Monday, December 31, 2018

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

Not only is it Monday, but it's the last day of 2018, too! What better day to sit back and take a look at what we'll all be reading this week to end the old year and start the new.

And just between us, I could not be happier to see the end of 2018 — not the worst year I've seen, but not much about it I really want to remember, either. So I'm definitely ready for a shiny new year and lots of great books to read.

This week, though, I'm actually going to be finishing up one of the books I started this month....

Educated: A Memoir, by Tara Westover (Random House, February 2018)

Since I have more than half the book to go, I'm counting it as my first read of 2019. Then if I actually get that finished (and that's very iffy — I have some dental adventures coming up this week), I'll be moving on to an ARC of a book that's coming out next month....

The Water Tower Club, by B.K. Mayo (Fir Valley Press, January 2019)

And that should be enough to keep me occupied for a week. Especially this week, with dentist visits to get through, and Christmas decorations to take down and store away. (Yes, we always leave everything up until after the New Year.) But we've got some nasty winter weather predicted for later in the week — terrible for getting out and about, but great for curling up with a good book.

So, happy reading and a Happy New Year, everyone!

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is hosted by Kathryn at Book Date. 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.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Wrapping Up 2018: The Rest of the Challenges

2018 is FINALLY over! Well, almost, anyway. And since it's pretty unlikely I'll be doing a huge amount of reading over the next couple of days, I guess it's time to go ahead and wrap up the last few un-wrapped-up reading challenges I had going during the year. Here they are, in alphabetical order:

Host: Becky @ Becky's Book Reviews
Dates: January - December 2018
See my original post about the challenge HERE.

The goal of the challenge was to read a book from the birth year of each of your selected family members (at least three). I planned to read four books, corresponding to the birth years of my four cousins — 1949, 1950, 1952, and 1960 — but only managed two (1950 and 1960):
  1. A Murder Is Announced (Miss Marple #5). Agatha Christie (pub. June 1950)
  2. Give the Boys a Great Big Hand (87th Precinct #11). Ed McBain (pub. 1960) 
Even though I didn't make it to the finish line, it was still a fun challenge and I'm giving some thought to signing up for next year's version (see guidelines and sign-ups here). Thanks to Becky for hosting!

Host: Katie @ Doing Dewey
Dates: January - December 2018
See my original post about the challenge HERE.

For this one, participants set their own goals. I hoped to read at least four books, but only managed two, and only reviewed one of those:
  1. Balthus: Cats and Girls. Sabine Rewald (2013; art/art history; 176 pages)
  2. Just Kids. Patti Smith (2010; memoir; 304 pages)
Another enjoyable challenge, even though (again) I didn't do as well as I'd have liked. Thanks so much to Katie for hosting. (She's hosting the Nonfiction Challenge again for 2019. Click HERE for guidelines and signups.)

Dates: January - December 2018
See my original post about the challenge HERE.

The goal of the 2018 Picture Book Reading Challenge was "To have adults read more picture books," and there was a minimum of six books. I went with Becky's option to use her checklist for coming up with selections, and read these six books:
  1. Checklist #10. Author beginning with E: Feathers for Lunch, by Lois Ehlert (1996; illus. by author)
  2. Checklist #34. Title beginning with R: The Rabbit and the Shadow, by Mélanie Rutten (2013; illus. by author)
  3. Checklist #40. Title or Author beginning with U: Umbrella, by Taro Yashima (1958; illus. by author)
  4. Checklist #70. a book set in the past – fiction or nonfiction: The Gardener, by Sarah Stewart; illus. by David Small (fiction; set in 1930s, during the Great Depression)
  5. Checklist #77. one word title: Golem, by David Wisniewski (1996; illus. by author)
  6. Checklist #104. Picture book published in 2018: Outside My Window, by Linda Ashman; illus. by Jamey Christoph

I love reading children's lit, so this is always one of my favorite challenges. Thanks so much to Becky for hosting. She'll be hosting a new edition of the challenge in 2019 — click HERE for guidelines, checklists, and signups.

AND, I think that's it. Now it's time to get ready for all those brand new reading challenges out there. Hoping to do sooo much better next year. As usual.

Happy New Year, everyone! And Happy Reading in 2019!

2018 Monthly Key Word Challenge: The Wrap-Up

Host: Bev @ My Reader's Block
Dates: Throughout 2018
See my original post about the challenge HERE.

I loved this challenge!

