Sunday, December 23, 2012

December 2012

Another short-ish reading list for December.

  1. The One From the Other by Philip Kerr (#4 Bernie Gunther historical mystery) (audio) A
  2. Learning to Swim by Sara Henry (Kindle) B+
  3. The Moor by Laurie R. King (#4 Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes historical mystery) A
  4. Dog Tags by David Rosenfelt (#8 Andy Carpenter mystery) (audio) B+
  5. Hail to the Chef by Julie Hyzy (#2 White House Chef mystery) B+
  6. New Slain Knight by Deborah Grabien (#5 Haunted Ballads mystery) B 
  7. Deadly Nightshade by Cynthia Riggs (#1 Martha's Vineyard mystery) (audio) C 
  8. The Case is Closed by Patricia Wentworth (#2 Miss Silver mystery) (kindle)
  9. The Red Velvet Turnshoe by Cassandra Clark (#2 Abbess of Meaux historical mystery) A
  10. Seawitch by Kat Richardson (#7 Greywalker paranormal mystery) (audio) A
  11.  A Stranger in Mayfair by Charles Finch (#4 Charles Lenox historical mystery) A
  12. The Torso in the Town by Simon Brett (#3 Fethering mystery) (audio) A-

Saturday, December 1, 2012

NOVEMBER 2012 reads

And once again, here it is the first of the month and I'm doing a quick post of my previous month's reading. Have been rather unsettled lately, listening to a lot of audio books and not doing a whole lot of 'reading' reading. Hence the short list. Have started a lot of books and put them aside, unsure whether to DNF them or try again later...finding a lot of my favorite genre (mysteries) lately to be very formulaic and ho-hum, same old thing. A few exceptions of course but think I need to change things up a bit somehow--not sure just what I'm going to do yet. ANYWAY...on to the pitiful list. LOL

  1. An Uncertain Place by Fred Vargas (kindle) A
  2. Hallowe'en Party by Agatha Christie (audio) B
  3. Wheat Belly by Dr. William Davis A+
  4. The Last Illusion by Rhys Bowen B
  5. There's Nothing to be Afraid Of by Marcia Muller (audio) A
  6. Soulless by Gail Carriger (kindle) B
  7. Stalking the Angel by Robert Crais (audio) B
  8. Getting Old is to Die For by Rita Lakin (kindle) A
  9. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien A+
  10. Tuck by Stephen R. Lawhead (audio) A
Currently reading:

Audio: The One From the Other by Philip Kerr (Bernie Gunther historical #4)

Kindle: Learning to Swim by Sara Henry

Print: The Moor by Laurie R. King (Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes #4)


Tuesday, October 30, 2012


Just realized I hadn't updated here at all, and it's almost month's end! I haven't done as much reading as I would have liked this month, been busy with other things. November will be more productive, I'm sure. :)

1. A Door in the River by Inger Ash Wolfe (#3 Hazel Micallef mystery) B+

2. The Tower, The Zoo and The Tortoise by Julia Stuart (AUDIO) A

3. Frozen Assets by Quentin Bates (#1 Gunnhildur mystery) (KINDLE) A

4. Farewell, Miss Zukas by Jo Dereske (final Miss Zukas mystery) A 

5. The Trinity Game by Sean Chercover (KINDLE) B+

6. Feed by Mira Grant (#1 Newsflesh urban fantasy) (AUDIO) C

7. Watching the Ghosts by Kate Ellis (#4 Joe Plantagenet mystery) B+

8. Cut, Paste, Kill by Marshall Karp (#4 Lomax & Biggs mystery) A

Currently reading:

Audio: Hallowe'en Party by Agatha Christie

Kindle: An Uncertain Place by Fred Vargas

Print: Wheat Belly by Dr. William Davis and The Last Illusion by Rhys Bowen



Tuesday, September 11, 2012

September 2012

1. An Evil Eye by Jason Goodwin (#4 Yashim the Eunuch historical mystery) (AUDIO) B

2. Bamboo and Blood by James Church (#3 Inspector O mystery) B

3. The Case of the Deadly Butter Chicken by Tarquin Hall (#3 Vish Puri mystery) (AUDIO) A+

4. Leave a Message for Willie by Marcia Muller (#5 Sharon McCone mystery) (AUDIO) A

5. The Stolen Voice by Pat McIntosh (#6 Gil Cunningham historical mystery) (Kindle) C+

6. The Serpents of Harbledown by Edward Marston (#5 Domesday historical mystery) B+

7. Hammered by Kevin Hearne (#3 Iron Druid Chronicles urban fantasy) B

8. Ragtime in Simla by Barbara Cleverly (#2 Joe Sandilands historical mystery) A

9. The Memory of Blood by Christopher Fowler (#9 Peculiar Crimes Unit mystery) A+

10. The Beautiful Mystery by Louise Penny (#8 Armand Gamache mystery) B

11. The Age of Doubt by Andrea Camilleri (#13 Inspector Montalbano mystery) B+

12. One Coffee With by Margaret Maron (#1 Sigrid Harald mystery) B-

Currently reading:

Audio: The Tower, The Zoo and the Tortoise by Julia Stuart

Kindle: Frozen Assets by Quentin Bates (#1 Gunnhilder mystery)

Print: A Door in the River by Inger Ash Wolfe (#3 Hazel Micallef mystery)


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

AUGUST 2012 Reading List

1. The Fear Artist by Timothy Hallinan (#5 Poke Rafferty mystery) A+

2. Devices and Desires by P.D. James (#8 Adam Dalgleish mystery) (Kindle) B+

3. Started Early, Took My Dog by Kate Atkinson (#4 Jackson Brodie mystery) (Audio) A

4. Death on the Downs by Simon Brett (#2 Fethering mystery) (Audio) B+

5. Don't Die Under the Apple Tree by Amy Patricia Meade (#1 Rosie the Riveter mystery) (Kindle) C-

6. The House at Sea's End by Elly Griffiths (#3 Ruth Galloway mystery) (Kindle) B-

7. Death Along the Spirit Road by C.M. Wendelboe (#1 Manny Tanno mystery) (Kindle) C-

8. The Tarnished Chalice by Susanna Gregory (#12 Matthew Bartholomew historical) B

9. Borkmann's Point by Håkan Nesser (#2 Inspector Van Veeteren mystery) (Audio) A-

10. Getting Old is Criminal by Rita Lakin (#3 Gladdy Gold mystery) B

11. A German Requiem by Philip Kerr (#3 Bernie Gunther mystery) (AUDIO) A

12. Blind Eye by Stuart MacBride (#5 Logan MacRae mystery) A

13. Bad Boy by Peter Robinson (#19 DCI Alan Banks mystery) B+

14. The Affinity Bridge by George Mann (#1 Newbury & Hobbes steampunk/fantasy adventure) B+

Currently reading:

Kindle: The Stolen Voice by Pat McIntosh (#6 Gil Cunningham historical mystery)
Audio:An Evil Eye by Jason Goodwin (#4 Yashim the Eunuch historical mystery)
Print: Bamboo and Blood by James Church (#3 Inspector O mystery)


Monday, July 2, 2012

JULY 2012

Finished so far in July 2012:

