Saturday, December 3, 2016

2017 Sci-Fi Experience

Once again Carl V over at Stainless Droppings is starting his Sci-Fi Experience reading event in December & January.  So...I'm going to be looking over my TBR stacks and lining up some SF reads for the rest of this month and into the new year.  I'm going to take a wild guess and say that I'll finish at least five by January 31st. Since the event ends in January, this will count towards my 2017 Challenges.

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

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


Pick Your Genre Challenge

This challenge is about diving into specific genres/sub genres you love or just want to check out in 2017

You get to pick your genre. For example...
Sue might pick contemporary romance, Joan might pick urban fantasy, etc.
The book just needs to fit your chosen genre.
Any book over 80 pages
Any format is fine.
Re-reads count!
You pick the number of books above that you'd like to read. 12 book minimum.
I will be starting at 12 books (possibly leveling up later) in the Golden Vintage Mystery genre (pre-1960).


Friday, December 2, 2016

Monthly Keyword Reading Challenge

Claudia over at My Soul Called Life is hosting the 2017 Monthly Keyword Challenge. It begins on January 1, 2017 and runs through December 31, 2017. You can join at any time, the goal is to read a book with one of the keywords for the challenge. 

2017 Keywords 
JAN- Court, Fall, Of, Way, Deep, Thousand
FEB- And, Rose, Promise, Every, Deception, Blazing
MAR- Shall, Go, By, Silence, Her, Saga
APR- From, Trigger, Tale, His, CrownMist
MAY- Four, Wind, All, Fury, Days, Shade
JUN- Without, Know, Good, Watch, One, Have
JUL- Before, Final, All, Freedom, Life, Dream
AUG- Sun, Infinite, Big, My, Wherever, Most
SEP- Sand, From, Between, Ever, Reasons, Clash
OCT- Darker, You, Ashes, Out, House, Sea
NOV- Place, War, Heart, Why, Give, Meet
DEC- Forget, Twilight, Only, Crystal, On, Will

Books Read For the Challenge  
January - Death at Swaythling Court by J. J. Connington OR The Wrong Way Down by Elizabeth Daly OR Deep Lay the Dead by Frederick C. Davis
February - The Rose & the Yew Tree by Mary Westmacott (Agatha Christie) OR The Art of Deception by Elizabeth Ironside OR Deception Island by M. K. Lorens
March - Death Shall Overcome by Emma Lathen OR Silence Observed by Michael Innes
April - Murder by the Tale by Dell Shannon OR They Tell No Tales Manning Coles OR The House in the Mist by Anna Katharine Green
May - The Four Feathers by A. E. W. Mason OR Nineteen Seventy-Four by David Peace OR The Fourth Postman by Craig Rice
June - Deed Without a Name by Dorothy Bowers OR The Ship Without a Crew by Howard Pease
July - Depart This Life by E. X. Ferrars OR The Dream Master by Roger Zelazny
August - The Deadly Sunshade by Phoebe Atwood Taylor OR The Big Clock by Kenneth Fearing OR The Big Midget Murders by Craig Rice
September - The Sands of Windee by Arthur W. Upfield
October - Thank You, Mr. Moto by John P. Marquand OR You Can't Keep the Change by Peter Cheyney OR Golden Ashes by Freeman Wills Crofts
November - The Hiding Place by Carlton Keith OR Death of a Warrior Queen by S. T. Haymon OR Penelope Passes or Why Did She Die? by Joan Coggin
December -  Only the Good by Mary Collins OR Fire Will Freeze by Margaret Millar OR Dog Will Have His Day by Fred Vargas OR A Will to Kill by John Penn

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

It's time to put together my wrap-up post for October. I also have a contribution for Kerrie's Crime Fiction Pick of the Month. This year is rapidly heading to the finish line. Will I finish off the 20-ish more books needed to defeat all my reading challenges? We'll have to see. Meanwhile, here's what happened here on the Block last month.... 
Total Books Read: 10

Total Pages:  1,984 [thank goodness for the Jekyll book at 477 pages or this would have been a much lower number]
Average Rating: 3.42 stars
Top Rating: 5 stars 
Percentage by Female Authors: 40%
Percentage by US Authors: 60%
Percentage by non-US/non-British Authors:  0%
Percentage Mystery:  80%
Percentage Fiction: 190%
Percentage written 2000+: 10%
Percentage of Rereads: 20%
Percentage Read for Challenges: 100% {It's easy to have every book count for a challenge when you sign up for as many as I do.}  
Number of Challenges fulfilled so far: 23 (66%)

Well....took a bit of a hit in the reading pace this month--holiday season is upon us and it's cutting into my reading time. It still looks like I might just finish 160 books over all, but there are still way too many books that need reading for challenges and although, I've made my basic goal of Mt. Everest for the Mount TBR Challenge, I'm not sure I'm going to get to the top of Olympus as hoped. And now for the P.O.M. Award in Mysteries.

