ATTENTION CHALLENGE PARTICIPANTS

2015 Editions of the Color Coded , Mount TBR and Vintage Mystery Bingo Challenges--as well as Read It Again, Sam (due to popular demand)-- have been posted. I am also introducing my newest brain-child: Super Book Password. Please check it out!

As in the past, I will post sidebar links for sign-up posts as well as review headquarters once the new year begins.


Some of Bev's Favorite Quotes...



Saturday, December 31, 2011

Last of the 2011 Challenges

Whew! I just made it under the wire for my last three challenges of 2011. With my last two books, I managed to read 220 books this year and that allowed me to complete both the Outdo Yourself and Goodreads Challenge goals. And...since my goal for the Get Read-y for 2012 Challenge was to read enough off the TBR stacks to meet those challenges I've completed that challenge as well. Woo Hoo! Here's the run-down of what I managed for each of these:


The reading list for the Goodreads Challenge (see side bar for my progress) and the Outdo Yourself Reading Challenge for 2011 sponsored by The Book Vixen were the same. Basically, I signed up to read more books than I finished in 2010. And I chose the

I'm on fire! --Read 16+ more books

level and wound up needing to read 220 or more books in 2011. I just made it....and if you want to see the complete list of books read, then go HERE.







In December, this challenge, hosted by Loving Books, focused on reducing the to-read books that you might have lying around, waiting for you to read them. The goal is to start 2012 with a small, manageable pile of books that will also allow you to be able to pick up new titles.

Here's my response at the time to that idea:
(Ha Ha Ha Ha!!!! Small! Manageable! Ha Ha Ha!!! Did you hear that maniacal laughter? That was me. Looking at my TBR stacks. Actually, just looking at my 2011 challenge books TBR stack. I'm *cough* *cough* supposed to read about *cough* 20 *cough* more books in ONE month if I'm going to meet the Outdo Yourself Challenge. Um, yeah. That's gonna happen.)

I actually DID manage to read enough books...some of them just came from different piles than anticipated, so I didn't list those books here. But I met the Outdo challenge, so mission accomplished.

December Reads from the TBR pile:
1. In the Teeth of the Evidence by Dorothy L Sayers (12/4/11)
2. The Habit of Widowhood by Robert Barnard (12/4/11)
3.
The Club Dumas by Arturo Pérez-Reverte (12/5/11)
4. Electric City by K. K. Beck (12/6/11)
5. More Holmes for the Holidays by Greenberg, Lellenberg, & Waugh, eds (12/7/11)
6. The Life & Adventures of Santa Claus by L. Frank Baum (12/10/11)
7. An Incomplete Revenge by Jacqueline Winspear (12/12/11)
8. A Christmas Guest by Anny Perry (12/13/11)
9. That Hideous Strength by C. S. Lewis (12/17/11)
10. The Praise Singer by Mary Renault (12/20/11)
11. Murder on Theatre Row by Michael Jahn (12/24/11)
12. C. B. Greenfield: A Little Madness by Lucille Kallen (12/26/11)
13. The Chinese Bell Murders by Robert Van Gulik (12/30/11)
14. Beware of Trains by Edmund Crispin (12/30/11)

And...being an overachiever...I also used the Van Gulik book to finish reading the complete alphabet in mystery authors for the A-Z Mystery Author Challenge. I had already met my goal (first third of the alphabet), but as a private challenge I wanted to see if I could do the whole thing. Done!

Oh...and seeing as I finished a grand total of 33 out of 36 challenges attempted (two are perpetual, so no fail there--only one was limited to 2011), that means that I have completed the Reading Challenge Addict Challenge level of 16+ as well!

Last Two Reviews of 2011


I've been reading like mad to try and meet my Outdo Yourself and Goodreads Challenge goal of 220 books in 2011. And, as of two minutes ago, I made it. Woo hoo! Happy Dance at Bev's place! Now, I have to drag myself out of my reading frenzy stupor and do at least a mini-review for the last two books of 2011.

First up: The Chinese Bell Murders by Robert Van Gulik. Not only did this help me meet the aforementioned goal, it also served as the letter "V" for the A-Z Mystery Authors Challenge and let me complete the mysterious alphabet.

