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karenmarie ROOTs around her shelves in 2018


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Edited: May 4, 4:03pm Top

Welcome to my first ROOT thread of 2018! This will be my 3rd year of retirement from the 8-5, 5 day-a-week world. I don’t miss work at all. I read, am a charter member of the Redbud and Beyond Book Club, now in its 21st year, am Treasurer for our local Friends of the Library (henceforth abbreviated FoL), and manage our home, finances and etc. as my husband heads off to work Monday – Friday. Being an introvert (you’d never guess it from these pages!) I need and cherish the alone time to recharge my batteries.

I have been married to Bill for 27 years and am mother to Jenna, now 24, living about 3 hours away and starting a 2-year business administration program at Cape Fear Community College in Wilmington. We have two kitties, 18-year old Kitty William and 10-year old Inara Starbuck. We live in our own little corner of paradise on 8 acres in central North Carolina USA.

I have been posting pictures of family and friends on my 75 book challenge threads recently, and want to start off the new year with a friend I miss dearly here in ROOTland. I met Marie and her husband Joe at Pepperdine in 1973. She went to CT with her husband when he joined the Navy two years later, and I visited in 1976 while on a business trip to NYC. I then quit my job, broke up with my boyfriend, packed everything I owned into my ratty Toyota Corolla and drove across country. I stayed with Marie and Joe for a bit, then found an apartment, waitressed there for 3+ years, then moved back to CA, always keeping up with Marie. She passed away on May 15, 2015 in Baytown Texas. She was married 4 times and had a colorful life to say the least. Here’s a photo from Groton CT dated July 1980, me on the left, Marie on the right.

My goal is to read 42 ROOTs in 2018, the same number I actually read in 2017, 2 more than the 2017 goal.

I'm adding a new ticker, too, for ROOT points. Older books get more points than newer books, added incentive to pull those "Deep ROOTs" off the shelves and get them read!

And, in honor of Sue Grafton, I am going to re-read all her Kinsey Millhone Alphabet Series books this year. Alas, there will never be a Z. They would all be considered ROOTs, but I don’t think I’ll count them towards my goal.

A few quotes about libraries that mean a lot to me:
Libraries are reservoirs of strength, grace and wit, reminders of order, calm and continuity, lakes of mental energy, neither warm nor cold, light nor dark. The pleasure they give is steady, unorgastic, reliable, deep and long-lasting. In any library in the world, I am at home, unselfconscious, still and absorbed. Germaine Greer

I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading! How much sooner one tires of any thing than of a book. – When I have a house of my own, I shall be miserable if I have not an excellent library. Jane Austen

I like libraries. It makes me feel comfortable and secure to have walls of words, beautiful and wise, all around me. I always feel better when I can see that there is something to hold back the shadows. Roger Zelazny
And finally, very few books are worth slogging through when the inspiration to read them has gone. I abandon books with glee.

