so far my favorites out of the whole series.
3. The World of Downton Abbey (2011) Jessica Fellowes
A nice refresher of history, and the photos are gorgeous!
4. Double Indemnity (1943) James M. Cain
I'm really into James M. Cain at the moment. His words are like watching the best film noir ever. Another story of a man helping his femme fatale girlfriend plot murder, but with a different twist on the ending than the movie version.
5. They Do It With Mirrors (1952) Agatha Christie
The "mystery" in this one isn't my favorite, but the family "soap opera" dynamic was interesting. With the central character married three times and with her biological-children, step-children, and adopted-children - I actually had to make myself a chart of who was related to who and how.
6. The Murder at the Vicarage (1930) Agatha Christie
I've seen the movie so many times that I tricked myself into believing I'd read this one before. I liked it more than I thought did, because the Vicar's narration made it stand out from the usual third person Miss Marple stories.
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36. The Snake, the Crocodile, and the Dog (1992) Elizabeth Peters
This one involved Amelia Peabody's husband receiving a blow to the head and having amnesia. That plot point is so ridiculous and stretched out, BUT still awesome. I just loved every moment of it.

37. Tiger's Quest (2011) Colleen Houck
The sequel to Tiger's Curse. On the plus side: the writing was less purple-y than the first one, and I do like the "adventure" part of the story, there is a creative blend of myth and religion from around the world. On the negative side: I just have never got attached to any of the characters as much as I should. On the slightly amusing side: she mentions Tillamook, my brain says, "cheese" and a sentence later the characters are at the cheese factory.

38. The Various Haunts of Men (2004) Susan Hill
I am more of a cozy-mystery person, but decided to give this a chance. It reminded of a British police procedural with a whole episode of background information tacked onto the front of it. It starts out slow and bit confusing, because it switches between many seemingly unrelated characters. After a while, the bigger picture became clear and then it was really engrossing and creepy. My only gripe is that it has the world's most infuriating ending. But even after that, I went back and immediately reread a good portion of it.

39. Ride the Jawbone (2010) Jim Moore
This was legal thriller set in turn of the century Montana. It was nice to have something lighter after the previous read. Although for a moment it did look like it was heading towards a TVHOM ending, which would have been the weirdest coincidence.

40. The Hippopotamus Pool (1996) Elizabeth Peters
Finally, I ended the month the same way I started it with another Amelia Peabody mystery.
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Almost no reading in June....
I found a delightfully illustrated biography for children: (20.) Just Being Audrey (2011) Margaret Cardillo and Julia Denos. I adored the pictures and read through the text a few times, wishing there was more to the slim volume. The book reminded me, Audrey had won a posthumous spoken-word Grammy for (21.) Audrey Hepburn's Enchanted Tales (1992) Adapted by Mary Sheldon. It's a very brief audiobook collection of fairy tales, but Audrey's gentle voice made it worth seeking out.

Tried a few chapters of Inspector Singh Investigates: A Most Peculiar Malaysian Murder (2009) Shamini Flint. It seemed okay, but I didn't feel like reading. Then I tried re-reading some books I knew I liked, but absolutely nothing caught my interest.

Then on the last day of June, I picked up (22.) Crocodile on the Sandbank (1975) Elizabeth Peters. I've passed the the Amelia Peabody mysteries on the shelves a million times and never gave them much thought. Then I decided on a whim to give it a try.... I immediately became addicted to her narrative style, the humor, the romance, and the Victorian adventure romps in Egypt.

Which is why July looked like this:
(23.) The Curse of the Pharaohs (1981) Elizabeth Peters
(24.) The Mummy Case (1985)
(25.) Lion in the Valley (1986)
(26.) The Deeds of the Disturber (1988)
(27.) The Last Camel Died at Noon (1991)
I need a break, because I'm burned out on these now.

(28.) Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (2007) J. K. Rowling.
I still haven't got a chance to see part 2 of Deathly Hallows, but it's been mentioned so many times I decided I needed a re-read.

(29.) King Solomon's Mines (1885) H. Rider Haggard.
Amelia Peabody mentions Mr. Rider Haggard's books so often, I decided to give it a try. I can really see how this inspired Peters's writings. The style is very similar, but it doesn't have any of Amelia's humor. It's mostly a boys-only adventure story, and the only character I found remotely interesting was the impossibly-ancient villainess... who I might have been secretly rooting for to crush all those boring, high-and-mighty Englishmen. *Insert nefarious laughter here.*

May Reads

Jun. 1st, 2011 09:54 pm
[identity profile] myrna-nora.livejournal.com
15. Millions Like Us: Women's Lives in War and Peace 1939-1949 (2011) Virginia Nicholson
I don't know if it's this author's style or what BBC does to it in the abridgement process... but I had a near identical experience with another BBC reading from this same author. I get a sense of the attitudes and events of the time, but I can not for the life of me keep track of any of the "characters."

