Bohemima's Book Binge Bundle Two
This is a continuation of the topic Bohemima's Book Binge.
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59. On Methuselah's Trail Peter D. Ward
58. The Blind Contessa's New Machine Carey Wallace
57. Bloodhounds Peter Lovesey
56. Woman Slaughter E.X. Ferrars
55. The Deadly Joker Nicholas Blake
Mystery (e shelf)
54. Regeneration Pat Barker
53. Dead Men Don't Ski Patricia Moyes
52. Moon Tiger Penelope Lively
51. Police at the Funeral Margery Allingham
mystery (e shelf)
50. Life in a Medieval City Joseph and Frances Gies
49. The Innocence of Father Brown G. K. Chesterton
Mystery Short Stories (e shelf)
48. 1776 David McCullough
47. As Does New Hampshire May Sarton
46. The Blackhouse Peter May
45. In the Heart of the Sea Nathaniel Philbrick
44. Light Thickens Ngaio Matsh
43. East Side Story Louis Auchincloss
42. The Drawing of the Three Stephen King
41. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas Hunter S. Thompson
40. Manhattan Monologues Louis Auchincloss
Short Stories (borrowed)
39. The Black Cauldron Lloyd Alexander
Fantasy Novel (e shelf)
38. Just One Damned Thing After Another Jodi Taylor
Novel (new) Reread
37. The Lonely Polygamist Barry Udall
36. A Hovering of Vultures Robert Barnard
35. Black Cats Are Lucky A. Fielding
34. Mistress of Alderley Robert Barnard
33. The Blind Assassin Margaret Atwood
32. A Killer's Guide to Good Works Shelley Acosta
31. Ever Since Darwin Stephen Jay Gould
30. Desire of the Everlasting Hills Thomas Cahill
29. Books for Living Will Schwalbe
28. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
27. Selected Dialogues of Plato Plato
26. Rescue Anita Shreve
25. The Lacquer Screen Robert van Gulik
24. I, Claudius Robert Graves
YEAR TO DATE STATS
Happy New Thread for sure! I'm off to your old one to see what I've been missing.
April's been a great reading month for me, but as always, I can speed through any number of mysteries very quickly--too quickly, I often think. They'll be go-to reads forever, I guess. Borrowing them from the library or using those great low-price kindle deals makes it easy to keep a goodly supply on hand.
Happy new one, Gail! Lots of good reading going on here - I also always have room for a mystery in my current reads.
I am making some progress on clearing the shelves, but it's a Herculean task. Still, every book read is a small step ahead.
What's rewarding and kind of comforting is that the shelf choices are usually worthwhile reads. I seem to have gone on a buying frenzy for a couple of years. Uh, not "seem to have": I did go on a mad book-buying spree for quite a while. That seems to be settling down (pray for me, fellow sinners) at last, mostly because of the, er, intimidating extent of my library, both physical and virtual. I'm starting to make use of the public library again when I get restless and want something new. After all, I'm there every Tuesday.
Also, I have lots of books that John bought (or I bought for him), books which I'm also interested in reading. These are uniformly nonfiction, either biography or history. Our tastes in fiction were fairly divergent; once in a while we'd try something from each other's stacks of fiction, but not often.
>14 Crazymamie:: Mamie! Good to see you here! Good to know I have company in my mystery
More about mysteries:
My taste for them is, believe it or not, fairly selective. I like Golden Age mysteries, which could be loosely classified as those written between WWI and, oh, 1960 or so. There's a lot of schlock in that category, most of which is mercifully forgotten, but there are more gems from that period, I think, than any other. Other favorites include exotic settings, anything from the Hebrides to Japan; some British books that tend to be on the police procedural side, like the Inspector Morse or Jimmy Perez books; some few of the"cozy" type, like the Hamish Macbeth series; books from before the Golden Age, like Sherlock and Dr. Thorndyke; and most of Robert Barnard.
At one time I was fascinated by the "locked-room" genre and read dozens of them. Now they're well down on the list. The "country house" type, with a select and narrow set of suspects, remains perhaps my ultimate favorite.
I don't like books which dwell on gore; pretentious mysteries passing themselves off as fine psychological novels--Elizabeth George being an author who fits in both categories--(although there are some fine psychological mysteries); nor cutesy mysteries awash in lacy doiles, b and b's, and romance. Most "hard-boiled" mysteries leave me cold. I'll take British over American any time.
Any addition of intriguing characters or genuine humor and irony will draw me in; for some reason quite unknown to me, I much prefer books set in the winter or around Christmas.
These are just my prejudices. I know others have very different ideas of what makes a good mystery--that's why there are so many available.
Goodness, I did run on there, didn't I?
>17 bohemima: It's the same for me, Gail. I used to say that I didn't like mysteries or detective stories but these day I'm reading more and more of just the sort of book you describe. The British Library Crime Classics - reprints with gorgeous covers - and the Dean Street Press 'Furrowed Middlebrow' range are keeping me going!
>17 bohemima: >18 CDVicarage: >19 alcottacre: Yes, oh yes, oh yes! British mysteries any day of the week. I'm a sucker for a great Golden Age mystery! I'm also not a big, fan of the gore or the psychological thriller types. I've done a lot of thinking about why I tend to the British mysteries over American, and I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that I prefer my detective (professional or not) to be the type that uses their brain to reason things out. I just hate it when the protagonist "stumbles" on the answer, or has to use forensics to get to the bottom of things. I also hate those "cutesy" mysteries that have to be set around a teashop, a bakery, a travel agency or some other thing that just constrains the author because all of the books have to fit in a certain mold. Of course, I do have exceptions to that - I really like Elly Griffiths Ruth Galloway series.