Edited: Oct 12, 3:37pm Top

ROOTs read

1. Every Dead Thing by John Connolly 12/27/17 1/6/18 *** 467 pages trade paperback
2. Kinsey and Me by Sue Grafton 1/6/18 1/9/18 **** 283 pages hardcover
3. The Country Girls by Edna O'Brien 1/1/18 1/10/18 *** 1/2 175 pages trade paperback
4. You're All Just Jealous of My Jetpack by Tom Gauld 1/1/18 1/15/18 **** 160 pages hardcover
5. No Middle Name by Lee Child 1/17/18 1/19/18 **** 418 pages hardcover
6. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince 12/3/17 1/22/18 **** audiobook, 19 hours
7. The Far Side Gallery 5 by Gary Larson 1/24/18 1/27/18 159 pages trade paperback 1995
8. Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens 1/1/17 1/31/18 **** 780 pages plus 9 pages introduction
9. Dead Wake by Erik Larson 2/14/18 2/19/18 359 pages trade paperback
10. Obsession in Death by J.D. Robb 2/19/18 2/22/18 **** 404 pages hardcover
11. The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America by Erik Larson 2/25/18 3/20/18 ****1/2 396 pages trade paperback
12. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling 1/22/18 4/3/18 **** audiobook
13. The Shining Girls by Lauren Buekes 4/1/18 4/5/18 **1/2 368 pages hardcover
14. Euphoria by Lily King 4/6/18 4/10/18 ****1/2 257 pages trade paperback
15. Blue Monday by Nicci French 4/13/18 4/18/18 **** 322 pages trade paperback
16. The Watchmaker of Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley 04/23/18 04/29/18 *** hardcover
17. A Perfect Match - Jill McGown 4/29/18 4/30/18 **1/2 186 pages mass market paperback
18. The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd 4/3/18 5/3/18 **** 13.5 hours audiobook
19. The Weekenders by Mary Kay Andrews 5/2/18 5/4/18 **1/2 451 pages trade paperback
20. The Supremes at Earl's All-You-Can-Eat by Edward Kelsey Moore 5/5/18 5/11/18 ***1/2 307 pages hardcover
21. Longbourn by Jo Baker 5/11/18 5/18/18 **** 332 pages trade paperback
22. The Grand Tour: Around the World with the Queen of Mystery by Agatha Christie, edited by Mathew Pritchard 5/28/18 5/29/18 ***1/2 376 pages hardcover
23. The Man in the Brown Suit by Agatha Christie 5/29/18 5/31/18 ***1/2 232 pages hardcover
24. End of Watch by Stephen King 6/13/18 6/18/18 ***1/2 431 pages hardcover
25. Confederates in the Attic by Tony Horwitz 7/15/18 7/29/18 ****1/2 391 pages hardcover
26. The Storied Life of A. J. Fickry by Gabrielle Zevin 8/20/18 8/22/18 *** trade paperback
27. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen 6/23/18 to 8/20/18 318 pages hardcover - read on Kindle
28. The Bridge by Doug Marlette 8/26/18 8/31/18 *** 387 pages trade paperback
29. My Reading Life by Pat Conroy 9/7/18 to 9/18/18 **** 333 pages hardcover
30. Lisey's Story by Stephen King 10/3/18 10/12/18 ****1/2 509 pages hardcover

And The Alphabet Series:
A is for Alibi by Sue Grafton 1/26/18 1/30/18 ***1/2 209 pages hardcover
B is for Burglar by Sue Grafton 2/5/18 2/6/18 **** 186 pages hardcover
C is for Corpse by Sue Grafton 2/7/18 2/8/18 **** 181 pages hardcover
D is for Deadbeat by Sue Grafton 2/8/18 2/9/18 **** 184 pages hardcover
E is for Evidence by Sue Grafton 2/9/18 2/10/18 ***1/2 180 pages hardcover
F is for Fugitive by Sue Grafton 2/10/18 2/13/18 ***1/2 182 pages hardcover
G is for Gumshoe by Sue Grafton 3/2/18 3/4/18 ***1/2 227 pages hardcover
H is for Homicide by Sue Grafton 3/5/18 3/8/18 **** 202 pages hardcover
I is for Innocent by Sue Grafton 3/14/18 3/18/18 **** 224 pages hardcover
J is for Judgment by Sue Grafton 3/26/18 3/31/18 *** 254 pages hardcover
K is for Killer by Sue Grafton 5/26/18 5/28/18 ***1/2 238 pages hardcover
L is for Lawless by Sue Grafton 5/29/18 6/2/18 ***1/2 225 pages hardcover
M is for Malice by Sue Grafton 6/7/18 6/10/18 **** 244 pages hardcover
N is for Noose by Sue Grafton 8/17/18 8/18/18 **** 248 pages hardcover
O is for Outlaw by Sue Grafton 8/18/18 8/19/18 **** 274 pages hardcover
P is for Peril by Sue Grafton 8/21/18 8/26/18 ***1/2 hardcover 352 pages hardcover

Currently Reading:
Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow by Huval Noah Harari 464 pages hardcover, Kindle, 2017

Jan 1, 7:55am Top

WOW, Karen. That's a beautiful story. I love it when someone has a friend for such a long time. I'm sorry she passed away.

Welcome in 2018. Happy New Year to you and the family

Jan 1, 7:59am Top

Thank you, Connie!

I'm stubborn and didn't want to deal with 2018 until 2018, so will start trundling off to visit threads now that I've created my own. (I also have a 75 book challenge thread where I keep track of all my books, ROOTs included.)

Jan 1, 9:33am Top

Hi, Karen, and happy new year to you - looking forward to following your adventures in ROOTland again in 2018.

