All posts by phinnea

20 Books of Summer 2020

It’s that time again and Cathy of 746Books is once more hosting the 20 Books of Summer Challenge which is great.   I love this challenge even though I usually fall far short of my goals.  I’ve been thinking about what to read this summer, but so far have made no decisions.  Except I do plan to try for 20, rather than the far more sensible 15 or 10 or 5…

my-post (1)

I’ll be figuring this out and post my list here when I do.

May 29 – Well, that took a while. I didn’t think it would be that hard, but I do have a problem deciding sometimes, of the thousands of books I’d like to read, which do I want to read most? I’ve only decided on 17, but that leaves some wiggle room so I’m not going to spend more time trying to figure out the last three. I have been meaning to read some of these for years. It would be quite a triumph to finish even these 17, my reading has been so non-existent. The other thing is, I’m cheating and starting today. Why spend the weekend reading things that don’t count to start on Monday? I’m working on Monday. (And I know I’m fortunate to be doing so.)

So, I started just after midnight last night, meaning today with The Problem of the Green Capsule by John Dickson Carr. A book I read the first few pages of some time ago. Not sure when. But I thought it would be a good one to begin with. Relatively easy and hopefully engaging.

So here’s the list:

  1. The Problem of the Green Capsule
  2. Labyrinth of the Spirits by Carlos Ruiz Zafon – I’ve loved the other three of his in this group. Not sure why I’m taking so long with this one.
  3. The Golden Box – second in the Jean and Pat Abbott mysteries. I started it once and misplaced it. I’ve enjoyed two out of three that I’ve read.
  4. At Lady Molly’s – fourth in the Dance to the Music of Time
  5. The Black Gloves – second or third Gwyneth and Constance Little books. I enjoyed the Grey Mist Murders. Humorous mysteries are fun.
  6. A Hoarse Half-Human Cheer – has been on a previous 20 Books list I believe.
  7. Weekend at Thrackley – I liked another Alan Melville book
  8. The Hare with the Amber Eyes – been on my list forever. Something about a banking family and netsuke.
  9. The Love-Charm of Bombs – ditto. 4 or 5 British writers during the Blitz
  10. Love Lies Bleeding – I think this is the next Gervase Fen.
  11. Lincoln in the Bardo – it’s been so long for some of these I don’t remember why. Lincoln’s son and the Tibetan Book of the Dead. I believe it’s a bit weird?
  12. Greenmantle – a John Buchan book. Sequel to The 39 Steps, I think.
  13. The Baker Street Irregulars -Anthony Boucher
  14. The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. – you wouldn’t know it from reading this blog, but I am a Neal Stephenson fan behind in my work
  15. Murder on Wheels – second Hildegarde Withers
  16. The Loser – Thomas Bernhard was in a list of the best short novels according to some site
  17. The Bat – Mary Roberts Rinehart: I saw the old Vincent Price movie not too long ago, so I thought, why not read the book?
  18. The Sealed Message – Fergus Hume: I added this accidentally on my Kindle and then thought, well, why not?

But something is wrong because I added 4 and am still at 18, so I must have forgotten 3. One was Gawain and the Green Knight, which I’m not sure about. But there are two others. I’ll have to find the list.

Thanks, Cathy, for hosting! I hope you, dear reader, will join us in this challenge! It’s very flexible, read as many or as few as fits your schedule. Make a list. Then abandon it, or switch a few out. It officially starts Monday so you have time to figure out what you’d like to have read by September 1!

The Case of the Black Twenty-Two

Brian Flynn’s second Anthony Bathurst mystery is a lot like his first.  A decent mystery brought down a little by Bathurst being a bit annoying and Flynn’s fondness for exclamation marks.   Bathurst thinks himself the greatest thing since sliced bread and almost everyone in the book thinks so, too, even though this is only his second mystery.  The inspector from Scotland Yard does not arrest him for withholding evidence.  Everyone falls in with his plans without knowing a thing about them.  They do what he says and are handsomely rewarded in the end with the mystery solved and the criminal(s) ready for the clink.

However, the mystery itself isn’t bad.   First off there’s a young lawyer who’s engaged to look at some items a millionaire wants to buy in a sale.  These items once belonged to Mary, Queen of Scots, a particular interest of said millionaire.  On his way to see the items on display at the auction house, the lawyer, Daventry, stops for a spot of lunch.  There an incident at a nearby table makes him think a couple is interested in Mary’s former belongings, too.   He goes to see them and a good thing, too, because they are stolen that night and a night watchman is killed.   Meanwhile, at the millionaire’s not at all humble abode, the millionaire gets his head bashed in.   Coincidence?  Connection?  What has all this got to do with Mary, Queen of Scots and what does ‘the black twenty-two’ even mean?   All these questions are answered in time by the man of the hour, Anthony Bathurst.