Gail, I only read one Robert Barnard, and wasn't crazy about it, but maybe I'll have to go back and give him a second chance!
Hi Gail. I'm loving your categories of mystery novels and what works for you. You've got me thinking. I'm not sure I can categorize my preferences all that well....
Robert Barnard sounds like someone I should try.
Have you read any of Peter May's works? I quite enjoyed The Blackhouse and The Lewis Man and I'm looking forward to reading The Chessmen for Murder & Mayhem month.....
>18 CDVicarage: Hi, Kerry! Good to see you here. I've picked up a few (hah) British Library Crime Classics, and so far have been disappointed only once. A pretty good average, wouldn't you say?
Haven't seen The Furrowed Brow series but will look it up.
>19 alcottacre: Welcome, Stasia! They and Christie remain favorites, although I've read and reread most of Christie more than once. Reading her books is somewhat like chatting with a very old and dear friend: a little repetition is fine. Now I tend to pay attention to the characters since I know many of the plots by heart.
Oh, I highly recommend Miss Pym Disposes, which I think you haven't read. There's nothing like a girls' school mystery for relaxation.
>20 rretzler: Robin, you've expressed my feelings exactly about cutesy mysteries. Most books with bad puns on Movie or Book titles fall into this category. I must say I've only read one Ruth Galloway, but I enjoyed it very much.
Barnard is unique in that each of his books is wildly different from the last. He's iconoclastic and doesn't mind poking a variety of bears.
>21 EBT1002: and >22 EBT1002: Ellen, I've had an unbelievably long run reading mysteries and so have had time to think about what might suit my taste and what doesn't; having some outstanding fails along the way has helped to,refine my choices.
For Barnard, I might suggest Death by Sheer Torture as a place to start. It's sufficiently weird to be intriguing. I also enjoyed School for Murder and my personal favorite, Death on the High C's. I do admit this last isn't for everybody.
I've not tried Peter May, but will add him to my radar.
I'm glad I checked in to find my delightful visitors and to suggest (surprise!) one more mystery author: Peter Lovesey. Two of his books, The False Inspector Dew and The Reaper, are my favorite newer mysteries. Rough Cider isn't half-bad, either. He's an amazing writer: his other work is funny and entertaining, but those three--whew! I highly recommend them to any mystery fan.
16 books in April. For me, that's a great total.
Now I just need to add more poetry.
Although compared to some, my totals are not huge, I'm disappointed that I've managed to acquire 82 books. This isn't what I wanted to do.
Looking things over, it appears that January and April were my most profligate months. I hope I can pull the reins in now, settle down, and get some of these darned things read!
>30 bohemima: Made me chuckle. Our collective ability to acquire books when we say we don't want to do that never ceases to amaze and amuse me. I purchased three books today when I had no intention of doing so!
>26 bohemima: I'm going to have to give Barnard another try, as it seems like we have similar tastes in mysteries.
>27 bohemima: Peter Lovesey is an absolute favorite of mine. The only thing that I ever read by him that disappointed me was his short story for Bibliomysteries - the name escapes me for now, but he tried to write a story set in the US, and it did NOT work. I just love Peter Diamond - and I adored the stand alone books too. I've only read one or two of the Sergeant Cribb mysteries and none of the Bertie ones yet, but the Sergeant Cribb, I thought was good, although nothing like Peter Diamond.
Have you read the Richard Jury series by Martha Grimes? Jury and his friend, Melrose Plant, are fantastic together. I think I've enjoyed every one of the series. She hasn't put a book out for a few years, which really saddens me. She is close to 80, so I fear I may have seen the last of Richard and Melrose.
As far as recent authors of British mysteries that I have enjoyed go, these are a few that I would recommend:
PD James Inspector Adam Dalgleish
Jacqueline Winspear Maisie Dobbs
Deborah Crombie Duncan Kincaid/Gemma James - if you don't like Elizabeth George, you may not like this series because they similar in style (I do admit to liking Elizabeth George though - mostly because I like Thomas Lynley as a character
Alan Bradley Flavia de Luce
Laurie R King Mary Russell
Nancy Atherton Aunt Dimity - this has a "cutsey" sort of gimmick, but for some reason it works for me, some of the books are definitely better than others though
Rhys Bowen Royal Spyness, Molly Murphy and Evan Evans - all three series are good, but I think I like Royal Spyness the best. It may fall slightly in the "cutsey" category, it's really fun!
Susan Elia Macneal Maggie Hope
Christopher Fowler Bryant & May - I think you need to enjoy Brit humor to enjoy these
Reginald Hill Dalziel & Pascoe - these are borderline thriller, but Dalziel & Pascoe work so well together
GM Malliet St Just and also another series that I haven't read
Less contemporary British mysteries that are reminiscent of the Golden Age that I've enjoyed are (some may actually be considered Golden Age, but not well-known, as such):
Georgette Heyer - mysteries only - she is famous for romance
The old Golden Age are definitely the best, but since I've read Christie, Sayers, and Marsh many times over, am working on the Allingham's and also picking up some of the lesser known authors when I can, I try to find contemporary authors whose works I can tolerate.