Jan 1, 9:38am Top

Hi Donna! Thank you.

I'll be moseying on over to visit my friends in ROOTland some time today.

Jan 1, 10:56am Top

Welcome back and have a great reading year! Love the photo :)

Jan 1, 11:30am Top

Hi Karen and Happy New Year! Hope your 2018 rooting is quite enjoyable!

Jan 1, 12:50pm Top

>7 rabbitprincess: thanks RB! I was looking through a box of photos upstairs and there it was. I'd forgotten about it, even while looking for a photo of Marie. Finding one of us together was just that much better.

>8 tess_schoolmarm: Thanks, Tess! I'm looking forward to a Totally Excellent Reading Year.

Jan 1, 1:40pm Top

Welcome back, and happy ROOTing!

Jan 1, 3:34pm Top

Hi Karen!
Good to see we share a second group, good luck & happy reading

Edited: Jan 1, 4:53pm Top

>10 LauraBrook: Thank you, Laura!

>11 FAMeulstee: Yes, I noticed that you were here in ROOTland, Anita! I guess I'll start looking at both your threads..... *smile*

Jan 1, 6:40pm Top

Glad you're with us!

Jan 1, 9:02pm Top

Thanks, Chèli. I really enjoy this group and have met some fantastic people.

Jan 1, 11:20pm Top

It looks like you and Marie had a good time together. Sad that she died young. (Anything under 90 or so seems young these days). Good luck with your ROOTing in 2018!

Jan 2, 7:54am Top

Thanks, Meg! Marie loved many of the same things I do - reading, cats, movies. She also loved science fiction, which is how she met my husband and thus how I met my husband. He was at Marie's apartment on September 1, 1977, when I arrived in CT, all worldly possessions in my car. She thought he and I might hit it off. We didn't, at least for 14 years we didn't, but in the end she was right and Bill and I have been married almost 27 years.

I've got a good jump on the ROOTs, having started Nicholas Nickleby, planning on starting Kinsey and Me, and toying with the idea of also starting The Keeper of Lost Causes for the January MysteryCAT Nordic theme. They're all out, between bookends, staring at me. *smile*

Jan 2, 12:10pm Top

>1 karenmarie: A too-early, sad outcome, but what a happy story and pic of you and Marie!

>16 karenmarie: Another happy story! Fourteen years, do tell...what got you back in touch and changed things?

Love your having your first-up books nearly in your lap, kitties will be jealous :) enjoy!

Jan 3, 4:13am Top

>1 karenmarie: Now, who is who in the picture? I guess you are on the left!

Edited: Jan 3, 8:19am Top

Ah. You're right, I'm on the left, Marie is on the right. I jut edited message 1. I was strawberry blonde until about 10 years ago, when my hair just became light brown with a few white hairs in my crown and reddish hints if I'm out in the sunshine.

Okay, can't resist posting this pic of me with Rocky the Rocking Horse and my favorite pale lavender dress. I was probably about 3.

Jan 3, 8:49am Top


Jan 4, 10:20am Top

Hi Karen, that's an adorable picture! Have fun reading!

Jan 4, 11:08am Top

>20 connie53: Thanks, Connie!

>21 MissWatson: Thanks, Birgit! I'm reading some good 'uns, just haven't finished any yet in the new year.

Jan 4, 2:35pm Top

>19 karenmarie: oh, cute, I love your hair - that's what my parents used to do with ours when we were babies - they called it a cockscomb! :)

Jan 6, 9:29am Top

Hi Donna!

Thank you. I did it with my daughter's hair, too - just can't find a picture of it right now.

I'm debating making my ROOTs goal a tad harder by defining a ROOT as a book that's been on my shelves for a year or more when I start it. Previously it's been anything acquired prior to January 1 of the ROOT year.

The reason I bring it up is that I just finished a book acquired on 12/27/17 but really don't consider it a ROOT at all.

Any thoughts? What are you all doing?

Jan 6, 9:31am Top

>24 karenmarie: Any book I own counts, regardless of date acquired. I also count re-reads.

Jan 6, 9:36am Top

I go along with "...anything acquired prior to January 1 of the ROOT year..." but I agree, I need an incentive to tackle some of the deepest ROOTs so was pondering copying others who've added an extra ticker to count deep ROOTs or DROOTs as I think Henrik coined the term!

