August 31st, 2014

Dead Dog Cat

(no subject)

So we went to the gaming convention, and I wandered the dealers' room, like you do, and picked up a few Osprey books, as is my habit. I have to admit that I found myself irritated, because their stock wasn't in numeric order, the way they've always had it in the past, but I managed to dig up some books, anyway.

In any case, while I manned our own booth for the show, I got through a couple of the books I'd purchased.

First was Osprey Elite #201: The Carthaginians 6th - 2nd Century BC; it's not an era or force that I knew much about previously, since they were beaten and overshadowed by the Romans, but this book has some pretty solid information as well as the plates.

Then, Osprey Men-At-Arms #465: Brazilian Expeditionary Force in World War II: I'd played the Avalon Hill board wargame called Anzio, and one of the Allied units was a Brazilian division, so I knew that the South American country had been an active participant in European combat, but I'd never seen anything written about their exploits before, so I thoroughly enjoyed reading this one. Very cool.

I've another that I'll start later today, but that'll be for a future post.

Book 35- History's Greatest Lies, by William Weir

35. History's Greatest Lies, by William Weir. This is an entertaining read for history buffs (and perhaps for reluctant readers). Weir goes into several oft-repeated historic tales and exposes the lies- then tells the truth (or, in a couple cases, as close to the truth as we can know). For example, that story about Nero fiddling while Rome burned? Didn't happen (for starters, the fiddle didn't come into existence until more than a thousand years after Nero's death). Indeed, while Nero was no great emperor (in fact, he was probably the worst one, after Calligula, in my opinion), his actions during the fire that destroyed a large part of Rome were probably his most noble. According to Weir, Nero risked his life several times to save others.

The most intriguing story was about the death of John Dillenger. The official story is that Dillenger was fatally shot by FBI agents outside a Chicago theater in July 1934. However, forensics evidence (and the lack of it) and conflicting stories casts doubt on this. Throw in that J. Edgar Hoover needed Dillenger's death to retain his own job after a previous capture attempt went horribly wrong, it's not hard to believe that there could have been a cover-up.

The most disturbing was the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, anti-Semitic propoganda crafted during Tsar Nicholas II's regime by his cohorts to deflect attention from the tsar's ineffectual leadership. In case you have never heard of this (I had not), the Protocols were supposed to be an outline of a Jewish plan to take overthe world. Nicholas II, having some honor, actually rejected using it once he realized upon investigation that the so-called documents were a forgery but the Protocols still managed to spread. The Protocols are partially responsible for one of the greatest atrocities in modern history, the Holocaust. There are still segments of the world's population that still believe it. Sickening.

There's a lengthy bibliography and notes. The book is chock full of illustrations and sidebars, and the histories are told in an easy to follow, engaging style. Those who like history should enjoy this, and I can see even those who may not like reading liking this book's easy-to-follow format.

Currently reading: Cleopatra, by Zahi Hawass and Franck Goddio (back to this one), and Wards of Faerie, by Terry Brooks. Also ordered four more books from the library: Just My Type: A Book About Fonts, by Simon Garfield; The Devil's Teeth, by Susan Casey; The Family That Couldn't Sleep, by D.T. Max; and The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, by Anne Fadiman.
Reading - La Liseuse

Books #23-24

23. Treachery in Death by J.D. Robb (a.k.a. Nora Roberts), 375 pages, Mystery, 2011 (In Death, Book 32).

Fresh off her first stint as primary on a case, Peabody goes from elated to terrified when she overhears dirty cops discussing their operation and the murder of someone who crossed them. Dallas starts the investigation into a squad in illegals (narcotics) led by the daughter of a retired police legend, a paragon of honor and duty. It’s intense, with the plans within plans, and more than a few physical encounters. I read this in a day; the In Death series has become a comfort series, easy to read with a family of characters that fascinate me.

24. New York to Dallas by J.D. Robb (a.k.a. Nora Roberts), 402 pages, Mystery, 2011 (In Death, Book 33).

As Detective Peabody and Lieutenant Dallas are preparing for an awards ceremony, in recognition of their efforts in the prior book, Eve receives a message from one of her first arrests. The pedophile she stumbled upon as a rookie, a man who would kidnap, torture, and kill young girls, has escaped from prison. And while he was in New York to announce himself, Eve is going to have to go to Dallas, the city she was found in as a child, the city she remembers in her nightmares, in order to save some other girl from those nightmares. Intense read, and a great glimpse into the back story of Eve Dallas and what brought her to the attention of Feeney, who trained her as a murder cop.
beach reader

Book 160: The Truth about the Harry Quebert Affair by Joel Dicker

Book 160: The Truth about the Harry Quebert Affair .
Author: Joel Dicker, 2012. Translated from the French by Sam Taylor, 2014.
Genre: Period/Contemporary Fiction. Mystery. Metafiction.
Other Details: Hardback. 624 pages.

