Saturday, June 29, 2013

Death & the Gentle Bull: Review

Death and the Gentle Bull by Frances & Richard Lockridge finds Captain Heimrich investigating an unusual murder--death by Angus bull.  And not just any Angus bull...a reputedly gentle International Grand Champion bull worth about a quarter of a million dollars (in the 1950s!).

The bull in question belongs to champion breeder, Margaret Landcraft--a woman used to getting her own way and in so doing has often rubbed others the wrong way.  It appears that she has irritated one too many.  Margaret hosts a party on the eve of a grand sale of some of her prize Angus beef cattle, but she won't live to see any profits. She is found battered to death in the stall of her prize bull and it looks for all the world as if she must have irritated him and driven him to crush her against the walls.

But State Trooper Ray Crowley doesn't quite believe it and neither does his dad.  Both know cattle--not quite on the same level as the Landcrafts, but they still don't believe that the gentle giant would have turned on his owner. Crowley takes his doubts to Captain Heimrich who soon doesn't believe it either.  And when photographs taken by the Life magazine crew (there for the sale) prove that the bull must have been used by someone to kill the headstrong cattlewoman, Heimrich and Crowley get down to the business of finding out just how someone could commit death by bull.  As the district attorney says, it's the "biggest blunt object I ever heard of. A ton or so of bull, used as a murder weapon." (p. 87)

This is another fun, light mystery by the Lockridge team.  The murder method is ingenious--if perhaps a little unlikely.  But don't let that spoil your fun.  You can always count on the Lockridges for quirky characters and a fun mystery.  Not meant as heavy-duty, clue-laden, in-depth puzzlers, but perfect for an easy afternoon read. As a little bonus, they have a way of writing about animals that give cats, dogs....and bulls a lively personality of their own without making them too human.  Not my absolute favorite Heimrich story, but a good solid three stars.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Mystery Train: Mini-Review

I just mentioned in my previous review that reviewing poetry is difficult for me. It hasn't gotten any easier with David Wojahn's collection titled Mystery Train.  Wojahn's work ranges from narrative poems that reflect experiences well outside his own--showing his ability to tell stories from various points of view--to a series of imaginative snapshots from the lives of various rock 'n roll legends which combines actual events with fictional story lines.  These poetic vignettes reflect the range of human experience from comedy to tragedy, from love to despair.  An interesting and ambitious collection from a very good poet.  Three and a half stars.

A few lines that I particularly liked:

I aimlessly walked that day, and every day for six
   uneventful years. My students
find your poems "cranky and obscure." A dull-witted Brit
   has written your
unreadable life. 

* * *
                                How wrong and petty any life is.
This poem is not for you.

~from "A Fifteenth Anniversary: John Berryman (January 1987)"

     Always people say you walk 
ahead into the future, though in truth
you walk backwards towards it, and only
     the past spreads its vista before you,

     though always, my friends, it is fading.
And you try to remember what it is that you
believed in. You try very hard.
     You wait. You watch until it's gone.
~from "In Hiding"


Friday Memes: Death & the Gentle Bull




Book Beginnings on Friday is a bookish meme now sponsored by Rose City Reader (who originally inspired the meme). Here's what you do: Share the first line (or two) of the book you are currently reading on your blog or in the comments section. Include the title and author so we know what you're reading. Then, if you are so moved, let us know what your first impressions were based on that first line and if you did or did not like that sentence. Link up each week at Gilion's place.

Here's the first paragraph from Death & The Gentle Bull by Frances & Richard Lockridge (couldn't stop with just one line):
The house itself was on a rise. Cars climbed from the road to it, along a drive shaded by tall hemlocks. People left the cars and went through the house, which was cool and empty; went through french doors, across a flagged terrace, to the lawn, which was by no means empty--nor, indeed, noticeably cool.


The Friday 56 is a bookish meme sponsored by Freda's Voice. It is really easy to participate. Just grab a book, any book, and turn to page 56. Find a sentence that grabs you and post it.

Here's mine from Death & The Gentle Bull by Frances & Richard Lockridge--actually from page 57, because page 56 is completely blank:

It seemed, now in mid-afternoon, that she had been answering the telephone, or dialing Western Union on it, for all of the fifteen hours since the bull had first bellowed.