Ditto on the Inspector Morse and Hamish MacBeth - and I enjoy Agatha Raisin, as well. The MacBeth books have gone downhill lately, I think it may be because she is getting old, but the Agatha Raisin books don't seem to have suffered as much.
Are there other contemporaries that you really enjoy?
(wow, I didn't realize how long this post was - that's what happens when I start to talk about my favorite subject with someone who can appreciate it!)
Hi Gail, just catching up with all my LT friends my dear, hope you have had a good week so far and send love and hugs dear friend.
>30 bohemima: and >31 EBT1002: Ellen, I lost what little grip, I have on my purse strings and purchased maybe 10 or so books yesterday. All were kindle mysteries and quite reasonably priced...$1.99 to a high of $4.99.
Sigh. I must turn on the airplane mode on the kindle or...eventually I'll run out of room there, too!
Wait! We're supposed not to want to acquire books? That's crazy talk! More! More! More! I'll never live long enough to read everything that I had before I joined LT and found online used books, but that is irrelevant. I want books.
As to mysteries, I like everything except cutesy/cozy. They kept me going while I was teaching and couldn't concentrate on anything any more demanding. I read fewer now, but I always look forward to them.
I'm sure that my mystery
>33 rretzler: Robin! My Mystery Sister! Few people understand the mystery addiction. I'm glad you do. So much to consider in your post...
On Lovesey, I think he's an amazing and undervalued author. I read Wobble to Death last year and was highly amused. It's about a "walking race" set in late Victorian times. I think Cribb is the detective, but the race itself is the star of the show.
Many years ago I read a lot of the Jury and Plant books, which were really funny. Didn't Jury have a crazed aunt named Agatha? I haven't looked at one of them in a long time.
I enjoyed three or so of the Lynley books, but then George went down a black path of violence and misery that I don't want to follow.
I've read all of PD James and Georgette Heyer. One more to go and I'll be finished with my most recent reread of Heyer.
I've polished off most of Alan Bradley and G.M. Malliet and a few of Jacqueline Winspear, Reginald Hill, Gladys Mitchell (now there's a weird one), Laurie King, Catherine Aird, and Basil Thomson.
I've not read any of Deborah Crombie, Rhys Bowen, Susan Elia Macneal, or Christopher Fowler. I tried an Aunt Dimity but that didn't work for me. I'm still working on the Allingham books, but...I don't know. Not my favorite.
I have the first two Agatha Raisin books (kindle bargain buy) and I'm hoping they'll work for me. I watched an episode on PBS and found it funny--humor is my favorite mystery ingredient.
I'll be over to your thread this weekend with some recommendations for you.
Thank you for sharing your love of and interest in mysteries with me.
>34 rretzler: Robin, as a person raised in the Catholic Church, my automatic response is, "And also with you."
>35 johnsimpson: John, hi! The week's been good so far. We've had a reprieve from the heat and a very rainy day, so everything is green and gorgeous. I've managed a bit of gardening in really small batches, trying to avoid the shrieking back pain. So far, so good.
I hope all is going well with you, Karen, and the family.
>37 LizzieD: Oh, Peggy. So many books...I want to read hundreds of them. And reread a few as well. However, except for a small(ish) select group, including a favorite author or two and some nonfiction, I'm trying to limit my purchases to mostly kindle books, for reasons of space. I'm hopeless at not buying books. Utterly beyond redemption. Still, there are worse vices.
Mysteries were my gateway drug to the absorbing world of adult books. And like you, I find them the ideal escape from an all-too-distressing real world. Usually short and often fascinating, they're a wonderful panacea for many ills.
Fascinating discussion of mysteries and preferences, Gail!
I like a variety, but haven't encountered anything modern (say, after the 1970s, except for people who had been writing before that and kept going into the '80s) that really gripped me and made me want to read more. On the other hand, I do enjoy detective stories from before the Golden Age (often not really fair-play mysteries).
I don't really have a side in the American vs. British debate — I think overall my reading comes fairly equally from both sides of the Atlantic. I also like an assortment of types: locked-room mysteries (e.g., Carter Dickson/John Dickson Carr); serious mysteries, such as those of Todd Downing; puzzlers, like those of Clyde B. Clason, Rupert Penny, and Freeman Willis Crofts; spy tales (e.g., Valentine Williams, John Buchan, Dornford Yates, Helen MacInnes); Edgar Wallace-style thrillers; pulp detectives like the Phantom Detective and the Shadow; among others.
What I’ve realized is that I prefer a dollop of humor in my mysteries, whether wry humor as can be seen in some of Edgar Wallace, or the good-natured New England humor of Phoebe Atwood Taylor’s Asey Mayo stories, or the more madcap Leonidas Witherall mysteries Taylor wrote as Alice Tilton, or the screwball mysteries of the sisters Constance Little and Gwenyth Little, or the amusing mysteries by Margaret Scherf and Delano Ames, or the Shell Scott mysteries by Richard S. Prather.
I do not care for inverted mysteries, where too much of the focus is on the murderer.
>40 bohemima: Gail, I can't wait for your recommendations. It's so great to find someone who really "gets it" about British mysteries!!
Last fall, I was briefly considering writing a book about British mysteries/detectives - but after about a week of compiling information and getting nowhere, I put it on the backburner. Maybe someday. I was kind of inspired by reading Martin Edwards' book The Golden Age of Murder. I picked up many years ago A Reader's Guide to the Classic British Mystery and was thinking of something along that line, except more completist and with more information.