This book, originally published in 1958, is actually set in the China of about the 17th century. Van Gulik was a Dutch diplomat and a well-known authority on Chinese history and culture. He drew his plots, settings, and character-development from Chinese literature--particularly the popular detective novels of the period. The story tells us of the adventures and rulings of Judge Dee in the early days overseeing the tribunal of Poo-yang. When he takes over the tribunal, he finds that there is one case which his predecessor has left him. It involves the brutal rape and murder of the daugh
ter of Butcher Hsai. Pure Jade was found in her room and her lover has been accused and all-but convicted by the previous judge. But when Judge Dee reads over the court records and examines the witnesses for himself, he feels that there is more to the story than meets the eye. While he and his assistants search for clues to the real murderer, he also finds himself faced with rumors that the monks who inhabit the Buddhist Temple of Boundless Mercy, run by an abbot by the name of "Spiritual Virtue," may not be as virtuous as they seem. Their temple appears to be far more prosperous than a Buddhist temple should be and there is doubt that the marvelous "cures" for barren women are really as other-worldy as reported. And finally, there is the case of the deranged elderly woman who has tried for years to get justice for wrongs done to her family by an influential man of business. Is there truth to her ravings or is she just truly insane?

I have to say that Van Gulik obviously know his stuff. He produces the China of the period with great detail and flair and I felt as though I were really in a tribunal of the time period. Full marks for historical detail and atmosphere. He also is very adept at writing in what purports to be the style of the period (and I can well believe it). However, I must also say that the style of the period is not to my liking. The assumptions of guilt and the phrasing of questions just don't sit will with me. I'm also not real keen on the whole "beat a confession out of the guilty party" thing. Judge Dee is an interesting character and I do like the way he reasons--and doesn't accept everything at face value, but I don't think this is a series that I could read a whole lot of. Two and a half stars (almost three).

Last book of 2011: Beware of Trains by Edmund Crispin. This is a collection of short stories--with all but two of the sixteen featuring that delightful Oxford don, Gervase Fen. It would be difficult to give you a run-down without spoiling the stories. Let me just say that they are almost all extraordinarily good. We have everything from the story of the missing train conductor to the affair of the disappearing car, black necktie and abortive theft. There's the ex-army man who takes pot-shots at Inspector Humbleby and the drowned man who lost everything but his boots and the locked room that wasn't. And more. And all of them told in the fabulously witty Crispin style. I'm so very glad that I chose it as my last read of 2011. Four stars.

And a favorite quote:

"Discretion," said Fen with great complacency, "is my middle name."
"I dare say. But very few people use their middle names." [Inspector Humbleby]
~from the short story "Within the Gates"

Secret Santa: 12 Days of Christmas

On the Sixth Day After Christmas my Secret Santa (Sheila) gave to me.....



The
Worst Best Christmas Pageant Ever....


False Mermaid! (by Erin Hart)


A reversible Christmas necklace...


The Man Who Knew Too Much...


The Distant Hours by Kate Morton...

And a lovely box of Chocolate Candy!


Friday, December 30, 2011

Secret Santa: 12 Days of Christmas

On the Fifth Day After Christmas my Secret Santa (Sheila) gave to me.....




False Mermaid! (by Erin Hart)


A reversible Christmas necklace...


The Man Who Knew Too Much...


The Distant Hours by Kate Morton...

And a lovely box of Chocolate Candy!


Another "Life in Books" for 2011

srvalli from Valli's Book Den stopped by my first listing and told me about this list that was found earlier this year over at Pop Culture Nerd. And for those who wish to take part, all you have to do is finish the sentences Pop Culture Nerd has come up with using the title of the books you have read this year. And I just had to do this one too....

Here is My life as a Book

One time at band/summer camp, I: did The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O'Farrell
Weekends at my house are: A Family Affair by Rex Stout
My neighbor is: The Man in the Brown Suit by Agatha Christie
My (ex) boss is:The Giant Rat of Sumatra by Richard L Boyer
My ex was: a Beast in View by Margaret Millar
My superhero secret identity is: The Last Defender of Camelot by Roger Zelazny
You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry because: I am the Lord of Misrule by Jaimy Gordon
I’d win a gold medal in:The Lost Art of Reading: Why Books Matter in a Distracted Time by David L. Ulin
I’d pay good money for: The Trail of the Red Diamonds by L. Ron Hubbard
If I were president, I would: do Something New by P. G. Wodehouse
When I don’t have good books, I: Panic in Box C by John Dickson Carr
Loud talkers at the movies should: take The Shortest Way to Hades by Sarah Caudwell


Thursday, December 29, 2011

Theme Thursday: Old


Hosted by Reading Between the Pages

Rules
*A theme will be posted each week on Thursday
*Select a conversation/snippet/sentence from your current book that features the theme
*Post it and don't forget to mention the author and title of the book
*Event is open for the whole week
*Link back to Reading Between the Pages


This week's theme is OLD (worn out, torn, past, etc).


Here's mine from The Chines Bell Murders by Robert Van Gulik (p. 76):

"May it please Your Honour to peruse these documents. Nowadays my old brain is so confused that I cannot think clearly for more than a few moments. I could never give you a consecutive account of the terrible wrong that myself and my family have suffered! Your Honour will find everything in those documents."

Leaning back in her chair she started weeping again.