As mentioned above, Kerrie had us all set up for another year of Crime Fiction Favorites. What she was looking for is our Top Mystery Read for each month. Of the ten books read in November, eight were were mysteries (or near-cousins), one was a mystery-related non-fiction book, and one was a SF Choose Your Own Adventure. Here are the mystery-related books read:

Black Widower by Patricia Moyes (2.75 stars) 
The Life & Times of Miss Jane Marple by Anne Hart (4 stars)
The Body in the Library by Agatha Christie (4.5 stars) 
The Mystery of Chimney Rock by Edward Packard (5 stars) 
The Jekyll Revelation by Robert Massello (3 stars) 
The Dream-Detective by Sax Rohmer (3 stars) 
Beverly Gray's Mystery by Clair Blank 3.5 stars) 
Cocktails & the Killer by Peter Cheyney (2 stars) 
Do Not Murder Before Christmas by Jack Iams (4 stars)
And now it's time to look for our P.O.M. Award Winner. The only book to grab a five-star rating this month was The Mystery of Chimney Rock by Edward Packard. This Choose Your Own Adventure story was a favorite when I was young and upon re-reading it I could definitely still see the appeal. But I'm going to pass over it for the P.O.M. Next in line is Dame Agatha Christie's The Body in the Library, another favorite and another re-read. Dame Agatha has been honored with a P.O.M. before, so we're going to move on to the four-star winners. Only one of the two is a true mystery, so our November Pick of the Month is....

Iams is a brand-new author for me and I'm glad I have two more of his titles sitting on my TBR stacks. I plan to savor them. This is an extraordinarily fun American mystery from the 40s. I caught on quickly to the motive behind the murder and the culprit, but Iams does such a good job with his characters and the narration that it doesn't matter so much. This is a perfect mystery for the holiday season--set at the right time and a quick, fun read that fits nicely between all the seasonal activities--present-buying, card-writing, decorating, etc. Highly recommended for those looking for an interesting, light mystery for the holidays.


Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Do Not Murder Before Christmas: Review

In Do Not Murder Before Christmas (1949) by Jack Iams somebody doesn't heed that advice. Toymaker Piet Van Der Vant, known as Uncle Poot to children who have grown up in Shady Hollow's underprivileged neighborhood, is killed on Christmas Eve--apparently for the wads of cash he has trustingly kept stuffed in the drawers of his toy shop. Uncle Poot's toy shop is a favorite of all the kids--because his store is the first place their parents take them and because each year on Christmas Day he opens his shop for a Christmas party and lets the kids from the town's poorest families pick out any toy that is left in the shop after the Christmas buying rush.

Uncle Poot has a quaint ritual for the kids when they come to visit--they either sign their name in his registry books or leave some other mark if they can't write (fingerprints and sometimes even sweet little kiss marks from tiny lips). And upon each visit the kids make he records in those books whether the children have been good or not (for Santa). But when Uncle Poot is found dead in his shop late Christmas Eve, it becomes apparent that he must have known a little too much about somebody. There is a hint of a connection to a wealthy family, but these are the days where money could buy anything, including a quick hushing up of inconvenient stories...and, of course, it helps that a pipe with the fingerprints of a dim-witted young man is found to be the murder weapon. A quick, easy solution that will permanently hush up the wagging tongues.

Enter Stanley "Rocky" Rockwell, crusading newspaperman with a permanent grudge against the wealthy, but corrupt Malloys. Originally, sent to Shady Hollow to interview the new social worker at the Malloys' "generously" gifted community center--given to the poor section of town, he remembers stopping by to see Uncle Poot and the old toy maker's comments about a mysterious visitor to whom he may have said too much. Rocky starts digging and with the help of Lt. Bill Hammer, the only policeman who's not in the Malloys' pockets, he manages to find evidence that Loppy (the poor, dim-witted young man) has been framed. But with pressures on Hammer from above and a street brawl between Rocky and Marty Malloy threatens both Hammer's badge and Rocky's freedom. Will they be able to catch the real killer before Hammer is out of job and Rocky finds a temporary home in the local jail?