I just got an email today that Clara Benson's next book is out, so I picked it up. If you haven't read any by her, they are also not bad.
It was actually Melrose who had the crazy aunt Agatha - and also the hermit!
And I agree about Elizabeth George, especially when she killed off Helen. I skipped over the one entire book because I knew I just couldn't go there - and I'm still furious about Helen - but still plugging along with them.
I love mysteries. I just finished a Crombie. I think you'd like her books.
Just came by to say that you have driven me to The Blackhouse, and I thank you very much.
I love Crombie, but then I also loved E. George in her early days. Her last 50 or 60 books have gotten very, very long. Besides, I can't find the one that I have to read next when I eventually get back to her. I don't care for Aunt Dimity or the Winspear creation. Allingham is my least favorite of the British Golden Women. I love Heyer both mysteries (except for Penhallow --- How could such a good writer ever perpetrate that clunker?) and "romances" (except that they are so much more than romances).
Enough! If I get started, I'll be here all night.
This is so much fun. I don't have a lot to contribute but I'm soaking up all the recommendations and comparisons! How I wish I had more time to read!
Gail, if you bought The Blackhouse partly for the setting, you're in for a treat. One thing I like most about this trilogy is the setting. Having visited Scotland twice and loving it above all other places on earth, I just love his descriptions of that northwest coast and the nearby islands. Not entirely hospitable but perfect for a mystery novel. :-)
>44 harrygbutler: Oh, Harry, you awful enabler. I just added several books and authors to my always burgeoning Wish List!
I'm not crazy about spy stories, except for LeCarre. In my checkered younger years I read most of John Dickson Carr's books, under both names. I still enjoy a reread from time to time. Recently I've been going back to the pre-Golden-Age books; before this I'd only read Conan Doyle.
More seriously, thanks for giving me some new authors to think about.
>45 rretzler: Robin, I put a few more modern authors up on your thread. I'm still working on the older ones.
Oh, a book? I'm not that ambitious, unfortunately; it's more my style to read one of those tomes and say, " Wait! What about...? And you like these books?" Still, they help me refine my own taste and sharpen my opinions.
Did you know there was a tiny scandal involving Benson? Apparently she or her publisher tried to pass off her work as being by an overlooked author of the twenties, and she/they came clean after about the tenth book. I don't care, really; I liked the first one and will try more.
Am I completely misremembering, or did Aunt Agatha have a kind of "thing" for Jury in a weird way?
>46 tymfos: Terri, I just put the first two Crombie books on the kindle yesterday.
They look like interesting reads.
>47 LizzieD: Peggy, I don't like Aunt Dimity or Allinham, although I'm giving Allingham a couple of ore chances to win me over.
Something else I read in my omnivorous young reading years was Heyer's complete fiction. I loved about six of the romances and certainly enjoyed the rest. I think my favorite Heyer mystery was Envious Casca. Great characterization of the perpetrator in that one, I thought.
>48 EBT1002: Ellen, have you read the Anne Cleve's series about Jimmy Perez? It started as a tetralogy and wound up, I think, at 6 books. She's very good at evoking that northern island atmosphere.
>49 PaulCranswick: Paul, hi! I'm hoping to have a good week and wishing you and yours the same. You're so busy, though, I don't know you remain sane.
>51 bohemima: Yes, I did know that about Benson. Still like her books though, and I kind of thought it was an interesting way for her to get an idea of whether her books were legit.
Hmm, I don't remember that about Aunt Agatha, but its been a few years since I've read any Jury mysteries, so I may not recall correctly - I don't think Agatha was in the last several, so its probably been 10 years or more since I would have read them. They are due for a reread, I think.
So. Another week done, with its ups and downs. I lost track of time and poor Sophie suffered with some nausea until I remembered it was time for her monthly medication. That problem should be solved now.
I've been very busy with one thing and another. Trying to take it in small doses, I did some gardening. Way overdid it one day and paid for it, but nobody's fault except my own. The foundation plantings out front look fantastic, though, almost making the aftermath worthwhile.
In Gail's Most Embarrassing Moments, Episode 358, Friday I had multiple errands to run, and was on my feet quite a bit. I got to the last store, dropped something, and found that I couldn't bend to pick it up--not by bending my knees, not by bending at the hips or waist, just not happening. A most disheartening moment. When I got home I applied heat, topical pain medication, etc. it's better, but not 100% by any means. Frustrating.
In more interesting and cheerful book news, I've finished Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, completed one Auchincloss and almost finished another, and made a start on one of the nonfiction books for this month.
And, since mysteries seem to have taken over my thread, here's something:
I tried to read a mystery that's been waiting for some time on the kindle. I kept trying, kept losing focus, began to wonder if I was just too distracted or whatever. Then I picked up an ancient Ngaio Marsh and was immediately absorbed.
Why? Because Marsh is much the better writer, that's why. The funny thing was that both books had plays in production as their centering scene. I'm not naming the book or author that was...disappointing, but will supply it on request as Somrthing. To. Avoid.
Have a peaceful and pleasant week, everyone.
I'll second Ellen's recommendation of the Lewis Island mysteries, which begin with The Blackhouse by Peter May. I'm still plugging away with Elizabeth George's Lynley series. The only ones I don't like are those in which Deborah and Simon take the forefront--I skipped the most recent one where they took the lead.