Jan 6, 9:37am Top

>24 karenmarie: Like rabbitprincess I count every book that is on my shelves, including re-reads.

Jan 6, 12:42pm Top

For me a book will only count as a ROOT if it has been on the shelves for more than 6 months. Those books are are in danger of becoming DROOTs as they are not that new and shiny anymore.

Edited: Jan 6, 1:50pm Top

Wow. Lots to think about. Thank you all! Last year I started using a ROOTs point system in addition to a number of ROOTs goal, but didn’t create a ticker. I ended up with 238 ROOT points based on #streamsong Janet’s point system. I joined LT in 2007, so can only go back that far.

Year Cataloged – Points

2007 - 10
2008 - 9
2009 - 8
2010 - 7
2011 - 6
2012 - 5
2013 - 4
2014 - 3
2015 - 2
2016 - 1

Based on what you’ve all said here and my own inclination, this is what I think I’m going to do in addition to cataloging # of ROOTs. I’m going to set a goal of 250 ROOT points, create a ticker, and add the ticker link to my first message.

Year Cataloged - Points
2007 - 11
2008 - 10
2009 - 9
2010 - 8
2011 - 7
2012 - 6
2013 - 5
2014 - 4
2015 - 3
2016 - 2
1 year ago, rolling - 1
6 months ago, rolling - 1/2

Edited to add that I always count re-reads. They take time, emotional energy, and commitment, just the same as a previously unread book.

Edited: Jan 6, 2:27pm Top

>29 karenmarie: I always count re-reads also, but then I don't re-read much. Most of my re-reads are 10-20 years since the original read.

Jan 6, 4:08pm Top

>29 karenmarie: oh I like this! For me, ROOTs are anything acquired before the current year. Just now, I assigned points to last year's ROOTs and they summed to 157 for 40 ROOTs = mean ~4 years old each. A scan of the points looks like most of my ROOTs were indeed 1-5 years old with a couple large outliers. This statistic has so much more meaning than looking at ROOTs by decade acquired.

Jan 6, 6:22pm Top

>30 tess_schoolmarm: Hi Tess! Wow. 10-20 years. I never started keeping track of my reading 'til LT, so I can only go back 10 years.

I go through phases of re-reading - last year I only re-listened to 6 of the Harry Potter books, 6% of my total and didn't re-read any paper books at all. This year I want to re-read all the Kinsey Millhone books, A-Y, so a vastly different year planned.

>31 detailmuse: Hi MJ! Cool. I think it's just more detail. A mean of ~4 years is not bad at all.

Edited: Jan 6, 7:52pm Top

>32 karenmarie: I can remember in what school year for instance I last taught The Scarlet Letter (1999) and haven't read it since; although it's on the list for this year!

Jan 7, 10:44am Top

Hello Karen! Welcome to 2018 and happy ROOTing!
I'm sorry to hear about your friend's passing. But what a wonderful story and beautiful picture! Thank you for sharing :)

Jan 7, 11:04am Top

>33 tess_schoolmarm: Hi Tess! I tend to remember things in terms of activities, then go all logical and figure out what year from that. Some books are lost in the haze of being required reading in college - like A Clockwork Orange for example. I had to have read it 1974-1975 because I was already living by myself in apartment near Pepperdine, but breaking it down further than that is beyond me.

>34 avanders: Hi Aletheia! Thank you. It's good to see you out and about.

I'm glad you like the story of Marie - that's such a small part of my memories of her. She loved animals. Here's a pic of me at her in-laws house in St. Paul MN ~1985 with her ferret. She tried to smuggle the ferret into California when she and Glen moved to San Diego in 1988 or so. They got stopped at the border. They tried another border crossing and the ferret got confiscated. Marie would do anything for her animals.

Don't you just love the glasses? Sheesh.

Jan 7, 12:49pm Top

>35 karenmarie: Nice glasses! LOL.

Sad story about the ferret.

Jan 7, 1:57pm Top

>35 karenmarie: I had glasses like that in 1985 too! What were we even thinking?! :D

Happy new year Karen, I've enjoyed seeing your photos and blasts from the past. I'm slowly trying to catch up with the proliferation of new year threads following my week away.