The goal was to read at least one book each month, with a title that includes one or more of that month's key words, and I actually did manage to read a qualifying book every month. In fact, in May I read two! Somewhere along the line I stopped doing reviews, so in that respect I was sort of a failure. But I really enjoyed finding the books every month — and, of course reading the books (some more than others) — and I'm hugely grateful to Bev for hosting. Haven't decided about joining next year's challenge (click here for details and sign-ups), but I'm definitely considering it. Anyway, here's what I read:

List of Monthly Key Words:

My Reading List:

• If Morning Ever Comes. Anne Tyler (See Review)

• Miss Zukas and the Library Murders (Miss Zukas #1). Jo Dereske (See Review)

Give the Boys a Great Big Hand (87th Precinct #11). Ed McBain (See Review)

Time Out of Joint. Philip K. Dick (See Review)

At the Mountains of Madness. H.P. Lovecraft (See Review)
Pale Horse, Pale Rider: Three Short Novels. Katherine Anne Porter (See Review)

When You Reach Me. Rebecca Stead (See Review)

The Mystery of the Blue Train (Hercule Poirot #6). Agatha Christie (See Review)

The Dead House. Billy O'Callaghan (See Review)

Call for the Dead (George Smiley #1). John le Carré (See Review)

The Night She Died (Inspector Thanet #1). Dorothy Simpson

Broomsticks Over Flaxborough (Flaxborough Chronicles #7). Colin Watson

The Red Book of Primrose House (Potting Shed Mystery #2). Marty Wingate

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Back to the Classics Challenge 2019

Hosted by: Karen K @ Books and Chocolate
Dates: 1 January - 31 December, 2019

I really thought I'd finished signing up for next year's reading challenges, but you know how it is.

This year I read almost nothing but whodunnits and thrillers. Nothing wrong with that, of course — but I'd like to read some of the classic lit I've always intended to read but just never got around to. So, here I go again....

The 2019 Back to the Classics Challenge is composed of twelve categories. I probably won’t plan to complete all twelve, but I think I should be able to manage six. And at the moment, I'm thinking I might choose from these:

1. 19th Century Classic - Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Brontë

2. 20th Century Classic - Where Angels Fear to Tread, by E.M. Forster

3. Classic By a Female Author - Cranford, by Elizabeth Gaskell

4. Classic in Translation - Demian, by Hermann Hesse

5. Classic Comic Novel - The Code of the Woosters, by P.G. Wodehouse

6. Classic Tragic Novel - The House of Mirth, by Edith Wharton

7. Very Long Classic - The Wings of the Dove, by Henry James

8. Classic Novella - The Metamorphosis, by Franz Kafka

9. Classic From the Americas (includes the Caribbean) - Wide Sargasso Sea, by Jean Rhys

10. Classic From Africa, Asia, or Oceania (includes Australia) - The Grass Is Singing, by Doris Lessing (Africa)

11. Classic From a Place You've Lived - Horseman, Pass By, by Larry McMurtry (Texas)

12. Classic Play - Lady Windermere's Fan, by Oscar Wilde

But those plans are definitely subject to change, and I’ve got a long list of alternate choices over on my challenge blog. And that’s where I’ll track my progress during the year.

Friday, December 14, 2018

Book Beginnings: The Appleton Case

The Appleton Case, by Diana Xarissa (2015). These are the first lines of Chapter 1:

"Where are we exactly?" Joan asked in a calm voice.
"We're right here," Janet answered, waving the map in the air. "At least I think we are."

About the Book:
The Markham sisters — Janet and Joan — have just purchased a small bed and breakfast in Derbyshire. But very soon after acquiring Doveby House, Janet finds herself doing some sleuthing. Just how did the previous owner, Margaret Appleton, die? Margaret's son isn't happy that he was left out of his mother's will, but what's he so desperate to get inside Doveby House to find? And are there really ghosts in Janet's bedroom, the library and the coach house? 

Initial Thoughts:

I love that opening because it sounds so much like the hubby and myself when we're traveling. I'm really bad at directions, never know where we are, and have a terrible time reading maps. And yet I'm always the one doing the navigating.

I picked up this cozy mystery mainly because I needed an author whose last name starts with X for one of the Library Thing challenges I've got going. Never have read anything by Diana Xarissa before, but so far I'm enjoying this one. It's the first book in a series, which is nice since I usually jump into a series in the middle and have trouble figuring out relationships, etc.

And it's very short — just over 100 pages — so should be a quick read. Which is also good, since I'm still several books away from my 50-book goal for this year and still hoping to get there.

How about you? Do you do much reading during the holidays? Or have you abandoned all things bookish for all things merry-merry? I usually don't get a lot of reading done during December, but I'm hoping to improve on my record this, back to the books.

Happy Friday, everyone! And have a lovely weekend.