>58 bohemima: ...and of course, I also love Ngaio Marsh! I'm not in the least surprised to find her the better writer - and I would love to know the name of the book to avoid. Always a good way to tell if you like a book, whether you can put it down or whether you avoid it. I'm thinking of changing my star rating system to something like that - 5-star would be can't put it down and 1-star avoid it like the plague!
>59 LizzieD: Peggy, Marsh was one of the first authors I fell into in my late teens. I avidly read everything I could get my hands on. Then I put them out of mind, more or less, for years. Recently I've been doing reread sin the most casual fashion, and I'm so glad I found her again.
>60 arubabookwoman: Deborah, I'm bumping Peter May way up on the to-read list. I follow a Scotland page on FB, and that's where I found him.
The first Elizabeth George I read was Missing Joseph, and I was intrigued. I read the early ones and liked them. But when the murders became more and more grisly and the surrounding story more depressing, I had to let them go, with some regret. I have so many other authors to read!
>50 bohemima: Happy to help, Gail! :-)
I find my enthusiasm for particular subgenres or particular authors varies over time, but often resurfaces after a break, which makes it very hard to cull — and, too often, time and effort to reacquire what I did get rid of.
Ngaio Marsh is among the authors I didn't read early (though I may have read one or two if they were around), but I'm gradually going through her mysteries now and enjoying them.
Hi, Robin. Marsh is a very old favorite for me. I love the drama/art background of many of her stories. Her last book hadn't lost anything except that the culprit was relatively obvious.
I realize people have to make a living, and if other people like this series, that's fine, but I found it boring in the extreme. Murder in Steeple Martin by Lesley Cookman is the first in the Libby Sarjent series. Maybe the series improves as the writer gains more experience, I don't know. And of course I'll try this another time to see if, in fact, it's me...or her.
>64 harrygbutler: we cross-posted, Harry. Like you, I've truly regretted culling some books when, years later, I have to go to the time and expense of replacing them. Very annoying!
I find that Marsh stands the test of time and my changing tastes. Her writing is excellent, with plenty of character insight and some humor to precisely fit into my comfort zone.
>65 bohemima: Ah, yes. I read that one too - I gave it 3 stars, but remember thinking it was very generous. I can recall not being very impressed by it. I have her down as not wanting to read another in the series, so its not just you.
Hi Gail, hope you have had a good week my dear and wish you a really lovely weekend dear friend, sending love and hugs.
I am trying to close one eye to book sales at the moment Gail until I get some dosh together.
Have a great weekend. xx
>54 bohemima: I haven't yet read any of Ann Cleeves' books but I have her on my radar. I love the Vera series on PBS which, as you know, is based on a different series by Cleeves.
I have Raven Black on my TBR shelves. It's the first in the "Shetland" series and it looks like that is the one featuring Jimmy Perez. :-)
>69 johnsimpson: Hi, John! Last week was quite good overall...a lovely visit from my brothers, a bit of gardening, great weather, good reading...the only downside is the back pain, which as you know, can be debilitating. Love and hugs to you.
>70 PaulCranswick: Paul, I've clearly lost my mind and any semblance of self-control this month, at least in the book-buying department. I've indulged in both paper copies and e-books; I must rein myself in!
On your thread I noted some family complications. Nothing like the the pairing of money matters with relatives for stirring up unpleasantness. I'm most grateful for my two brothers who are the soul of generosity and fairness.
I hope this week will be more cheerful for you. xx
>71 EBT1002: Ellen, I've read the first three books in the Shetland series, and just re-read Raven Black. I found them enjoyable for the setting (a lot has to do with the weather and the turning wheel of the seasons) as well as the characters and the mysteries. I highly recommend them.
I loved the Vera series too, which prompted me to buy a couple of the books to see if I enjoy them as well. I hope to get to them later this year.
>72 LizzieD: Peggy, hello. Amazon has had some good deals in mysteries this month. That's probably the only genre I actually prefer on kindle rather than paper. I read them so fast, and go through so many, that it's better to have them tidily hidden away in the machine rather than having to buy/build more shelves. I only keep a few (well, everything is relative) in paper. I have seven of my favorite Christie books in pretty little hardcover editions with colorful dust jackets.
>67 rretzler: Robin, good to know I'm not alone in being decidedly underwhelmed by the Libby Sargent book. This happens to me with some frequency. I'm learning to use the library and "try a sample" feature on kindle to avoid having to pay money for these wastes of time.
I have more or less figured out what to avoid, thank goodness.
Here's another thing about mysteries (and, I would guess, other genres such as fantasy and suspense):
After a while the authors seem to be writing the same book over and over and yet again. This soon becomes extremely tiresome. A couple of examples would be:
the Stephanie Plum series by Evanovich; the first three or so of these were immensely funny, but a joke can only be repeated so many times before it becomes tedious;
the Goldie Bear catering series; the same background trope endlessly repeated (although to her credit, sometimes the solutions are surprising);
and what was saddest of all to me, the Spenser series. I loved the first few books; I though Spenser and Hawk made a great, refreshing pair of detectives. But then author Parker went down some sort of rabbit hole and the series deteriorated. And the character of Susan...well, her endless perfection and self-righteousness really got on my nerves.
I know that the last assessment is contrary to what others think. Many readers have loved every book featuring Spenser. Not me, though. And I did read them, just in case a winner showed up. Despite rare flashes of the original humor, the latter books just don't work for me.
