Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Teaser Tuesdays: My Brilliant Career

This week my teaser lines come from the classic coming of age novel My Brilliant Career by Australian author Miles Franklin. Published in 1901, the book is the story of a young girl living in rural Australia in the 1890s, and was written by Franklin when she was just a teenager, for (she claimed) the amusement of her friends. In this snippet, the book's narrator Sybylla Melvyn is lamenting her fate as a young, ambitious, and impoverished female of the day:
Girls! girls! Those of you who have hearts, and therefore a wish for happiness, homes, and husbands by and by, never develop a reputation of being clever. It will put you out of the matrimonial running as effectually as though it had been circulated that you had leprosy.
I'm reading this on my iPad, so I'm not sure of page numbers, but the quote comes from Chapter Seven.

Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by mizB at Should Be Reading. If you'd like to read more teasers, or take part yourself, just head on over to her blog.

And please feel free to leave me a link to your Teaser Tuesday post in your comment here.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Teaser Tuesdays: The Children's Book

This week, my teaser lines come from The Children's Book, by A.S. Byatt. I've had this one for quite a while now and finally decided to jump in. It's a chunkster (nearly 700 pages), so I'm sure I'll be reading it for a long, loooong time. And since I've just now opened the book for the first time, I really don't know anything about this snippet, except that it appears on page 89:
Tom looked into his book. The story had advanced a page or two. A group of seekers were descending a dark tunnel -- they were the shadowless hero, a gold lizard the size of a terrier with garnet eyes, and a transparent, jellylike formless being who poured along the ground and constantly changed shape.

Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by mizB at Should Be Reading. If you'd like to read more teasers, or take part yourself, just head on over to her blog.

And please feel free to leave me a link to your Teaser Tuesday post in your comment here.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Teaser Tuesdays: The Seance

This week my teaser lines come from The Seance by John Harwood:
...I was sitting up in bed reading when my grandmother came into the room and sat down in the chair beside me, looking exactly as she had when I was a little girl: the same elaborate black silk dress and tightly pinned white hair, the same familiar scent of lavender and violet water. The chair creaked as she settled herself in it, smiled at me and took up her work, just as if she had only been gone five minutes, rather than resting in Kensal Green Cemetery for the past fifteen years. (p.104)

Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by mizB at Should Be Reading. If you'd like to read more teasers, or take part yourself, just head on over to her blog.

And please feel free to leave me a link to your Teaser Tuesday post in your comment here.

Monday, November 14, 2011

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

It's been a few weeks since I posted a Monday Reading List, so it's probably going to look like I've been doing more reading than I actually have. My reading goal for the year was to read more books than I read last year (49), and it really looks like I'm not going to get there. But I have been doing a little better than I did earlier in the year, so I might at least end the year on a positive note after all.

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey. If you want to let the world know what books 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.

Friday, November 11, 2011


November 11
Armistice Day
Remembrance Day
Veterans Day

Image of vintage postcard: Vintage Holiday Crafts.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Booking Through Thursday: E-volution

This week's BTT topic is all about e-reading: "E-readers like the Kindle and iPad are sweeping the nation … do you have one? Do you like it? Do you find it changes your reading/buying habits? If you don’t have one, do you plan to?"

I do have an iPad and I do like it. It's not great for blogging, but for Internet surfing and checking email and just playing, it's great. And lately I've been doing more and more e-reading with it, too. I downloaded the Kindle app for free from Amazon, and I've also downloaded several dozen books now -- many of them also free.

It's interesting that these questions came up just now, since yesterday I was reading an article about the results of a German study that found older people read faster and process their reading more efficiently when reading on a tablet -- faster than when reading printed books, or even with a Kindle or other electronic devices. And although the "older people" in the study were even older than moi (but I'm getting there), I'm finding that I do seem to read faster on the iPad than when I'm reading printed books.

I still prefer printed books -- and that was true of the people in the study, too -- but I can definitely see more e-reading in my future.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Teaser Tuesdays: Wicked Autumn

This week my teaser lines come from Wicked Autumn by G.M. Malliet. From page 192:
A cat jumped onto the back of Miss Pitchford's overstuffed chair, then peered over her mistress's shoulder to appraise the visitor with that look of distant yet apoplectic contempt only cats manage to achieve. Max found himself engaged in a brief staring contest, which of course he could never win, the cat's baleful glitter never faltering, its hard heart never softening.

Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by mizB at Should Be Reading. If you'd like to read more teasers, or take part yourself, just head on over to her blog.