Library Books Read-a-Thon: Day 7



Library Books Read-a-Thon


June 22 - June 28


hosted at Rachael Turns Pages


 
It's day Seven and I've started on my seventh book.  Steady progress...just might finish that last one before the night's out.  If I do, I'll do a final wrap-up post later.
Here's the list of books read so far:
Devoured by M. E. Meredith (6/22/13)
The Heart of a Dog by Mikhail Bulbakov (6/23/13)
Death in Zanzibar by M. M. Kaye (6/25/13)
Jack on the Gallows Tree by Leo Bruce (6/26/13)
The Listening by Kyle Dargan (6/28/13) 
Mystery Train by David Wojahn (6/28/13)
Death & the Gentle Bull by Frances & Richard Lockridge (reading as fast as I can)

The Listening: Review

Describing the experience of reading really good poetry is difficult.  I appreciate what Emily Dickinson said about reading poetry: "If I read a book and it makes my whole body so cold no fire can ever warm me, I know it is poetry.  If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know it is poetry.  These are the only ways I know it.  Is there any other way?"

Kyle Dargan writes that kind of poetry.  The Listening was his first collection, but it doesn't read like a debut effort.  At the time the book was published, he was still in the MFA program at Indiana University but he writes with the assurance of a man who is already a master of his craft. He uses sound and linguistic gymnastics to weave his verses--mixing jazz and hip-hop to create his own lyric voice.   This is the real deal and the best news is that he has two more collections of poetry out there waiting to be read.

I always feel inadequate when I get ready to review a book of poetry.  I feel like the philistine in the art gallery: I don't know a lot about art, but I know what I like.  And I like what Dargan does with these poems.  A lot. 

A few snippets to give you a taste:

           This skin has
a deeper appetite
           for light than most.
  ~from "Of the Sun"

This is how we will find him:
on our hands and knees,
combing over flailed books--seashells
beneath a forgotten tide.
Occasionally we'll wrench  something up ,
not what we are looking for, and read it anyway.
~from "Search for Robert Hayden"

[about a squirrel]
                                                         She crawls over,
stands up to eat. Then back to four legs,
combing the ground, only to become biped again--switching
back and forth as if evolution 
is some LP you scratch and backspin.
~from "Redefinition" 

After-dinner ninjas* In the backyard,
me and my brother roundhousing
and backhanding lightning bugs
into a dim oblivion*
~from "Last Dragons" 

Ella's on a reconnaissance mission
in heaven--eyes closed,
translating things we can't see into song.
~from "Chiaroscuro"
 

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Library Books Read-a-Thon: Day 6



Library Books Read-a-Thon


June 22 - June 28


hosted at Rachael Turns Pages


 
It's day Six and I've started on my fifth book.  Not bad.  Here's the list of books read so far:
Devoured by M. E. Meredith (6/22/13)
The Heart of a Dog by Mikhail Bulbakov (6/23/13)
Death in Zanzibar by M. M. Kaye (6/25/13)
Jack on the Gallows Tree by Leo Bruce (6/26/13)
The Listening by Kyle Dargan (started) 
I also stopped by the library on my lunch hour and picked up three books waiting for me on hold.  We'll see how many I can get done before tomorrow is over....
 

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Jack on the Gallows Tree: Review

In Jack on the Gallows Tree, Carolus Deene, Senior History Master at a boys' public school and gentleman detective extraordinaire is faced with a very odd murder case.  In the course of an evening, two elderly ladies from Buddington-on-the-Hill are found strangled and laid out clasping an Easter lily in their hands.  The two ladies did not know each other and there are tenuous links at best between them--they both sold gold to the same "gold-clapper," for instance.  While there are obvious suspects for each of their murders individually, there doesn't seem to be anyone who would benefit from both deaths.

Deene, who has been suffering from jaundice, has been sent to Buddington-on-the-Hill for a rest cure.  His headmaster strongly objected to the doctor's suggestion of a nice bit of sea air at Bournemouth or Torquay (both places recently in the newspaper for horrid murders) and plumps for the dull-sounding Buddington.  Little did he know that he was sending Deene straight into a bit of death in the countryside.  