Anyone else have a/some series that they thought was great, but then just petered out?
>78 bohemima: I can't think of any mystery series where that happened for me offhand, Gail, but I do find the later comic mysteries by the Little sisters to be less fresh — but that may be saturation on my part, because the first one I read, the one that got me to buy all the others, was very late in their run of books.
However, I think it has been true of nearly every fantasy series I've tried: the authors lost their way, or decided that the series would be a good vehicle for stating their opinions more overtly, or chose to make what started out lighthearted into something darker.
>79 harrygbutler: Harry, I thought the "reader burnout", for lack of a better term, might apply to fantasy, suspense, or indeed any series involving the same characters and setting.
One series that descended into political polemic is the Ruth Dudley Edwards books. The first four or five were blazingly funny and fast-paced, but I don't need lectures with my mysteries. They're my escape from all-too-pressing reality.
>80 EBT1002:'and >81 EBT1002: Ellen, I know that Raven Black will be worth your while. The telling of the mystery is a bit different, too, which adds more interest.
I read quite a few Graftons, stopping around J or K. It's sad when the debut is outstanding and then things just slowly fade to run of the mill stories and tired characters.
I've been doing some record keeping here, but will start talking about April's books this week. My reading pace has really picked up these past few weeks!
A few book notes and/or pocket reviews:
I, Claudius is the absorbing, personal, highly slanted account of the first years of the Roman Empire disguised as the autobiography of Emperor Claudius. Author Robert Graves somehow managed to find the perfect voice for the scorned, laughed-at, underestimated, handicapped Claudius, a man with a lot of axes to grind. By adopting an unassuming, secretive persona Claudius manages to survive the dangerous court of Augustus and his immediate successors--and of course the evil Livia.
Suspicious deaths, undeserved banishments, and the ungovernable desire for power are the hallmarks of the Claudian dynasty, along with depravity. Sounds awful, doesn't it? Yet in Graves' hands these become the core ingredients of a great story full of realistically human horrors.
I noted that some reviewers took Graves to task for embroidering on history. But this is a novel; it's not supposed to be verifiable history. Take it as that, and enjoy a wild ride into the past.
Rescue by Anita Shreve: Don't bother. A weak entry in Shreve's backlist involves an EMT who rescues a woman from a car wreck, marries her despite several glaring warning signs, and the aftermath of those events. Character insight, a real plus in Shreve's best work, is sadly lacking here. An exceptionally weak ending doesn't help.
I vowed to read more poetry this year--not doing well there--and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight has been on my radar for decades. Fortunately I read a brief introductory note that emphasized the alliteration in the poem. I couldn't quite appreciate that while reading silently, so to help me with that aspect I started over and sub-vocalized all the way through. That really helped! In addition to highlighting the alliteration, reading that way slowed me down considerably and thus helped me to gain a deeper understanding of the poem.
The slightly spooky story of the mysterious Green Knight who arrives at King Arthur's court with a challenge--and his head under his arm--is charming. You don't have to be madly in love with poetry to enjoy this book. I think a working knowledge of things Arthurian is helpful, however. Gawain' quest gets complicated when he arrives at the home of the Green Knoght.
Selected Dialogues of Plato
Well. So much has been said about Plato and Socrates that I have little to add. The dialogues included, especially "Crito," do encourage the reader to think about things, and to remember that words have meaning. This year is a good time to remember that.
Books for Living isn't quite what I anticipated. There is too much emphasis on a single book, The Importance of Living. I expected a wider selection of books. This didn't really work for me, although I did enjoy parts of it.
>77 bohemima: Yes, I do a lot of the same. I'm very cautious when it comes to mysteries that I haven't read, and actually even more cautious about sci-fi that I haven't read. I'm probably a little more courageous with the mysteries, because I can tolerate a bad mystery a little more than I can tolerate bad sci-fi - at least with a mystery, you can keep going to get to a solution, but in bad sci-fi there may not be anything to keep me wanting to read more. I'll look for ARC copies, or free copies, or use the sample feature as well. AND I do judge books by their covers - there are just some covers that scream " Beware! Do not read! I am a terribly written book!"
>78 bohemima: I totally agree about the Goldy Bear series - the first several were not so bad, and then they just became very formulaic. Plus, I always wondered why Tom didn't just put Goldy in handcuffs and arrest her for interfering in every one of his cases. I'm surprised he stayed married to her. Of course, once I am committed to a series, I have to keep reading, even though they are not so good anymore, just in case there is a spark of former goodness!
Another series that comes to mind like that is the Cat Who series by Lilian Jackson Braun as I recall, the first several books were very good, then Quill moved up north, and they were not bad and then somewhere around the 13 or 14 or so, they just became terrible. By the last of the books, I don't know whether she was still writing them or not, or had a ghost writer, but if it was a ghost writer, that person should have been fired. If it were still Braun, I would think the publisher would have stepped in and said they couldn't publish the book. They just rambled about Quill and KoKo and YumYum, and there was hardly any mystery to them. Very painful to read - but I have the entire set here on my bookshelves!
And not a mystery series, but I always felt that the Dune series by Frank Herbert took a strange turn with God Emperor of Dune. I'm not sure that I finished it and I didn't read the rest of the series. However, I have read a few of Brian Herbert's continuation of the series, and they are about as good as the first Dune books.