Judge Dee ordered Sergeant Hoong to give her a cup of strong tea and then unwrapped the package. It contained a thick roll of documents, yellowed by age and long use.


My Life in Books 2011

I did this wrap-up post last year and decided that it was worth another go-round. If anybody knows of a different set of questions for 2011, I'd love to do that one too....

But here is my life in 2011, using the books I've read this year.


Describe myself:
The Girl in Blue by P. G. Wodehouse
How do I feel: All Booked Up by Terrie Curran
Describe where I currently live:
We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
If I could go anywhere, where I would go: (on a) Fantastic Voyage by Isaac Asimov
My favorite form of transportation:
Parnassus on Wheels by Christopher Morley
My best friend(s) is/are:
Third Girl by Agatha Christie and The Man on the Balcony by Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö
My friends and I are:
The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman and quite possibly Hot & Bothered by Jane Isenberg OR even Loose Cannons: Devastating Dish from the World's Wildest Women by Autumn Stephen
What's the weather like: March Violets by Philip Kerr
Favorite Time of Day:
Gaudy Night by Dorothy L Sayers
What is life to you:
A Question of Proof by Nicholas Blak
You fear: (the) Lair of the White Worm by Bram Stoker
What is the best advice you have to give: Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury
Thought for the day: How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe by Charles Yu
How I would like to die: Death in the Garden by Elizabeth Ironside
My soul's present condition: Queen of the Flowers by Kerry Greenwood

Loose Cannons: Review


Loose Cannons: Devastating Dish from the World's Wildest Women by Autumn Stephens is a book full of stinging one liners from some of history's most vocal women. The book showcases hundreds of quotes from actresses to spies, from Queens to psychiatrists. The collection has been compiled by the author of the bestselling Wild Women and every piquant morsel is a gem, from Virginia Woolf's "The older one grows, the more one likes indecency" to Elizabeth Taylor's "What do you expect me to do? Sleep alone?" Others include Mata Hari, Tallulah Bankhead, Catherine the Great, Oprah Winfrey, Ann Richards, and Josephine Baker. From Story Reformers to Hardcore Heroines, here are history's noisiest broads who won't be silenced!

If you're a little shy and can't take straight (and sometimes profane) language, then this collection is not for you. But the ladies are all on target and there's a lot of truth between the covers. A humorous, witty, and entertaining book with tidbits for just about everyone. I sat down and read it cover to cover in one night. Four Stars.

Booking Through Thursday: Favorites of 2011


Today's question:aA

Today's Question: What were your favorite books of 2011?

Unless something changes between now and midnight on Saturday-here are the best of the best for 2011.

I read a lot of good books this year...I don't quite have enough 5 star books for a full ten and I have more 4 1/2 star books than needed. So, I'm just going to give you all the 5 stars and all the 4 1/2 stars and go over the limit. Click titles for reviews. Here they are in order of appearance:

Five Star Books
1. Shroud of Darkness by E. C. R. Lorac
2. What Alice Knew: A Most Curious Tale of Henry James and Jack the Ripper by Paula Marantz Cohen
3. Howards End Is on the Landing by Susan Hill
4. That Day in September by Artie Van Why
5. Kathleen by Christopher Morley
6. Shatterday by Harlan Ellison


Four 1/2 Star Books
7. The Chinese Orange Mystery by Ellery Queen
8.
Time to Be in Earnest: a fragment of autobiography by P. D. James
9. Cordially Invited to Meet Death by Rex Stout
10. Out of the Silent Planet by C. S. Lewis
11. Death in the Garden by Elizabeth Ironside
12. The Last Defender of Camelot by Roger Zelazny
13. The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

14. The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O'Farrell
15. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
16. India Black & the Widow of Windsor by Carol K. Carr


Secret Santa: 12 Days of Christmas

On the Fourth Day After Christmas my Secret Santa* gave to me.....






A reversible Christmas necklace...


The Man Who Knew Too Much...


The Distant Hours by Kate Morton...

And a lovely box of Chocolate Candy!


*As you may recall my Secret Santa, Sheila, from The Broke & the Bookish's Christmas Gift Exchange, sent me a huge box full of goodies--with the stipulation that I be a good girl and open the gifts in order in the twelve days following Christmas. You don't know how hard it was for me to wait to open these! And now you all get to watch and see what kind of treasures I unwrap.


Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Vintage Mystery Challenge 2011: Last Call



Folks, we're heading into the last few days of 2011. Let's see where our challengers are and put out a last call for catching up. Look at the list below--if you've finished your challenge level and you're not on it, then shoot me an email at phryne1969 AT gmail DOT com with your list of books read so I can get you on the list and recognized. AND so I can hook you up with the prize list. Did you remember there were prizes? And, if you're on the list and I haven't hooked you up with a prize yet, be sure and email me about that too. Please give me your updates by January 3rd at the latest.

