Thursday, September 4, 2008

September 2008 Reading

1. I CAPTURE THE CASTLE by Dodie Smith. Delightful classic British story about a poverty-stricken family living in an old castle in the English countryside in the post-WWII era. The story is told as the ‘journal’ of Cassandra, the 17-year-old daughter of a writer who was a ‘one-hit wonder’ many years previously and now seems to be slipping into eccentricity if not downright craziness. Cassandra, her sister Rose, brother Thomas, their stepmother Topaz, and Stephen, the handyman and gardener, live quite an interesting life stretching pennies until the heirs to the castle that they’re renting arrive from America. Then things get interesting! Simon and Neil Cotton are as different as night and day, and the family begins to plot to have Rose ‘catch’ one of the Cottons (who are obviously rich!) so that their poverty will end. Ah, but the best laid plans… well, you know. I enjoyed this book a lot—I really liked the quirky Cassandra who seemed oodles more mature than most modern-day seventeen year olds, and yet she was refreshingly innocent at the same time. I wish I’d read this when I was a kid, as this type of “kids surviving mostly on their own” book was even more up my alley then than it is now. The author’s descriptions of the English countryside were brilliant, too. The book did have a few rather cheesy, romanticized moments, but I kept the fact that the book was written in 1948 in the back of my mind—and that this was the author’s first novel, also. Context is everything sometimes! B+

2. HOME FIRES by Margaret Maron. Sixth in the Judge Deborah Knott mystery series set in Colleton County, North Carolina. Racial tensions run high when a black church is torched and Deborah has a personal interest when her nephew A.J. is initially implicated with a couple of ne’er do well friends of his. Past grief and grudges come forward and the media and civil rights leaders descend on Raleigh and the general area when two more churches go up in flames—and a body is found in one of them. Something smells rotten to Deborah and she begins to wonder if the burnings—and the death—are racially motivated at all, or if someone has a better reason for creating mayhem. On a personal level, Deborah is seeing the new home she’s having built on a few secluded acres given to her by her father nearing completion and her relationship with Kidd, her park ranger boyfriend seems to be deepening as well—although that thread by no means dominates the book or the series. (There’s a little bit o’lovin’ but not oodles of sappy romance. Nice! LOL) I ‘recognized’ the baddie (one of those gut feelings) very early on, but didn’t know how or why it was done til close to the end. I love this series! Typically I’m not a fan of so-called ‘Southern’ fiction but this series is a definite exception to that rule. It doesn’t even bother me to have Deborah call her father Daddy, which most of the time grates on my nerves unless the speaker is under the age of twelve. LOL Deborah has such a practical nature, a pragmatic spirit and isn’t afraid to admit her own foibles and willingly accepts the faults of her friends and family too—and yet, she doesn’t suffer fools gladly. Looking forward very much to the next one in the series. A.

3. FINN by Jon Clinch (audio book) This is the story of Finn, the infamous Huckleberry’s father, as mean and despicable a fictional character (or a real one, come to that) as ever graced the pages of a book, I think. His character was eluded to occasionally during the telling of Mark Twain’s classic tale, but this is his story—the tale of his upbringing, his adulthood, his relationships, his prejudices, and how Huck came to be as well. If the author is attempting to elicit sympathy for Finn—and I honestly don’t think that was his intent—he thoroughly struck out with me. Although part of what nauseated me about Finn are his deep-seated racial prejudices, that in and of itself wasn’t really enough to bring forth the feelings of disgust as in that regard he was simply a product of the times and the household that he lived in. No, it was more the utter self-centeredness of the character that sometimes left me with my jaw hanging open. I don’t think I’ve ever come across anyone so selfish, so full of excuses for his despicable actions and so concerned about his own skin above all else! It took me awhile to warm up to the reader, but after an hour or so I knew I had to keep listening and after awhile I found his characterizations to be quite well-done. I don’t think saying “I enjoyed the book” is exactly the way to describe how I felt about it, as there was little in it that was “enjoyable,” but it was an excellent work of fiction and an insightfully plausible story of how one of America’s most notable fiction characters, Huckleberry Finn, might have been molded. Well done! A.