16. Room (2010) Emma Donoghue
The author wrote the story from five-year old Jack's point of view. The kid has great math and reading skills for his age, but he speaks in almost "baby talk." The voice grated on my nerves for a while. (But at one point I caught myself internally-narrating my grocery shopping experience in the voice of a five year old. Very strange.) At least the voice helps to slightly veil the horrors of the story. But the author's (or Jack's) obsession with breast feeding (or "having some" as Jack says) was weird --yeah, I get it, but why are you mentioning it every other page!?
Basically, the first third of the story is getting into the five year's world, the middle third is quite suspenseful, but in the final third it just fizzles out.

17. Jane Eyre (1847) Charlotte Brontë
Re-read. Loved it and appreciated it even more than when I read it the first time in junior high.

18. Seance on a Wet Afternoon (1961) Mark McShane
A good suspenseful and eerie quick read.

19. The Light of Day (also published as: Topkapi) (1962) Eric Ambler
Just okay heist story, but I liked the voice of the narrator. He wasn't particularly likeable but he kept it interesting and colorful.
[identity profile] myrna-nora.livejournal.com
Only two books for April...

13. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1925) Anita Loos
Lorelei Lee of Little Rock, Arkansas, the not-so-dumb blonde, knows that diamonds are a girl's best friend. Here are her "diaries," as Lorelei and her friend Dorothy barrel across Europe meeting everyone from the Prince of Wales to "Doctor Froyd"--and then back home again to marry a Main Line millionaire and become a movie star.
The writing style made me go cross-eyed a few times. There's an awful lot of run-on-sentences, questionable grammar, and poor spelling. However, all of that serves to perfectly captures the voice of the diary writer: sweet and naive Lorelei Lee. And seeing the world through her eyes can be very funny.

14. The Tiger's Wife (2011) Téa Obreht
Natalia is on a mission of mercy to an orphanage when she receives word of her beloved grandfather’s death far from their home under circumstances shrouded in confusion. As Natalia struggles to understand why her grandfather, a deeply rational man, would go on such a farfetched journey, she stumbles across a clue that leads her to the extraordinary story of the tiger’s wife.
The flashbacks to the grandfather's portions of the story were more interesting than the modern bits with Natalia. His meetings with "the deathless man" were my favorite pieces. But that's my problem with this novel: I see it as pieces. I never felt like they interlocked into a "novel" as well as I would have liked. I think I short story collection from this author might have been more enjoyable.
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09. The Body on the Beach (2000) Simon Brett
Recent retiree Carole Seddon just wishes to live a quiet, sensible life with Gulliver, her Labrador Retriever. But when she discovers a dead body on the beach while walking the dog, her sensible life is suddenly quite complicated.

I just needed something to listen to and this popped up on Radio 7. When I looked it up on goodreads, I was surprised to see how recently it was written; for unknown reasons, I had imagined the whole thing taking place in the '70s. I know this is at least the second time I've "read"/listened to this --probably the third. I remembered it as it went along. By the time it is re-ran again, I will have forgotten it all. In fact, I have started forgetting it already. I like a good cozy mystery, but there isn't anything memorable about this one. (Now that I've written it down I might remember not to bother next time I see it on the radio schedule.)

10. The Popes (2011? and possibly aka Absolute Monarchs: A History of the Papacy) John Julius Norwich
Of the 280-odd holders of the supreme office, some have unques­tionably been saints; others have wallowed in unspeakable iniquity.

I listened to the author reading passages from this over a week on the BBC. I think I would call this more of a sampler than an abridgment. Because although, I've never seen the book I just imagine it to be a tome, but the reading was pretty narrowly focused on just a handful of popes. I learned some interesting facts.

11. Mary Poppins (1934) P. L. Travers
It all starts when Mary Poppins is blown by the east wind onto the doorstep of the Banks house. She becomes a most unusual nanny to Jane, Michael, and the twins. Who else but Mary Poppins can slide up banisters, pull an entire armchair out of an empty carpetbag, and make a dose of medicine taste like delicious lime-juice cordial?