And please feel free to leave me a link to your Teaser Tuesday post in your comment here.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Reading Report: The Man in Lower Ten

Written by Mary Roberts Rinehart
Originally published 1906

The Man in Lower Ten was the first mystery novel written by Mary Roberts Rinehart, and is known as the first detective novel to appear on national bestseller lists (I haven't checked that out, but it sounds likely).

In the story, Lawrence Blakeley, a young attorney working in Washington DC, sets off by train to deliver valuable documents in a criminal case. Because of a slightly mysterious mishap, he ends up sleeping in the wrong berth, and having his clothes and luggage (with the documents inside), as well as his identity, stolen. Even more disturbing, a dead man is found in lower ten, the berth that should have been Blakeley's, and suspicion falls on the young lawyer. But before anyone can explain the situation, the train he's riding in is involved in a deadly accident and Blakeley ends up making his way back home in the company of another of the survivors -- an attractive young woman (Alison West) who turns out to be the fiancee of his friend and partner in the Washington law firm. And Blakeley also just happens to come into possession of some objects that seem to incriminate the young woman in the murder on the train.

Hmmmm. Complicated enough for ya? Well, it gets even more so, with policemen and amateur detectives working on the case. And people spying on Blakeley from the house next door. And Blakeley trying to keep his partner from finding out about Alison's possible involvement in the affair. And, of course, Blakeley falling in love with Alison and trying to keep that from his partner, too.

But the complicated plot and sinister elements are balanced by Rinehart's satiric humor and Blakeley's light-hearted narration. And everything is sorted out and explained in the last couple of chapters, just as it should be.

As a teen, I read quite a bit of MRR's work but haven't read anything by her in many years. Reading this has made me remember what a good story-teller she was. In spite of a lot of dated elements, the story has such a contemporary feel that I kept forgetting it was written over a hundred years ago. Definitely a fun read.

Some favorite quotes:
  • Have you ever seen a fly, who, in these hygienic days, finding no cobwebs to entangle him, is caught in a sheet of fly paper, finds himself more and more mired, and is finally quiet with the sticky stillness of despair?...Well, I was the fly. (Chapter VII)

  • "Love is like the measles," he orated. "The older you get it, the worse the attack." (Chapter XVI)

Reading Report: The Killings at Badger's Drift

Written by Caroline Graham
Felony & Mayhem Press, 2005; 252 pages
First published 1987

Money had been behind many a killing. Money and sex. Interlocked. An eternal ampersand. And a motive for murder since murder began. (pp.153-154)

When elderly spinster Emily Simpson went orchid-hunting in the woods near her home in the tranquil English village of Badger's Drift, she never expected to stumble upon a sight that would result in her abrupt demise. At first no one believes Emily's death is anything but an unfortunate accident – a woman getting on in years and living alone suffers a fall and is unable to call for help in time. But Emily's old friend and neighbor (and fellow orchid hunter) Miss Lucy Bellringer is suspicious, and calls on Chief Inspector Tom Barnaby to investigate. At first unconvinced that anything "untoward" has happened, Barnaby nevertheless promises Miss Bellringer to look into her friend's death. And as he noses around, aided by his young partner Sergeant Gavin Troy, Barnaby begins to realize there's something sinister at work in Badger's Drift, involving old rivalries and scandals and secrets. And then there's a second death – this one much more horrific than the first, and most definitely murder – and Barnaby and Troy must race to find the killer before more violence disrupts the once-peaceful little village.

I've had this book on my "Must Read" list for a couple of decades now. Don't know why it's taken me so long to get around to it, since I'd read a couple of the later novels in Graham's Barnaby series and loved both of them (love Midsomer Murders, too – the TV series based on the books). I was pleased to see that this one was just as entertaining and intriguing as all the later books – all the regulars in place, the plot just as interesting, the killings just as bizarre and unpredictable. It's whetted my appetite for even more Barnaby, and fortunately I've got several more to choose from.