4. MOVING PICTURES by Terry Pratchett. Tenth in publication order of the Discworld humorous fantasy series. This is Pratchett’s spoof of Hollywood and the movies, or “Holy Wood" and ‘moving pictures’ as they say on the Discworld. People don’t eat popcorn, they have ‘banged grains’ to munch while watching the moving pictures. Of course, the pictures are only 10 minutes long and no one has ever heard of a three-reel film until Throat Dibbler encouraged the movie mogul Thomas Silverfish to try it. (You can blame ‘advertising’ on him as well.) Perpetual wizard student Victor (‘Can’t sing. Can’t dance. Can handle a sword a little) and small-town girl Ginger are about to become big stars, first in Cohen the Barbarian and then Sworde of Passione when the magic of Holy Wood infects them and everyone else. Much hilarity ensues as Pratchett seems to catch a pretty darned accurate picture of the way things really work in (our) Hollywood when you boil it all down. Wonderful reading, hilarious light reading as always—wonderful escapism. Much better than any Hollywood (or even Holy Wood!) fillum. A.

5. A DIRTY DEATH by Rebecca Tope. #1 in the Den Cooper British police mystery, set in a rural area of Devon. The book seemed to be told from several different points of view, which is quite distracting. The main character actually seems to be Lilah Beardon, the daughter of the first (of several!) murder victims and we certainly get to know her quite well over the course of the book, though I felt like I hardly know the policeman, Den Cooper, at all! Den and Lilah meet when Lilah’s father Guy Beardon is found dead in his slurry pit on their farm. It’s deemed accidental until a neighbor is bludgeoned to death and his brother knocked senseless a few days later, at which time the police look more closely at Guy’s demise and believe the two deaths are related. He wasn’t well-liked in the community though he was a wonderful father to Lilah and she misses him dreadfully. More murder and mayhem ensues and Lilah is eager to help solve the crimes so their family can move on with their lives. I found this story to be a bit long and draggy with much extraneous information and too many circulating points of view. Everyone seemed to have dark and sordid secrets, and aside from Lilah and Den, there wasn’t a person who didn’t have some ulterior motives in the lot! I liked the writing style—I had picked this as one of my “weed-out weekend” books and was intrigued enough to keep reading beyond two chapters—but the book just went nowhere fast. The plot got stuck in the slurry pit with Guy Beardon, I think! LOL Anyway, this author has three different mystery series, and as this one is a short (four book) series that ended several years ago, I doubt I’ll read more of it, especially as they aren't easy to come by here; after reading this one I won't try very hard to acquire more, either. But I do have the first in another of her series here and I’ll give that a try. I’ve had this book on my shelf for ages and must admit I was disappointed in it, though there is promise here. B-

6. THE ALCHEMYST: THE SECRETS OF THE IMMORTAL NICHOLAS FLAMEL by Michael Scott (audiobook) Young Adult fantasy novel, first in a trilogy, in which teenagers Josh and Sophie Newman, living with their aunt in San Francisco for the summer and working across the street from one another—Sophie in a coffee shop and Josh in a bookstore—discover that Josh’s boss, Nick Fleming, is really the noted alchemist Nicholas Flamel, and that he’s more than 600 years old! This discovery is made when the bookshop is attacked by John Dee—yes, the same magician who served Queen Elizabeth I and who is now serving “the Dark Elders” in an effort to bring them back into power and subdue the “Humani” as they refer to the humans of this world. During the course of their adventure in which Nicholas’s wife Perry is kidnapped by Dee, and the Codex (an ancient book with many important alchemical spells, including that of The Philosopher’s Stone) is stolen—except for the final two pages which Josh inadvertently rips out when Dee takes the book—the bookstore blows up and Josh and Sophie end up on the run with Flamel, they meet many legendary creatures and persons, including several ancient gods and goddesses. Very well-written, well-read and an all-around enjoyable “listen” that I definitely look forward to continuing on with. The author also seems to know his Pagan lore very well, which is a refreshing change. :-) A.