1. THE LAST KASHMIRI ROSE by Barbara Cleverly (KINDLE) (#1 Joe Sandilands historical mystery) A

2. GRANDDAD, THERE'S A HEAD ON THE BEACH by Colin Cotterill (#2 Jimm Juree mystery) A

3. SHADOW PASS by Sam Eastland (AUDIO) (#2 Inspector Pekkala historical mystery) B+

4. THE POTTER'S FIELD by Andrea Camilleri (#13 Inspector Montalbano mystery) A

5. THE LAST COYOTE by Michael Connelly (AUDIO) (#4 Harry Bosch mystery) A

6. THE HANGMAN'S DAUGHTER by Oliver Pötzsch (KINDLE) (#1 Hangman's Daughter historical mystery) C

7. BLESSED ARE THE DEAD by Malla Nunn (#3 Emmanuel Cooper mystery) A+

8. THE LAUGHING POLICEMAN by Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo (AUDIO) (#4 Martin Beck mystery) A

9, INTO THE SHADOWS by Shirley Wells (#1 Jill Kennedy and DCI Max Trentham mystery) A

10. GETTING OLD IS THE BEST REVENGE by Rita Lakin (#2 Gladdy Gold mystery) A

11. DARK OF THE MOON by John Sandford (AUDIO) (#1 Virgil Flowers mystery) A

12. KITTYHAWK DOWN by Garry Disher (KINDLE) (#2 Inspector Hal Challis mystery) B

13. DREADNOUGHT by Cherie Priest (AUDIO) (#2 Clockwork Century fantasy/steampunk) A+

14. TROUBLE IN PRIOR'S FORD by Eve Houston (#3 Prior's Ford series) A

Currently reading:

AUDIO: STARTED EARLY, TOOK MY DOG by Kate Atkinson (#4 Jackson Brodie)
PRINT: THE FEAR ARTIST by Timothy Hallinan (#5 Poke Rafferty mystery series) and THE TARNISHED CHALICE by Susanna Gregory (#12 Matthew Bartholomew historical mystery)
KINDLE: DEVICES AND DESIRES by P.D. James (#8 Cmdr. Adam Dalgliesh mystery)

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

JUNE 2012

You may have noticed (or maybe not!) that I didn't post a list or reviews last month. I've decided (at least for now) to hang it up. I probably will eventually publish my monthly "What I've read" lists with just a grade for the book, but I have found that trying to do all the "stuff" associated with being an avid reader, like updating my lists at Goodreads and FictFact, trying to write reviews (whether for Amazon or for my own self) and keeping up with this blog, participating in book discussions in various places and the forums at Paperbackswap, etc. detracts from my enjoyment of and also the amount of time I have for the actual reading of books.

Perhaps one day when my situation or my attitude or whatever changes I will come back to this, but for now it will likely be just a quick list of what I've read without any details about my thoughts.

Okay, here is a list of what I have read in May and June 2012, just to catch up. Future months will use this same brief format...title, author, series, format (if no indication, it means it was a plain old print book) and overall grade.

MAY 2012

1. THE JANUS STONE by Elly Griffiths (Ruth Galloway mystery #2) (Kindle) B

2.  THE KILL CALL by Stephen Booth (Cooper & Fry #9) A

3. HEAVEN PRESERVE US by Cricket McRae (Home Crafting mystery #2) (Kindle) B+

4. FUN HOUSE by Chris Grabenstein (Ceepak mystery #7) A

5. GETTING OLD IS MURDER by Rita Lakin (Gladdy Gold mystery #1) (Kindle) A

6. V is for VENGEANCE by Sue Grafton (Kinsey Millhone #22) A

7. UNHALLOWED GROUND by Mel Starr (Hugh de Singleton historical mystery #4) B

8. THE VOWS OF SILENCE by Susan Hill (Simon Serrailler mystery #4) (Audio) A

9. THE TYPHOON LOVER by Sujata Massey (Rei Shimura mystery #8) (Kindle) B

10. A BITTER CHILL by Jane Finnis (Aurelia Marcella historical mystery #2) B+

11. LAST RITUALS by Yrsa Sigurdardottir (Thora Gundmundsdottir mystery #1) (Kindle) B+

JUNE 2012

1.     THE SNOW QUEEN'S SHADOW by Jim C. Hines (Princess fantasy series #4) A

2.     DOUBLE DEXTER by Jeff Lindsay (Dexter Morgan mystery #6) (Audio) B+

3.     SIREN OF THE WATERS by Michael Genelin (Jana Matinova mystery #1) (Kindle) B+

4.     AS THE CROW FLIES by Craig Johnson (Walt Longmire mystery #8) A

5.     GAMES TO KEEP THE DARK AWAY by Marcia Muller (Sharon McCone mystery #4) (Audio) A

6.     THE STING OF JUSTICE by Cora Harrison (Brehon Mara historical mystery #3) B+

7.     A QUESTION OF BELIEF by Donna Leon (Commissario Brunetti mystery #19) (Audio) B+

8.     DEEP WATERS by Barbara Nadel (Cetin Ikmen mystery #4) A

9.     HEXED by Kevin Hearne (Iron Druid Chronicles urban fantasy #2) (Audio) A+

10. BRYANT & MAY OFF THE RAILS by Christopher Fowler (Peculiar Crimes Unit mystery #8) (Kindle) A+

11. STONE QUARRY by S.J. Rozan (Bill Smith/Lydia Chin #5) A

12. FACE DOWN O'ER THE BORDER by Kathy Lynn Emerson (#11 Lady Susanna Appleton historical mystery) C


Thursday, April 12, 2012

April 2012

Happy spring!

1. THE DRAGON MAN by Garry Disher (KINDLE) (#1 Inspector Hal Challis mystery) Grade: B+ First book in a series featuring Detective Inspector Hal Challis in the peninsula region southeast of Melbourne, Australia. A series of killings of teenaged girls first raped and then brutally killed, their bodies dumped in various locales near the Old Peninsula Highway has police baffled, and it's Challis's job to work with the local force to see the killer behind bars. The killer is also taunting them, sending letters to a local journalist denigrating the police. A good first entry in a promising-looking series, although I did find it a bit draggy in the middle with a rather abrupt ending. Too many different problems/issues with too many of the local cops were addressed, I think, making the midsection have a sort of scattered feel to it--and then some of those issues were sort of left hanging. I did figure out the killer well in advance so that wasn't a surprise. Still, it was a good story with some characters I liked very much and also very atmospheric--you definitely knew you were in Australia!
The one issue I have with this Kindle version of the book was the horrible formatting. Often there were missing quotation marks around dialogue, words misspelled, lack of spacing between point of view changes--sometimes occuring without even a new paragraph! Lots of lack of spacing issues. VERY annoying, and if I had paid for this book rather than checking it out from the library, I would have complained loud and long to Amazon. It was really REALLY distracting! I've seen other books with an occasional formatting problem with the Kindle version, but this one takes the cake!

2. SCARLET by Stephen R. Lawhead (#2 King Raven historical fantasy trilogy) Grade: A+ Second in this historical fantasy trilogy with the author's spin on the Robin Hood legend. This book focuses on Will Scatlock, aka Scarlet, who actually seeks to become a member of Rhy Bran's group. Told primarily from his point of view as he sits in prison awaiting execution dictating his memoirs and the tale of how he came to join the group of supposed outlaws to Odo, a monk-scribe who is writing them down. While telling this story to Odo, Will has a lightbulb moment when he realizes the significance of a chest with some pricey items--a jeweled gold ring, a pair of white leather gloves and a letter--that was in with other things that the group stole. Odo has been talking to him as well, and at the mention of the fact that there are two Popes at present, both vying for the recognized Papacy, Will's brain lights up. Now he must figure out a way to get this very useful information to Bran and the group--he figures even if he must swing from a rope, some good should come out of it. Excellent as was the first, this bears re-reading at some point and will stay on my Keeper shelf.

