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.

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

2015 Historical Fiction Reading Challenges

I've discovered a couple more irresistible reading challenges for 2015.  OK -- I admit it -- just about ALL reading challenges are pretty irresistible to me. So here are another couple I'm signing up for.

Hosted by: Amy Bruno @ Passages to the Past
Dates: January 1 - December 31, 2015
My goal: "Victorian Reader" (5 books)
See the announcement/sign-up post for guidelines

Hosted by: Amy Yingling @ A Bookish Girl
Dates: January 6 - December 31, 2015
My Goal: "Anthony Doerr" (5 books)
See the announcement/sign-up post for guidelines

At the moment, I'm feeling very brave and the year is new and I'm not bogged down just yet, so I'm thinking I'll try to read different books for each of these. But, in reality, I'll probably be doing some crossing over. Just have to see what develops. As the year goes along, I'll be tracking my progress over on my challenge blog (HERE).

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Teaser Tuesdays: The Red House Mystery

Well, I'm not sure what happened to December, but here we go with the first teasers of a brand new year. This week my teaser lines come from The Red House Mystery by A.A. Milne, creator of Winnie the Pooh. It was originally published in 1922, and was Milne's only mystery novel. This snippet comes very early in the book (Loc.17  in the Kindle edition), before any mayhem takes place; here we have the housekeeper Mrs. Stevens talking with her niece Audrey:
"....I was never the one to pretend to be what I wasn't. If I'm fifty-five, I'm fifty-five -- that's what I say."

"Fifty-eight, isn't it, auntie?"

"I was just giving that as an example," said Mrs Stevens with great dignity.

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.

Sunday, January 04, 2015

Vintage Mystery Bingo 2015

Hosted by: Bev @ My Reader's Block
Dates: January 1 - December 31, 2015

I hesitated a little about this challenge, since I did such a pathetic job with the 2014 version. But I definitely want to give it another go. I'm signing up for the Gold Edition again, books published before 1960. Here's the card with all the possible categories:

I'll list the books as I read them:


Saturday, January 03, 2015

Mystery Readers / Reporter's Challenge 2015

Hosted by: Ellie Oberth (see her Dead Herring blog)
Dates: January 1 - December 31, 2015
Sign ups: GoodReads group - The Challenge Factory

  • Cub reporter: 5 books (1 from each category)
  • Columnist: 10 books (2 from each category)
  • News Anchor: 15 books (3 from each category)
  • Editor: 20 books (4 from each category)
  • Newspaper Mogul: 25 books

I'm signing up at the Cub Reporter level, so I'll be reading one book from each of the five categories (Who? What? Where? When? How? Why?):

  1. Protagonist is a librarian 
  2. Protagonist is a government agent 
  3. Protagonist is a ghost 
  4. Protagonist works with animals (vet, dog walker, zoo, etc) 
  5. Protagonist is a crook 
  1. Holiday in the title 
  2. Animal in the title 
  3. Weather in the title 
  4. Poison in the title 
  5. Title starts with the same letter as your last name 
  1. Set in England 
  2. NOT set on land (cruise ship, boat, airplane, spaceship, etc) 
  3. Set on an Island 
  4. Set on foreign soil (not America or England) 
  5. Historical novel 
  1. One book set during any holiday 
  2. One that centers around a convention or conference 
  3. One Dark & Stormy night – bad weather plays big role in story 
  4. One where the protagonist has to beat the clock (time is crucial to solving mystery) One set during a vacation 
HOW (Method of Murder)
  1. Poison is murder weapon 
  2. Knife/stabbing is murder weapon 
  3. Gun/shooting is murder weapon 
  4. Blunt object is murder weapon 
  5. Rope/strangulation is murder weapon 

2015 Chunkster Challenge

Hosted by: Vasilly
Dates: throughout 2015

OK, I probably really shouldn't be signing up for yet another reading challenge, but Vasilly has made this one so easy -- no levels, read as many or as few weighty tomes as you please. To read all about the challenge and sign up, see the announcement page.

I'm just going to commit to two chunksters for now, but I've got many, many more on my TBR list.  During the year, I'll be tracking my progress on my challenge blog, and here too (if I can remember). 

Books read:

Thursday, January 01, 2015

Books Read in 2015

Cumulative Reading List

Here's where I'll be tracking my reading in 2015.

Every year I have the same goal -- to read at least fifty books during the year. And every year, I seem to fall just a bit short. That's OK -- at least it gives me something to shoot for and keeps me reading. But one of these days, I really would love to hit that target. Maybe this year....?


