December 14th, 2010


# 76 Death, Snow, and Mistletoe

Death, Snow, and Mistletoe

Valerie S. Malmont

Christmas in Lickin Creek, PA wasd anything but quiet. Of course there are the usual town squabbles, and Oretta Clopper was directng the play she'd ha;f plageraized, and half written very poorly, which ahd the townswomen prancin on stage in leotards, and spouting grandiose lines about goddesses and the birth of the Christchild.

In the midst of the Christmas flurry the mood shifts when the townspeople come together to find a missing boy and searchers find the remains of another boy who disappeared more than 30 years before. Tori Miracle, relative newcomer and temporary editor of the town's paper is thrown right into the thick of things.

When Bernice Roadcap is poisoned at a rehearsal for the play, and then Oretta is found murdered in her burnt-down house, the acting police chief lacks the confidencd to solve the murders, and turns to Tori for help.

The Tori Miracle series is cute and fun to read. I don't know much about rural PA, so I really appreciate the regional flavor.

Skull - "vanitas"

Books #42-43 of 2010

42. Charlaine Harris, Grave Sight, 293 pages, Paranormal Mystery, Paperback, 2005.

Harper Connelly earns her living finding the dead. She’s been able to locate them ever since lightning struck her as a child. Along with her step-brother, Tolliver, Harper travels to a small town in the Ozarks to find a young lady; her boyfriend was found dead at the time of her disappearance. But finding the body sparks a series of strange occurrences, with a long-standing secret trying to stay in the shadows. Too bad that Harper is caught in the middle. I enjoyed this book. It was a quick read, and thought Harper’s odd mix of strengths and weaknesses made her an interesting character. I’m looking forward to more books in this series.

43. Charlaine Harris, Grave Surprise, 295 pages, Paranormal Mystery, Paperback, 2006.

The 2nd book in the Harper Connelly series finds Harper in an old graveyard, telling the cause of death at each grave in front of a university class on the paranormal. The instructor is livid; he likes to prove frauds, and Harper is nailing them, one after another. That is, until she reaches the final grave and finds 2 bodies there – the original occupant listed on the headstone, and the body of an 11-year-old girl that Harper tried to find for her family over a year prior. With the standard don’t-leave-town from the police, and mixed signals from the family, Harper finds it all too coincidental. So she decides to investigate things for herself with help from her step-brother, Tolliver.


Stewart O'Nan's foreword to The Circus Fire: A True Story of an American Tragedy begins, "I did not want to write this book. Why I attempted it I'm not precisely sure." It's a project that found him, when he was "doing research for a novel", and came across accounts of the July 6, 1944 Hartford Circus Fire. His curiosity led him to discover that there was no good published history of the fire and its aftermath. So he wrote it, which is reason enough to make it the subject of Book Review No. 34. Good research happens because the writer is curious. Not because the subject is trendy or titillating; because the writer is curious. Not because there is a hint of scandal or corporate intrigue or crazy people doing the roustabout work; because the writer is curious. And thus we have a compelling, well-written story, in which some of the loose ends are tied up, some mysteries remain, and the reality that each page of the fire code, as is true of the railroad's Book of Rules, as is true of the ship-handling manual, is written in blood. Mr Nan was able to interview some of the witnesses: rubes, roustabouts, kinkers, bosses, cops and firemen and nurses, and work the realities of the wartime consumer economy into his story.

(Cross-posted to Cold Spring Shops.)


(no subject)

Title: The Third Angel
Author: Alice Hoffman
Themes/Topics: Love, Loss

I love Alice Hoffman lots but couldn't really get into this one. Maybe it's the format of telling multiple stores and I'm just burned out on it from reading so many other books using this device.

The writing was good but I didn't fall into this one like I normally do.

Book 46

Title: The Third Angel
Author: Alice Hoffman
Themes/Topics: Love, Loss

I love Alice Hoffman lots but couldn't really get into this one. Maybe it's the format of telling multiple stores and I'm just burned out on it from reading so many other books using this device.

The writing was good but I didn't fall into this one like I normally do.

Books 63 - 71

Book 63: Grave Secret - Charlaine Harris

Genre: Paranormal/Mystery

Plot: When Harper is called in to read an old man's cause of death, she doesn't realise how closely it is all tied in with her own personal mystery.

My thoughts: Until I got partway through the book, I didn't see the ending coming.