August 30, 1975: the day fifteen-year-old Nola Kellergan is glimpsed fleeing through the woods, never to be heard from again; the day Somerset, New Hampshire, lost its innocence.

Thirty-three years later, Marcus Goldman, a successful young novelist, visits Somerset to see his mentor, Harry Quebert, one of the country’s most respected writers, and to find a cure for his writer’s block as his publisher’s deadline looms. But Marcus’s plans are violently upended when Harry is suddenly and sensationally implicated in the cold-case murder of Nola Kellergan—whom, he admits, he had an affair with. As the national media convicts Harry, Marcus launches his own investigation, following a trail of clues through his mentor’s books, the backwoods and isolated beaches of New Hampshire, and the hidden history of Somerset’s citizens and the man they hold most dear. To save Harry, his own writing career, and eventually even himself, Marcus must answer three questions, all of which are mysteriously connected: Who killed Nola Kellergan? What happened one misty morning in Somerset in the summer of 1975? And how do you write a book to save someone’s life?
- synopsis from author's website.

I found this quite simply a magnificent novel, intelligent, intricately constructed and multi-layered. Aside from the compelling central mystery of 'Who Killed Nora Kellergan', with its echoes of Twin Peaks 'Who killed Laura Palmer?', the novel also takes a dark comic swipe at the publishing business that reminded me of The Silkworm.

Despite the history of a love affair between Nola and Quebert, Harry is no Humbert Humbert. He had been shocked by his attraction to Nola and initially endeavoured to keep her at a distance. Even thirty-three years later he does not deny to Marcus that Nora was under-age and accepts the censure that is aimed at him while protesting his innocence of her murder.

Although written by a Swiss writer in French it has many hallmarks of the 'Great American Novel' in its style and atmosphere including capturing the ambiance of small town America as well as the heady heights of New York. It is also meta-fiction using the style of a novel that contains within it a true crime account along with snippets of other novels and writing. There is a great deal of ambivalence within the novel about events and characters. It keeps the reader on their toes.

I initially borrowed the book from the library but once I started and realised that I loved it bought my own hardback copy. It is certainly a novel that I will be recommending widely.
  • maribou

Existential Light Sleep; Married Muppets Memory; Year of Beach Garlands

Sleep Like a Tiger, by Mary Logue
This is a charming go-to-sleep tale, distinguished from its peers both by the absolutely beautiful illustrations and by the sense that the storyteller is thinking about the kid more than the parents. I'll be giving it to a kid I know.

Existential Time-Limited Therapy, by Freddie and Alison Strasser
There were some neat ideas and some compelling case studies in here, but there was also a lot of heavy jargon and unnecessarily stuffy writing. Very self-consciously academic.

A Shiver of Light, by Laurell K. Hamilton
I'm not sure if the ending to this latest Merry Gentry magic, mayhem, and sex tale was abrupt and kind of a disappointment, or if it was just that I was like 50 pages from the end when the copy I was reading got trashed, so I didn't read the last part until about a week after I read the rest of the book. I find I enjoy Hamilton most if I swig her down all in one big gulp.

The Muppets Character Encyclopedia, by Craig Shemin\
It was deliciously nostalgic to be reminded of Muppets I haven't thought of since before I hit puberty. Not quite amazing (I admit I'd been expecting something even more detailed and geeky, given that it's published by DK), but still really fun to read through.

Maxine Banks is Getting Married, by Lori Aurelia Williams
Banks is a splendid conveyer of personality and relationship, so I deeply enjoyed this book even though the plot was well outside my experience / interest zone. I hope she writes more.

The Memory of Water, by Emmi Itäranta
The worldbuilding and plot of this post-climate-change dystopia got me to stick with it, even though the main character's quiet and distanced perspective made it hard to connect with her until several chapters in. By the end of the book, it had my mind and my heart.

Garlands of Moonlight, by Jai Sen and Rizky Wasisto Edi
A bizarre little horror comic based on a Malaysian legend that I thought had a terrible ending until I realized there was a sequel... also, while it's mostly black and white, the artist used a silver wash for highlights, which upped the illustrations from good to stunning.

Beach Reading, by Lorne Elliott
This was kind of hard for me to read for personal reasons that I don't feel like going into, but I'm glad I stayed the course. A warm, wry, charming, and homesickness-inducing coming-of-age novel.

The Year of Reading Dangerously, by Andy Miller
One of the most readable books about books I've ever read (and I've read many). Sometimes thigh-slappingly funny, sometimes awkward and gangly, most often feeling like you're having a beer with the guy while he tells you about his reading life and you laugh and ask questions and make suggestions and tell stories of your own. I liked this even more than I liked Nick Hornby's collections of book reviews (which was a lot).
  • Current Music
    listening to the quiet hum of various kitchen appliances
  • cat63

Books 138-149 for 2014

138. Lady of Devices by Shelley Adina. 168 pages.

Another American author who writes books set in England apparently without bothering to do any research…. Hint : Victorian English ladies would not be talking about “cookie batter” nor do English schools have graduation ceremonies - universities yes, schools, no.