This Mary is more stringent than Julie Andrews ever was. Definitely different and darker than the Disney musical --a elderly woman feeds her gingerbread fingers to small children, for one-- but still good in its own way. This would have probably freaked me out when I was younger, but I remember also liking being scared just a little bit, sometimes. There were some cute and heartfelt passages as well -like the chapter about the babies knowing the language of the wind blowing through the trees and the birds song.

12. Mathilda (1959) Mary Shelley
From her deathbed in an isolated country cottage, Mathilda, a young gentlewoman with a tragic past, sets out to tell her closest friend and the wider public the secret behind her long depression and self imposed seclusion...

Mary Shelley certainly writes well, but I think I'd call this interesting but not good. Incest is one of the themes, and the heroine spends a good deal of the book depressed, guilt-ridden, and obsessed with death.
[identity profile] myrna-nora.livejournal.com
I forgot to post January's books, so this is a double post of reading.

Read more... )
[identity profile] myrna-nora.livejournal.com
December: 5
2010: 59

Year's worth of books listed at my livejournal.

The Moonstone (1868) - Wilkie Collins
The light that streamed from it was like the harvest moon: the Moonstone, a yellow diamond of unearthly beauty originally stolen from a shrine in India and presented to Rachel Verinder on her birthday. On that same night, the diamond was stolen again.

I love Collins's The Woman in White, so this was a bit of a disappointment. I'm glad I've read it, but I probably wouldn't re-read. The characters and mystery are excellent. It's an easy read. However, it's just way too long, with quirky characters (the various narrators) going off on lengthy tangents and sharing a lot of details.

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (Chronicles of Narnia #3) (1952) - C. S. Lewis
(re-read) How King Caspian sailed through magic waters to the End of the World.

Just a quick re-read to prepare me for the movie. :D

A Thousand Splendid Suns (2007) - Khaled Hosseini
(re-read, abridged BBC radio reading) The tumultuous lives of two Afghan women intersect. Against a backdrop of three decades of unending war, Mariam and Laila become allies.

I think no matter how many times I re-read this it still has the power to shock and sadden me. The two lead characters get into my heart and I can't help but cry.

A Conspiracy of Friends (Corduroy Mansions #3) (2010) - Alexander McCall Smith
(serialized daily online) A look at the lives of people living in and around a Pimlico apartment building.

For me, sometimes the first chapters of AMcS seem like a chore, but then at the end I'm almost always glad I read it. With the previous volume, I would listen everyday or save up --at most-- one week's worth of episodes. This one was particularly difficult to get into. A week and a half in, I gave up completely. Then with only a couple of installments left, I tried again and whipped right through all the episodes in two days. A mostly good read, but my least favorite of the series so far.

The Tales of Beedle the Bard (2008) J. K. Rowling
Fairy tale-type stories from the world of Harry Potter, translated by Hermione, commentary by Albus Dumbledore.

I might have appreciated it more if there was more to it, but it was only five really short stories. It was good, but forgettable.
[identity profile] myrna-nora.livejournal.com
November: 3
2010: 54

Footsteps in the Dark (1932) - Georgette Heyer
When Peter, Margaret and Celia inherit a rambling old house from an uncle, they consider it to have a certain charm despite its ramshackle appearance and supposed ghosts. The things that go bump in the night take on a more sinister air when a murder is committed.
(Re-Read) I think dreary weather is making me restless. So, I decided to try something I already knew I liked. This mystery is fun, a little bit creepy, and has humor. It's a bit like "Scooby-Doo" meets a 1930's detective movie.

Catherine of Aragon: The Spanish Queen of Henry VIII (2010) - Giles Tremlett
(Abridged) A biography of Katherine (she always spelt it with a "K"). 85% of what I heard was general information I'd gleaned over the years from movies and friends who are fans of this time period. Although, I was listening to an abridged version, so that could account for the lack of new information. The writing style was nothing out the ordinary. I listened to it all the way through in one afternoon, so that could be a sign that is was at least semi-interesting, if not groundbreaking.