7. SMUGGLER’S MOON by Bruce Alexander. #8 in the Sir John Fielding historical mystery series set in 1790’s London and featuring real-life historical figure, who was known as “the blind Beak of Bow Street.” Though he is blind, Sir John has an uncanny sense of what is going on around him, aided by his assistant Jeremy Proctor, who is in effect his adopted son. It’s Jeremy who tells us these stories and he tells them very well! In this installment, Mrs. Fielding is off to visit her ill mother and immediately Sir John receives a summons from the Lord Chief Justice to go to the town of Deal on the coast to investigate smuggling and to confer with the magistrate there—the magistrate has been accused of not doing his job well and letting the smuggling trade run rampant. When the Fielding household arrives—for Sir John takes with him not only Jeremy, but Clarissa, Mrs. Fielding’s young ward, as well as Constable Perkins—they discover that Albert Sarton, the magistrate, though quite young, is actually a competent and seemingly trustworthy fellow and that something is rotten in Deal. Sir John confers with several people and often leaves Jeremy in the dark til the plan comes together in a smashing conclusion—while I had figured out the main bad guy ahead of time, there were a few small side plots that added to the whole and which in no way diminished my enjoyment of the book. Pity there are only three more! A.

8. THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. (Audiobook) Classic mystery in which Sherlock Holmes and Watson investigate a death on the moors, believed by the superstitious locals to have been caused by a ‘hound of hell’ which legend says plagued the Baskerville family for many generations. With the most recent death, suspicions are brought to Holmes by the family doctor, who wonders what he should do as the new Baskerville heir is arriving the next day from America and he does not wish him to meet the same fate as his friend. Holmes sends Watson to Dartmoor to the Baskerville estate to keep an eye open and to help protect the newest Lord of the Manor and of course subtle clue after subtle clue are dropped into the story, but it’s only Holmes who is able to pull them all together. I haven’t ‘read’ this story for many years and had forgotten whodunit and the reader for this was fabulous, so it was a real treat for me. Conan Doyle was one of my early favorite authors and he does a detective story in a way that no one else can! A.

9. GRAVE SIGHT by Charlaine Harris (audiobook). First in the Harper Connelly paranormal mystery series, featuring this young lady who has the ability to speak to the dead after being struck by lightning at the age of fifteen. She and her step-brother, Tolliver, travel around taking assignments to locate bodies. They work mostly on word of mouth, and for the most part are treated as something akin to the freaks in a circus side-show. While Harper can’t tell who killed the person if they were murdered, she can tell how they died, and actually relives the last moments of the person’s life. In our introduction to this interesting duo, Harper and Tolliver are summoned to Sarn, Arkansas by a wealthy widow who wants to locate the body of her dead son’s girlfriend, Tini Hopkins. Sybil Teague is upset because Del’s (her son) good name has been under a cloud for these many months since his death, as it’s rumored that he killed Tini and then himself, but Tini’s body was never found. Since she was a bit of a ‘wild girl,’ some folks think she just went away. Sybil wants to put the rumors to rest. Harper DOES find Tini’s body, discovers that she was shot twice in the back and also visits Del’s grave and discovers that he most certainly didn’t commit suicide. Harper and Tolliver are not made to feel welcome in Sarn at all, and while they want nothing more than to head on out to their next assignment, they are cautioned by the sheriff to stick around when Helen Hopkins, Tini’s mother, is found bludgeoned to death shortly after they visited her at her request. I liked this book a lot. The reader was excellent and I felt that she brought out the voice of Harper very well and helped me to understand her a little. I did think that the relationship between Tolliver and Harper was a bit weird, almost to the point of making me uncomfortable, and there were times when Harper’s vulnerability was a little tiresome—but then, she has had a very difficult life, even with the whole “I’ve been struck by lightning” thing aside, and her character was written in such a way that she wasn’t really trying to get sympathy or make excuses for her weakness, she just had very much of an “I am what I am” aura about her, and I liked that. I also thought Harper was pretty mature, given that she’s only twenty-four years old—it seemed that life has made her wise beyond her years. I have already got the downloadable version of the next book in this series on my list at the library and I don’t think it will be too long before I actually go and get it! A.