Deene quickly recovers his strength and is soon sitting up and taking notice of the excitement in the village. The police have few clues beyond the lilies and it is up to Deene to figure out whether a madman with thing for strangling old ladies is on the loose or if there is a clever plot behind it all.  True to Golden Age tradition he holds a final wrap-up scene in which the answers are revealed.

This is quite a fun little mystery.  Bruce's books are pretty fairly clued, filled with wonderfully eccentric characters, and make for a nice cozy evening of reading. Lots of good British humor too.  I had the wool pulled over my eyes...all ready to suspect someone who didn't seem to be getting quite enough attention and was fooled.  A good three and a half star read.

Mount TBR: June Checkpoint


Well, fellow climbers, it's hard to believe but 2013 is almost half-way over.  And it's time for your mountaineering guide to call for the second quarterly check-in post. [Imagine me in Alpine mountain gear with one of those long horns tootling away...and probably scaring the mountain goats.] Let's see how our challengers are doing after 6 months are under the ol' mountain-climbing belt.  

For those who would like to participate in this checkpoint post, I'd like you to do two things:
 
1. Tell us how many miles you've made it up your mountain (# of books read).  If you're really ambitious, you can do some intricate math and figure out how the number of books you've read correlates to actual miles up Pike's Peak, Mt. Ararat, etc. 

2. Complete ONE (or more if you like) of the following:
A. Who has been your favorite character so far? And tell us why, if you like.
B. What has been your most difficult read so far.  And why?  (Length?  Subject matter?  Difficult style?  Out of your comfort zone reading?)
C. Which book (read so far) has been on your TBR mountain the longest? Was it worth the wait? Or is it possible you should have tackled it back when you first put it on the pile? Or tossed it off the edge without reading it all?
D. Using no more than two words from a single title, compose a sentence (musical lyric, bit of poetry, what-have-you) from title from your conquered TBR stack.  If you are short of inspirational words...you may use some from your intended reads if needed.  Filler words (the, and, with, etc.) or alternate tenses of verbs used in titles are acceptable for clarity.  Example (from my stack):
The Silver Negligent Nymph Sensed that the Indian Stones on the Other Side were a Perfect Red.


The Puzzle of the Silver Persian by Stuart Palmer 
The Case of the Negligent Nymph by Erle Stanley Gardner
The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes
Corpses at Indian Stones by Philip Wylie 
The Other Side of Tomorrow by Roger Elwood, ed
A Perfect Red by Amy Butler Greenfield 



Please prepare your answers in a Checkpoint blog post and link up below.

 
And what do you get for all that hard work (and distraction from the actual climb)? The link will close at 11:59 pm on Thursday, July 4.  On Friday I will crank up the Custom Random Number Generator and pick a winning climber. He or she will have the chance to add to their TBR stack via my gently-used book vault (prize list will be sent). Just think, if you win a book you can start up a pile for next year's Mount TBR Challenge. 

Even if you're not in the mood for a prize or if you've only got one leg of the journey under your belt, I'd love to have you check in and tell us how your climb is going!

***Please note--the linky is for Checkpoint posts only.  The link must be to a specific Checkpoint post (not your blog's home page in general). Links that are not Checkpoint-specific will be removed--to make it easier for me to track a winner.


Sign in below with your Checkpoint post.
 



Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday


This week’s Top Ten Tuesday, brought to us by the Broke and the Bookish, asks us to talk about the best books we've read so far in 2013. So far, I have read 79 books...not quite half my goal for the year (through the GoodReads Challenge).  Here are my Top Ten or so (new reads only):
 
84, Charing Cross Road  by Helene Hanff (5 stars)
Murder as a Fine Art  by David Morrell (5 stars)
The Private History of Awe  by Scott Russell Sanders (5 stars)  


A Spoonful of Sugar: A Nanny's Story  by Brenda Ashford (4.5 stars)  

India Black & the Shadows of Anarchy by Carol K. Carr (4.5 stars) 
Slippage by Harlan Ellison (4.5 stars)  


Ready Player One by
Ernest Cline (4 stars) 
Sally's in the Alley  by Norbert Davis (4 stars) 
Death at Crane's Court  by Eilis Dillon (4 stars) 
The Frozen Shroud  by Martin Edwards (4 stars)  
The African Queen  by C. S. Forester (4 stars)
A Cold & Lonely Place  by Sarah J. Henry (4 stars)
Break Any Woman Down  by Dana Johnson (4 stars)      
The Secret History  Donna Tartt (4 stars)
Corpses at Indian Stones  by (4 stars

Teaser Tuesdays


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

*Grab your current read.*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 are my teasers from Jack on the Gallows Tree by Leo Bruce (p. 65): 

If you thought there was any urgency you'd be leaping about in disguise or tearing round cross-examining people like a lunatic. I suppose you've got your reason for playing it slow.


