Monday, January 19, 2015

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?


It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey. If you want to let the world know what you're going to be reading this week, head on over to her blog and leave your link. It's also a great way to discover new books and new blogs.

I was a little under the weather last week -- sort of both figuratively and literally. Had a bad tummy bug that kept me from getting out and about most of the week, but even if I'd been in better shape, the outdoor world was cold and damp and not very tempting. So I stayed close to home and got quite a bit of reading done.

● Finished three books:

(latest in the Flavia de Luce series - I'll be getting a review up soon)

The After House, by Michael Phillip Cash

 The Case of the Velvet Claws, by Erle Stanley Gardner 
(first in the Perry Mason series)

● Also read a couple of books for the I Love Picture Books Reading Challenge:

Corduroy, by Don Freeman


● And posted a short review of a book I read earlier this month:



● This week, I'm still trying to finish up Against the Fall of Night, by Arthur C. Clarke. And I'm also reading one of the Early Reviewer books I've got from Library Thing:

Let Sleeping Dogs Lie, by Rita Mae Brown
(#9 in her Sister Jane Arnold series)

So I think I'm off to a pretty good start for the year, and I'm hoping to get another two or three books finished before the end of the month. 


Friday, January 16, 2015

Quick Review: The Case of the Velvet Claws, by Erle Stanley Gardner

Paperback edition from 1963
First published 1933 / Kindle edition, 261 pages

In this first entry in Erle Stanley Gardner's long-running mystery series, California lawyer Perry Mason is hired by the stunning Eva Belter (characterized as "all velvet and claws" by Perry's secretary Della Street). Eva has been caught in the company of a prominent congressman, during a bungled robbery at a fancy hotel, and is now being blackmailed by a sleazy tabloid. To protect her companion and keep her wealthy husband in the dark, Eva is ready to pay the hush money, and wants Mason to take care of the mechanics of the deal. But Mason doesn't fully believe Eva, and has other ideas about how to handle her problem. When he starts his sleuthing (along with private detective Paul Drake), he uncovers secrets, twists, and turns that no one saw coming. Eva's husband ends up dead, and Perry could be facing a murder charge.

Originally, I thought this was going to be a re-read, but none of it seemed familiar, so I guess I was wrong about that. It was enjoyable, and a little surprising -- I guess I was expecting it to be more like the old TV show. Raymond Burr was a little more suave and sophisticated than the Perry Mason in the book, and the relationship between Mason and Della Street is a little more romantic in the book. Also, the Mason in the novel is not above breaking a few laws (including doing a little quiet blackmail work) if it gets him what he wants. But it's a really long-running series, and I'm sure the characters develop over the years.  I'll definitely be reading more books in the series.

Quick Review: The After House, by Michael Phillip Cash

 Kindle edition published 2014, 154 pages

After her marriage falls apart, Remy Galway moves with her young daughter Olivia into a 300-year-old cottage in historic Cold Spring Harbor, Long Island. They don't know it, but there also happens to be another occupant in the cottage -- the ghost of 19th Century sea captain Eli Gaspar. The Captain is having a little trouble "moving on" and is not happy about the changes these new inhabitants are making to his old home. His anger leads him to play a number of dirty tricks on Remy, trying to get her do some moving on, herself. But when the tricks turn more deadly, is it the captain who's to blame? Or does Remy have a non-ghostly enemy who wants her dead?

This was a surprisingly entertaining read. Much more of a romance than a mystery or ghost story, although there is a mystery to be solved, and it does involve ghosts. Also angels. It reminded me quite a bit of the old Gene Tierney/Rex Harrison movie, "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir." (One of my favorites.) But it has its own story to tell, and it does it very amusingly. Actually, I was surprised at how much humor Cash manages to mix with the more serious (if improbable) plot line. This would be a perfect book to take on vacation with you -- it's a very fast read with likeable characters (both dead and alive) and never gets dull.


Quick Review: Last Man Standing, by Roger Moore


Michael O'Mara Books Limited, 2014, 272 pages

I received Last Man Standing through GoodRead's First Reads program last year, but didn't get around to reading it until this month. (Shame on me.) Actually, my copy of Sir Roger's book of career anecdotes has the original title: One Lucky Bastard.