10. THE IMMACULATE DECEPTION by Iain Pears. Seventh and final book in the Jonathan Argyll “art history” mysteries—or, at least there’s been none for more than eight years so one must assume the series has ended. Flavia, now firmly in place as Bottando’s temporary replacement as head of the art theft squad, is called to a meeting with the Prime Minister about a painting that has been stolen for ransom. The painting is on loan from another country, part of an international exhibition and is a delicate matter as any publicity about its theft will greatly impugn not only the PM’s reputation, but all of Italy’s. Flavia is given vague directions and yet she senses that they want her to deal with this differently than what’s implied. And this begins a long and twisted plot that goes back years. Jonathan meanwhile, to avoid sitting down and actually writing a paper that’s needed for an upcoming conference, decides to track down the particulars of a small picture that Flavia’s boss Bottando has had for years, ‘a gift from a friend’ he’s said. Jonathan wants to find out its history as a retirement gift for Bottando and in so digging finds some startling information and connections. I enjoyed this book a lot—there are a few surprises, much lovable description of Italy, its food, its people and its culture. I’m unsure as to whether Pears planned this as a last installment in the series or whether it happened abruptly—argument could be made for both viewpoints. It did end on a satisfying note, but there is definitely room for further storylines as well. Excellent ending to an all-around excellent series. A.

11. THE WHISKEY REBELS by David Liss. (ARC for review, though the book does come out at the end of this month.) Historical fiction set in the immediate post-Revolutionary War period in Philadelphia and New York. The story is told from the point of view of two people: Ethan Saunders, a disgraced spy, and Joan Maycott, a young woman with literary aspirations. Ethan’s story begins in the present time while Joan’s starts in the past with her early life. Her and Ethan’s paths begin their fateful crossing when she and her husband Andrew trade in his war debt for a parcel of land in western Pennsylvania, which was in essence the great frontier at that time. They find to their horror that they have been horribly cheated and Joan begins plotting revenge against all who have wronged her. Ethan, meanwhile, in Philadelphia in 1791, is content to be a sloshing drunk and occasional thief, drowning his sorrows at being disgraced and (wrongfully) branded a traitor and his loss of the love of his life, Cynthia Fleet, to another man, and her father who was his co-conspirator as a government spy, who died in disgrace with him. I can’t say too much without giving important things away, so I won’t, but eventually Joan and Ethan’s paths cross, and the stability of the whole of the new United States of America rests on what happens. Let me say right up front that this time period in American history is NOT one of my special interests. I generally just don’t care for it, haven’t read much about it, so I have no idea how much of what the author imparts here is pure speculation, pure fiction and which parts are based on solid fact. There are many “real” historical figures in this book, but I have no knowledge of whether their portrayals were accurate. The book also dealt in large part with banking, finance and the early days of what became eventually the stock market, which, on the master lists of things I’m interested in, falls right down there near the bottom with politics, knitting sweaters for yappy little dogs and designer handbags. LOL That said, once I discovered what the book was about, it rather amazed me that I DID keep reading—and I did so because the author made the characters and the story itself irresistible. I surmised rather early on that the lives of these two characters would intersect, I just wasn’t sure when and how, and I wanted to find out! The book is a little slow and plodding in some parts and the plot was twisty and quite complicated—which, I suppose was ultimately what kept me reading. That, and wanting to find out what ultimately happened to the main characters. But I have found this slowness to be true of Liss’s other books as well—and yet, when done reading and reflecting back, I have to say that I don’t remember those slow points much and tend to think on the story as a whole as a very interesting, engaging one. Liss does not sugarcoat life in post-Revolutionary war America, and portrays it as the difficult, sometimes brutal, often fatal life that it was. Recommended especially for those who enjoy historical fiction in this time period, anyone interested in the early days of the U.S. banking system, and for those who’ve read and enjoyed the author’s previous works. A-