I read several of Estelle Ryan's Genevieve Lenard series and either they started to become formulaic, or I started to burn out but they had started to seem tiresome. However, I read the most recent book, and enjoyed it quite a bit, so it was either better than the last few, or it had been a while between books for me that the concept seemed fresh again.
>78 bohemima: I am in agreement with you about the wilting of the fresh, Gail (and Robin too). I own more than I've read or want to read in too many series to mention. In fact, it's easier to mention the ones I've loved to the end (or so far): Deborah Crombie's and the Maggie Ryan books by P.M. Carlson and B.J. Oliphant's (Sheri S. Tepper) Shirley McClintock mysteries are 3 that I have loved.
>78 bohemima: I agree with you on the Spenser/Hawk decline and the spot-on analysis of Susan...annoying!! But I haven't read all of them and it has been a while, so maybe I could pick one up and still enjoy it. Maybe. I am currently enjoying the Harry Bingham series with Fiona Grant as the lead detective.
>90 EBT1002: Ellen, I'll recommend Deborah Crombie as well, I've really enjoyed them all. Even though they could be read as stand alone books, they are best enjoyed in order as there is a lot of character development and storyline that continues from one book to the next.
IMHO, most series more than a few books long go astray eventually. The latest I've noticed are the Jack Reacher books. Eventually the author just runs out of ideas, I think. Same problem with TV series, too, which is why I really like the limited run series that services like Netflix are doing - they end before they peter out.
>Do you plan to follow-up I Claudius with Claudius the God? I read them both many years ago, and though my specific memory is vague, I do recall not being able to put either down. I read them right after the BBC series played on Masterpiece Theater--it also was quite good, and was the impetus for my reading the books!
I just read a great stand-alone Hebrides Islands mystery by Peter May--Coffin Road--I read it in one day--couldn't stop reading.
I LOVED the BBC's *I, Claudius* video series from the 70s or 80s. And I love the books.
As to Susan in Spenser --- those infinitely chewed tiny bites of food annoyed me from the very first one to the last I read.
On the other hand, I'm really enjoying The Blackhouse.
>88 rretzler: Robin, I read two or three of The Cat Who series years ago--it seems like another lifetime and probably was--but I quickly grew tired of them. I have The Gauguin Connection by Estelle Ryan on kindle, as it was a recommendation from an old friend, but haven't pursued it. He (the friend) disliked the second book, and I think that put me off trying it.
The literary and somewhat intellectual Kate Fansler series by Amanda Cross is great in the first few entries. I particularly enjoyed The Theban Mysteries, The James Joyce Murders, and No Word from Winifred. Later in the series she too become polemical. I may agree with her positions but I don't want to be beaten over the head with them.
I am a desultory reader of fantasy and science fiction, exploring them every now and then to see what I might like. In fantasy I mostly like YA books, surprisingly, although some few "grown up" works have their appeal. I do like Pratchett, with his extensive Disc World Series. Angela Carter, who incorporated a lot of horror into her work, is another favorite.
Deborah Crombie is waiting for me, glaring because I have a few other books in line ahead of hers...
>89 LizzieD: Peggy, I'll look into the authors you mentioned, who are entirely new to me, except for Deborah Crombie. Somehow I had conflated her with Debbie Macomber, and so had avoided her books. After seeing her mentioned here and there I added the first two in the series to the kindle, and will try to get to them, but perhaps not until next year.
"The wilting of the fresh": Excellent and precise, Peggy.
>96 LizzieD: Yes, I remember when the great tv series of I, Claudius first appeared in the US. I'd been interested in Classical History anyway, and that really got me started on reading more about it.
Susan, with her single-lettuce-leaf lunch and tiny sips of wine...just not for me. I found her both priggish and boring. Oh, well.
>90 EBT1002: At the rate we're going, Ellen, we'll soon be overwhelmed with mysteries to try. There are worse fates, I think.
>91 Berly: Kim! Yet another series to investigate! Yikes!
I looked over your favorites list and see we have a few in common. Great minds at work...
>94 drneutron: Jim, I hadn't thought to compare tv series with book series, but you surely have a point. I particularly enjoyed The Sopranos and Breaking Bad, both of which seemed to have definite story arcs, rather than just wandering into increasingly repetitive episodes.
I've never read the Jack Reacher books and so can't comment on them. But even Scott Turow's wonderful Kindle County series eventually lost quite a bit of steam. It's really too bad, and reinforces your point.
>95 arubabookwoman: Deborah, I do have Claudius the God here and intend to read it in August, to go along with the BAC.
I've read my first Peter May, and it certainly was gripping. I'll have more to say about it after a while. I'm so terribly behind on actual book chat about the things I've read that it's hard to catch up.
>97 Caroline_McElwee: Caroline, I highly recommend the Claudius books. They're very entertaining and well-written.
I'm an Anita Shreve fan from way back. Some of her books I've loved: Fortune's Rocks and All He Ever Wanted spring to mind, but there have been a couple of others. Her best work is moody and engrossing with realistic characters. It's probably not fair to expect uniformly excellent books from her.
I agree Gail, I've read two-thirds of them at least, probably three are weaker imo. I bought the new one on Kindle. It's her tone I like, when she is at her best.
>84 bohemima: Would be on my top ten all time list of novels, Gail, I reckon.
>95 arubabookwoman: I also loved the TV series - some of it was a bit racy as I recall!