3. BLOOD OF THE WICKED by LEIGHTON GAGE (KINDLE) (#1 Chief Inspector Mario Silva mystery) Grade: C- First of a series set in Brazil and featuring Mario Silva, a chief inspector with the Federal police. He is sent into a remote area to investigate the assassination of a Catholic bishop and gets tangled up in several other investigations dealing with long-lived strife between the rich landowners and the Landless Majority. A violent, brutal book which doesn't bother me per se, but it felt like some of the violence was placed just for shock value. I wanted to like this book--I have heard good things about the series and South America is one of the world's areas that I haven't visited much so was hoping for a series based there that I could latch onto. Alas, it has taken me almost 2 weeks to read this book which is usually a good indicator of how much I like--or dislike--a book. I can't actually say I didn't like it...I can't think of anything really bad to say about it. It was okay, I guess. I just could not get interested in it. At all. I don't think I will be continuing the series.

4. NANNY OGG'S COOKBOOK by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Briggs. Grade: A A hilarious compilation of recipes, Discworld gossip and folklore featuring Nanny Ogg, one of the Discworld's most notable witches. Most of the recipes actually look quite good, although I will need to do some conversions as they're written in UK measurements--which is only to be expected, and I will have to pick up some frogs so I can not add them to the Frog Pills. From the delectable sounding "Sticky Toffee Rat Onna Stick" to the "Knuckle Sandwich" and "Mrs. Gogol's Clairvoyant Gumbo," there's a good variety of sweet, savory, meat and meatless dishes, including my favorite simple recipes "Bread and Water" and "The Librarian's Recipe For Banana." This will be staying on my Keeper shelf with the rest of my Discworld collection--and I do intend to open it again and actually try some of this stuff. :)

5. THE DIVINE CIRCLE OF LADIES PLAYING WITH FIRE by Dolores Stewart Riccio (#5 Cass Shipton "Circle" mystery) Grade: A+ Fifth in a series featuring Cassandra Shipton and four of her friends who loosely form a Wiccan coven and get up to all sorts of adventures in Plymouth, Massachussetts. In this book, an arsonist is setting fires where animals are present--a stable, an animal shelter, etc.--and Heather, the rampant animal rights activist among them is on the brink of getting out her black candles if the firebug isn't found. Cass has some visions/dreams of the arsonist but not clear enough to narrow it down to one person, so the women set out to mundanely investigate two men whom Cass thinks are definite possibilities. When one of the circle members' husbands dies as a result of another fire, their mission turns hugely personal. I love this series and was dismayed when the author lost her publisher (I think that was the reason it stopped) after the first four books. I thought it was over. After an absence of several years, lo and behold, early last year I discovered that there were now three more, and another published since. I was ecstatic! Except that I was early on in my year-long "book buying ban" of 2011, so I had to wait til this year to buy this book--and it was the first one I purchased, too! These women--quite different in age, personality, the type of life they have, etc--have become my friends and it was wonderful to visit with them again, despite the pall of tragedy hanging over them. These are the most accurately depicted "real life Wiccan/Pagan" books I've read, not treating it as a 'paranormal' that also includes vampires or faeries and the ability of witches to twitch ones nose and have stuff happen. LOL Anyway, welcome back Cass, Fiona, Heather, Deirdre and Phillipa and their extended families.

6. THE END OF THE WASP SEASON by Denise Mina (AUDIO) (#2 Alex Morrow mystery.) Grade: A    Second book in Mina's trilogy featuring Alex Morrow, a DS with Strathclyde police. Now five months pregnant with twins, Morrow struggles with trying to keep an even keel at work lest anything she say or do be written off as 'hormones talking.' A young woman is brutally murdered in her home, found at the bottom of her stairs with her face stomped in such that she's barely recognizable. In her kitchen, hundreds of thousands of euros are found under a false bottom in the kitchen table and Morrow and her team must not only solve her murder, but also figure out where the money came from. During the initial investigation, Morrow runs across a childhood friend, Kay Murray, who was a caregiver for the young woman's mother in the home, and she and her family come under suspicion, although Morrow herself doesn't believe Kay had anything to do with it--it's her boss, DI Bannerman, who seems anxious to wrap up the case in the most convenient way. Morrow also struggles with her relationship with her brother Danny, a local tough who followed in their father's footsteps as a gang boss. Another excellent entry in this series, with lots of subplots and twists and turns, and an ending that leaves you feeling unsettled and wondering just what it was that really happened. Expertly read by Jane MacFarlane. Looking forward to the next one!

7. THIS NIGHT'S FOUL WORK by Fred Vargas. (#4 Commissaire Adamsberg mystery.)  Grade: A
Another excellent entry in this cerebral mystery series featuring Commissaire Jean-Baptiste Adamsberg of the Serious Crimes Unit in Paris. Adamsberg is so far beyond the norm when it comes to policeman, I suspect he would resemble the bumbling Colombo of American TV fame. His mind is always wandering, off in the clouds, and yet his methods always get a result in the end. Half his crew worship and adore him and allow him free rein and obey his orders to the letter. The other half are just waiting for him to make a big mistake and they scoff at his preposterous suppositions. As per usual, two cases tie together--Adamsberg is called incidentally to a rural area where stags are being killed and their hearts cut out, meat left to rot. Meanwhile, murders are being done that make Adamsberg suspect an 'Angel of Mercy' serial killer, a visiting nurse who dispatched her patients so they would no longer suffer. Everyone thinks she's in prison, but Adamsberg drops the bombshell to his crew that she escaped a few months ago. Meanwhile, a New Recruit has joined the team, a young man who lived one village over from Adamsberg's birthplace in the Pyrenees. And Adamsberg is learning now to distance himself from Camille, the previous love of his life and who bore Adamsberg's son Tom. I thoroughly enjoy these very "different" sort of mysteries, although some of the things that happen in them are really unbelievable. As long as you can suspend your disbelief, they work fine. Very much looking forward to the next one!

8. CRUEL SISTER by Deborah Grabien. (#4 Haunted Ballad mystery) Grade: B+    The origins of another folk ballad (Cruel Sister) come to light when Ringan Laine and his girlfriend Penny Wintercraft-Hawkes greet Penny's long absent brother Stephen and his wife, who are building a home on the Isle of Dogs. Stephen wants Ringan to 'authenticate' the historical feeling they want the home to have (besides being in a folk band, Ringan also does period restorations on the side.) Ringan almost immediately has a strange feeling at the property and sees and hears things that apparently happened centuries earlier involving a brutal murder--and it appears to be one twin killing her sister over the love of a man. Getting the research team on the case, they discover that these teenage girls were from Scotland, in London in advance of Henry VIII's marriage to Ann of Cleves, and one of them was a goddaughter to King Henry as well. As the mystery unfolds, Ringan gets drawn deeper and deeper into the events of 1540 until Penny fears he is going to disappear altogether. I really enjoy this series and find Ringan, Penny and their circle to now be old friends. I will say that this being the fourth one in the series, I've marked the grade a bit lower as I'm finding the premise to be a bit formulaic with very similar happenings in each book, lots of repeat descriptions of various trance-like states that either Penny or Ringan go through which are accompanied by much hand-wringing and gnashing of teeth until the ghosts are dispatched. That said, I find the historical detail and the way folk songs originate to be very interesting, and will happily read the fifth and last in the series. 