Rose City Reader hosts Book Beginnings on Friday.  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.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Print Only 2019 Reading Challenge

Hosted by: Tina @ As Told By Tina
Dates: January 1 - December 31, 2019

Goal of the challenge: To read as many physical books as you can. These can be books you’ve purchased, been sent, or borrowed. As long as it's a physical book, then it counts.


I have thousands of print books in my house. Real, physical books. I love 'em. I'm addicted to them. Love the way they smell and the way the paper feels in my hand. But more and more I just don't read physical, printed books. In fact, this year only eight of the books I read were actual physical books — the major part of my reading was done on various e-readers.

Now, I don't think there's anything wrong with e-readers. In fact, I love them too. And I do believe I read much faster on them than I do when I'm reading paper books. But I don't want to abandon print for electronic, and that looks like where I'm headed.

So the Print Only Reading Challenge has come along at a really good time. I'm signing up at Level One ("Out of Print" / 1-10 books), but would really love to do a little better than that. During the year I'll be tracking my progress and keeping all my lists on my challenge blog (HERE).

Monday, December 10, 2018

2019 European Reading Challenge

Host: Rose City Reader
Dates: January 1, 2019 - January 31, 2020

Signing up for the 2019 European Reading Challenge, hosted by Gilion over at her Rose City Reader blog — always one of my favorite challenges. For 2019 I'm stretching just a teensy bit and signing up at the Four-Star Level ("Honeymooner") — four books. During the year, I'll be tracking my progress over on my challenge blog.

Friday, December 07, 2018

2019 Cloak and Dagger Reading Challenge

Hosted by: Stormi @ Books, Movies, Reviews! Oh My!
 and Barb @ Booker T's Farm
Dates: January 1 - December 31, 2019

Always one of my favorite challenges. So happy to see it back for next year.

For the 2018 challenge I signed up at the basic level ("Amateur Sleuth" / 5-15 books), and actually read a few more books than I thought I could manage. So in 2019 I'm signing up at the second level — "Detective" (16-25 books) — and hoping to get to 25 books that qualify.

I read a lot of mysteries — they're probably my favorite type of fiction. Even so, I'm such a slow reader, 25 books might be pushing it a little. But it's supposed to be a challenge, right?

During the year, I'll be tracking my progress and keeping all my lists over on my challenge blog (HERE).

Tuesday, December 04, 2018

Wrapping Up 2018: Reading Challenges (Part 1)

I know December is just getting started, but it's such a busy month, I really don't know how much time I can expect to have for reading. So I'm going to go ahead and wrap up a few of the reading challenges I've had going in 2018. As usual, I didn't do as well as I'd hoped -- I did get some reading done but didn't get a lot of reviews written. I could go into all the reasons, but that would drain years from all our lives. So, without further ado....

1. 2018 European Reading Challenge.

This was hosted by Gilion @ Rose City Reader, and I signed up for a total of three books (the "Business Traveler" level). Here's what I read, with links to a couple of reviews:
1. United Kingdom: How to Be Human. Paula Cocozza
2. Ireland / Irish Author: The Dead House. Billy O'Callaghan
3. Italy: A Long Time Coming. Aaron Elkins (set in Milan)
If I had to choose a favorite from these three, I think it would be How to Be Human. A real surprise and not at all what I was expecting. Actually, all of the authors were new to me, and I enjoyed them all. That's one of the things I like about these reading challenges -- the little nudge they give me to try new things.

2. 2018 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge.

Hosted by Amy @ Passages to the Past. My goal was five books ("Victorian Reader"), and I managed to get six read, but didn't review them all. My list:
  1. Holmes Entangled. Gordon McAlpine (2018; set in early 20th Century)
  2. The Cottingley Secret. Hazel Gaynor (2017; set in early 20th Century)
  3. Pale Horse, Pale Rider: Three Short Novels. Katherine Anne Porter (1939; pre-WWI setting)
  4. When You Reach Me. Rebecca Stead (2009; set in 1970s) 
  5. A Morbid Taste for Bones (Brother Cadfael #1). Ellis Peters (1977; set in Medieval Wales)
  6. A Shadow on the Wall. Jonathan Aycliffe (2000; set in Victorian England)
Of the group, I'd probably pick A Shadow on the Wall as my favorite (nice and spooky), but I enjoyed all the others too. Hard to believe I've gone this long without reading one of the Brother Cadfael books, but now I've got another mystery series started.

3. 2018 Mount TBR Reading Challenge.