There is also a nice little love interest (and romantic triangle--Rocky-->Jane Hewes-->Marty) to distract our crusading hero and add a bit of suspense. At one point Jane disappears, apparently held captive. But it isn't Rocky who comes to her rescue--it's Debbie Mayfair, the society columnist (also known as Mrs. Pickett, 40-something and not nearly as staid as people might think). Mrs. Picket hides in a rumble seat and beards lions in the den of iniquity (a local hot-spot with nearly naked show girls) in order to rescue our damsel in distress. It's worth the price of admission just to hear Mrs. Pickett's story of her adventures.

Jack Iams is a brand-new author for me and I'm glad I have two more of his titles sitting on my TBR stacks. I plan to savor them. This is an extraordinarily fun American mystery from the 40s. I caught on quickly to the motive behind the murder and the culprit, but Iams does such a good job with his characters and the narration that it doesn't matter so much. This is a perfect mystery for the holiday season--set at the right time and a quick, fun read that fits nicely between all the seasonal activities--present-buying, card-writing, decorating, etc. Highly recommended for those looking for an interesting, light mystery for the holidays. ★★★★

This counts for the "Christmas Decoration" category on the Golden Vintage Scavenger Hunt card. The book has also been reviewed by Curtis over at The Passing Tramp. Stop by and take a look at what he has to say.

Wild Goose Chase Challenge

Bruce @ The Bookshelf Gargoyle (he of the "Title Fight Reading Challenge of 2016) is offering up another "wild and crazy" reading challenge for 2017. As he says: "If running around like a headless chook trying to find your next read isn’t really your style, then why not try the Wild Goose Chase Reading Challenge 2017? This is a category-based challenge and is designed to be fun, frivolous and filled with feathers. Well, maybe not that last one."

For full details and to sign up, click on the link above. Here are the basics:

* The Challenge will run from January 1st to December 31, 2017.
* Challengees must read at least one book from each category (listed below).  Challengees must read a DIFFERENT book for each category – even if your book title might fit a number of categories, it will only count towards a single category.  Challengees are free to choose which category best suits.

Here are the categories and my proposed titles. Will update with actual reads, review links, and dates finished as I go:

1. A book with a word of phrase relating to wildness in the title – any interpretation of the word “wild” is acceptable (eg: The Call of the Wild, Angry Aztecs, Crazy for You; An Untamed State)
A Wild Surge of Guilty Passion by Ron Hanson
2. A book with a species of bird (or the word “bird”) in the title: (eg: The Adventures of Robin Hood, The Thorn Birds, Turkey: A Modern History)
The Thursday Turkey Murders by Craig Rice OR The Penguin Pool Murders by Stuart Palmer
3. A book with an exotic or far-flung location in the title – fantasy and mythical locations are acceptable (eg: Paradise Lost, The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu, Atlantis Rising)
The Matter of Paradise by Meggs Brown OR The Hidden Planet: Science Fiction Adventures on Venus by Donald A Wollheim, ed. 

4.  A book with an object you might hunt for in the title (eg: Treasure Island, One for the Money, The History of Love, Dreams from my Father, A Monster Calls, All the Answers)
Zadok's Treasure by Margot Arnold OR Up the Ladder of Gold by E. Phillips Oppenheim OR The Golden Ball & Other Stories by Agatha Christie
5. A book with a synonym for chase in the title (or its derivatives: chasing, chased, etc) (eg: We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, The Girl Who Chased the Moon, Follow the River, Man’s Search for Meaning, The Night Stalker)
 In Search of the Great Dead by Richard Cecil OR Search for a Scientist by Charles Leonard OR The Father Hunt by Rex Stout

6.  A book with a means of transport in the title (eg: If I Built a CarWalk Two Moons, The Girl on the Train)
Death of a Train by Freeman Wills Crofts OR The Body Missed the Boat by Jack Iams OR The Ship Without a Crew by Howard Pease
7.  A book with an object you might take on a search or hunt in the title (eg: The Golden Compass, The Map to Everywhere, Water for Elephants, Team of Rivals )
The Quest of the Missing Map by Carolyn Keene OR Dread & Water by Douglas Clark OR Death in Shallow Water by Miles Burton