Crooked House (1949) - Agatha Christie
Aristide Leonides lies dead from barbiturate poisoning. Suspicion has already fallen on his widow, a cunning beauty fifty years his junior. But Charles Hayward is casting his own doubts on the innocence of the entire Leonides brood. He's certain that in this crooked house, no one's on the level.
Apparently, this was one of A.C.'s favorites amongst her own work. Not my favorite Christie, but it's good. The murders and attempted murders count seems higher than usual. The twisted ending was as a shocker when I first came across it in a radio drama version, and the book filled in a few missing plot details.
[identity profile] myrna-nora.livejournal.com
September: 6
2010: 47

The Case of the Missing Servant (2009) - Tarquin Hall
Vish Puri's agency is hired for two investigations. The first is into the background of a man surprisingly willing to wed a woman her father considers unmarriageable. The second is into the disappearance of a servant to a prominent Punjabi lawyer, a young woman known only as Mary. Meanwhile, Puri's mummy-ji takes up her own investigation when someone takes a shot at her son.

I really enjoyed the sequel to this, so I backtracked to find the first in the series. The mysteries are nicely and sometimes cleverly plotted. I also like the few Bollywood references thrown in. The author is able to capture the tone of their Indian English and idiosyncrasies. There is humor running throughout, but I never felt like he was making fun of the culture. I will be keeping an eye out for more from the case files of Vish Puri.

Mockingjay (2010) - Suzanne Collins
Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen has survived the Hunger Games twice. But now that she’s made it out of the bloody arena alive, she’s still not safe.

I zipped through audio book while at work, and had to listen to the last CD twice to make sure I hadn't missed anything. The first in the series is still the best, but she kept it a "page-turner" to the end. The whole Gale or Peeta issue was never an issue in my mind, I was in it for the crazy twists and adventure, so I wasn’t disappointed or thrilled by the conclusion to that element. I don't think Collins made the war as clear as the earlier "games." I couldn't grasp a mental picture of it as well as the first story. At times I was confused about where they were fighting, and when and why? Some of it wasn't clear and other parts were repetitive. I don't think enough time was given to some of the death scenes. The last third or more went by in a blur. But I liked it and I would recommend the whole trilogy.

On a side note: I always see this compared to the earlier Battle Royale, a Japanese novel/film/manga. Has anyone read or seen any of these?

Cotillion (1953) - Georgette Heyer
Wealthy and cantankerous Mr Penicuik will bestow his entire fortune on Kitty Charing if she will marry one of his great-nephews. With the beaux scrambling for her hand in marriage, Kitty devises her own scheme: a sham engagement.

I've always heard awesome things about this, but found it average --but for Heyer that still means pretty good. It's made up of an increasingly complicated tangle of marriage plots. It's fun and silly, but I wasn't in the mood for this type of book. It didn't help that when I was about half way through I peeked at the first few chapters of another one that looked more interesting. I half-heartedly hurried through most of it, but it does end with a most satisfying and delightful conclusion.

The Convenient Marriage (1934) - Georgette Heyer
The Winwoods are an aristocratic family of good pedigree but little fortune. Lizzie is torn between her love for a poor lieutenant and the Earl of Rule's marriage proposal that would save her family financially. Stepping into rescue her elder sister, Horatia offers her own proposal for the wealthy Earl.

I read a description of this, and wasn't sure I would like it, but the story enchanted me. Horatia gets into a foolish scrape, but she is so enduring and youthfully exuberant that I love her. I really liked the quick pace of this one, although one or two more scenes between the hero and heroine would have been appreciated. It's set in a time of powdered wigs, masked balls, abductions, and duels. Plus, it's humorous --the last third in particular has a nonsensical subplot involving Horatia's brother and friends.

Confessions of a Prairie Bitch (2010) - Alison Arngrim
The memoirs of the girl who played Nellie Oleson on the TV series Little House on the Prairie.

Arngrim has a great style of writing. Most of the book is hilarious with a combination of tongue-in-cheek and snarky attitude. She tells a lot of behind-the-scenes at LHOTP stories. I laughed out loud numerous times. But she also shares some heartbreaking tragedies in her life --abused by her brother as a child, for one. The last chapters are about how she turns her tragedies into motivation to help others. I really loved it. I could hardly put it down. (Warning: occasional strong language.)

The Phantom of the Opera (Le Fantôme de l'Opéra) (1910) - Gaston Leroux
The extraordinary legend that excited all of Parisian upper classes: the kidnapping of Christine Daae, the disappearance of the Vicomte de Chagny, and the death of his elder brother, Count Philippe, whose body was found on the banks of the lake in the lower cellars of the Paris Opera House.

This a good story, but I think knowing the musical spoiled it too much for me. It may be the translation, but I was a bit bored at places. I'm probably in trouble with a classic book fan somewhere, but oh well...


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