Including myself, there are 54 challengers who signed up and read at least one Vintage Mystery this year. And of those 54, twenty-six intrepid souls have completed their challenge level--and several like those mysteries so much they just kept on reading. Here are the winners so far...



Kerrie @ Mysteries in Paradise [Get a Clue]
Les @ Classic Mysteries [Take 'Em to Trial]
Becky @ Becky's Book Reviews [Golden Age Girls]
Yvette @ in so many words [Take 'Em to Trial]
Dorte @ DJ's Krimiblog [In a Murderous Mood]
Buffy @ Situations Where You May Need It [Take 'Em to Trial]
J. F. Norris @ Pretty Sinister Books [Take 'Em to Trial]
Ryan @ Wordsmithonia [Take 'Em to Trial]
Alison @ Piling on the Books [In a Murderous Mood]
Christina @ Christina Reads! [In a Murderous Mood]
Emma @ Scottish Girl in Zurich [Hot on the Trail]
Carol K Carr [Take 'Em to Trial]
Elena @ Roots of the Mountains [Take 'Em to Trial]
Rose City Reader [In a Murderous Mood]

Karyn @ A Penguin a Week [Hot on the Trail]
Jennifer [Taken 'Em to Trial]
Sherrie @ Just Books [In a Murderous Mood]
Cavershamragu @ Tipping My Fedora [Take 'Em to Trial]

Shirley @ My Bookshelf [In a Murderous Mood]
Gigi Ann @ My Reading Corner [In a Murderous Mood]
Connolly-Ahern @ Col Reads [Golden Age Girls]
neer @ hot cup of pleasure [In a Murderous Mood]
wuthering willow @ a paperback life [In a Murderous Mood]
Peggy @ Peggy Ann's Post [Capture the Criminal]
srivalli [Golden Age Girls]
Bev @ My Reader's Block (Host) [Take 'Em to Trial]

That's a grand total of 352 books among the winners (including books read over the challenge level)--with very few duplicates.

*New Winner 12/29/11
P Segal @ Femme Noir [Take 'Em to Trial] (16 more books--total of 368 books and 27 winners)

**New Winner 12/30/11
Karen @ How Mysterious [In a Murderous Mood] (4 more books--total of 372 books and 28 winners)

***New Winner 12/31/11
Landslide @ tantoslivrostaopoucotempo [In a Murderous Mood] (4 more books--total of 376 books and 29 winners)

****New Winner 1/1/12
JLS Hall @ A Little Reading (My Reading Challenges site) [In a Murderous Mood]
Jo @ Books to the Rescue [In a Murderous Mood]
(8 more books--total of 384 books and 31 winners)


Challenge: Throwing in the Towel


I'm afraid that the Books Won Challenge sponsored by So Many Precious Books, So Little Time is not going to get done. There's just no way on earth I'm going to be able to read 4 more of these things before the end of the year. Especially since I could not finish Perfect Reader by Maggie Pouncey. I declared myself for the Silver level (see below) but have barely scraped myself into the Honorable Mention. Mark this one down as the big FAIL.


Honorable Mention: Read 1-3 book you won.
Bronze: Read 4-6 books you won.
Silver: Read 7-9 Books you won.
Gold: Read 10 or more books you won.


I plan on going for the Silver Level (7-9 books won) and here are the intended reads and reviews:

1.
The Praise Singer by Mary Renault (12/20/11)
2.
Scorpions: The Battles & Triumphs of FDR's Great Supreme Court Justices by Noah Feldman (7/1/11)
3. The Outside Boy by Jeanine Cummins
4.
The Queen's Pawn by Christy English
5.
The Choice by Nicholas Sparks
6.
The Heart of a Woman by Maya Angelou
7.
Perfect Reader by Maggie Pouncey (Did Not Finish--just couldn't)
8.
Death of a Chimney Sweep by M. C. Beaton (6/28/11)


All I Got For Christmas Was....

In the weeks that led up to Christmas, Danya at A Tapestry of Words asked us each week to list items that were on our Christmas Wish Lists. I didn't keep up with that as well as I planned this year, but I am going to let you know what all I got from Santa (and his helpers) this year. Christmas won't be officially over at my house for another nine days--my blogworld Secret Santa sent me a "Twelve Days of Christmas" gift pack that I still have nine days worth of presents to open. But, I'm covering that with separate posts, so here's all my other Literary Christmas Loot for 2011.

1. Make Death Love Me by Ruth Rendell. My boss surprised me with a first edition, hard-back, dust-jacketed copy of this early book by Rendell
. Woo Hoo!

From Santa's Helper #1 (also known as the Hubby):
2. Murder Within Murder by Frances &
Richard Lockridge. A snazzy hardback copy of this vintage mystery. I love the imprint of the various weapons on the cover.



