May 8th, 2011

Reading feet

Books 15 and 16 of 2011

I've finished two more since these, but am behind in writing reviews. They'll be up ... eventually.

Baker's Dozen: 13 Short Mystery Novels (Baker's Dozen Anthologies)Baker's Dozen: 13 Short Mystery Novels by Bill Pronzini

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I picked this up somewhere a long time ago, maybe a yard sale or a thrift store, and it sat on my shelf for ages. I finally decided to pick it up and see what it held inside.

This was a good, entertaining book of short mystery novels. Some of them, I think, were actually excerpts from longer novels, or books that were part of a series so there was some information I felt I was missing, but none of it was important to the story at hand. Most of the stories I found really entertaining and was kept in suspense, though a few were too easy to guess what was going on. If you want to know my (brief) thoughts on each individual story, read my individual status updates that I wrote as I went along.

A lot of the stories are somewhat out-of-date, many of them set in the 40s or 50s I'd say, maybe a few a little later than that. No cell phones or other modern technology, which in some cases could have made a big difference in the stories. And some of the terminology they use made me giggle, too.

This is the kind of book I can keep on hand because I won't remember the individual stories for too long, so I could read them all over again in a few years and re-live the mystery! I recommend this as a good set. And of course, since there are multiple stories there are great places to stop reading when needed. For particular stories, I really recommend "Nightmare" and "Death Rides a Boxcar". I also really enjoyed "Murder Set to Music", and the ending to that one left me satisfied. The Daphne du Maurier short ... typically not my style (I'm not into paranormal generally) but it had my heart racing because with all the foreshadowing I just -knew- something bad would happen. And "Booktaker" (by the editor), while not too deep, kept me guessing and led me down false paths. Not a bad percentage of good stories!

The Phantom TollboothThe Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I spent the month of April reading this book aloud to my husband, who didn't like reading as a child and therefore missed out on some of the best books ever. This is the first time I read through this book as an adult, though I read through it many times as a child. It was one of my all time favorites, and in fifth grade I made a board game where you traveled along the map and had to do math problems, spell words, play "i spy" and some other things that I forgot. Stuff like "jump to conclusions, lose 2 turns".

Reading this book as an adult, I do notice a lot more flaws. The characters are quite flat, the humbug most of all. A lot of his comments were totally useless and insipid. The book is really carried by the dialog -- there are very few sections of description, and even fewer places where the descriptions actually matter to the story. And in a book run by dialog I felt it odd that some characters seemed to say useless things just so we wouldn't wonder why they were still around. And especially when it came to the demons, I felt like the author was just throwing in as many things as he could think of, more to prove a point than to add something to the story. I got annoyed with that as well. Also as an adult, there were times when I felt I was being BEATEN OVER THE HEAD with the lessons -- I felt they could have been done a bit more subtly. But perhaps for children such a beating is necessary. I admit, as a child, I didn't notice it.

But of course, the word play is hysterical, and just the whole idea of the book is simply amazing. There are lines that make you think, lines that make you wonder about the strangeness of our world or our language, times when you see yourself in Milo or one of his acquaintances. Even my husband, who is not a reader at all, said at the end that he was kind of sad the book was over and that he wished he could go on an adventure with Milo and Tock (but not the humbug).

If this had been my first ever reading, I would probably have given this a 4, due to all the things listed in the second paragraph. However, it was not my first reading, and the book WAS written for children after all. It's a wonderfully creative book that serves its purpose.

View all my reviews
  • cat63

Book 29 for 2011

The Railway Detective by Edward Marston. 318 pages

Victorian mystery set at the time of the Great Exhibition. A daring robbery of a mail train is the start of an important investigation for the fledgling detective branch of the Metropolitan police.

Not bad but not especially substantial - I felt that things were over explained at times and I prefer the style of mystery where the reader has the same amount of information as the detectives. While this one didn't go the Columbo route of showing who committed the crime and then showing the detective laboriously prove it, it did have scenes which gave away the identity of the villain before the detectives knew who that was, which I dislike. But that's a stylistic preference and some readers might enjoy it more than I did.