Jan 7, 2:46pm Top

>36 connie53: Why, thank you, Connie! I look at them and cringe. That ferret was a lot of fun when I visited in St. Paul. Marie should have just found a good home for him, I'm afraid.

>37 Jackie_K: We were totally on top of coolness, of course! The activity on threads is stunning right now - I plan on trying some catch up tomorrow afternoon. I have a Friends of the Library meeting in the morning and a few errands then should have the afternoon to myself.

Jan 12, 10:37pm Top

>35 karenmarie: I didn't realize that you had to go through a border crossing to get into California. I thought that was only something required to go into another country.

Edited: Jan 13, 8:39am Top

Hi Meg! Oh yes. I just checked and Border Protection Services are still active and they still restrict ferrets and hundreds of other animals and even classes of animals. Plants, too. Looks like there are 16 stations at this time.

Jan 14, 7:43am Top

1. Kinsey and Me by Sue Grafton
1/6/18 to 1/9/18

The description from Amazon:

In 1982, Sue Grafton introduced us to Kinsey Millhone. Thirty years later, Kinsey is an established international icon and Sue, a number-one bestselling author. To mark this anniversary year, Sue has given us stories that reveal Kinsey’s origins and Sue’s past.

“I've come to believe that Grafton is not only the most talented woman writing crime fiction today but also that, regardless of gender, her Millhone books are among the five or six best series any American has ever written.”—Patrick Anderson, The Washington Post

Kinsey and Me has two parts: The nine Kinsey stories (1986-93), each a gem of detection; and the And Me stories, written in the decade after Grafton's mother died. Together, they show just how much of Kinsey is a distillation of her creator’s past even as they reveal a child who, free of parental interventions, read everything and roamed everywhere. But the dark side of such freedom was that very parental distance.

The same unique voice and witty insights readers fell in love with in A Is for Alibi permeate the Kinsey stories. Those in the And Me section trace a remarkable voyage, from anger to understanding, from pain to forgiveness. They take us into a troubled family, dysfunctional as most families are, each in their own way, but Grafton’s telling is sensitive, delicate, and ultimately, loving. Enriching the way we see Kinsey and know Sue, these stories are deeply affecting.

Why I wanted to read it: A preface, as it were, to my reread of the Alphabet Series this year in honor of Sue Grafton after her death on December 28, 2017.

I find myself deeply affected by Sue Grafton’s death. After having read the first 6 or 7 of the Alphabet Series, I didn’t read any of the alphabet series for perhaps 15 years; I then got a little push to think about them again by the kind gift of P-T from a friend when I didn’t even particularly want them. I eventually reacquired and reread all of them through T and read each new one as it came out. I only read Y is for Yesterday in October, thinking then that I hated having to wait for 2 years for Z to come out. Alas, no Z.

The first half of the book is short stories featuring Kinsey Millhone. As a rule I don’t like short stories, but I enjoyed reading them because they’re all I’ll ever get of new Kinsey fiction, even though they are only gathered here having been previously published. As entr’acte, there is a nonfiction piece called An Eye for an I: Justice, Morality, the nature of the Hard-boiled Private Investigator, and All That Existential Stuff, wherein the author explains her love, joy, and pride in the genre she grew up on and has contributed mightily to.

The second half of the book is deeply introspective, sad, and powerfully and emotionally written. The thirteen stories are chronological, starting when Kit was a young girl, ending with a story of Kit’s father’s letter to her and her ruminating on the death of her family.
If Kinsey Millhone is my alter ego, Kit Blue is simply a younger version of me. The following thirteen stories were written in the decade following my mother’s death, my way of coming to terms with my grief for her. I realized early in the process of the writing that I could take any moment I remembered and cut straight to the heart of our relationship. It was if all moments – any moment, every moment – were the same. Every incident I had access to seemed connected at the core; that rage, that pain, all the scalding tears I wept, both during her life and afterward. All of it is part of the riddle I think of now as love.
Nothing else to add except that if you’re a Kinsey Millhone and/or Sue Grafton fan, you should really read this book.

Jan 14, 8:23am Top

>41 karenmarie: Sounds like a fitting tribute/read to Ms. Grafton!

Jan 14, 8:24am Top

>41 karenmarie: a review from the heart, Karen. I confess I hadn't heard of Sue Grafton, not being into the crime genre, I guess. But she sounds an interesting and talented author and I'll wishlist this for when I venture into crime - or do you recommend starting with another of her books?