3. A Key to Death by the Lockridges. Two vintage mysteries by this awesome husband/wife writing team. (The hubby scored major points this yea
r!)



4. Words for Murder Perhaps by Edward Candy. An academic mystery! I love those.

5. Star Trek & Philosophy: The Wrath of Kant by Jason T Eberl & Kevin S Decker (eds). This, I think, is the only way to do philosophy--mixed with Star Trek.

6. The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz. A new Sherlock Holmes mystery (it's amazing how many stories have been "discovered" since Dr. Watson laid down his pen).

7. The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes. I love Barnes. Couldn't wait to get my hands on this one.

8. 11/22/63 by Stephen King. My first King novel ever. But who could resist a time-travel book to save JFK?

From Santa's Helpers #2 & #3 (Mom & Dad)
A five-book pack of Phryne Fisher novels by Kerry Greenwood! Love me some Phryne Fisher!
Urn Burial
Death at Victoria Dock

Raisins & Almonds

Away with the Fairies
Murder on a Midsummer Night

For a grand total of 13 books for Christmas! And...if that's not enough...my mother-in-law is currently in Florida visiting her sister. Who apparently lives in a town with an awesome used bookstore. And they went yesterday, armed with a partial list of my TBO Wishlist (To Be Owned). And Mom H is bringing me home 40-plus books. Yes. 40...plus. My Literary Christmas Cup runneth over.

Secret Santa: 12 Days of Christmas


On the Third Day After Christmas my Secret Santa* gave to me.....


The Man Who Knew Too Much...


The Distant Hours by Kate Morton

And a lovely box of Chocolate Candy!


*As you may recall my Secret Santa, Sheila, from The Broke & the Bookish's Christmas Gift Exchange, sent me a huge box full of goodies--with the stipulation that I be a good girl and open the gifts in order in the twelve days following Christmas. You don't know how hard it was for me to wait to open these! And now you all get to watch and see what kind of treasures I unwrap.


Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday: Best of 2011

Hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

Top Ten Tuesday is an original bookish meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Each week a new top ten topic is posted for followers to write about. This week we're listing our Top Ten Reads of 2011.

I read a lot of good books this year...I don't quite have enough 5 star books for a full ten and I have more 4 1/2 star books than needed. So, I'm just going to give you all the 5 stars and all the 4 1/2 stars and go over the limit. Click titles for reviews. Here they are in order of appearance:

Five Star Books
1. Shroud of Darkness by E. C. R. Lorac
2.
What Alice Knew: A Most Curious Tale of Henry James and Jack the Ripper by Paula Marantz Cohen
3.
Howards End Is on the Landing by Susan Hill
4. That Day in September by Artie Van Why
5. Kathleen by Christopher Morley
6. Shatterday by Harlan Ellison


Four 1/2 Star Books
7. The Chinese Orange Mystery by Ellery Queen
8.
Time to Be in Earnest: a fragment of autobiography by P. D. James
9. Cordially Invited to Meet Death by Rex Stout
10. Out of the Silent Planet by C. S. Lewis
11. Death in the Garden by Elizabeth Ironside
12. The Last Defender of Camelot by Roger Zelazny
13.
The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
14. The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O'Farrell
15. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
16. India Black & the Widow of Windsor by Carol K. Carr

Secret Santa: 12 Days of Christmas


On the Second Day After Christmas my Secret Santa* gave to me.....



...The Distant Hours by Kate Morton

And a lovely box of Chocolate Candy!


*As you may recall my Secret Santa, Sheila, from The Broke & the Bookish's Christmas Gift Exchange, sent me a huge box full of goodies--with the stipulation that I be a good girl and open the gifts in order in the twelve days following Christmas. You don't know how hard it was for me to wait to open these! And now you all get to watch and see what kind of treasures I unwrap.


Teaser Tuesdays

MizB of Should Be Reading hosts Teaser Tuesdays. Anyone can play along. Just do the following:

*Grab your current read.Link*Open to a random page.
*Share two "teaser" sentences from somewhere on that page.

*BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! You don't want to ruin the book for others.
*Share the title and author too, so other TT participants can add it to their TBR lists if they like your teaser.

Here's mine from The Chinese Bell Murders by Robert Van Gulik (p. 48):

Thus I must inform you that it may take some time before I can close this case. Let me assure you, however, that justice will be done and that the murder of your daughter Pure Jade will be avenged.