Cocktails & the Killer

Cocktails and the Killer (aka Ladies Won't Wait; 1951) by Peter Cheyney is purportedly (according to the back cover blurb) "an intoxicating trail of intrigue, murder and deadly romance through the bistros and boudoirs of the world's worst underground!" Michal Kells is a British secret agent hanging out in France and waiting for his next assignment when he comes across a beautiful woman--almost too beautiful to be true--who seems extraordinarily interested in him. Lucky fellow! When he finally has a chance to sidle up beside her, he's a bit surprised when she works the current code phrase into her conversation. "Ladies won't wait." They arrange a less public rendezvous, but Kells arrives to find his fellow agent dead. 

Following up what few leads he has, he discovers links to the disappearance of another agent, a possible German defector who has been working for the Russians, a highly-sought scientist, and a deadly female agent who will stop at nothing to get what the Russians want and keep the German with thoughts of the West where he belongs. Kells talks to everyone (and I do mean everyone) who might be able to assist him as he unravels the international threads. He will have to outwit the Russian lady if he's to keep the remaining players alive in this most dangerous of games.

This is a spy story that doesn't even come close to the thrills of James Bond. A LOT of talk--very little action. Kells is an agent who, quite frankly, doesn't seem to be trying to hide the fact that he's an espionage agent in Her Majesty's Secret Service. He tells at least three or four people over the course of the book what he does for a living. Shouldn't that be a bad thing? Of course, I suppose when you talk as much as Kells does in this book it isn't surprising that he spills this information. I was pretty under-whelmed by the whole thing and it should have been a dandy plot. By the time we get to the grand finale--explosion and all--it was hard to muster much enthusiasm. Especially when the big bang got so little air time. 

The odd thing is, Kells is an interesting character who is vastly under-used as an agent. The man should be having WAY more adventures with action in them. The various women that he interacts with are also interesting and could help make a great plot. If everybody would just shut up for a while and DO things instead of talking about things that have been done, are being done, or will be done.  ★★--all for characterization.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Tuesday Night Bloggers

This month at our Tuesday Night Bloggers meetings we will be examining mysteries within a historical context--either historical mysteries (written, say in 1930 but set in the Victorian period, for example) or which take place during or around a historical event or which address historical issues. The field is wide-open so if you have historical mysterious thoughts to share, please stop by for group discussion and I'll add your posts to the list. We tend to focus on the Golden Age of crime fiction--generally accepted as published between the World Wars, but everyone seems to have a slightly different definition and we're pretty flexible. Essays on more recent crime fiction are welcome as well.

This week's Historical Experts:

Brad @ Ah Sweet Mystery Blog: "Magpie Murders: The Silver Age & the Modern Era Collide"
Kate @ Cross Examining Crime: "Writing the 1930s"
JJ @ The Invisible Event: "Man & Superman: Refining the Protagonist in John Dickson Carr's Historical Mysteries"
The Puzzle Doctor @ In Search of the Classic Mystery Novel: "In Praise of Michael Jecks"
Moira @ Clothes in Books: "Boston 1918"

Previous Posts
Week #1 Post  
Week #2 Post 
Week #3 Post
Week #4 Post


And that's all folks...I haven't had a chance to put anything together this week. So, I'm going  to sit this one out. Next month the Tuesday Night Bloggers will be taking a look at Foreign Mysteries (non-US and non-UK)--either set in a foreign locale, translated works from authors outside, or, for the more adventurous, a comparison of books written by someone NOT from the locale in question to a work by someone from that country. 

I'll be collecting here at the Block again in December, so feel free to join in and I'll add you to each week's listing.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Beverly Gray's Mystery: Review

Beverly Gray's Mystery (1948) by Clair Blank features an intrepid girl detective in the mold of the original Nancy Drew. Unlike Nancy who seems to forever be in her mid- (earliest version of her stories) to late-teens, Beverly's story is a progressive one. Her fictional career begins in college, takes her through some adventures post-college, and then finds her taking on a job (as a reporter) and becoming a government agent at times. Having stumbled upon Beverly during one of our antique mall rambles, I've landed in the middle of her series at a time when she is already established as an investigative reporter.