Jan 14, 8:33am Top

>42 tess_schoolmarm: Thank you, Tess.

>43 floremolla: Donna, I really find myself at a loss that she has died. I've had her in my life, off and on, since 1982, when I read A is for Alibi.

I think that if you're going to dip your toe into the Kinsey Millhone waters, you should definitely start with A is for Alibi.

Jan 14, 9:13am Top

There are some authors who just get under your skin, aren't there? I'm not a crime reader either, so haven't read any Sue Grafton, but keep seeing her appear in LT threads and the reviews are generally very favourable.

Jan 14, 9:59am Top

Hi Jackie! Yes there are. You bond with them and love what they write. I have some of each - fiction and non-fiction - Georgette Heyer (romances, not mysteries), Dorothy Sayers fiction, Agatha Christie, Bill Bryson, Simon Winchester come immediately to mind.

Jan 14, 3:32pm Top

Karen, my condolences to you. The reading enjoyment is one aspect, but Sue Grafton's presence as a touchstone throughout your life now makes such a loss.

Jan 14, 5:09pm Top

Thanks, MJ. Sigh.

Jan 23, 12:21pm Top

I have finished another ROOT, and it counts, but I won't review it since I've reviewed it previous years.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling. Audiobook, 19 hours.

Jan 24, 10:53am Top

Hi Karen! About The Handmaid's Tale....you might like it! I'm in the minority, so don't pay any attention to my review!

Jan 24, 12:09pm Top

>50 tess_schoolmarm: I prepared a long reply but somehow posted it on your thread, Tess, instead of here (doh!). Just to say everyone’s opinion/review is valid - we’re all coming at books from our own contexts - and sometimes decades apart!

Karen, perhaps you could try it under Pearl Rule terms, but I get the impression you’re on a serious mission to clear those shelves! ;)

Jan 24, 1:23pm Top

>50 tess_schoolmarm: Hi Tess. No worries - I have baggage with it in addition to not particularly wanting to read it - I had a book I wanted for book club in 2001 and several folks demurred saying it was too long or inflammatory or whatever..... (The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie. Nobody's book had ever been 'rejected' before. It stunned me.). I pulled a book out of thin air, The Handmaid's Tale but realized I didn't want to read it. I changed it out for The Optimist's Daughter by Eudora Welty, a very good choice.

>51 floremolla: I agree with you, Donna - we must civilly 'agree to disagree' some times.

I pretty much want it gone. I've added the 'cull' tag to it. It's on a shelf over the door upstairs, so I'd have to get the ladder out to retrieve it. I'm probably going to get rid of the Jim Butcher books in the spirit of culling sometime soon, too.

Edited: Jan 25, 10:30am Top

>52 karenmarie: I agree, we need to agree to disagree. If everybody liked the same thing, this world would be boring!

Jan 31, 1:26am Top

For some reason I have never been drawn to Atwood's work so I don't blame you for not wanting to read The Handmaid's Tale. But it must have been hard to come up with a book when your original choice was unexpectedly rejected.

Feb 1, 6:31am Top

>53 tess_schoolmarm: ATD, as RichardDerus and I put it. *smile*

>54 Familyhistorian: It was, Meg. But it all worked out, and unless I specifically think about it (which I don't do often), all's good with me and my book club except that they will never move the February meeting to the 2nd weekend in February so that I can do both book club AND Super Bowl. One other woman in our group usually stays away to watch the Super Bowl with her husband. I usually do too. They made an exception one time and moved a meeting to the 2nd weekend of January because of Downton Abbey but are too snooty to do the same for Super Bowl because it's sports. This year is irritating because I really liked the book, A Man Called Ove (not a ROOT, unfortunately) and would love to discuss it. But Bill would be all alone for SB, so I'll stay away, too.

Edited: Feb 7, 2:35pm Top

A is for Alibi by Sue Grafton
1/26/18 to 1/30/18

From Amazon:

Take it from the top in #1 New York Times bestselling author Sue Grafton's knockout thriller that introduced detective Kinsey Millhone―and a hot new attitude―to crime fiction…

A tough-talking former cop, private investigator Kinsey Millhone has set up a modest detective agency in a quiet corner of Santa Teresa, California. A twice-divorced loner with few personal possessions and fewer personal attachments, she's got a soft spot for underdogs and lost causes.