9. SACRILEGE by S.J. Parris (AUDIO) (#3 Giordano Bruno historical mystery) Grade: B-/C+    Third in this series featuring Giordano Bruno, an ex-monk with radical ideas who has been pursued for heresy, he now works for the French ambassador and is secretly an agent of Queen Elizabeth I's spymaster Sir Francis Walsingham. Sophia Underhill, the young woman Bruno protected in the last book and whom he was in love with, finds him and implores him to clear her name, as she is accused of killing her magistrate husband. With Sophia disguised as a boy, they are soon are off to Canterbury with Walsingham's blessing--since he's going to have Bruno doing his own investigation into a possible plot against the Queen, which leads to him investigating a possible revival of the cult of Saint Thomas A. Becket, who was himself murdered in the Canterbury Cathedral in the 12th century. This book was probably better than I gave it credit's just that I seem to have stumbled upon a large number of Elizabethan books lately, and everyone and his brother seem to be spies for Walsingham, so I was not as enthralled as I might have been. It was not really a "thrilling" book as advertised--the culprit was rather easy to deduce, and I found Bruno's constant mooning romantically over Sophia to be rather tiresome and a convenient excuse for his not picking up on the rather obvious clues left by the author. The reader (John Lee) was good though, and he did a variety of accents very well. 

10. NO GOOD DEEDS by Laura Lippman. (KINDLE) (#9 Tess Monaghan mystery series) Grade: A   Ninth book in Lippmann's wonderful Tess Monaghan series in which we get to know her boyfriend Crow a little better. Crow brings home a homeless black teenager for dinner and invites him to stay the night and help him find shelter the next day. Lloyd Jupiter thinks he's hit a gold mine with the crazy white people who would let a common thief and scam artist like him into their home. During dinner, Tess ascertains that Lloyd seems to know something about the death of a prominent district attorney a few weeks previously, but before she can get more information, Lloyd tries to steal Tess's car and crashes it, running off into the night.Meanwhile, Tess digs up some new information that leads her to believe Lloyd is in danger and Crow, feeling guilty, tries to find him and help him. After an interview Lloyd gives to one of Tess's journalist contacts, she is visited by an odd mix of agents--FBI, DEA and one of the murdered attorney's colleagues--who try to bully Tess into giving up her 'anonymous source' or face ruin.Another fast-paced ride through Baltimore and environs as the author once again explores an interesting side of life in that city, this time the disparity between the mostly white "haves" and the mostly black "have nots." Only two more to catch up to the most recent book--I shall be sad if there isn't another waiting by the time I get there!

11. THE CHESHIRE CAT'S EYE by Marcia Muller (AUDIO) (#3 Sharon McCone mystery) Grade: B+   Third in this series featuring San Francisco PI Sharon McCone. Sharon discovers the body of a client and old friend who had asked to meet her in a house he was in the process of restoring. She is then hired by the man who owns the house in the hope that she can solve the crime and clear the name of his business. The investigation then leads back to another murder three years previously in the same house, and a missing Tiffany lamp, a valuable stained glass featuring characters from Alice in Wonderland. As Sharon starts digging up dirt on the people involved with the Victorian preservation business, she discovers that many people had a motive for one or another of the murders, and that she likes a lot of the people and doesn't want to believe they had anything to do with it. On a personal note, her relationship with Lt. Greg Marcus also deepens, although as always during the investigation they rankle each other mightily. Considering the age of this book, it has stood the test of time surprisingly well and I look forward to getting to know Sharon even better as I continue the series. The reader (Laura Hicks) had a calming voice and read the book competently, although her male voices all tend to sound somewhat the same.

12. HUNTING THE WITCH by Ellen Hart (#9 Jane Lawless mystery) Grade: C+   #9 in this series featuring Minneapolis restaurateur Jane Lawless. Jane, still injured both physically and psychologically from the attack she suffered in the last book, is trying to recover and make some decisions about her relationship with Julia, who is still encouraging Jane to give her another chance, despite the lies and secrets between them. Even now, Julia speaks of "having a talk to clear the air" but it never seems to happen--and when Jane is attacked by a man with a gun at Julia's cabin, she's even less inclined to be forgiving. Meanwhile, Patricia Kastner, a young woman who has shown an interest in Jane, gets tangled up in a murder that happened at the Winter Garden, a hotel she has purchased and is hoping to renovate. The murdered man also has ties back to Julia, as Jane discovers when his wife (who had her husband followed by a PI) seeks Julia out demanding answers. Jane begins turning to alcohol more and more to help her sleep and also deal with the pain from her injuries, and her friends are all concerned about her. This was another book that I did not particularly like--another with too much stress on the "relationship drama"--it was okay, and I know that in real life, people go through rough times, but seeing Jane in this state is somewhat distressing, perhaps because I do think of her as a friend. I hope she is on the mend soon and back to her old self.

DNF: MURDER OFF THE BOOKS by Evelyn David (boring!) and MURDER PASSES THE BUCK by Deb Baker. Just...ugh.


AUDIO:THE VOWS OF SILENCE by Susan Hill (#4 Simon Serrailler mystery)

KINDLE:THE JANUS STONE by Elly Griffiths (#2 Ruth Galloway mystery)

PRINT: THE KILL CALL by Stephen Booth (#9 Ben Cooper/Diane Fry mystery)


Tuesday, March 13, 2012

March 2012

1. EYE OF THE RED TSAR by Sam Eastland. (AUDIO) (#1 Inspector Pekkala historical mystery) Grade: A Review pending at the Paperbackswap Blog.

2. NO MARK UPON HER by Deborah Crombie. (#14 Duncan Kincaid/Gemma James mystery). Grade: A Fourteenth entry in this outstanding series featuring Scotland Yard detective Duncan Kincaid and DI Gemma James. With their lives officially blended now, Duncan had planned to take some family leave time to aid in assisting their new foster daughter Charlotte's adjustment. But when a major case involving the death of a ranking Metropolitan Police inspector comes up, his boss wants him on it. Rebecca Meredith was an Olympic calibre rower and her body is found in the Thames near her boat a few hours after she's reported missing by her ex-husband. Once it's determined to be murder, Duncan and Gemma both fear his leave may need to be put on the back burner. Teeming with potential suspects from Becca's personal, athletic and work life, Kincaid and his Sergeant, Doug Cullen, must first try to sort the massive amount of information. One piece of information from her work life leads to a secondary investigation conducted somewhat on the sly by Gemma with help from her former co-worker Melody, now an investigator with Project Sapphire, dealing with rape cases. This part of the investigation has the potential to get both Duncan and Gemma in their usual vat of hot water with their bosses. I hate when this happens, but as soon as the killer was introduced, I knew him for what he was. I had no idea why he had killed Becca Meredith, but I knew it was him. There were a few interesting plot twists that made me think for awhile that I might be wrong, but no. I love this series for its seamless blend of Duncan and Gemma's family and personal lives with their work and investigations. I also inevitably learn something from the books as the author picks a somewhat offbeat topic and researches it well--in this case, it's rowing, of course. The characters, even the secondary ones, are by now old friends and I look forward very eagerly to each new entry in the series, putting off the reading of it as long as I can, which usually isn't very long after release. And now I'm moaning that I have to wait for the next one to enjoy another visit. I can't recommend a series more highly than I do this one.