This annual challenge is hosted by Bev @ My Reader's Block. I signed up at the first level ("Pike's Peak") and wanted to read at least 12 books from my various must-read stacks and shelves. I did pretty well, and actually read 15 books, although I didn't get them all reviewed. What I read:
  1. Five Children and It. E. Nesbit 
  2. Just Kids. Patti Smith 
  3. A Murder Is Announced (Miss Marple #5). Agatha Christie  
  4. Vintage Murder (Roderick Alleyn #5). Ngaio Marsh 
  5. Time Out of Joint. Philip K. Dick 
  6. The Cottingley Secret. Hazel Gaynor 
  7. The Quiet American. Graham Greene  
  8. Pale Horse, Pale Rider: Three Short Novels. Katherine Anne Porter 
  9. At the Mountains of Madness. H.P. Lovecraft 
  10. When You Reach Me. Rebecca Stead 
  11. The Mystery of the Blue Train (Hercule Poirot #6). Agatha Christie 
  12. A Morbid Taste for Bones (Brother Cadfael #1). Ellis Peters 
  13. The Night She Died (Inspector Thanet #1). Dorothy Simpson 
  14. Last Bus to Woodstock (Inspector Morse #1). Colin Dexter 
  15. Last Seen Wearing (Inspector Morse #2). Colin Dexter 
Some really good stuff there, and it would be hard to pick a favorite. I'm very happy the challenge gave me the push I needed to get back to the Inspector Thanet and Inspector Morse books, a couple of the mystery series I've read and enjoyed in the past.


I have a few more challenges I need to wrap up, but I'll save that for a later post. Thanks so much to all the hosts for keeping these going, and to all the other participants for giving me lots of great ideas about what to read next.

2019 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

Host: Amy @ Passages to the Past
Dates: January 1 - December 31, 2019

  • Choose your level.
  • Read any sub-genre of historical fiction (Historical Romance, Historical Mystery, Historical Fantasy, Young Adult, etc.)
  • You don't need a blog to participate.
  • There will be a monthly link for reviews.
  1. 20th Century Reader - 2 books
  2. Victorian Reader - 5 books
  3. Renaissance Reader - 10 books
  4. Medieval - 15 books
  5. Ancient History - 25 books
  6. Prehistoric - 50+ books
My goal: "Victorian Reader" (5 books).

During the year I'll be tracking my progress and keeping all my lists over on my challenge blog (HERE).

2019 Picture Book Reading Challenge

Dates: January - December 2019

Goal: "To have adults read more picture books.
To celebrate the fact that picture books are for everyone!"

Minimum number of books: Six

Option 1: Read six picture books of your choice.
Option 2: Read at least six books from one of the checklists on the announcement page.

I'll be signing up for Option 1, but hope to read more than six picture books. During the year I'll be tracking my progress and keeping all my lists over on my challenge blog (HERE).

2018 Cloak and Dagger Reading Challenge: The Wrap-Up

The 2018 Cloak and Dagger Challenge was hosted by Stormi @ Books, Movies, Reviews! Oh My! and Barb @ Booker T's Farm. I signed up at the "Amateur Sleuth" level (5-15 books) and actually read 15 books that qualified for the challenge. Didn't manage to get them all reviewed, but that's not unusual for me — I'll still be trying to add a few more reviews before the end of the year.

Books I read for the challenge (with links to reviews):
1. Intruder in the Dark (Chief Inspector Littlejohn #43). George Bellairs (1966; police procedural)
2. A Murder Is Announced (Miss Marple #5). Agatha Christie (1950; mystery)
3. Vintage Murder (Roderick Alleyn #5). Ngaio Marsh (1937; police procedural)
4. My Sister's Bones. Nuala Ellwood (2017; psychological thriller)
5. Miss Zukas and the Library Murders (Miss Zukas #1). Jo Dereske (1994; cozy mystery, amateur sleuth)
6. Coffin, Scarcely Used (Flaxborough Mysteries #1). Colin Watson (1958; police procedural)
7. Holmes Entangled. Gordon McAlpine (2018; mystery; historical mystery)
8. Give the Boys a Great Big Hand (87th Precinct #11). Ed McBain (1960; police procedural)
9. Murder in the Meadow (DI Hillary Greene #7). Faith Martin (2008; police procedural; originally published as Beside a Narrow Stream)
10. Tailspin. Sandra Brown (2018; romantic suspense; thriller)
11. The Mystery of the Blue Train (Hercule Poirot #6). Agatha Christie (1928; mystery)
12. A Long Time Coming. Aaron Elkins (2018; mystery; art-related)
13. Last Song Sung (Cullen & Cobb #3). David A. Poulsen (2018; mystery; private investigator)
14. Call for the Dead (George Smiley #1). John le Carré (1961; mystery/espionage)
15. A Morbid Taste for Bones (Brother Cadfael #1). Ellis Peters (1977; mystery; historical mystery)
Of the fifteen, I think my favorite was probably A Murder Is Announced — I love Miss Marple!