Library Books Read-a-Thon: Day 4



Library Books Read-a-Thon

June 22 - June 28


hosted at Rachael Turns Pages

Sign- up here

 
 
 
It's day four and I'm about half-way done with my fourth book.  Not bad.  Here's the list of books read so far:
 
Devoured by M. E. Meredith (6/22/13)
The Heart of a Dog by Mikhail Bulbakov (6/23/13)
Death in Zanzibar by M. M. Kaye (6/25/13)
Jack on the Gallows Tree by Leo Bruce -- half-done 
 
Today Rachael has asked us to post about how many books we check out when we go to the library. And what do we do if a book is due, we can't renew it, and haven't read it?  
 
Well....it depends.  I've checked out anywhere from one to ten books at a time.  This year I have actually been making an effort to read more books from my own TBR stacks, so I've been averaging about two books checked out per trip.  As far as books due that can't be renewed--if I have made a good start on the book and am enjoying it, then I'll probably go ahead and keep it and face a fine.  If I haven't had a chance to start it, then I'll take it back and arrange to put it on hold again.
 

Death in Zanzibar: Review


Dany Ashton is an innocent abroad.  Brought up by a very strict, ultra-protective aunt, she has seen very little of the world and this story is about her first excursion alone.  And it just might wind up being her last.  

Dany's mother hasn't been much of one.  She has made her way through several husbands and is currently married to the famous author, Tyson Frost.  They decide to invite Dany to Zanzibar where Frost (through his father, the rakish Emory Frost) has rights to Kivulimi: "The House of Shade", a house bestowed up Emory as a gift from a local potentate. Dany is thrilled at the chance to finally see the world and has great plans to have a good time.  

Before she leaves she has been commissioned to stop by Frost's lawyer's house and pick up an important envelope.  She changes the appointment time from afternoon to morning and that's when her planned vacation begins to fall apart.  The lawyer is killed not long after Dany's visit and the police are interested in finding the "mysterious young woman" who was seen leaving the scene.  She obstinately refuses to identify herself with the authorities because she doesn't want her chance at an exotic trip to be cancelled.

Her hotel room is ransacked, her passport is stolen, and she manages to lock herself out of her hotel room in the middle of the night.  Enter Lash Holden--handsome and impetuous son of a friend of her stepfather's--who is also in the hotel waiting to leave for Zanzibar.  Lash is spending his last hours getting thoroughly drunk in response to being jilted by his fiancee and comes across Dany in the hotel hallway on his return from his binge.  He comes up with a plan for Dany to impersonate his secretary (who conveniently has the mumps and who Dany happens to vaguely resemble--enough to get by on her passport).

With a quick dye-job turning Dany into a rather dowdy looking redhead, they manage to smuggle Dany past the airport officials and are on their way.  But danger follows them.  A fellow passenger is poisoned on the journey and then one of her step-father's house guests falls to her death from a stone staircase.  Clues are constantly being planted to frame Dany even after the envelope's contents disappear, but they manage to foil the murderer's plans.  Will they manage to unmask the villain before s/he decides to eliminate Dany altogether?

This is a fun, light, romantic mystery.  Dany is a shade too babe-in-the-woods.  Honestly, I don't drink and hadn't been out amongst people who did much--but I recognized my first drunk when I saw him.  It does seem a bit unlikely that she had no idea that Lash was plastered when she first met him.  But--I suppose it's necessary to suspend one's disbelief in order for the story to proceed as planned.  The cast of characters, witty dialogue, and spectacular descriptions and local color (based on Kaye's notebooks from her trip to Zanzibar) all make the read well worthwhile.  Three and a half stars.