Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Teaser Tuesdays: The Fatal Legacy

This week my teaser lines come from one of Hazel Holt's cozy mysteries, Mrs. Malory and the Fatal Legacy. I love Sheila Malory (as I may have mentioned before), and this book has been one of my favorites in the series -- it was published in the US back in 2000, and I don't really know how I missed it. In this bit, Mrs. Malory has just been to visit the son of a friend who's been murdered (the friend was murdered, not the son), and discovered that the young man is seemingly being held prisoner in the home of his lover:
...I turned and looked back at the house. Now it seemed to me that the windows had a blank look, the slats of the Venetian blinds like the bars of a prison, the whole house indefinably threatening, sinister almost....The whole episode had been thoroughly upsetting and what I wanted more than anything else was a good strong cup of tea. (p.106)
Yes, a nice cup of tea can put a positive spin on even the most vexing situations. That is so Sheila Malory.

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.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Flash Reviews

The Girl Who Would Speak for the Dead
Paul Elwork
Amy Einhorn Books / Putnam's Sons
2011; 320 pages

Publisher's description:
Emily Stewart is the girl who claims to stand between the living and the dead. She and her brother, Michael, are thirteen-year-old twins-privileged, precocious, wandering aimlessly around their family's estate during the quiet summer of 1925. One day, Emily discovers an odd physical tic -- she can secretly crack a joint in her ankle so the sound appears to burst through the stillness of midair....In their garden tea house, Emily and Michael gather the neighborhood children to fool them with these "spirit knockings." But soon this game of contacting the dead creeps into a world of adults still reeling from World War I. When the twins find themselves dabbling in the uncertain territory of human grief and family secrets their game spins wildly out of control.

My Thoughts:
I really didn't know what to expect from Paul Elwork's The Girl Who Would Speak for the Dead. I was hoping for something more than just another predictable ghost story -- and my hopes were rewarded. The book is definitely creepy, but in remarkably unpredictable ways. I enjoyed it much more than I expected I would at the outset. My one reservation, and the reason I couldn't give it a full "A" rating, is that I was a little disappointed by the ending -- everything wraps up a little too fast and too neatly. Still, a well-written, very enjoyable read.

Tassy Morgan's Bluff
Jim Stinson
Plume / Penguin
2011; 240 pages

Publisher's Description:
San Andreas, California, might seem a quaint destination, but its residents are sure the town harbors great potential: located on a breathtaking stretch of the Pacific coast, boasting a near-perfect beach, and banked on all sides by towering stately redwoods, it's poised to be a tourist hot spot. Tassy Morgan and Lincoln Ellis each moved to San Andreas for the quiet and to escape -- Tassy fled a marriage that had taken disastrous turns and Linc left behind a Hollywood law practice and is a new widower. When Tassy's dilapidated beach shack becomes the target of the nosy city council zoning board, she and Linc -- who, against his better judgment, has volunteered his legal services to the council -- end up at the center of not just the town controversy, but a surprising romance as well.....The antics and rubbernecking the regulars of the San Andreas Seaside Cafe perform to wheedle in on the courtship blossoming between Linc and Tassy are as endearing as they are outrageous. This charming and hopeful story is infused with a humor that will welcome readers of all ages to a town they'll want to visit again and again.

My Thoughts:
A solid B.
This was another very enjoyable read. It has lots of humor and romance, and some very likable and quirky characters, although I thought the least appealing was Tassy Morgan herself. She keeps saying that people don't like her, and I could pretty much see why -- just a little too prickly for my tastes; it was hard to warm to her. But it's a cute story and a fast easy read, even though the plot is rather convoluted for such a short book. Still, a perfect novel to read while basking at the shore or lazing in a hammock. Stinson is a fine craftsman -- I'll definitely look for more of his work.

Art and Madness: A Memoir of Lust Without Reason
Anne Roiphe
Nan A. Talese / Doubleday
2011; 225 pages

Publisher's Description:
Art and Madness recounts the lost years of Anne Roiphe’s twenties, when the soon-to-be-critically-acclaimed author put her dreams of becoming a writer on hold to devote herself to the magnetic but coercive male artists of the period..... During an era that idolized its male writers, she became, sometimes with her young child in tow, one of the girls draped across the sofa at parties with George Plimpton, Terry Southern, Doc Humes, Norman Mailer, Peter Matthiessen, and William Styron. In the Hamptons she socialized with Larry Rivers, Jack Gelber and other painters and sculptors. “Moderation for most of us is a most unnatural condition....I preferred to burn out like a brilliant firecracker.” But while she was playing the muse reality beckoned, forcing her to confront the notion that any sacrifice was worth making for art..... Art and Madness recounts the fascinating evolution of a time when art and alcohol and rebellion caused collateral damage and sometimes produced extraordinary work.

My Thoughts:
B+ for the writing; D- for all that poor decision making.
I was not very familiar with Anne Roiphe when I started this book -- I knew her works primarily from reviews; never had read any myself. The main reason for my interest in the book was its setting in the art and literary world of the late '50s/early '60s, a period I've always found attractive -- and it does certainly give the reader an interesting perspective on that life and time. I enjoyed that. Roiphe seems very open and sometimes appallingly honest in her description of the life she lived back then -- and it's not always a very attractive portrait. But it made for a fascinating read, and a wonderful introduction to a very intriguing writer.