12. WHAT ANGELS FEAR by C. S. Harris. #1 Sebastian St. Cyr historical mystery, set in early 1800’s London. When a young actress is found brutally murdered and raped in a church, it is believed that she was going to meet Sebastian St. Cyr, a veteran of the Napoleonic wars and nobleman with the title of Viscount Devlin. Thus, without much investigation—and indeed, with someone seemingly planting false clues—the Bow Street constables begin seeking Sebastian in the brutal killing. When a constable is seriously injured during an attempt to capture him, despite the fact that he was injured by his own co-worker, Sebastian knows that the only way to clear his name is to find Rachel Ward’s killer himself. Trained as a spy during the war, he already possesses good investigative skills, and with the help of Tom, a young street urchin, he gains access to all the darker, seedier parts of London that he would otherwise be unable to navigate without drawing attention to himself. He also calls on Kat, an actress who knew and worked with the murdered woman—and a former lover of Sebastian’s. (Yeah, gotta have at least a few bits of steamy sex—this author is also a romance writer under another name, after all. LOL) The investigation takes a troubling turn when he learns that Rachel was supposed to meet his father—and he wonders if his father might be a traitor. Plenty of other suspects come to the forefront, though, and while there is plenty of vice and avarice to go around, only one man could ultimately have done such a foul deed. Of course, I spotted him right away, though I didn’t know at the time what his motivation would be. I very much enjoyed this book—the characters were well-drawn, the settings wonderfully depicted, and I look forward to getting to know them all better next time ‘round! I marked the grade down slightly due to the several interludes of gratuitous sex; sweat-slicked flesh, deeply probing bits and heaving bosoms did nothing to either develop the characters or advance the plot. If I want romance, I’ll read a romance novel. *sigh* B+.

13. THE CITY OF EMBER by Jeanne DuPrau. (audiobook) #1 Ember fantasy series. Wow! There really seems to be a large crop of wonderful fantasy for young readers out there these days! This is a combination sci-fi/fantasy/post apocalyptic fiction for younger readers. I’d say younger than “young adult”—at least, there’s no hint of any sex or awakening hormones in it—it was pure adventure, which I much prefer. And it was an excellent story! It’s about a city called Ember, and in particular two of its citizens, 12-year-olds Doon and Lina, who are now done with school and starting their first jobs. Lina is a messenger, and Doon works in the pipeworks under the city. Ember is a city totally in the dark—once a prosperous, well-provisioned city, now shortages, power outages and scrabbling for mere subsistence living are commonplace. The citizens have been told as far back as anyone can remember that Ember is the only light in the darkness, that there is nothing beyond the city’s boundaries. But neither Doon nor Lina believe it—both have dreams that there *must* be something more, somewhere else to go. Both are increasingly worried about the more frequent and prolonged power outages, the lack of lighbulbs and other supplies. Unbeknownst to Lina, her great-grandmother many times removed (the seventh mayor of Ember) was supposed to pass along a special box with instructions to the next mayor as to what to do. But that mayor died and the box has been stashed in Lina’s closet underneath a veritable tonnage of junk for years. When Lina’s baby sister Poppy discovers the box, she opens it and begins chewing on the directions that are inside—Lina manages to save enough of it so that she realizes it’s important and tries to get someone to listen to her. During the course of her messenger duties, Lina discovered that the mayor is corrupt and has a secret stash of supplies—but the mayor knows she knows, so now his goons are after her and Doon even before they get the instructions deciphered completely. The book ends on a cliffhanger such that I know it won’t be long til I get the next in series. Not only was this a great story, but the reader for this was also excellent—she did the many and varied voices very skillfully. A.