I am glad that Brian Flynn’s works are being resuscitated.   Dozens of new mysteries from the Golden Age are nothing to sneeze at and Flynn’s writing isn’t bad.   I just wished I liked it a bit better.  It and Bathurst.  He’s got the ego of Poirot without the experience, nor with Christie’s tendency to poke fun at the Belgian detective.  The man wraps everyone around his little finger and his plan at the end for exposing the criminals is pretty much absurd.  There is no way I can figure out that the solution should have been clear to the armchair detective following along.  I prefer stories where you can, at least theoretically, figure it out.  I will probably keep reading nonetheless.  There aren’t too many Golden Age mysteries to go through that I will turn up my nose at these.

Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon 2020

Good morning, afternoon or evening! n433333333333 <– message from my cat.

First thing we do, we answer the survey!

Opening Survey!

1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today?bgvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvv-p

Also known as Maryland
2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?

See, okay, I’m not quite ready.   I didn’t get a stack together and I can’t decide what to read, but ,mmmmmmk, I will in the next 14 minutes.
3) Which snack are you most looking forward to?   Peanut butter and chocolate coated popcorn.
4) Tell us a little something about yourself!

I never know what to say for things like this.
5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to?

Already done!  I’m up and filling out the survey before 8:00!  But what to read?  Finish the current thing or something all new for the readathon?  9 minutes to decide!

 

Mid-Way and a bit!

So, what did I decide?  I started a new book, the second Anthony Bathurst mystery – The Case of the Black Twenty-Two.  A lawyer named Peter Delantry is asked to look at some items about to go on sale at auction which belonged to Mary, Queen of Scots.   A millionaire has asked his firm to buy these items.   It is an unusual request for this firm and a series of unusual events occurs including a robbery and two murders.   Enter that paragon of masculine virtues, Anthony Bathurst.

I’m afraid I haven’t gotten very far.   I have had calls from old friends, did some gardening and had to run to a restaurant for carryout and then, er, I may or may not have fallen asleep while reading.   I will keep on though and sad to say the little I’ve read today is more than I’ve managed the past couple times.   Or maybe happy to say I’ve improved.   I never do make it the full 24 hours, but I will do what I can…  line by line… page by page… book by book!

 

Closing Survey

  1. How would you assess your reading overall?  Not great.   I really need to get into practice for October
  2. Did you have a strategy, and if so, did you stick to it?  erm, not really, and yet no.    All I meant to do was read as much as I could, and I didn’t.
  3. What was your favorite snack?  Peanut butter and chocolate popcorn
  4. Wanna volunteer for our next event? Stay tuned for the recap post!

I had a good day, talking with old friends, doing a bit of gardening and reading not much, but more than I have for a while, so maybe it’s the start of a new reading run.

World Book Day, Dewey’s, etc.

I hope you all are staying safe and well during this unbelievable pandemic.   And while coronavirus is probably uppermost on most peoples’ minds, I would like to remind us of a couple good things going on.   Today, the 23rd of April is World Book Day and if you hurry, at least in America, you can get a free Kindle book from Amazon from a group they’re offering.   I guess I’m too late for most of the world, but I don’t know if they were doing that everywhere or not.   They should, it being World Book Day, but who knows?

Next is Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon, which I have signed up for.   This Saturday, the 25th, we can spend the day reading with people around the world and while that may not be so different this year than how a lot of us have spent the last month or two, it is for a happier reason, more companionable, and hopefully, you can eat plenty of snacks.   Snacks are an important part of the day.   From 8 AM Eastern US time (it starts at the same time around the world and goes 24 hours), you read and snack and chat over social media about your reading, your snacking, and the mini-challenges.   Do as much or as little as you like.   Read 24 hours or 24 minutes.   Eat 24 snacks.   Read physical books, ebooks, or listen to audiobooks.   Join us!   Read!  Eat!   Chat!  You’ll probably be home anyway!

 

I have actually read a little since I last posted.  I read a Patricia Wentworth – The Clock Strikes Twelve.  Enjoyed it.    A very wealthy man who told his family at dinner on New Year’s Eve that one of them had betrayed him and that he would wait in his study until midnight for a confession.   Shortly after midnight, he’s dead.   The police don’t think he fell.   The whole family is under suspicion.  Miss Silver comes along after a while to solve the murder, solve romantic problems, and make all right with the world again.   It’s a nice read.

So, join me on Saturday, reading as much as we can!   Maybe I’ll even read two books this month!

 

A Question of Proof

So, I wanted to write this review today especially because it’s Leap Day.   Happy Leap Day, everyone!   Anyone?   Yes, it’s been a few months, I think and I haven’t been reading.   I’ve been moving and helping my mom move and that all takes way more time than it should.   Reading’s pretty much gone out the window.   I now have 8 minutes to write this review.