Anita Shreve is considered in some quarters as a writer specifically for ladies but I don't care as I have enjoyed a number of her books. The Weight of Water, Resistance, The Pilot's Wife and Eden Close I remember enjoying especially.
Have a lovely weekend.
>91 Berly: Kim, I don't think I've read any of the Harry Bingham series yet, but at some point I must have put book 1 of the Fiona Grant series on my wishlist.
>105 Caroline_McElwee: >106 PaulCranswick: I consider Anita Shreve one of my "guilty pleasures." I really, really enjoyed The Weight of Water, despite silently screaming, "Look out!" almost all the way through the book...I still actually feel that sense of dread that I felt then. I loved it.
The Pilot's Wife, on the other hand, has a predictable plot, but still is a pretty good novel, I think.
And yes, the tv series of I, Claudius was quite racy indeed, at least for that time.
I will never read all my TBRs. That's okay; better too many than too few.
Just looked back at my "planned" (that's a laugh, really) reads for this month and I seem to have done fairly well. Only two left out: Udolpho and Blue Angel.
I had a little reading breakdown this month. Not sure what happened, but several days went by with very little accomplished. Since I'd committed to a couple of books for Suz's Nonfiction Challenge, I had a bit of catching up to do.
Currently reading Life in a Medieval City, Moon Tiger, and The Innocence of Father Brown, all from the shelves.
One or two reviews might be in order. I'm going to do them at random, rather than in chronological sequence.
So. Regeneration by Pat Barker is the first of a trilogy set during World War One. The plot, which seems secondary to other concerns, is about the efforts of doctors to "restore" shell-shocked men to fitness for the front. The main action takes place at Craiglockhart War Hospital, which was a psychiatric hospital that actually existed during the war.
The main protagonists are Siegfried Sassoon and Dr. W. R. H. Rivers. These are historical people, and their story is told more or less realistically. Sassoon has decided that the war is immoral useless slaughter, and has made his views publicly known. Instead of being court-martialled, he's sent to the psychiatric facility, since he's already dramatically proved his courage at the front, and since eroding support for the war on the home front would make a scandal undesirable. Dr. Rivers, despite his own growing misgivings about the war and about sending these veterans back to the front, is tasked with convincing Sassoon that it's his duty to return to the war, whatever his private beliefs may be.
This is an engrossing and moving examination of what can happen to men when they are taxed beyond their limits. The reader feels deep sympathy for both Sassoon and Rivers, and soon begins to doubt some ordinary preconceptions.
The book is also deeply horrifying. The depiction of what took place in the trenches and the terrible effect it could have on the human psyche is awful.
Another disturbing aspect of the story is the subtle, almost off-hand revelation of the huge rift between the upper and lower classes. We're casually informed that enlisted men average 5 inches shorter in height than officers, and we're treated to an expose of the gulf between the treatment of officers and soldiers. The methods used to "treat" ordinary soldiers suffering from the worst forms of shell shock would be considered torture and war crimes today--yet they are perpetrated on the country's own citizens. It's been a long time since I had to put down a book and walk away for a while because I was so upset by what went on, but it certainly happened with this one.
This is a disturbing and unsettling book. I think everyone should read it.
Police at the Funeral is a superior entry in the Campion series by Margery Allingham. Campion is without his companion Lugg for the most part, and it honestly improves the book. He's not as fatuous here, either, which helped me to enjoy it.
By a series of coincidences Campion becomes involved in my favorite trope: the classic country house murder mystery. He and the police cooperate fully, although Albert is in a bit of an awkward position as both friend and investigator of the suspects.
Allingham gets full points here for one of the most creative mystery solutions I've come across in a lifetime of reading. It may be implausible, but it's still interesting and different.
The quite shocking flaw--to me--in this book is the view of one of the main characters, and Campion's reaction. I realize that things have changed dramatically since the book was written, but the last few pages were off-putting at best. Too bad, too, because otherwise this is a most satisfactory outing for our hero.
Desire of the Everlasting Hills by Thomas Cahill is another entry in his creative retellings, The Hinges of History series. As usual he picks his texts, evidence, and surmises very carefully to advance his preconceived agenda.
This one is about Jesus and Paul. I read it because...I don't know, really. It was in the run-up to Easter and I've always been interested in the subject. I didn't learn anything new, I wasn't impressed by his research, and even less so by his conclusions. It's too convenient to dismiss some things and include others based on nothing more than the author's desire to prove his points.
Hi Gail. I am taking advantage of a rainy day to do some thread surfing over the lunch hour. Wonderful review of Regeneration. I must add that trilogy to my future reading list.
I had quite forgotten about the Campion series, so thank you for that little nudge, Gail. Your reaction to the ending, instead of putting me off, has made me curious, so.. I willingly succumbed and have added this to my teetering wish list.
Just speaking, Gail.
I think I've said all over the place that I don't do Campion very well. I try every 8 or 10 years, but no real love so far. Allingham is the only one of the important Golden Age women whom I don't love and adore.
>110 bohemima:, >111 bohemima: Enjoyed your thoughts on Regeneration and Police at the Funeral - I've had Regeneration on my shelves for a long time and really need to read it. And I agree that Police at the Funeral is a very good instalment in Allingham's Campion series. One of the things I like about the Campion books is how different they are in style and how Allingham plays around with different ideas - but I think it's one of the reasons her books are less well known than Christie's or Sayers' today which is a shame.
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