Some favorite quotes:
  • Barnaby spotted Wellington, a solid cat the colour of iron filings, with four white socks, on top of a grand piano. The name seemed apt. He had a face like an old boot, squashed in, tuckered and rumpled. He watched them restacking the books. He looked secretive and ironical. A cat who was biding his time. (p.17)

  • [Barnaby] thought how impossible it was for a gardener to attempt to conceal his personality. Telling one's dreams could hardly be more revelatory. Unsophisticated harmony for Miss Simpson; tangled exuberance for Miss Bellringer;...He looked at the showy shrubs, the billiard-table-baize lawn, the pond with a concrete cherub peeing mechanically on a plastic lily. Here was ostentatious vulgarity, literally in full bloom. (p.164)

  • Barnaby...never underestimated the tremendous satisfaction that knowing all a neighbour's business gave some people. A passionate interest in everyone else's affairs seemed to him a very human characteristic hardly reprehensible enough to be called a failing, let alone a sin. If he himself wasn't endlessly concerned with other people's behaviour, he wouldn't be doing the job he was. (p.166)

Reading Report: The Fatal Touch

Written by Conor Fitzgerald
Bloomsbury, 2011; 378 pages

Publisher's Description:
A man lies dead in a Roman piazza. Is he simply the unfortunate victim of a local mugger with a penchant for preying on tourists? Or is there something more sinister to the story? With the help of his associate Caterina, Blume is called to the case. But they're not alone: a colonel from the Carabinieri -- military police -- is trying to control the investigation. Blume, unwilling to give way to a rival investigator, goes hard after his target.

If the killing was an accident, why is the colonel so deeply interested? Perhaps the reason is that this particular victim had an unusual occupation: He forged classical paintings for a living, and he did it better than anyone else on the market. His death reawakens issues from Italy's violent past, calls into question the reputations of certain people in the present, and promises great wealth in the future for whoever resolves its mystery. Relying on old friends and intuitions, Blume hurls himself into the investigation, at great risk to his job, his neck, and anyone who trusts him.

My Thoughts:

It's not at all unusual for me to put a book aside, read something else for a while, and then return to the book that was shelved. But when it happens over and over with the same book, then I know something's wrong. That was my problem with Conor Fitzgerald's The Fatal Touch, and the reason it took me so long to finish it. Maybe I just wasn't as good a match with the book as I thought I'd be. Or maybe it was the fact that once again, against all better judgment, I jumped into a series without reading the book that started it all (Fitzgerald's The Dogs of Rome).

It's a puzzle because I found the main character, Commissioner Alec Blume (a transplanted American and veteran police officer who enjoys art and literature), very appealing. I also enjoyed the story of the art forger, Englishman Henry Treacy, mostly told through quotes from his personal notebooks.

But I thought the plot in general was fuzzy and disjointed, and the central mystery not all that mysterious or compelling. However, the art world setting and the fact that it all took place in Rome (one of my dream cities) kept me coming back. It certainly wasn't the worst mystery I've read, but I had hoped for much more.

Note: My copy of this book was provided free of charge by the publisher, through LibraryThing's Early Reviewer program. No other compensation was offered or provided, and no one attempted to influence my opinion of the book.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Booking Through Thursday: Harder

This week, BTT asks a question that made me stop and think a bit: "All other thing being equal, would you rather read a book that’s hard/challenging/rewarding or light/enjoyable/easy?"

This one is a little hard to answer (and I'm not sure exactly what we mean by "all other things being equal" -- what things?), because I think I like both those choices. At different times and for different purposes, but I wouldn't rule either of them out. Of course one person's hard/challenging/rewarding might be the next person's piece of fluff. And, speaking realistically, if a book is really so hard to read that it takes a lot of work to get through, I'm very unlikely to stick with it. Which is why Tolstoy, Proust, and David Foster Wallace aren't on my must-read list at the moment.

My preferred reading, of course, would be something that's challenging and enjoyable. Is that too much to ask?

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Teaser Tuesdays: Hallowe'en Party

This week my teaser lines come from the book I finished (appropriately enough) last night -- Agatha Christie's Hallowe'en Party. It's another in her series of Hercule Poirot novels featuring Poirot's old friend, mystery writer Ariadne Oliver. In this excerpt, Mrs. Oliver is helping with the preparations for a children's Halloween party and overhears one of the older girls (Joyce) boasting about having witnessed a murder:
"...I didn't know it was a murder when I saw it. It wasn't really till a long time afterwards, I mean, that I began to know that it was a murder. Something that somebody said only about a month or two ago suddenly made me think: Of course, that was a murder I saw."
Not sure about page numbers here because I read this one on my iPad, but the quote comes toward the end of Chapter One (Location 148 of 3926).

Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by mizB at Should Be Reading. If you'd like to read more teasers, or take part yourself, just head on over to her blog.

And please feel free to leave me a link to your Teaser Tuesday post in your comment here.