Monday, December 26, 2011

The Perfect Reader


Synopsis: At the news of her father’s death, Flora quits her big-city magazine job and returns to Darwin, the quaint New England town where she grew up, to retreat into the house he has left her, filled as it is with reminders of him. Even weightier is her appointment as her father’s literary executor. It seems he was secretly writing poems at the end of his life—love poems to a girlfriend Flora didn’t know he had. Flora soon discovers that this woman has her own claims on Lewis’s poetry and his memory, and in the righteousness of her loss and bafflement at her father’s secrets—his life so richly separate from her own in ways she never guessed—Flora is highly suspicious of her. Meanwhile, Flora is besieged by well-wishers and literary bloggers alike as she tries to figure out how to navigate it all: the fate of the poems, the girlfriend who wants a place in her life, her memories of her parents’ divorce, and her own uncertain future.


I'm putting this one back on the to-read shelf. Although I doubt I ever will. I expect this to be a permanent fixture on the Did Not Finish shelf. Flora is one of the least likeable main characters I've come across. She is a whiner and doesn't seem to have any redeeming qualities. I made it through my standard 100 pages and then skimmed through the rest of the book to see if she got more interesting or likeable...not that I could see. I really, quite honestly, don't care if she does and I'm missing it. I don't care if she reconciles herself to all the things she doesn't know about her father. I don't care if she "does right" by his literary estate and the poems he's left behind. Don't care.


C. B. Greenfield: A Little Madness Review


C. B. Greenfield: A Little Madness is Lucille Kallen's fifth and last mystery novel. I've read the previous three...and have yet to find her debut novel. I'd still like to do that--even though this latest outing was a bit of a let-down. I thoroughly enjoyed The Tanglewood Murder; No Lady in the House; and The Piano Bird and fully expected to enjoy A Little Madness as well. Unfortunately, this tale of murder at a nuclear arms protest leaves a lot to be desired.

First up--the story line. Spring has come to New England, bringing warmer weather and spring romance in the form of visiting a British violinist who seems to be playing a siren song that has crusty C. B. Greenfield smiling (smiling??) and hanging on every note. Maggie, his sleuthing assistant and star reporter, runs away from the nauseating sight to join an upstate women's peace camp--all set to protest the storage of cruise missiles at a local military base. But it seems she can not escape love's sweet dream...for Penelope Heath-Morecomb (Britain's finest) turns up at the camp as one of its leaders. Also making an appearance in town is a well-known right-wing activist who is vowing to shut down the peace protest with a demonstration of her own. Tensions rise....until the right-winger (author of such fine books as
Why God Gave Us Bombs) disappears mysteriously before making her final appearance as a corpse in a stream. Maggie becomes convinced that H-M is behind the evil doings and Greenfield arrives on the scene to help her find out if she's right.

So...why was this such a disappointment? A. The story line. Why the heck is Maggie so unreasonably jealous of H-M? She meets the woman once, sees Greenfield entranced by her musical talents, and suddenly becomes convinced that she (Maggie) is being shouldered aside as Greenfield's side-kick, confidante, what-have-you. Seriously? And then, supposing one buys that little tidbit, what in our previous outings makes us willing to further suspend our disbelief and think that she would immediately run off to join a peace camp? Nothing. Kallen could have sold that little trip better if she had Maggie heading up there to cover the story as a reporter.
That would have been believable. B. The murder. How about--since we've embroiled Maggie in a peace demonstration--we actually make the murder relevant to that story line? Or rather (since it is sortof related) more relevant. D. The narrative. Just did not flow like the previous novels. It felt choppy and erratic--just like Maggie's behavior. D. The culprit. Kind of pathetic. Really. Can't give a lot of details here or it'd spoil it for you--supposing you still want to try this one out.

My suggestion? Skip this one and go for one of the previous novels. 'Cuz the three I've read are actually pretty darn good. Two stars--just.

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is a bookish meme hosted by Book Journey. It's where we gather to share what we have read this past week and what we plan to read this week. It's a great way to network with other bloggers, see some wonderful blogs, and put new titles on your reading list. So hop on over via the link above and join in...and leave a comment here so I can check out what you are reading

Books Read (click on titles for review):
The Praise Singer by Mary Renault
Corduroy Lost & Found by Don Freeman
The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats
The Three Snow Bears by Jan Brett
The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter
The Spy-Catcher Gang by John Kelly
Goodnight iPad by Ann Droid
Murder on Theatre Row by Michael Jahn
The Hat by Jan Brett

Currently Reading:
C, B. Greenfield: A Little Madness by Lucille Kallent: Spring is here...and C.B. Greenfield, publisher of the Sloan's Ford Reporter, is making beautiful music with a redheaded violinist. Their duet sounds a sour not with Greenfield's top reporter, Maggie Rome, and she cuts out for upstate to join a women's peace organization that has set up camp to protest the storing of nuclear missiles at a local military base. But surprise! The beautiful, redheaded violinist is a leader of this very group. And surprise again-Maggie finds the great Greenfield staying at the local hotel, allegedly on an unheard-of week-long vacation. Only when the leader of a pro-nuke counterprotest group disappears do Greenfield and Maggie heal their breach, and Maggie once again plays Watson to Greenfield's Sherlock-to solve a mystery with unsettling overtones for them both.