3. BURIED by Mark Billingham (KINDLE) (#6 DI Tom Thorne mystery) Grade: B Sixth in the DI Tom Thorne mystery series. The teenage son of a former cop is kidnapped, but oddly enough there's no ransom note and some question as to whether it was a true kidnapping or whether Luke Mullen voluntarily went off. Thorne, still in trouble with his boss and recovering from events in the last book, is seconded to a small team working with the kidnapping squad working on the case. As Thorne investigates and looks into the whereabouts of the list of people with grudges against Tony Mullen, Luke's father, he notices the conspicuous absence of a name mentioned by his old friend who works the cold case squad, and investigation into that person starts touching off some red flags. Why hadn't Mullen included the name on his list, and why hadn't his boss added the name when shown Mullen's list? Thorne thinks something is being covered up and is aiming to find out what. It has been a couple of years at least since I read the previous book in this series, mostly because I'd found Thorne's "bad boy rebel cop" persona to become mildly boring and predictable regardless of what stupid, outrageous things he did. He hasn't changed! LOL The book is well-written, well-plotted with some interesting twists that I didn't see coming at all, and while I actually like some of Thorne's secondary characters, I find Thorne hasn't changed much from his irritating old self. I absolutely loved the first couple of books in this series, but while I liked the rest of them, I think I will have to continue to leave months/years between reading each one.

4. ASK THE CARDS A QUESTION by Marcia Muller (AUDIO) #2 Sharon McCone mystery) Grade: B Second in the series featuring San Francisco private investigator Sharon McCone. Sharon ends up investigating a killing that happens in her own building when her upstairs neighbor, elderly Mollie Antonio, is brutally strangled. Detective Greg Marcus asks her to identify the body since it seems everyone else in the building he's tried to question is either "drunk or crazy" and Sharon is horrified to note that a piece of drapery cord that possibly came from her own apartment is likely the murder weapon. As PI's are wont to do, she keeps mum about that tidbit of information and heads off into the neighborhood to question people close to Mollie, and as usual doesn't share her gleaned information with the police, putting herself and others in mortal danger. I guess since she ultimately solves the crime, that stuff doesn't matter though. Don't get me wrong, I like's just that I can't figure out how she's going to keep her PI license through umpteen books in the series if she keeps up that kind of behavior. LOL The reader was okay, but I have to admit that while she did okay with varying the female voices, most of the male voices sounded very similar.

5. DANCING WITH DEMONS by Peter Tremayne. (#18 Sister Fidelma historical mystery) Grade: B The High King of Eirann (Ireland) has been murdered, and while the killer isn't in question, his motives are--and since he killed himself after committing the crime, no one can ask him. The Assembly calls in Sister Fidelma to investigate as an impartial party, since they want no questions in the people's minds when the new High King is installed. So Fidelma and her husband, Brother Eadulf are once again off on a long journey to Tara, leaving their son Alchu behind in Cashel. These books are fairly formulaic, with the questioning of witnesses, the gleaning of interesting information and then the gathering at the end so Fidelma can do the big reveal. Obviously, the real killer was not who everyone asserted it was, and I didn't guess who until the end, but I had narrowed it down to one of three people. While I do enjoy these books, love the setting and the characters and the historical presence the author creates, one thing I am finding increasingly annoying is how the ancient language is incorporated into the books--a word from the ancient Irish (or Gaelic or whatever it is) is used and then it's briefly explained or defined. It's educational, but it detracts from the story and I seem to notice it more each time, which is probably why I leave so much time between them now.

6. ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE NORTH by Philip Pullman. (AUDIO) Grade: A A quick prequel to Pullman's "His Dark Materials" trilogy, this features aeronaut Lee Scoresby as a much younger man on one of his first journeys in his hot air balloon. He puts down in a far arctic region to the island of Novy Odense where he meets two unexpected characters--the first an old enemy named Pierre McConville--a hired killer currently using a different name--and the second Iorek Byrnison, the armored bear who figures so prominently in Lyra's life in the later books. A very quick and easy listen--narration skillfully done by the author himself with a cast of other readers doing the character parts. Gives a little more insight into Scoresby's character as well as Iorek Byrnison's. Delightful!

7. SEASON OF DARKNESS by Maureen Jennings. (KINDLE) (#1 Inspector Tom Tyler historical mystery) Grade: C- First of a planned trilogy set in Shropshire, England in 1940. Inspector Tom Tyler is roused from his usual rather boring job in the small town of Whitchurch when one of the Land Army girls is found brutally murdered and posed. England is at war, and these girls are trucked in from the cities to help farmers with crops while most of the men are serving their country. The killing rouses suspicion that there may be a "Jerry" on the loose who possibly parachuted in, but Tyler believes the killer is much closer to home. When the post-mortem reveals that the girl was struck by a vehicle first and shot afterwards, he's almost certain of it. The question is whether it was a crime of chance or whether someone deliberately targeted the girl and why. Suspicion naturally falls first to the people of German descent interred at a local camp, although he's been assured that they are mostly harmless Jews who were also enemies of Hitler, having fled Germany for safer environs. Security also seems tight there, so it's unlikely that any of the men could have escaped--especially with use of a vehicle to have hit the girl with. The second death of another of the girls complicates the investigation even more. Tyler's investigation is further complicated by the return of his former lover, Clare, now married to a wealthy Swiss businessman. She is working as an interpreter and censor in the camp and seems interested in renewing their affair, even though Tyler is married too, albeit unhappily. Tyler is also worried about his son Jimmy, recently returned from the battle at Dunkirk with a bad case of shell shock, and with other family problems. I wanted to like this book more than I did, and I can't actually pinpoint exactly what it was that made me want to just get it finished by the time I got to the middle part. It seemed a bit put on if that makes any the author was trying TOO hard to make you think it was 1940, but you could still see the modern-day interpretation of things on the surface of it all. It didn't have the atmosphere of immersing you in the time and place like any good historical fiction or mystery book does, and I'm not sure just what the magic ingredient is but it was missing here. I won't be continuing this series if it does turn into a series.

8. GREY MASK by Patricia Wentworth (KINDLE) (#1 Miss Silver mystery) Grade: C This is the first in a long series of mysteries featuring an older woman named Miss Silver as the detective. It's a very old series, this book being written in 1928 and it did seem rather dated. Written in a rather different style from most modern detective stories, you really don't find out much of anything about Miss Silver nor get to read about her detecting techniques or anything. The story is told from the POV of several different characters involved. I was not overly crazy about the book. One of the main characters was a silly eighteen-year-old girl, recently left orphaned and she's just found out there is no legal paperwork showing that she is indeed her father's daughter, so she stands to lose a fortune. She's being protected from harm by several adults connected with the case, although she doesn't realize she's in danger. She is just...silly, giggly and I wanted to slap her into next week. I'm not sure yet if I am going to continue reading this series--others have said that some of the series books are much better than others, and I just don't think this was a good way to start. I want to know more about Miss Silver herself, otherwise why call them the "Miss Silver" mysteries?

9. THE PALE CRIMINAL by Philip Kerr (AUDIO) (#2 Bernie Gunther historical mystery) Grade: A- Second in this "Berlin noir" series set in 1930's Germany during the rise of Hitler. Bernie Gunther is a former cop, now private detective, who is approached by one of the higher-ups in the current police asking for help with a serial killer who is murdering young Aryan girls. Bernie is loathe to return to formal police work, but when the partner in his private detective agency is brutally murdered while on stakeout, he is a bit at loose ends and agrees to a short term reinstatement with a promotion to Commissar and control over the investigation. Of course, this gets up the noses of quite a few people and Bernie has never been good at toeing the Party line, so he's bound to get himself in hot water at least a few times before he figures out who the bad guy is. Fraught with political scheming and peril, Bernie knows that one wrong step could cause him to permanently disappear. Edgy and graphic, plenty of sax and violins (and I don't mean music! LOL) and much political incorrectness (as per the authenticity of the time) this would not be for the weak of stomach or lover of cozy mysteries. Definitely noir, and wonderfully read by John Lee. My only complaint is that some of the sex and violence seems to be there simply because it is expected and required and designed to shock...none of it was particularly inventive or interesting.