Nigel Strangeway’s second?  book.   First?   No time to look it up.   Early anyway.   And I don’t remember him being so obsessed with tea in the other ones.   He’s gone to a boys’ school to save his friend and his friend’s beloved from being arrested for a murder we all assume they didn’t commit.  An annoying kid is strangled in a haystack.   The very haystack Michael and the headmaster’s wife were canoodling in earlier that day.  Nigel figures it all out, but it’s A Question of Proof!   Get it?   He has no evidence.   So, he doesn’t tell anyone in classic detective fashion what he’s thinking and another murder happens.  But that’s okay because only disagreeable and inconvenient people die.

Should I have figured this one out?   I don’t think so.   Not sure there were any clues that ruled everyone else out.   There are mildly amusing bits when Nigel joins the boys’ secret society.  And I figured out what happened with the second weapon, but not why the murderer… oh, never mind.   Can’t tell you that.  Anyway, happy leap day!   Hope to be back before another 3 months go by!

The Curse of the Blue Figurine

So, having got the idea to try some John Bellairs from Jean at Howling Frog, I went with The Curse of the Blue Figurine because it was available free through Kindle Unlimited.  This is the first of a series of stories starring Johnny Dixon and his friend and neighbor Professor Childermass.   I don’t know how similar the rest of the series is.   The first one introduces Johnny whose mother has died recently and whose father is a pilot in the Korean conflict.   So, Johnny is living with his grandparents and seems to be adapting fairly well.   He likes listening to adventures on the radio, he’s good in school, likes reading, but is having trouble with a bully.  In trying to evade his tormentor he leaves school one day and slips into the church.   His neighbor the professor had told him a story earlier about the priest disappearing and now haunting this church.  Johnny doesn’t see the ghost, but he does find a mysterious blue figurine — an Egyptian shawabti and a warning not to take it from the church.   But of course Johnny does and this sets off a series of events both natural and un-, or is it all in Johnny’s head?

I enjoyed reading this and will probably read some more of his.  Children’s literature tends to have a comforting effect.   Except for a certain kind of book which always won prizes when I was a kid, that I never really liked, in which animals got killed or children got killed or people were enslaved, anything too realistic, in short, most kids’ books you know nothing too horrible is going to happen and good guys will win, bad guys will lose and all will come right at the end.

I did have one minor quibble [Spoiler alert]   Why did the evil old priest warn people not to take the shawabti from the church, when he needed someone to do so?  Reverse psychology?   And when the heck did he even write that note?   Actually all the stuff about the priest and his nefarious activities are left seriously vague.   Hoping in future books he does a better job of explaining how certain events come to pass, like how the priest’s ashes came to be on top of this mountain.   [End spoilers]

Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon Oct 2019

Here we are and I can pretend I wasn’t too tired to get up at 8:00 or 9:00 or 10:00.  I have breakfasted and been reading Carmilla, which is short enough most people would have finished it by now.   By J. Sheridan Le Fanu, probably my second favorite vampire story to Dracula.

Anyway, here is the opening survey:

Opening Survey!

1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today?

Bethesda, Maryland, USA
2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?

I am thinking to read a Bellairs children’s book.  For some reason I never read any of his as a kid even though they appeared to be the sort of thing I liked.
3) Which snack are you most looking forward to?

I’ve got some bean dip and chips which should be good.   Not sure whether I’ll get to it though because I have to leave for an event which probably includes dinner.

4) Tell us a little something about yourself!

I don’t like telling somethings about myself.
5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to?

I am staying in someone else’s house so it will probably dramatically decrease my reading time.   Not that I’ve been great about that for a while.  I remember readathons where I spent the vast majority of the time reading.   That was fun.   Maybe in April.

 

Around midnight I finished Carmilla, a novella about vampires written 25 years before Dracula by J. Sheridan Le Fanu.  I really enjoyed this, Dracula is a better, more complex story, but this is very good.   Probably my second favorite after Dracula.   A young lady lives with her father in a castle in Styria.  There’s a deserted town nearby and another deserted castle.   Into their lives literally crashes a mysterious, beautiful young woman.  She is traveling with her mother who cannot stay to take care of her so our heroine’s father invites her to stay.  We know, without being told, this is a big mistake.  Her creepy mother is never really explained, but the story is entertaining.  Slow and Victorian – those of you who like a lot of action would probably not enjoy this, but if you like a heavily atmospheric story with a lot of lesbian undercurrents (over-currents?), you’ll probably like it a lot.

After that I started John Bellairs’ The Curse of the Blue Figurine.  This is the first of a series of books about Johnny Dixon who is a boy living with his grandparents in 1951.  I don’t know what’s going to happen, but somehow it involves Egypt.   I got this idea from Jean at Howling Frog  who’s been reading Bellairs.  I remember him being around, very popular when I was young, but for some reason I never read him.   Not sure why, so I’m trying him now.

What with it now being well into November, I don’t think I’ll dig up the closing survey.  Maybe next year things will be more back to normal.