So That's An Earthquake???!!!

I've actually experienced one other earthquake, many years ago, in Mexico City. But it was very mild and lasted probably about two seconds. The one we had here in Virginia yesterday was much more like THE BIG ONE!

We had just finished lunch, and I was tidying up at the time; and at first I didn't really notice anything because after living in a high-rise all these years I've gotten used to a certain amount of vibration in the building from time to time. But then as the shaking got really violent, I thought I was having some kind of attack or seizure -- the power didn't blink, and nothing was falling off the walls right at first, so it took me a second or two to realize that it wasn't just me. And by that time, Michael was up saying "Is this an earthquake?" Don't really know how long it lasted -- seemed like at least a couple of minutes. And then it took me about half an hour to stop vibrating, myself, after the quake was over! Also, I was very nervous that it might start again, so I quickly gathered up all the stuff I thought we might need if we had to evacuate, and stuffed it in my purse and my big Vera Bradley bag – cell phone, glasses, iPad, Filofax, all our pills, a change of undies, and my old Teddy bear. Oh, and my makeup bag, too.

I was very worried that the building might have been damaged -- that would be just our luck to have this place declared uninhabitable now that we're so close to putting it on the market. But they issued a notice later in the afternoon, on the condo website -- no structural damage. We didn't have any sort of real damage here in the apartment, either. A few things fell off the bookcases in the study -- but no books were affected. A clock was the only thing that got broken. And Michael went right to work on that and fixed it while I was still bracing for aftershocks (there were some, but fortunately we didn't feel any).

But at least we're OK, and there doesn't seem to have been many injuries (or I haven't heard of any, so far). The only other positive note I’ve found in the whole thing is that they say now it’s really unlikely we’ll ever experience another earthquake of that magnitude in this area, in our lifetime. But I’m of two minds about that -- in a way, it sounds reassuring; in a way, it sounds like famous last words.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Teaser Tuesdays: The Winter Ghosts

This week my teaser lines come from The Winter Ghosts by Kate Mosse. I haven't really started this one yet, so I'm not sure exactly what's going on in this snippet. All I know is that the protagonist is wandering alone in a dark, wooded area, imagining all sorts of scary stuff.
In the deepest thickets of the wood, the light had all but disappeared. The mist was slinking through the trees, slipping in and out of the trunks and hollows like an animal hunting its prey. There was an absolute and impenetrable stillness....Then I heard the snap of a twig underfoot. (p.63)
And that's exactly why I try to stay away from dark, wooded areas.

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, August 16, 2011

Teaser Tuesdays: Malice in Miniature

This week my teaser lines come from Malice in Miniature, one of the Dorothy Martin mysteries by Jeanne M. Dams. In this snippet, Dorothy is visiting Brocklesby Hall, a country house whose owner collects and restores very detailed (and very valuable) dollhouses. At this point, no murders have been committed, but I have a feeling a little homicide is about to show up any minute now.
Voices...could be heard faintly, coming from various directions as I stood in the great hall. They echoed oddly off the hard surfaces and became a sort of clanging buzz, from everywhere and nowhere, resounding in my head. I wondered if the house had the usual quota of ghosts....if there were ever a house designed to inspire macabre legends, it was this one. (p.68)
So far, no ghosts. Maybe in the next chapter.

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, August 11, 2011

Booking Through Thursday: National Book Week

This week's BTT topic is National Book Week. And the prompt is: "Grab the closest book to you. Go to page 56. Copy the 5th sentence as your status. (We’ve done something similar to this before, but it’s always fun, so … why not?)"

Why not, indeed. Actually, I've recently posted one of these page-56 thingies on Facebook, which is I suppose where this probably got started (hence the reference to "your status").

The Facebook rules said not to mention the book's title, but since there's no rule about that here, I can say that this 56/5 quote is from the book I've been reading tonight: Martin Meredith's Born in Africa: The Quest for the Origins of Human Life:
In 1951, the Leakeys took Charles Boise to Olduvai.
And the rest, as they say, is history. Or maybe that should be pre-history?

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Teaser Tuesdays: Along Came a Spider

I'm a little late getting my teaser lines up this week. In my mind, I'm still on vacation, I guess.

This week I'm using one of the books I read at the beach last week, James Patterson's Along Came a Spider, the first in his series of thrillers centered around Washington DC police detective (and psychologist) Alex Cross. In this snippet, Cross is describing his arrival at the crime scene that starts off all the rest of the book's mayhem:
It was pitch-black in the house. Eerie. The wind was sucked through the open door, and I could hear something rattling inside....The smells of Lysol and burnt grease melded into something strange to the nose, though not entirely unpleasant. There were a lot worse smells in homicide cases. (p.16, paperback edition)
Lovely thought, isn't it? And this is just the beginning of the story -- things will be getting very unpleasant for Cross, very quickly.

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.