10. WORLD'S GREATEST SLEUTH! by Steve Hockensmith (#5 "Holmes on the Range" mystery.) Grade: A Another excellent entry in this series featuring the Amlingmeyer brothers, Big Red (Otto) and Old Red (Gustav) as they are off to Chicago to the World's Fair of 1893 to participate in a contest to determine (you guessed it!) the World's Greatest Sleuth. This is not something they volunteered for--Otto's publisher enrolled them to get publicity for his series of books and Old Red, still recovering from an incident that left him blinded for weeks, is NOT happy. Arriving at the last minute, they aren't sure exactly how the contest works, and they find themselves up against some awfully strange characters, the only friendly face being their old friend Diana Corvus. Both the brothers are hoping to impress her, but it's not exactly turning out that way...and when the man who was writing the contest clues ends up dead--smothered in a Mammoth Cheese--there are actually two contests going on...the sanctioned one, and the unofficial one to find who killed him. Hilarious and full of wry humor as well as some wonderful information and detail about the Chicago World's Fair, this was a great story and a well-plotted mystery with a bad guy that I didn't figure out nearly til the end. I do hope there will be more of these books forthcoming, although this is currently the last one.

11. MARTYR by Rory Clements (KINDLE) (#1 John Shakespeare historical mystery) Grade: C+ Did you know that William Shakespeare, the infamous playwright, had an older brother called John who was an intelligencer for Secretary Walsingham? Neither did I. LOL John begins investigating the death of a woman, a noblewoman distantly related to Queen Elizabeth. Her body is found in a burned out house, carved with profane religious symbols--and she was with child, the fetus having been sliced from her body before the fire, which only partly consumed her body. While he's investigating, he uncovers a plot to murder Sir Francis Drake, Vice Admiral of England's Royal Navy and their only hope to stave off a Spanish invasion, and must also try to foil that plot while still looking for the killer of Lady Blanche Howard. All the while, he's working at cross-purposes to one Richard Topcliffe, a trusted advisor to the Queen, who has it in for Shakespeare and always seems to be one step ahead of John's efforts. Walsingham, not wanting to incur the Queen's ire, tells Shakespeare he'll just have to put up with Topcliffe. Set during 1587 with the backdrop of the execution of Mary, Queen of Scots and the attempt by the government to hunt down and kill Catholic priests and arrest those found practicing Catholicism, this book was gripping at the same time as it felt tired and rehashed. The author used a lot of well-documented details to flesh out and authenticate parts of the story, but anyone who's read a bit of Elizabethan history will have heard most of it before. The story had an interesting beginning, but I found the intrigue to peter out a bit towards the middle and became rather predictable, even down to the romantic twist for Shakespeare. I'll probably read the next one in the series, although it won't be anytime soon.

12. THREE-DAY TOWN by Margaret Maron (AUDIO) (#17 Judge Deborah Knott mystery, also featuring the main character from her other series, Sigrid Harald.) Grade: B Deborah and Dwight are off to New York for a week for a much-postponed honeymoon with keys to their sister-in-law Kate's apartment where they'll stay. Deborah also totes a package for the daughter of a local woman, but discovers on arriving that she is out of the country on an extended holiday, so informed by Sigrid Harald, the woman's daughter. She asks Deborah to open the package--it's a rather obscene statuette--and makes arrangements to pick it up. But by the time she arrives, there's a dead body in the apartment (Deborah and Dwight being at a party down the hall) and the figurine is missing. I love the Judge Deborah books and the characters so much, I'm not sure I can write a really objective review as these are always like visits with old friends. But this one seemed a bit "off" to me, and perhaps it was the incorporation of Sigrid Harald--the main character in Maron's other series--that does it. I was disappointed at this on a personal level as I've not yet started reading that series and felt there were some things shared that will be spoilers for me when I do go back and start them. But the whole story seemed too scattered with an extra person's point of view in there. Possibly also the moving of the book from Deborah's home base of Colleton County. Whatever the reason, I didn't enjoy this production (although CJ Critt was fabulous as usual!) as much as previous ones. Still good, though!

13. SKIN DEEP by Timothy Hallinan (KINDLE) (#1 Simeon Grist mystery--although it was actually published third) Grade: C Simeon Grist is a private investigator in Hollywood, and one day while consuming beverages at a local tavern has the unfortunate experience of meeting Toby Vane, famous TV personality--although Simeon doesn't know at the time who he is. He starts knocking his date about in the pub, and Simeon intervenes--and quick as you can blink, he ends up hired by the star's manager with a job babysitting Toby and keeping him out of trouble. Not an easy task by anyone's estimation! And when the brutally murdered body of one of the nude dancers Toby was seen leaving her club with is found on the stage at the club, Simeon realizes his client could be in real hot water unless he takes the time to investigate. This book was...well, let me be honest. If I had not already read Timothy Hallinan's other series featuring Poke Rafferty, I would most likely have stopped reading this book well before my 50-page rule. It starts out...well, it's cheesy, rather amateurish and cliched, and I actually laughed in places I'm pretty sure I wasn't supposed to. However, I persevered, and it does actually get better by about mid-book although it is nowhere near the quality and calibre of the author's later writing. The author has said that this was the first book in the series, but it was passed over in favor of two other books in the series that ended up being published before this one. I can understand why, given my initial reaction to the book. I can only assume they get better, and I think Mr. Hallinan can certainly be very proud of how much his writing has improved and matured over time, as Poke Rafferty is one of my top ten favorite mystery series ever. I will look forward to watching Simeon develop!

14. THE SPY WHO CAME IN FROM THE COLD by John Le Carre. (AUDIO) Grade: A+ This audio version of the classic spy novel was a full-cast production with sound effects and it was wonderful! It features George Smiley (of Le Carre's spy series) but only peripherally and is primarily about Alec Leamas, one of Smiley's contemporaries, who goes in deep cover without support in another attempt to bring down Mundt, the notorious German spy. Excellent!!

DNF: THE ANATOMIST'S APPRENTICE by Tessa Harris. Read about 20% of it on my Kindle and just couldn't get interested in it. Also SPEAKS THE NIGHTBIRD by Robert McCammon--his minutely detailed descriptions of people and their clothing was so distracting from the story, I couldn't read more than 80 pages before wanting to hurl the book across the room.


Tuesday, February 7, 2012


A new month, and moved in to the new apartment, but still with lots to do to get really settled in. Hope to get a bit more reading done this month than last, though!

Oh...I wanted to add that I finally actually *bought* a book, the first since Dec. 30, 2010! There is a wonderful series by Dolores Stewart Riccio about a small group of Wiccan women, the lead character being Cass Shipton. I read what was then the "last" one a few years ago, but last year, discovered that since then she got a new publisher and there are now FOUR more for me to read! I had them all on my wishlist and if I was ever tempted to stray off my resolution for 2011 and buy, it was this book. But I held out til now. I ordered the fifth in the series (The Divine Circle of Ladies Playing With Fire) from Amazon and hope to be enjoying it very soon! :)

1. COOKING UP MURDER by Miranda Bliss (Kindle) (#1 Cooking Class Mystery) Grade: C-/D+ Trying to find a lighter, cozier series to read at bedtime so thought I would give this, the first "Cooking Class Mystery" a try. *sigh* Like so many cozy series, it ended up being mostly a romance with the main female character doing lots of fantasizing and drooling over the main male character. Very stereotypical characters--Annie (main character) has less-than-perfect looks and low self-esteem due to cheating hubby and recent divorce. Her best friend Eve is a vivacious drop dead gorgeous blonde, and the cooking instructor is a hot guy complete with a sexy Scottish accent. (Can you hear my eyes rolling? LOL) The plot and story just didn't have much depth, a cookie-cutter mystery, just boring and predictable...I didn't hate it or the main character, she was so devoid of character that I just didn't care one way or another what happened. I finished it, but I won't be continuing on in the series.