1. Last Man Standing (formerly: One Lucky Bastard). Roger Moore (2015; memoir; 272 pages)
2. The Red House Mystery. A. A. Milne (1922; fiction; 229 pages)
3. As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust (Flavia de Luce #7). Alan Bradley (2015; fiction; 392 pages)
4. The Case of the Velvet Claws (Perry Mason #1). Erle Stanley Garner (1933; fiction; 215 pages) 
5. The After House. Michael Phillip Cash (2014; fiction; 154 pages)
6. Mike Mulligan and More: A Virginia Lee Burton Treasury (2002; children's fiction; 202 pages)
7. Against the Fall of Night. Arthur C. Clarke (1948; science fiction; about 200 pages) 


8. The Resurrection Maker. Glenn Cooper (2013; fiction; 336 pages)
9. The Room. Jonas Karlsson (2014; fiction; 192 pages)
10. The Third Man. Graham Greene (1948; fiction; about 90 pages)


11. Elidor. Alan Garner (1965; fiction; 208 pages)
12. The Book of Speculation. Erika Swyler (2015; fiction; 352 pages)
13. Nightbird. Alice Hoffman (2015; fiction; 210 pages)
14. Let Sleeping Dogs Lie ("Sister" Jane #9). Rita Mae Brown (2014; fiction; 304 pages)


15. The Witch of Painted Sorrows. M.J. Rose (2015; fiction; 384pages)
16. The Fifth Gospel. Ian Caldwell (2015; fiction; 431pages)
17. A Fine Summer's Day (Inspector Ian Rutledge #17). Charles Todd (2015; fiction; 358pages)
18. Wylding Hall. Elizabeth Hand (2015; fiction; about 100pages)
19. As the Crow Flies (DI Nick Dixon #1). Damien Boyd (2013/2015; fiction; 178pages)
20. Fear the Darkness (Brigid Quinn Thriller #2). Becky Masterman (2015; fiction; 333pages)


21. Gently Does It (Chief Inspector George Gently #1). Alan Hunter (1955; fiction; 250pages)
22. A Saintly Killing (Faith Morgan Mystery #3). Martha Ockley (2014; fiction; 234pages)
23. Beethoven's Tenth (Frank Ryan #1). Brian Harvey (2015; fiction; 160 pages) 
24. The Ice Twins. S.K. Tremayne (Sean Thomas) (2015; fiction; 373 pages)
25. Jack of Spades: A Tale of Suspense. Joyce Carol Oates (2015; fiction; 208 pages)
26. The Silence of Ghosts. Jonathan Aycliffe (2013/2015; fiction; 192 pages)


27. Vertigo. Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac (1954; fiction; 192 pages)
28. Pines (Wayward Pines Series, #1). Blake Crouch (2012; fiction; 315 pages)
29. The Tale of Despereaux. Kate DiCamillo; illus. by Timothy Basil Ering (2003; fiction; 273 pages)


30. A Head Full of Ghosts. Paul Tremblay (2015; fiction; 304 pages)
31. The Truth and Other Lies. Sascha Arango (2014; fiction; 256 pages)
32. Tail Gait (Mrs. Murphy #23). Rita Mae Brown (2015; fiction; 336 pages)
33. The Angel Court Affair (Charlotte & Thomas Pitt #30). Anne Perry (2014; fiction; 288 pages)
34. The Forgotten Room (Jeremy Logan #4). Lincoln Child (2015; fiction; 304 pages)


35. In the Dark Places (Inspector Banks #22). Peter Robinson (2015; fiction; 368 pages)
36. Goodbye Stranger. Rebecca Stead (2015; fiction; 304 pages)
37. Ramona Quimby, Age 8 (Ramona Quimby #6). Beverly Cleary (1981; fiction; 179 pages)
38. Newport. Jill Morrow (2015; fiction; 356 pages)
39. Five picture books:
  • Anatole. Eve Titus; illus. by Paul Galdone (1956; 40 pages)
  • Corduroy. Don Freeman (1948; 32 pages)
  • Harry and the Lady Next Door. Gene Zion; illus. by Margaret Bloy Graham (1960; 64 pages)
  • Harry the Dirty Dog. Gene Zion; illus. by Margaret Bloy Graham (1956; 32 pages)
  • One Morning in Maine. Robert McCloskey (1952; 62 pages)


40. A Man of Some Repute. Elizabeth Edmondson (2015; fiction; 306 pages)
41. The Quick. Lauren Owen (2014; fiction; 544 pages, Kindle edition)


42. The Postman Always Rings Twice. James M. Cain (1934; fiction; 127 pages, Kindle edition)
43. Champagne For One (Nero Wolfe #31). Rex Stout (1958; fiction; 225 pages, Kindle edition)
44. Slade House. David Mitchell (2015; fiction; 224 pages)
45. The Maltese Falcon. Dashiell Hammett (1930; fiction; 224 pages, Kindle edition)
46. The Night Sister. Jennifer McMahon (2015; fiction; 336 pages, Kindle edition)
47. The Anger Meridian. Kaylie Jones (2015; fiction; 288 pages)


48. Between a Rock and a Hard Place (Potting Shed Mystery #3). Marty Wingate (2015; fiction; 288 pages, Kindle edition)
49. South of the Border, West of the Sun. Haruki Murakami; trans. by Philip Gabriel (1992; fiction; 224 pages, Kindle edition)
50. What We Keep. Elizabeth Berg (1998; fiction; 274 pages, Kindle edition)
51. Backstabbing in Beaujolais. Jean-Pierre Alaux, Noël Balen; trans. by Anne Trager (2015; fiction; 122 pages, Kindle edition)