Rating: 3.5 Stars (out of 5)

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Book 64: Her Fearful Symmetry - Niffenegger

Genre: Paranormal

Plot: When twins Julia and Valentina inherit their dead aunt's property they move to London in their perfectly matched outfits. As they meet the people in their aunt Elspeth's life - her lover, Robert; the obsessive compulsive crossword maker Martin and the people at Highgate Cemetery it becomes obvious that Elspeth had had an agenda in gifting the girls her property.

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Rating: 5 stars (out of 5) for Niffenegger's writing. 3 stars (out of 5) for leaving me feeling...odd

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Book 65 - 69: Shakespeare's Landlord, Shakespeare's Champion, Shakespeare's Christmas, Shakespeare's Trollop & Shakespeare's Counselor - Charlaine Harris

Genre: Mystery

Plot: Lily Bard stumbles upon and solves mysteries in the small town of Shakespeare. She doesn't mean to. She's trying to escape her past and she'd thought working as a cleaner would allow her to live quietly. Now she's discovering that a cleaner is in a position to know far too much, making her karate skill very useful indeed.

My thoughts: Enjoyable fluff.

Rating: 3 stars (out of 5)

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Book 70: The Naming - Alison Croggon

Genre: Fantasy/Retelling of history

Plot: A seemingly annonymous slave is rescued and is discovered to have hidden powers.

My thoughts: When you think about it, the plot sounds like the plot of a hundred other fantasy novels. However, what saves it from being bad is Croggon's descriptions and likeable characters.

Rating: 3.5 stars (out of 5)

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Book 71: The Riddle - Alison Croggon
Genre: Fantasy
Plot: Maeren seeks the Tree Song...
My thoughts: Enjoyable read.
Rating: 3.5 stars (out of 5)

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Book 127: C: by Tom McCarthy

Book 127: C:.
Author: Tom McCarthy, 2010.
Genre: Period Fiction early 20th Century Europe. Bildungsroman. Post-modern. Literary.
Other Details: Hardback. 320 pages.

'C' chronicles the short, intense life of Serge Carrefax. It opens with his birth in 1898 on an estate named Versoie in southern England. His father is an eccentric inventor who runs a day school for deaf children. His mother is herself deaf and manufactures silk on the estate. Serge grows up in an environment steeped in technological developments. His brilliant older sister, Sophie, is drawn to natural history. One of the novel's rare comic moments emerge from the experiments that she and Serge undertake away from the interfering grown-ups. There are explosions.

It is a journey that sees the teenage Serge travelling to a German spa town to be treated for 'black bile', a condition he develops after a deep personal loss. During the latter part of the war he signs up to become an aerial cartographer and after being shot down spends some time in a German prisoner-of-war camp. After the Great War, he returns to England and immerses himself in the drug-fuelled London society of the dazzling 1920s .He is sent in 1922 to Egypt to assist in setting up the world-spanning Imperial Wireless Chain. While there he becomes interested in an archaeological expedition that is exploring the ancient tombs of Egypt. It is there that certain mysteries of life and death are revealed to him.

Communication is one of the many 'C's found in the novel and provides a major theme throughout. There is a scene in the first part of the novel where Serge tunes into various radio frequencies with other wireless enthusiasts that provides a clear foreshadowing of the development of the world wide web.

This novel shares a similar time period to A.S. Byatt's The Children's Book and both were Man Booker short-listed titles. Tom McCarthy is a conceptual artist, already established as an experimental writer, so while the summary makes the book's plot sound a fairly conventional bildungsroman set against the background of early 20th century Europe, its style rather defies any easy categorisation. It fairly clearly seeks to engage the intellect of its readers over their emotions. It is full of ideas and seeped in codes, Greek and Egyptian myth, Renaissance verse, geometry, architecture, the earth, philosophy, death rites and insects. It is quite a dark, morbid book with a great deal of reflection upon death though does not draw on the Gothic tradition.

Writers such as Joyce, Bolaño, Beckett and Pynchon were mentioned by its publishers and in critical reviews. I will freely admit that I was a little intimidated by these comparisons as well as by the reports (and some groans) from other readers engaged in the 2010 Man Booker shadowing groups. Yet once I began to read, I found I loved it and had no real problems with its style

As with 'The Children's Book' it is a novel that requires both close attention and reflection. I am certainly sure there are aspects that I was not able to fathom; though my background knowledge in subjects such as comparative mythology, the Renaissance and Egyptology did assist some.