2. THE TWELVE by Stuart Neville (also published as "The Ghosts of Belfast" in the UK) Grade: A While this book is listed as the first in a series featuring Belfast cop Jack Lennon, he is really only introduced minimally here, and former enforcer for the IRA, Gerry Fegan, is the lead character. Haunted by the ghosts of those he killed during his "career," he has been drowning his sorrows in drink since being released from prison nine years previously. Now the twelve ghosts follow him, imploring him to seek justice for them on those who engineered their deaths, even if Gerry is the one who did the deed. As the Irish factions strive to (at least outwardly) settle things politically rather than with the violence of old, Gerry's destruction of some of the former IRA movers and shakers is very ill-timed, and Davy Campbell, an intelligence agent in deep cover close to the current top man, is tasked with finding and silencing Gerry--permanently. Who will find whom first? Stark, haunting and brutally violent, this is not a book for the weak of heart or stomach. But it is a very good book, sucking you into the story from the first paragraph until the surprising ending.

3. THE STATE OF THE ONION by Julie Hyzy (Kindle) (#1 White House Chef mystery) Grade: B In this first "White House Chef" mystery featuring Olivia "Ollie" Paras, assistant executive chef in the presidential residence, we're introduced to the world of not only cooking but also to the behind the scenes world of working at the White House in a normally lower profile job. Ollie, however, seems to have a knack for getting in trouble and begins the story by clobbering an intruder who got by the Secret Service and guards onto the White House grounds--with a silver frying pan she'd had engraved for her boss Henry, the executive chef who will soon be retiring. Things sort of skyrocket and go downhill for Ollie from there as it turns out the man she clobbered wasn't a real bad guy, but someone trying to warn the President of a plot against his life. Against the backdrop of diplomacy and trade/peace negotiations, Henry, Ollie and the rest of the small permanent staff are trying to plan an important state dinner as well as hosting Ollie's rival for the position of executive chef for her audition day. As usual when I start a new cozy series, I start out with a bit of trepidation, because I simply don't like so many of them. This was not bad--a little too much of Ollie's lamenting her rocky relationship with her sometime-boyfriend because I'm never impressed when a main character's mood or self-esteem is tied to a love interest. But the setting I think was unique enough that I quite enjoyed the story and learning about all the things that go into considering cooking for functions at the White House that you normally wouldn't think about. I will definitely read on in the series, and unless it gets to be too formulaic or too romance-bound, it sounds like a pretty good one.

4. A TRICK OF THE LIGHT by Louise Penny (AUDIO) #7 Armand Gamache "Three Pines" mystery) Grade: A+ Another wonderful visit to Three Pines, although there is much hurt and internal strife among Armand Gamache's homicide team with the Surete du Quebec as they all are still attempting to recover from the devastating attack that left both Armand and his second, Jean-Guy Beauvior, seriously injured. And another body found in Three Pines, in the garden of Clara and Peter Morrow the morning after a party celebrating Clara's solo art show in Montreal dampens things even further. Though not recognized immediately, it's later determined that the victim was a childhood friend of Clara's, which leaves her at the top of the suspect list, at least theoretically. I thoroughly enjoyed this audio production of the book which was well-read, and the story itself was interesting too. Most of all though, I love this series for the village of Three Pines itself and for the eccentric, well-defined characters, and for the ongoing development in the main characters' lives. Definitely among my top ten favorite series.

5. WHAT REMAINS OF HEAVEN by C.S. Harris #5 Sebastian St. Cyr historical mystery. Grade: A+ Another excellent entry in this historical series set in the 1810's in London. A bishop is murdered, struck down in a crypt that had been blocked up 30 years previously--and when the bishop's body is discovered, another body--also murdered--is found nearby. The Archbishop of London, well aware of Viscount Devlin (Sebastian St. Cyr) and his knack for solving difficult murders, implores him (with the help of his aunt, whom he dotes on) to find the killer. Sebastian is intrigued by the case, given the older dead body too. As he investigates, he discovers some troubling things about his own past and also again encounters Miss Hero Jarvis nosing around the case too--she even had a meeting with the Bishop shortly before he went off to the village where he was killed. This series is well-written, well-plotted, and has engaging characters, as well as a real sense of place and time in history. It's fast becoming one of my favorite historical series although it falls much later in time than my main interest. Highly recommended!

6. THE BODY ON THE BEACH by Simon Brett (AUDIO) #1 "Fethering" mystery. Grade A- First in a series set in Fethering on the south coast of England, featuring Carole Seddon, a fifty-something retired woman. I wasn't sure I was going to finish this when I first started it--Carole started out as an insufferable prig, concerned only with 'what the neighbors think' but after a bit she started loosening up and by the end was almost human. Walking her dog along the beach early one morning, Carole discovers a dead body washed up on shore. She reports this to the police but when they go to check it out, it's disappeared and they obviously think her some hysterical menopausal freak. Together with her new neighbor Jude, a much more relaxed and easy-going person, they begin to investigate where the body might have gone--as well as who it was and whodunit, of course. As mentioned, at first I was dubious about this main character, but by about a third of the way through I actually started to enjoy the story and finished it up in one day. The mystery wasn't difficult to figure out ahead, but that is often the case for me, so not really an issue. The reader was excellent, which helped too. Definitely going to move forward in the series.

7. A DEADLY PENANCE by Maureen Ash (KINDLE) (#6 Bascot de Marins "Templar Knight" mystery) Grade: A Sir Bascot de Marins, Templar Knight, is back in the service of the Templars but not on fighting duty per se--he is the second in command at the Lincoln encampment, and works keeping books and stores in order. It's the slow time after Christ's Mass, when not much trade is occurring due to the weather, so when he is summoned by his former retainer, Nicolaa de la Haye, castellan of Lincoln Castle, to help with a murder investigation, he is happy for the distraction. A young servant of Nicolaa's sister, who has been visiting for some weeks, is shot with a crossbow bolt from a miniature crossbow gifted to Nicolaa by her father when she was a child. The man was quite a philanderer, so it's suspected that perhaps the husband of one of his conquests has murdered him, but further investigation opens up several other possibilities, even including possible suspects in Nicolaa or his sister's retinue. Another well-done entry in this series--it's odd, when I'm reading the book, I find the writing style a little dry at times, and Bascot himself not a very memorable or strong character, but when I'm done, I find I've enjoyed the book very much, loved the historical details, and am ready and eager to read the next in series.