14. MURDER IS BINDING by Lorna Barrett. First in the Tricia Miles “Booktown” mysteries. Modeled after the infamous book town of Hay-on-Wye in England, economically depressed Stoneham, New Hampshire has been remade into a prosperous village with numerous book shops—some antiquarian, many specialty shops and the like opening in the remodeled downtown area. Not a Barnes & Noble in the bunch, anyway! LOL Tricia Miles is the owner of Haven’t Got a Clue, the mystery store, and when Doris, the sourpuss owner of the cookery store down the street, ends up dead, with Tricia finding the body, she ends up being the primary suspect—both by the police, who seem to be watching her very carefully, and by the townspeople, who do love a good gossip. She and her pretentious sister Angelica, visiting from the big city, set out to clear Tricia’s name by asking more pointed questions than the police seem to be doing. When a second death occurs—an older lady who scrounged estate sales, thrift shops, etc. and sold tidbits to the store owners—things escalate more since Tricia had been the last person known to have spoken with her. This book seems to be yet another in a long line of yawningly predictable cozy mysteries with an unmarried protagonist who is a specialty-shop owner of some kind trying to clear her own name when murder happens. She does really stupid things that no sane person would do (essentially breaking into the dead woman’s cottage and snooping around after dark, for example—and then not sharing information gleaned with the police) and of course there must be at least one potential love interest making eyes at her. The mystery really wasn’t—spotted the bad guy straight away—the plot was predictable and I am disappointed to have to say that a book/series that had the potential to be something special ended up being just another cardboard-cutout-cozy. I do have the second one in this series on my PBS wishlist, and I likely will read it when I eventually get it, but I won’t be wishlisting any more of them unless the second one is a great improvement over this and I wouldn’t hesitate to delete it if I needed the space on my list. It wasn’t horrible—just very forgettable, which IMO is almost worse than being really bad—because I did waste about three precious reading hours actually reading this and if it were *really* bad I’d have stopped after fifty pages. LOL C-.

15. ANARCHY AND OLD DOGS by Colin Cotterill. #4 Dr. Siri Paiboun mystery set in 1970’s Laos in which Siri gets involved with his good friend Civali in attempting to thwart a coup against the new Lao government, which also eventually involves Nurse Dtui and Phosy the policeman as well. Siri also ventures to the southern part of the country to Pakse, to investigate the death of a young boy fished out of the river and brings Civali with him to look into some political things on the sly, and while they are there, Siri encounters Daeng, a woman that he and his wife knew in their young revolutionary days. There are a couple of surprises at the end of the book, too. All in all, another very satisfying visit with Dr. Siri and crew, though I have to admit that at times all the political nuances and plots were a bit over my head. The ghosts that Siri has visitations from were somewhat more quiescent in this book, perhaps because Siri was often under the influence, consuming mass quantities of Lao cocktails, which consists of one-half rice whiskey and the other half rice whiskey. LOL I love this author’s writing style and his magical way with words. Can’t wait til the next one! A.

16. THE CASE HAS ALTERED by Martha Grimes. #14 in the Chief Supt. Richard Jury and Melrose Plant mystery series, in which Jury’s friend Jenny Kennington is arrested for two murders that occurred on the fens of Lincolnshire. The first victim was a cousin of Jenny’s that she’d long had conflicts with but had not had any contact with for several years—yet she was the last person to see the woman alive and they had argued. It’s believed the second murder was committed to keep the victim, a young local woman, quiet because she saw something. Jury can’t believe that Jenny has had anything to do with it, but of course he then begins questioning himself as to how well he really knows her—which is, apparently, not well at all. Melrose gets to play the part of an antiques appraiser in this book, as the house where Jenny and the first murder victim were staying is owned by a man who is a collector. That man, Max, was also previously married to Verna Dunn, the first murder victim, and employed the second victim, Dorcas Reese, as a kitchen helper, so Jury wants someone ‘inside’ the house to see how things lie. The reveal isn’t really terribly surprising, but as usual, I enjoyed this entry in Grimes’ long-lived series for the visit with not only Jury and company, but Melrose and his cadre of friends in Northants as well. This one was, once again, a bit bloated with a bit too much in the ‘extraneous’ department, but certainly not as bad as a couple of previous books which looked like they’d not seen an editor’s desk at all! Nothing spectacular here, just a nice comfy visit. B.