Books that spark my interest:
Lucky Jim by Kinglsey Ami
Perfect Reader by Maggie Pouncey
The Queen's Pawn by Christy English
The Heart of a Woman by Maya Angelou
(all for challenges)

Secret Santa: 12 Days of Christmas


On the First Day After Christmas my Secret Santa* gave to me.....



A lovely box of Chocolate Candy!


*As you may recall my Secret Santa, Sheila, from The Broke & the Bookish's Christmas Gift Exchange, sent me a huge box full of goodies--with the stipulation that I be a good girl and open the gifts in order in the twelve days following Christmas. You don't know how hard it was for me to wait to open these! And now you all get to watch and see what kind of treasures I unwrap.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Murder on Theatre Row: Review


Murder of all sorts is going on in this mystery by Michael Jahn. From murderous ghosts with crossbows to the murderous assault on Casablanca (how could anyone even think of turning that classic into a musical?), newly-minted Captain Bill Donovan has his hands full on the Great White Way. It all starts with the death of an Asian man in the basement of the old Knickerbocker Theater. While Donovan is still trying to decide if the strange bruising on the man's body is relevant to his death, more deaths follow. One of the musicals stars is shot with a crossbow in the middle of a preview performance. One of the construction workers is also killed. Has the ghost of Milo the Magnificent, long dead and buried in the basement, come back to take revenge on those who have disturbed his rest? Donovan believes there is a much more mortal hand behind the current Broadway killing spree. He will have to give a brilliant performance of his own on New Year's Eve to catch his killer.

Murder on Theatre Row
is a very decent mystery. It's the first novel that I've read by Jahn and I really like his main character, Bill Donovan. Donovan is a specialist on bizarre crimes--particularly those with odd weapons--so the killer with the crossbow is right up his alley. He is also a very straight-talking, widely read man who makes the reader believe that he really might know something about everything. Good supporting characters in his sergeant and his long-time girlfriend. I also like how he pays good deeds forward. After being helped out of alcoholism himself, he in turn helps one of the suspects conquer his own personal demons. Good solid outing. Three stars.

Saturday Snapshot: Merry Christmas

Saturday Snapshot is a meme hosted by Alyce at At Home with Books. All you have to do is "post a photo that you (or a friend or family member) have taken and then leave a direct link to your post in the Mr. Linky on [her] blog. Photos can be old or new, and be of anything as long as they are clean and appropriate for all eyes to see. How much detail you give is up to you." All she asks is that you don't just post random photos that you find online. (Click picture for close-up).


Merry Christmas....from my son (in 2003) and his friend, Riley.


And Even More We Give Books


I'm in the Christmas spirit and just wanting to give books to kids (and enjoy a little light reading in these hectic days before Christmas). So...I've read another book and donated to We Give Books. This time it's The Spy-Catcher Gang a historical graphic novel by John Kelly which works as a great way to tell kids about World War II. It focuses on Tucker, a London boy who is living through the Blitz and who stumbles across a suitcase that seems to belong to a spy. Kelly uses the story to drop in all kinds of background information about the War--in a nice and low-key way.

And...I've added Goodnight iPad by Ann Droid (hee!)--a parody of the children's classic Goodnight Moon. And, oh my, yes!
Goodnight gadgets--one and all. This is definitely a tale for the modern age. The light of all those glowing screens--from tvs to computer to Kindles and iPads--is definitely enough to block out the moon. Let's say goodnight and turn off the glow (and the modems and electronics that go beep in the night...).

Added on Christmas Day: The Hat by Jan Brett. This is another beautifully illustrated story by Jan Brett. Hedgie the hedgehog manages to get himself stuck in a woolen sock blown from a wash line. The other animals make fun of his new hat....but then they wind up wanting one of their own. A very cute story.


52 Books in 52 Weeks Challenge

This is all Cheryl's fault. You know Cheryl? She's one of the enablers...er, co-hosts of The Reading Challenge Addict Challenge. And she just dangled this one in front of me. And I couldn't resist. Of course, I'm already committed to reading over 100 books in 2012, so making it to 52 will be no problem at all.

Here's the scoop:


Hosted by Robin from My Two Blessings

About 52 Books Level: Easy and Casual

Are you ready for another round of Reading 52 books in 52 Weeks? Whether you are just joining in or continuing on for another round, the rules are very simple. The goal is to read one book (at least) a week for 52 weeks. Make the year easy and casual or kick it up by exploring new to you authors and genres. Challenge yourself to read at least one classic a month or delve into that chunkster (more than 600 pages) you always wanted to tackle. The goal is to read 52 books. How you get there is up to you.