Thanks so much to the challenge hosts. This is always one of my favorite challenges.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

2019 Mount TBR Reading Challenge

Host: Bev @ My Reader's Block
Dates: January 1 - December 31, 2019

My "must read" stack is getting way out of hand. Actually, it really is a little like a mountain of books. So once again, I'm signing up for Bev's Mount TBR Reading Challenge. I'll be going for the Pike's Peak level again (12 books), and hoping to do a little better than that.

During the year, I'll be tracking my progress and keeping all my lists over on my challenge blog.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Calendar of Crime Challenge (New for 2019!)

The year has really gotten away from me. All of a sudden it's time for all the new 2019 reading challenge announcements. How is that possible?

I've always loved the mystery-themed challenges that Bev over at My Reader's Block hosts every year, even though I don't always do so well with them. But this year she has a brand new one: the Calendar of Crime Challenge. It calls for reading a minimum of twelve books during the year — one for each month, with the book fulfilling one of several categories listed for that month. You can get a better idea of the challenge workings by reading the guidelines on the announcement page.

I'm thinking this challenge should help me knock a few more books off my ridiculously huge TBR stacks and lists. So even though I'm still working on my challenges for 2018, I'm signing up for this one right away. Besides, I love playing with those category lists! During the year I'll be tracking my progress over on my challenge blog (HERE).

Friday, November 09, 2018

Book Beginnings: A Shadow on the Wall

A Shadow on the Wall, by Jonathan Aycliffe (2000). This is the book's first sentence:
Atherton appeared in my rooms two or three days after my accident.

About the Book:
Edward Atherton, Rector of Thornham St Stephen, should never have meddled with the tomb of the 14th century Abbot of Thornham. From the moment the workmen raise the tomb lid, the horror begins and Atherton is pursued by a malign shadowy presence. After Edward meets an unexplainable death, his brother Matthew calls on Richard Asquith for help. Asquith is a fellow at Cambridge University, and a historian with an interest in psychic phenomena. Together the two men must unravel a series of strange events as they plunge into a dark mystery of ancient evil.

Initial Thoughts:

Well, that's not the most scintillating opening sentence, is it? But I've read other books by Jonathan Aycliffe so I knew even though they may seem slow at first, things get very spooky very quickly. And as I read this one for the RIP Challenge, spooky is definitely what I was looking for.

And speaking of spookiness, here's an alternate cover with a little more of that....

Happy Friday, everyone! And have a lovely weekend.

Rose City Reader hosts Book Beginnings on Friday.  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, November 05, 2018

Reading Report: Call for the Dead

Written by John le Carré
First published 1961
George Smiley Series #1
Kindle edition, 2012; 171 pages

Publisher's Description:
After a routine security check by George Smiley, civil servant Samuel Fennan apparently kills himself — even though Smiley's report cleared Fennan of all the allegations. When Smiley finds the head of British Intelligence is trying to blame him for the man's death, he begins his own investigation, meeting with Fennan's widow to find out what could have led him to such desperation. But on the very day that Smiley is ordered off the enquiry he receives an urgent letter from the dead man. Do the East Germans — and their agents — know more about this man's death than MI6 previously imagined? 
Le Carré's debut novel introduced the tenacious and retiring George Smiley in a gripping tale of espionage and deceit.

My Thoughts:

This was another of those books I wanted to knock off my TBR list this year. It's been there for quite a while and I've passed it by several times — mainly because I'm not really a huge fan of spy novels, although I did enjoy several of Len Deighton's books back in the '70s. But John Le Carré's Call for the Dead is more whodunnit than espionage, with George Smiley investigating what actually happened in the death of civil servant Samuel Fennan. So even though I was a little dubious going in, I ultimately enjoyed this quite a lot.

Le Carré is rightly famous for his character development, and even the minor characters here are well-drawn, believable and interesting. Of course, George Smiley is his greatest creation — sort of the antithesis of James Bond and all those charismatic action heroes. Smiley is not dashing or handsome (his ex-wife called him "Toad"). But he does what he does very well, with intelligence and efficiency and a great deal of sympathy for his fellow human beings — whether or not they work in the spy trade. This book provides a fine introduction.

Rating: ★★★★


Read in September 2018

Qualifies for the following reading challenges: Cloak and Dagger Challenge, Monthly Key Word Challenge.