In this adventure which occurs around the Christmas holidays, Beverly sets out to interview an Indian prince who is visiting the United States and who has given a valuable horse named Star of the East to his American friend, Mr. Mengle. She has her friend newspaper photographer Lenora Whitehill with her to take pictures of the horse and the two friends. But before Beverly can ask her first question, the prince's groom discovers that the Star of the East has disappeared. A weekend feature turns into an investigative piece as Beverly and Lenora look into the mystery of the missing horse. Things turn a bit ugly as Max Mengle is hit over the head and hospitalized, a young actress disappears (thought to be kidnapped), and Beverly finds herself nearly run over by a car and locked in an abandoned house. Did the horse-nappers attack Max? Was it the prince's groom? Or perhaps it was his younger brother--in an argument over his engagement to the actress? It all becomes clear to Beverly in the end--she finds the horse...and, incidentally, a valuable stolen jewel in the process. And the story wraps up with Christmas in Beverly's apartment with TWO Santa Clauses!

Beverly Gray is another heroine that I wish I had met when I was young. She's resourceful and independent and a good role model for young girls. From what I read of her online, she's a bit more realistic than Nancy Drew--going to work and living away from home in the big city. Of course, she still has way more adventures than most of us do in everyday life, but the stories wouldn't be nearly as exciting without them. 

Beverly uses her investigative skills to get to the bottom of this mystery--following clues, asking penetrating questions, and tracking down the missing people and the horse. It was fairly obvious to me what happened to the animal, but Blank did a good job spreading the suspicion around so it wasn't as clear who the culprit was. A fun read that would have been even better if I had read it when I was younger. ★★and 1/2.

Friday, November 25, 2016

You Read How Many Books? 2017


hosted by Gina  at Dragon's Lair

Guidelines are pretty simple. Choose a level of books to aim for and submit a list. Reviews are optional. I will be going for 150 books (in keeping with my Goodreads goal). For more info and to sign up, pleas click link above.


Reading Challenge Addict

You know what they say about the best laid plans....Despite my resolution to read only books from my personally owned TBR stacks (don't worry, I have plenty of books) and the resolution to only sign up for challenges which I can meet reading my own books, I'm still adding challenges to my list like they're going out of style. I may not reach 30-some challenges again-- (Yes, I'm currently rushing around madly trying to cram as many books in between work and end-of-year holiday preparation as I can...)--BUT I have already grabbed up 14 challenges for 2017 and this year isn't even over. So, of course I'm going to have to sign up for the Reading Challenge Addict Challenge.  This challenge support group/group of enablers was the brainchild of two lovely ladies: Cheryl of CMash Reads and Gina at Hott Books.  They are also the Hostesses with the Mostest over at Partner in Crime Tours and Providence Book Promotions.  They got very busy with their book tour sites and asked me to step in and shepherd our little group of Challenge Addicts.  I took up the reins....and here we go for another year of challenge madness.  For details on the challenge rules and levels, hop on the site above. 

And my Challenge Level?  As mentioned, I've already got 14 challenges lined up and I'm sure that more will come along, so....Sign me up for the top level, baby.

Out of This World: 16+ Challenges (Entered & Completed)

As I did last year, I will only track my challenges in one spot.  See my 2017 Challenges tab along the top or click HERE to see which challenges have reeled me in this year....

Craving For Cozies 2017

Craving For Cozies 2017 – Reading Challenge

Cozy mysteries, also referred to simply as “cozies”, are a sub-genre of crime fiction/mysteries in which sex and violence are downplayed or treated humorously, and the crime and detection take place in a small, socially intimate community. The crime solver is an amateur sleuth, usually but not always a woman, who is thrust into the aftermath of the murder. The protagonist frequently has an occupation or hobby that brings appealing information to the reader.

The challenge runs from January 1, 2017 and ends December 31, 2017

There are several levels of participation (click link above for more info or to join). I plan on doing the lowest level

Peckish – 1 – 10 Cozy Mysteries 

because it fits in with the other cozy challenge I'm doing which requires 10 books.

My List:
1. Murder at the Masque by Amy Myers
2. Cat in an Alien X-Ray by Carole Nelson Douglas
3. Lie of the Needle by Cate Price
4. Aunt Dimity's Christmas by Nancy Atherton
5. Mrs. Malory & the Lilies that Fester
6. Mrs. Jeffries Pinches the Post
7. Read & Buried by Erika Chase
8. Murder at Teatime by Stefanie Matteson
9. Murder at the Mikado by Julianna Deering
10. TBD