I have several mini challenges to make it fun:

12 in 2012: Read 12 books in 12 different categories

A to Z challenge: Read books alphabetically by title and/or author.

Jane Austen: Read all things Jane Austen

Mind Voyages: Explore the Hugo and Nebula winners, take side trips through the different decades reading the nominees.

Well Educated Mind: Explore the classics in five categories: Fiction, Autobiography, History/Politics, Drama and Poetry.

The mini challenges and weekly challenges are optional, Mix it up anyway you like.
  1. The challenge will run from January 1, 2012 through December 31, 2012.
  2. Our book weeks begin on Sunday.
  3. Participants may join at any time.
  4. All books are acceptable except children books.
  5. All forms of books are acceptable including e-books, audio books, etc.
  6. Re-reads are acceptable as long as they are read after January 1, 2012.
  7. Books may overlap other challenges.
  8. Create an entry post linking to this blog.
  9. Sign up with Mr. Linky in the "I'm participating post" below this post.
  10. You don't have a blog to participate. Post your weekly book in the comments section of each weekly post.
  11. Mr. Linky will be added to the bottom of the weekly post for you to link to reviews of your most current reads.

Here's my list of books read:
1. Murder Has It's Points by Richard & Frances Lockridge (1/2/12)
2. Prayers to Broken Stones by Dan Simmons (1/14/12)
3. Unseen Academicals by Terry Pratchett (1/19/12)
4. Future Crime by Cynthia Mason & Charles Ardrai, eds (1/23/12)
5. The Black Seven by Carol Kendall (1/29/12)
6. The Red Lamp by Mary Roberts Rinehart (2/7/12)
7. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne (2/14/12)
9. The Yellow Room by Mary Roberts Rinehart (2/27/12)
10. Champagne for One by Rex Stout (3/5/12)
12. The Mystery of the Yellow Room by Gaston Leroux (3/19/12)
13. A Good Death by Elizabeth Ironside (3/28/12)
14. The Golden Scorpion by Sax Rohmer (4/2/12)
15. The Fire Engine That Disappeared by Maj Sjöwall, Per Wahlöö (4/9/12)
16. The War of the Worlds Murder by Max Allan Collins (4/19/12)
17. Dracula by Bram Stoker (4/25/12)
18. Death of a God by S. T. Haymon (5/1/12)
19. The Dead Witness: A Connoisseur's Collection of Victorian Detective Stories by Michael Sims (ed) (5/12/12)
20. The Man in Lower Ten by Mary Roberts Rinehart (5/15/12)
21. Garden of Malice by Susan Kenney (5/21/12)
22. King Solomon's Mines by H. Rider Haggard (5/29/12)
23. Pearls Before Swine by Margery Allingham (6/8/12)
24. Ahmed & the Oblivion Machines by Ray Bradbury (6/16/12)
25. O' Artful Death by Sarah Stewart Taylor (6/20/12)
26. The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare (6/30/12)
27. The 39 Steps by John Buchan (7/3/12)
28. File No. 113 by Emile Gaboriau (7/11/12)
29. North & South by Elizabeth Gaskell (7/18/12)
30. Z for Zachariah by Robert C. O'Brien (7/24/12)
31. Surprised by Joy by C. S. Lewis (7/31/12)
32. Mysterious Incidents at Lone Rock by Rajendra Pillai (8/6/12) 
33. Sense & Sensibility by Jane Austen (8/13/12) 
34. The Innocence of Father Brown by G. K. Chesteron (8/25/12)
35. The Fleet Street Murders by Charles Finch (9/1/12) 
36. The Edgar Winners: 33rd Annual Anthology of the Mystery Writers of America by Bill Pronzini, ed (9/5/12)

37. A Stranger in My Grave by Margaret Millar (9/10/12) 
38. The Case of the Blind Barber by John Dickson Carr (9/22/12)
39. Murder at the Library of Congress by Margaret Truman (9/24/12) 
40. Murder at the MLA by D J H Jones (10/3/12) 
41. A Sleeping Life by Ruth Rendell (10/8/12) 
42. A Question of Time by Helen McCloy (10/15/12) 
43. Murder Most Puzzling by Lillian S. Robinson (10/23/12) 
44. She Woke to Darkness by Brett Halliday (10/29/12) 
45. The Penguin Book of Victorian Women in Crime by Michael Sims, ed (11/5/12) 
46. The School of Night by Louis Bayard (11/12/12)
47. Death of an Old Girl by Elizabeth LeMarchand (11/21/12)
48. Catch as Catch Can by Frances & Richard Lockridge (11/26/12) 
49. Dancing with Death by Joan Coggin (12/5/12) 
50. The Three Evangelists by Fred Vargas (12/15/12) 
51. Plum Pudding Murder by Joanne Fluke (12/18/12) 
52. Nine Man's Murder by Eric Keith (12/21/12)