Reading Report: The Dead House

Written by Billy O'Callaghan
Arcade Publishing, May 2017
Kindle edition, 224 pages

Publisher's Description:
Maggie is a successful young artist who has had bad luck with men. Her last put her in the hospital and, after she’s healed physically, left her needing to get out of London to heal mentally and find a place of quiet that will restore her creative spirit. On the rugged west coast of Ireland, perched on a wild cliff side, she spies the shell of a cottage that dates back to Great Famine and decides to buy it. When work on the house is done, she invites her dealer to come for the weekend to celebrate along with a couple of women friends, one of whom will become his wife. On the boozy last night, the other friend pulls out a Ouija board. What sinister thing they summon, once invited, will never go.  
Ireland is a country haunted by its past. In Billy O'Callaghan's hands, its terrible beauty becomes a force of inescapable horror that reaches far back in time, before the Famine, before Christianity, to a pagan place where nature and superstition are bound in an endless knot.
My Thoughts:

This is a wonderfully atmospheric and eerie thriller, told in first person by art agent Michael Simmons who befriends Maggie, the young artist at the center of the spooky goings-on. Put in hospital by her latest lover, Maggie turns to Michael for help while she's healing. He provides a spare room and emotional support. And when Maggie is able to get back into the world again, he visits her one weekend to view the remote cottage in Ireland she's chosen as her new home and inspiration. During the visit Maggie and her guests indulge in a little seemingly harmless play with a Ouija board, unknowingly unleashing the ancient evil that inhabits the house.

Yes, I know that sounds like a pretty standard haunted house tale, and in the hands of a lesser talent it could be trite and even a bit silly. But Billy O'Callaghan does a beautiful job of keeping it fresh and genuinely disturbing. Once I finished reading The Dead House, I actually turned back to the beginning and read parts of it over again! (I never do that.) This was O'Callaghan's debut novel and I'm definitely hoping there'll be more to come.

Rating: ★★★★


(Note: I received my copy of this book from the publisher, free of charge, through the NetGalley website in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was received, and no one tried to influence my opinion of the book.)


Read in August 2018

Qualifies for the following challenges: European Challenge, Monthly Key Word Challenge .

Reading Report: The Mystery of the Blue Train

Written by Agatha Christie
First published 1928
Kindle edition, 278 pages


After spending most of her life as a paid companion, Miss Katherine Grey is left a small fortune by the lady she's been caring for, and decides to visit some distant relatives at their home on the Riviera. So she boards the famous Blue Train for the trip, and meets both legendary detective Hercule Poirot and millionaire’s daughter, Ruth Kettering. Ruth’s marriage is heading for divorce and she's traveling to meet her lover.

The luxurious train carries its passengers across France to the sunny Riviera. And when it arrives at Nice, a guard attempts to wake Ruth Kettering but finds she's been killed, and a heavy blow has disfigured her features almost beyond recognition. What's more, her precious rubies are missing and her maid seems to have disappeared from the train back in Paris. The French police believe Ruth was most probably murdered by the thief who made off with her jewels. But Hercule Poirot is not convinced, so he asks for Miss Grey's help in staging an eerie reenactment of the journey, complete with the murderer on board.

My Thoughts:

This is the 6th book in Agatha Christie's series of mystery novels featuring Belgian detective Hercule Poirot. I'm very slowly working my way through the series (although not in any particular order), and I enjoyed this one — even though I believe I've read that it was not one of Christie's personal favorites. The book has everything I love in her work — luxurious settings, intriguing characters, great dialogue, lots of unexpected twists and turns. And Poirot exhibiting his amazing abilities, exercising his "little grey cells." How could I possibly not enjoy it? The only thing that might have made it better would have been just a little more time spent on that luxurious Blue Train. (Or maybe if Ariadne Oliver had been on board.)

Rating: ★★★★


Read in July 2018

Qualifies for the following reading challenges: Cloak and Dagger Challenge, Monthly Key Word Challenge, Mount TBR Challenge .

Saturday, November 03, 2018

Six Degrees of Separation: From Vanity Fair to The Sun Also Rises

I've known about the Six Degrees of Separation meme (hosted once a month by Kate at Books Are My Favourite and Best) for a while now, but never tried to put a list together .... until now. The idea is to start with the book Kate gives you, add six books, and see where you end up. Sounds fun and I do love list-making, so here goes my first attempt....

This month the starting point is the classic novel Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray.

I've read bits of it, but never managed to get all the way through. It's still on my "must read" list, along with another Thackeray novel, written a few years before Vanity Fair

1. The Luck of Barry Lyndon. Also sometimes called The Memoirs of Barry Lyndon. Haven't read all of that one either, but the film by Stanley Kubrick is one of my all-time favorites. And it makes me think of another book turned into a film by Kubrick...

2. Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov. This one I have read, several times. One of the greatest (and most controversial) modern novels, and one of my favorites. I read the book for the first time when I was just a little older than Lolita herself, and thought it was hilarious. All these years later I recognize that the subject matter is very upsetting, but I still find much to love in the novel. And it abounds in references to other writers, especially...

3. Edgar Allan Poe, whose Murders in the Rue Morgue (although it's actually a short story — not a novel) has been recognized as the first modern detective story. It's influenced many later writers including...

4. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who wrote some pretty good detective fiction himself. His creation, Sherlock Holmes, first appeared in 1887's A Study in Scarlet. Many of the early Holmes stories were serialized in periodicals like The Strand Magazine. And that brings to mind another book that was first published in parts...

5. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, serialized in Rolling Stone Magazine in 1971. Its author, Hunter S. Thompson was the originator of the "gonzo" journalism movement and sadly committed suicide in 2005. Thompson died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, just like another of my favorite authors...

6. Ernest Hemingway, whose 1926 novel The Sun Also Rises is another favorite of mine and also one I've read more than once.

So that's my list. Fun meme, and so interesting to see where my path led. Next month, the starting point will be A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, and that should bring another interesting string of connections.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Teaser/Intro Tuesday: Last Seen Wearing

This is my first Teaser Tuesday in quite a while. And this time my teaser lines come from Last Seen Wearing, the second book in Colin Dexter's Inspector Morse mystery series. I've been reading this in a Kindle edition containing the first three Morse novels, and these lines come from Location 5408:
"It's just not my sort of case, Lewis. I know it's not a very nice thing to say, but I just get on better when we've got a body — a body that died from unnatural causes. That's all I ask." (Chapter 16)
Well, when it comes to whodunnits, that's the way I feel about it, too!

If you'd like to see more Teaser Tuesday offerings, or do some teasing yourself, just head on over to The Purple Booker and leave your link.

And today I'm joining in on First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros, hosted by Vicki of I'd Rather Be At The Beach, so here's the book's first paragraph:
He felt quite pleased with himself. Difficult to tell for certain, of course; but yes, quite pleased with himself really. As accurately as it could his mind retraced the stages of the day's events: the questions of the interviewing committee — wise and foolish; and his own answers — carefully considered and, he knew, well phrased. Two or three exchanges had been particularly satisfactory and, as he stood there waiting, a half-smile played across his firm, good-humoured lips. One he could recall almost verbatim.
So, would you keep reading? I'd love to hear what you think. And please feel free to leave me a link to your Teaser or Intro posts in your comment here.

Monday, October 15, 2018

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

Since this is my first post on this blog for a while, I want to say first thing -- I hope all of you in those parts of the US affected by the recent hurricanes are safe and have shelter and power and all your loved ones safe and accounted for. We've had some pretty nasty weather in our area (central Texas) during the last couple of months, but nothing like what's going on further east of here. Honestly, it seems the weather has gone completely nuts lately, doesn't it? I was really hoping that by this point in time we'd be a little bit further along in controlling all that stuff. Obviously I was reading too much sci-fi.

And now that I've mentioned reading -- I have to admit I haven't been doing as much of that as I'd like. Lots of reasons -- but mostly just real life getting in the way. So I haven't had much to report this last couple of months.

Only finished two books in September:

• Call for the Dead, by John le Carré - The first of his George Smiley books.

A Morbid Taste for Bones, by Ellis Peters - First book in the long-running Brother Cadfael mystery series.

I enjoyed both of those, and hope to get reviews up this week. Well, soon anyway.

So far in October I've finished one book...

The Night She Died, by Dorothy Simpson - First entry in Simpson's Inspector Thanet series.

...and this week I'm reading a couple of ghostly tales, perfect for this time of year:

A Shadow on the Wall, by Jonathan Aycliffe

Dead Lake, by Darcy Coates

So now if the rainy weather blues don't get me down and I can manage to avoid another migraine, I'm looking forward to getting some reading done!

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is hosted by Kathryn at Book Date. 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.

Thursday, October 04, 2018

Book Beginnings: The Night She Died

The Night She Died, by Dorothy Simpson (first published 1980). First book in Simpson's Inspector Luke Thanet mystery series. This is the first sentence of Chapter 1:
It was half past nine in the evening and Detective Inspector Luke Thanet was stretched out on the living-room carpet, staring at the ceiling.