The story and characters were quite fun though.

139. The Cat Who Knew Shakespeare by Lilian Jackson Braun. 150 pages.
140. The Cat Who Sniffed Glue by Lilian Jackson Braun. 161 pages.

Two more outings for Jim Qwilleran and his Siamese cats.

141. The Little Grey Men by “B.B.”. 178 pages.

The last gnomes in England set out upstream to find their missing brother…

I seem to have missed this children’s classic when I was a small person, which is rather a shame, because I think twelve-year-old me would have enjoyed it even more than fifty-one-year-old me did, which was quite a lot.

The writing is excellent - the language used is often poetic but without being overblown or pompous. The author’s evident approval of fox hunting would be more controversial today than in 1942 when the book was written, but otherwise it's very charming.

142. The Cat Who Went Underground by Lilian Jackson Braun. 183 pages.

Another murder mystery for Jim and the cats.

143. Skinwalker by Faith Hunter. 321 pages.

And on to a rather different cat… Jane Yellowrock is a vampire hunter, but she’s also a skinwalker, someone who can take the shape of various different animals - for a price. Jane’s in New Orleans to hunt a rogue vampire who’s killing not only humans but other vampires too. Staying alive, earning her fee and keeping her true nature a secret make life pretty complicated….

This was a lucky find in a charity shop and I enjoyed it very much - will definitely be looking for more of the series.

144. Swan For the Money by Donna Andrews. 246 pages.

Another visit to the town of Caerphilly where this time Meg Langslow has been landed with organising the local rose show. Of course, this being Meg’s life, things are far from simple and it’s not long before complications abound and a corpse is in evidence.

As ever, utterly implausible but huge fun.

145. The Cat Who Talked to Ghosts by Lilian Jackson Braun. 191 pages.

Jim Qwilleran and his cats solve another mystery or two.

146. The Orphaned Worlds by Michael Cobley. 147 pages.

Book two of the Humanity’s Fire trilogy. A bit slow and moving-people-into-place, as book2 of trilogies tend to be….

Still interesting though and makes me want to know what happens to the characters.

147. Magic Bites by Ilona Andrews. 204 pages.

Kate Daniels is a mercenary in a world where there are “waves” of magic and technology working.

She’s been trying to keep a low profile, but when her guardian is murdered, she has to find the culprit…

I enjoyed this one a great deal. interesting world building and characters and a lot of questions still unanswered make me want to read more books in this series.

148. Killer Keepsakes by Jane K. Cleland. 263 pages.

Another mystery for antiques dealer Josie Prescott. This time her assistant, Gretchen has gone missing - is she victim or villain?

Workmanlike whodunnit, although Josie’s relationship with the press is a touch implausible.

149. The Cat Who Lived High by Lilian Jackson Braun. 186 pages.

Jim Qwilleran and his cats go to Chicago to spend the winter and investigate the possibility of refurbishing a grand old building. But skullduggery is afoot…

A reasonable entry in this series, except for the annoying “two weeks earlier” style beginning and really objectionable scene where Qwilleran, aware that one of his fellow tenants, a harmless elderly lady, is nervous of strange men, deliberately behaves in such a way as to intimidate her - breathing heavily, stomping down the stairs behind her and so on. Way to be a creep, Qwilleran…

This isn’t usual behaviour for him, so perhaps it’s meant to show he’s under stress living in the city, but it just made me want to yell at him.
smirk by geekilicious

Book 74

Cursed in the ActCursed in the Act by Raymond Buckland

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I have a love-hate relationship with mysteries using real people as their sleuths. I usually don't like them but I can't seem to stay away from them either. This one was better than most in that genre, a 3.5. It's centered on the Lyceum Theater and Bram Stoker as the theater manager. However, Mr. Stoker isn't the pov character. It's told first person by Harry Rivers, Stoker's stage manager and right hand man.

One of their competitors is trying to shut the Lyceum down, first by poisoning their lead actor (not fatally) and any host of other dirty tricks. In the middle of this, the lead's stand in actor is killed in a hit and run accident and later he's removed from his grave and his head appearing in the Lyceum.

As Harry looks into this, because they can't afford to have the theater close, he learns that the brother of the other theater's owner, might be behind it all and he has help from a very strange source, a voudoun priest he met in his travels.

While the ending wasn't too hard to predict, I still enjoyed the journey. It occurred to me I don't really know much about Stoker other than his famous novel so I have no idea how true to him this feels. I'll probably look up the next in the series.

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