8. OTHER GODS by Barbara Reichmuth Geisler. #1 Averillan Chronicles historical mystery. Grade: C- This is the first of a 2-book series set in mid 1100's England near Shaftesbury and features a convent with the main character being one Dame Averilla, the herbalist/healer for the convent and town. I don't know if she was meant to be the female counterpart of Brother Cadfael, but it certainly didn't come off that way. One of the nuns, Dame Agnes, has recently been having 'fits' where she seems to hear voices and respond to them, she screams, tears her clothing off, etc. and is believed by the sub-prioress, the self-righteous Dame Joan, to be possessed. Averilla believes there may be another explanation but before they can come to a conclusion, Dame Agnes disappears and is gone for several days before the Abbess gives Averilla leave to go searching, since the town bailiff has had no success. I really liked the author's writing style, the historical detail and was very easy to imagine yourself right "there" where the author put you...however, the whole undertone of the book ruined the story for me. It was preachy and churchy and had far too much of the mental self-flagellation and self-blame which Christians indulge in as an felt a bit 'off' and despite the fact that I had this and the second in series on my wishlist for several years before acquiring it, I won't be bothering with the second one.

9. THE MIND'S EYE by Hakan Nesser. (#1 Inspector Van Veeteren mystery) (AUDIO) Grade: B.Another of those very oddly-written Scandinavian mysteries, this one featuring Inspector Van Veeteren, a toothpick-chewing, somewhat plodding man ten years from retirement and wishing it were sooner. When teacher Ava Ringmar is found drowned in her bathtub, her husband becomes the prime suspect--he found her when he woke from a drunken stupor in the morning and doesn't recall a thing, although he protests his innocence. Months go by, the jury finds him guilty of manslaughter by reason of insanity...and then he is murdered in the mental hospital where he's incarcerated. Van Veeteren, who had doubts in the first place about the man's guilt, must now go back and revisit the original crime. While I really enjoyed the reading of this book, I got the impression the author thought he was going to surprise everyone with the plot twist that revealed the killer. I had figured out who the bad guy was, why he killed Ava and the whole thing by about 1/3 of the way through. The only thing I didn't see coming was the killer getting into the hospital to kill Ava's husband. As many of the Scandinavian mysteries are, this one was a bit dark and gloomy, but I still liked it and I think as long as I don't read or listen to them too close together, I'll continue to enjoy them.

10. KISSING THE DEMONS by Kate Ellis (#3 Joe Plantagenet mystery) (KINDLE) Grade: B- A fast-paced mystery, the third featuring DI Joe Plantagenet and DCI Emily Thwaite in fictional Eborby, UK. When new DNA evidence comes to light, Joe and Emily are asked to look discreetly into a prominent politician's possible involvement in the disappearance of two girls a dozen years previously. The fresh murder of a college student keeps them headed in another direction until they realize the old case has ties to their current one--and possibly an even older murder committed decades ago in the house where the college girl lived. I like this series and the writing style is very easy to read, and I like the way the author generally ties an old historical case to something currently going on. But I am a lover of strong, interesting characters and the characters here seem a bit "stuck" at the moment, without much real development in their lives...they're sort of bland, and there really aren't any recurring secondary characters who get more than a passing mention either. The mystery wasn't difficult to figure out, and a bit of warning--there is a bit of the ghostly supernatural present here too, so if you're not a fan of that woo-woo, beware. I'll continue reading the series, but it's not what I would call a favorite.

11. HOUNDED by Kevin Hearne (#1 Iron Druid Chronicles urban fantasy) (AUDIO) Grade: A+ I listened to the audio version of this book and thought it was just excellent! Modern urban fantasy full of lots of old Celtic and Norse gods and legends, this opening entry introduces us to Atticus O'Sullivan (not his real name, ha ha!) a Druid who is more than 2100 years old. Living as a twenty-something occult bookstore owner and mixer of herbal teas and potions, Atticus lives in an Arizona college town, trying to blend in while more or less hiding out from an old Celtic God who wants his magical sword and to finally kick his butt to the next world, preferably Hell. He has some strange allies from the pages of myth and legend, as well as some pretty cool real-life characters, including his Irish Wolfhound Oberon, whom Atticus can communicate with telepathically. I really loved this book--the tone is similar to Jim Butcher's Harry Dresden series, so yeah--smart alecky and wise cracking and decidedly irreverent, which means I'm probably going to like it. LOL Very smoothly written, easy to listen to with engaging and well-developed characters...definitely a winner and I'm looking forward to the next one in the series. Also very well-read with Luke Daniels at the microphone.

12. HARD TIMES by Charles Dickens (classic) Grade: B Classic tale of Victorian England with all the social injustices occurring as the Industrial Revolution geared up and the class struggles between the haves and have-nots. It's told from the point of view of several people, some the factory owners and others the downtrodden workers and other inhabitants of Coketown, the fictional city Dickens bases his characters in. It took me about 30 pages or so to warm up to the book--once I realized it was meant to be sarcastic and humorous I did better with it, and actually quite enjoyed it in retrospect even though I "assigned" it to myself as sort of a have-to-read book--I'm trying to read more classic literature this year. There were some difficulties with the language at first but again, once reading it for awhile I got used to it and it was easier to understand.

13. SKINWALKERS by Tony Hillerman (#7 Leaphorn/Chee mysteries) (KINDLE) Grade: A I'm pretty sure I read most of these early books in the Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee mysteries, but it's been many years and I don't remember much for details. I enjoyed this one a lot! Leaphorn and Chee are just getting to know one another as they investigate several deaths that are somehow connected, but they can't quite get a handle on how or why. Leaphorn also believes the attempt on Chee's life--someone pumped three shotgun blasts into his trailer where he should have been sleeping--is tied in as well. As the pieces begin falling into place, Leaphorn realizes that he must track Chee down before he heads into a seemingly unrelated meeting about a Blessing Way sing that could end Chee's life. Great characters, wonderful sense of place and interesting mystery.

Currently reading:

NO MARK UPON HER by Deborah Crombie
BURIED by Mark Billingham
EYE OF THE RED TSAR by Sam Eastland


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

January 2012

My gosh, it's the second week of January and I haven't updated yet! I have read a few books, but am packing to move at the end of the month, so reviews are going to be very sketchy if they are forthcoming at all.

Top news: I met my 2011 Book Resolution--not to purchase for money ANY books during the year! Yay me! And right now I'm so broke, I haven't bought any yet this year either. LOL My 2012 Book Resolution is to read one "classic" a month. Some are more recent classics, others older, but I'm just trying to expand my horizons a bit. I read mostly mysteries and sometimes get tired of the same old, same old...have gotten pickier in my dotage, too.

1. MURDER ON LEXINGTON AVENUE by Victoria Thompson. (#12 "Gaslight" historical mystery) B+

2. A GAME OF LIES by Rebecca Cantrell (#3 Hannah Vogel historical mystery) A+

3. THE RISK OF DARKNESS by Susan Hill (#3 Simon Serrailler mystery) (AUDIO) A+

4. DEVIL'S PEAK by Deon Meyer (#1 Benny Griessel mystery) (KINDLE) A+

5. THE STRANGER by Albert Camus (my classic for the month) B+

6. ABOUT FACE by Donna Leon (#18 Commissario Guido Brunetti) (AUDIO) B

7. BLOODY MARY by J.A. Konrath #2 Jack Daniels mystery) (KINDLE) B+

8. BRYANT & MAY ON THE LOOSE by Christopher Fowler (#7 Bryant & May mystery) A+

9. I SHALL WEAR MIDNIGHT by Terry Pratchett (#38 Discworld, #4 Tiffany Aching sub-series) A+

10. DRAGONSEYE by Anne McCaffrey (#4 Dragonriders of Pern fantasy) (KINDLE) A

DNF: THE MERLOT MURDERS by Ellen Crosby (#1 Wine Country mystery) (AUDIO)