About the Book:
Julie Holmes had always enticed men — a famous broadcaster in London, her husband, and now her new boss in Kent. Still, it is surprising that Julie would end up stabbed in the front hall of her own home, cut to the heart right through her tweed overcoat just minutes before her husband returns from evening class to find her dead... or so he says.  
In the first of the series, Inspector Thanet is pointed towards a foggy November evening twenty years ago when the three-year-old Julie may have witnessed a dreadful crime. Did her haunted past return to give her more than the occasional nightmare? (— GoodReads) 
Initial Thoughts:

First thought, of course: why's he on the floor? Well, you find that out pretty quickly — the Inspector has a back problem. Fortunately, it doesn't bother him as much when he's in the midst of an investigation, and the author gets him involved in a case right away. I like that — not too much scene-setting and a mystery that gets started in the first few pages.

I read a couple of the Inspector Thanet mysteries back in the late '80s or early '90s and enjoyed them very much, so I thought I'd go back and see how it all started, with this first entry in the series. So far, I'm liking it just as much as the later books. And since it's relatively short, I should be able to finish it up pretty quickly.

Happy Friday, everyone! And have a lovely weekend.

Rose City Reader hosts Book Beginnings on Friday.  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.

The Cottingley Secret, by Hazel Gaynor

William Morrow, 2017
383 pages

In The Cottingley Secret, Hazel Gaynor reimagines the true story of cousins Frances Griffiths and Elsie Wright from Cottingley, England, who claimed to have photographed fairies in their garden, back in 1917. The girls and their photos caused a sensation in post-WWI England and even convinced Sir Arthur Conan Doyle of their validity. Gaynor alternates the tale of Frances and Elsie with that of present-day bookshop owner, Olivia Kavanagh, who discovers an old manuscript containing the hint of a connection between her family and the girls who photographed fairies.

Another book I read earlier this year, and I really thought I'd already reviewed it. But a little survey of the blog tells me that was not true. Brain fog, I guess.

It took me quite a while to finish this one. Couldn't get into the back-and-forth rhythm of the two different time periods, and ended up reading the last half of the book several months after starting it. But I did enjoy it, for the most part — had a little trouble with the "magical realism" of the story (it required a little more suspension of disbelief than I was prepared for). Overall, I thought it was a very intriguing take on the "fairy photo" girls and their story. I was impressed with the amount of research the author did and how she managed to tie it all in so creatively. And while I was at first put off by the present-day story of Olivia and her wedding angst, I actually became very fond of her as I got deeper into the book. Hazel Gaynor is a new author for me, but one I hope to meet again.


(Note: I received my copy of this book from the publisher, free of charge, through Library Thing's Early Reviewer program. No other compensation was received, and no one tried to influence my opinion of the book.)


Qualifies for the following reading challenges: Historical Fiction 2018; Mount TBR 2018.

Tailspin, by Sandra Brown

Grand Central Publishing, August 2018
432 pages (Kindle edition) 

In Sandra Brown's latest romantic thriller, Rye Mallett is a fearless "freight dog" pilot charged with flying cargo to far-flung locations. He'll fly anywhere, in any weather, under even the direst conditions, and he's not big on following rules and regulations that might keep him from meeting a deadline. So when he's hired to fly into a completely fogbound northern Georgia town and deliver a mysterious time-sensitive black box to a Dr. Lambert, he doesn't ask questions. But as he nears the isolated landing strip, his plane is sabotaged and he just barely survives the crash landing.

After climbing out of the hopelessly damaged plane, he's met by the strikingly lovely (well, it's a romance novel, right?) Dr. Brynn O'Neal who claims she was sent by Dr. Lambert to retrieve the black box. Rye is immediately intrigued by the mystery surrounding his cargo, and by the attractive Dr. O'Neal, and before long the two are dodging law enforcement officials and some pretty scary hired thugs in the race to deliver the box before time runs out.

I read this one back in July and it was perfect for summer, although a bit out of my comfort zone — I generally don't read romance novels. But I was offered an advance readers edition by NetGalley, and since I'd never read anything by Sandra Brown I decided to take a chance. And I have to say it was pretty good — a bit formulaic, but I was expecting that. I liked a lot of it, especially pilot Rye Mallett (terrible name, but a really intriguing character). And even the breath-taking Brynn wasn't too annoying. But I could have done with a lot fewer steamy sex scenes. Yeah, I know — that's what Sandra Brown is all about. Just sayin' — after a while, it just gets silly and kind of boring.

But even with all the gratuitous coupling, most of the book was very enjoyable — just not enjoyable enough to turn me into a romance reader. I'm very grateful to NetGalley and the publisher for giving me the chance to read the book and say what I think.


(Note: I received my copy of this book from NetGalley and the publisher, free of charge, in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was received, and no one tried to influence my opinion of the book.)


Qualifies for the following reading challenges: Cloak and Dagger 2018 .