17. IN A DARK HOUSE by Deborah Crombie. (audio) I had this book in print on my TBR, but when I spotted it in audio for download on my library’s website, I decided I wanted to see if the series is as appealing when listened to as when read. It is! The reader (Michael Deehy) was excellent with the ability to do a wide range of voices very well. I was shocked to see that the price for this audiobook on CD at Amazon was $95! Glad I have a library card! LOL Anyway, in this book, a serial arsonist is at work and it has turned into murder as a body, a Jane Doe, is found inside a burned-out warehouse. Add to the fact that the warehouse belongs to a prominent local politician and Kincaid has his hands full—and it couldn’t come at a worse time, as the hearing for his custody battle for Kit with his ex-mother-in-law Eugenia Potts is coming up very quickly. When Gemma responds to a call from her friend (and Duncan’s cousin-by-marriage) Winnie who is a vicar from Glastonbury filling in for a friend of hers in London asking her to come speak to one of her parishioners who is distressed over the disappearance of her flat-mate, she finds that Elaine Holland’s disappearance may be tied in to Duncan and the fire brigade’s arson/homicide case as well. And things become even more complicated when a couple of other women who vaguely fit the description of the Jane Doe also seem to have disappeared—including the warehouse owner’s daughter! While I figured out the whole mystery well ahead of time and wanted to shake Duncan and Gemma for being so thick, I can’t really fault them—these books are generally told from the POV of several people so you as the reader have benefit of knowing things that they don’t. And the audio version is every bit as compelling as the print versions of this series—I found I was inventing things that I could do while listening so I could finish the book! After I finished my weekly cleaning and ‘batch cooking,’ I even tucked my MP3 player into my jeans pocket and took a walk….if it gets me moving, you KNOW it was good. LOL If you’ve never read any of Crombie’s books, I highly recommend them in either form! A+

18. FAULT LINES by Nancy Huston. I reviewed this ARC for Amazon Vine, and gave it an F. I don't even want to post my review here. What a waste of trees is all I can say.

19. Fifth in the “Fools Guild” medieval mysteries featuring Feste the fool, this one is actually in the form of a story told by Father Gerald, the current head of the Guild, to the children around the campfire at their new headquarters. It’s a story that features Gerald, but tells of ‘other fools’ in Denmark circa 1150’s as the different factions struggle for power. It’s a tale of treachery and loss, of how fools (i.e. spies) are recruited and trained, and how very surprising they can sometimes be. This is mostly the story of Amleth, who was the son of one of the princes or faction leaders who was murdered and betrayed by his wife and his power-hungry brother. The only one who seemed to care about Amleth was Yorick, the court fool, who trained him to juggle and play the lute and about all the other things fools generally do, like sneaking around and listening at doors. Then one day, Yorick just disappears without so much as a by your leave. When Amleth is sent to Paris to study, he packs Yorick’s bag of tricks with him and seeks training with the Guild there using the secret password that Yorick has taught him and manages to stay alive through cunning for many more years. I absolutely love this series! Alan Gordon does a wonderful job of drawing you right into the story, getting you to care about the characters, and setting the scene for whatever time period and place he’s writing about. This is one of the few series I collect in hardcover and that I know I will be reading again someday even though I already know what happens—the period detail and the stories are irresistible and I suspect will be just as enjoyable the next time around. A+

DNF: A SPOT OF BOTHER by Mark Haddon (audiobook) I’m not sure if my annoyance at the book was due to the reader or not—it was a British guy with a very “posh” accent and he had some horrible variations for the different characters. And that was also quite distracting—the frequently-changing points of view. One of the voices sounded like the Viceroy from Star Wars: Episode One which was REALLY annoying. I didn’t like what I perceived to be the main character either—a somewhat affected older man, recently retired, whose daughter announces her upcoming marriage. He seemed to have a lot of worries and anxieties and flights of fancy and panicky moments. I wanted to slap him upside the head. Anyway, after an hour and fifteen minutes, I had to stop. I don’t know if I should attempt the printed version or not, I’d probably hear that snotty, nasal voice while I was reading. LOL

And that's a wrap for September!