He said he wanted to use that title because that's exactly what he felt like.  I'm not really surprised they didn't let him get away with that, but I think I do like it better than the title they went with. Last Man Standing has just a bit too much of an echo of mortality about it.

OK, I admit it -- I've been in love with Roger Moore since his days as Beau Maverick (there was just a bit of an age difference there, but as a toddler I chose to ignore it). And he's always been my favorite James Bond. This book of anecdotes about his lifetime of adventures in the movie biz is fascinating and fun to read. The chatty, self-deprecating style is very appealing, just as I've always felt Sir Roger would be. What a smashing dinner guest he must be! Now I'm eager to read his earlier memoir (and have a little retrospective viewing of his Bond films, too). This was a delightful read.

Note: As mentioned, I received my copy of this book from the publisher, free of charge, through the First Reads program at GoodReads. No other compensation was received, and the opinion expressed here is all my own.

Book Beginnings: Death of a Gossip


Death of a Gossip, by M.C. Beaton. First book in the Hamish Macbeth mystery series. This one has been on my TBR list for many years. Here's the opening paragraph:
"I hate the start of the week," said John Cartwright fretfully. "Beginning with a new group. It's rather like going on stage. Then I always feel I have to apologize for being English. People who travel up here to the wilds of Scotland expect to be instructed by some great hairy Rob Roy, making jokes about sax-pence and saying it's a braw bricht moonlicht nicht and lang may your lum reek and ghastly things like that."
Initial Thoughts:

"Lang may your lum reek?"  Yes, that does sound pretty ghastly.

The book includes a Cast of Characters, and I see that John Cartwright is the owner of the Lochdubh School of Casting: Salmon and Trout Fishing -- so I'm assuming the "new group" he's talking about is a bunch of would-be fishermen. I'm really hoping there's not too much more of that Highland-speak -- I don't do very well with books that try to duplicate dialects or various accents. But I love Scotland -- and whodunnits, so I'm eager to give this a try.



Rose City Reader hosts Book Beginnings on Fridays. As she says, the idea is to post the first sentence (or so) of the book you're currently reading, along with any first impressions or thoughts you have about the book, the author, etc.  It's a wonderful way of adding new books to your must-read list, and a chance to connect with other readers and bloggers.

Monday, January 12, 2015

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?


It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey. If you want to let the world know what you're going to be reading this week, head on over to her blog and leave your link. It's also a great way to discover new books and new blogs.

● Last week, I finished a couple of books:


Last Man Standing, by Roger Moore
(previously titled One Lucky Bastard)


The Red House Mystery, by A.A. Milne

Hope to get a couple of short reviews up later today, or tomorrow.

● This week, I'm finishing up:


Against the Fall of Night, by Arthur C. Clarke

● After that, I'm not sure what I'll be reading. Got a dental appointment later in the week that could affect my reading time (if pain meds are involved). So we shall see what develops.


Friday, January 09, 2015

Book Beginnings: The Case of the Velvet Claws

Cover of the Pocket Books edition 1955
The Case of the Velvet Claws, by Erle Stanley Gardner.  Originally published 1933, it's the first book in the Perry Mason mystery series. In the book's opening paragraph we are introduced to the legendary lawyer:
Autumn sun beat against the window.
Perry Mason sat at the big desk. There was about him the attitude of one who is waiting. His face in repose was like the face of a chess player who is studying the board. That face seldom changed expression. Only the eyes changed expression. He gave the impression of being a thinker and a fighter, a man who could work with infinite patience to jockey an adversary into just the right position, and then finish him with one terrific punch.
Initial Thoughts:

This is one I might be reading for the Vintage Mystery Bingo Challenge.  I actually thought I had read it years ago, but now that I'm taking a look at it, it doesn't seem at all familiar. Of course, my idea of Perry Mason was influenced by Raymond Burr who played Mason in the old TV series, and this description seems to fit his characterization perfectly. Seems like a good book to start the year with.



Rose City Reader hosts Book Beginnings on Fridays. As she says, the idea is to post the first sentence (or so) of the book you're currently reading, along with any first impressions or thoughts you have about the book, the author, etc.  It's a wonderful way of adding new books to your must-read list, and a chance to connect with other readers and bloggers.