That's why she draws desperate clients like Nikki Fife. Eight years ago, she was convicted of killing her philandering husband. Now she's out on parole and needs Kinsey's help to find the real killer. But after all this time, clearing Nikki's bad name won't be easy.

If there's one thing that makes Kinsey Millhone feel alive, it's playing on the edge. When her investigation turns up a second corpse, more suspects, and a new reason to kill, Kinsey discovers that the edge is closer―and sharper―than she imagined.

Why I wanted to read it: Sue Grafton died in December of 2017 and I want to re-read the entire series.

The story is told from Private Investigator Kinsey Millhone’s point of view. She interjects personal information and opinions and is immediately likeable. Corpses and potential murderers abound. We learn a bit about Kinsey. She’s already renting living space from Henry, knows Rosie at the diner, is twice divorced, runs, and is a loner. She drives her VW bug down to LA several times and drives over to Vegas and back to interview people, finds interesting evidence, and is open about her thought processes as the action’s occurring, unlike say, Hercule Poirot.

The story takes place in 1982, in a thinly disguised Santa Barbara, California, up the coast north of Los Angeles. Grafton uses recognizable street names in LA and gets the flavor of various parts of LA. She is deft at quickly and vividly describing a character. She's also rather cruel in some of her characterizations - women who are overweight, wear a lot of makeup, are 'trophy' wives; men who are overweight, play around, act arrogant. It makes Kinsey human and not perfect.

Kinsey also makes some serious miscalculations and opens Pandora's box in her search for the real killer of Laurence Fife.

Pre internet, pre cell phone, accurate to the time and methods available, this is a good start to the series.

Edited: Feb 7, 2:35pm Top

4. Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens
1/1/18 to 1/31/18

Apologies for the boring cover, part of a very old set of Dickens given to me by my friend and neighbor Louise.

From Amazon:

The novel has everything: an absorbing melodrama, with a supporting cast of heroes, villains and eccentrics, set in a London where vast wealth and desperate poverty live cheek-by-jowl' Jasper Rees, The Times

When Nicholas Nickleby is left penniless after his father's death, he appeals to his wealthy uncle to help him find work and to protect his mother and sister. But Ralph Nickleby proves both hard-hearted and unscrupulous, and Nicholas finds himself forced to make his own way in the world. His adventures gave Dickens the opportunity to portray an extraordinary gallery of rogues and eccentrics: Wackford Squeers, the tyrannical headmaster of Dotheboys Hall, a school for unwanted boys, the slow-witted orphan Smike, rescued by Nicholas, the pretentious Mantalinis and the gloriously theatrical Mr and Mrs Crummels and their daughter, the 'infant phenomenon'. Like many of Dickens's novels, Nicholas Nickleby is characterised by his outrage at cruelty and social injustice, but it is also a flamboyantly exuberant work, whose loose, haphazard progress harks back to the picaresque novels of Tobias Smollett and Henry Fielding. In his introduction Mark Ford compares Nicholas Nickleby to eighteenth-century picaresque novels, and examines Dickens's criticism of the 'Yorkshire schools', his social satire and use of language.

Why I wanted to read it: Group read, mentioned enough times in 2017 by enough people as being a desirable way to start the new year.

Once again, a meandering, character-, description-, and action-filled novel by Dickens.

Coincidences abound. To describe the plot is to describe the lives of dozens of people, with actions taking place some twenty years earlier having significant effect on the current story. Sometimes I felt like I was wading through molasses. Some sentences and paragraphs are almost unintelligible to the modern reader. I re-read quite a few to untangle a sentence or try to get to the true meaning.

The social outrage and muckraking nature of Dickens are very apparent here with the horrendous conditions at Dotheboys Hall and criminal behavior of the entire Squeers family. Ralph Nickleby seems to be an early version of Scrooge, with moneymaking and sharp business dealings providing the source of his happiness in life.

Nicholas and his sister Kate are gentle and kindly people. Mrs. Nickleby, their mother, reminds me strongly of Mrs. Bennett in Pride and Prejudice, although to do justice to Mrs. Bennett, Mrs. Nickleby is more flighty, self-centered and ineffectual.

I was particularly charmed by the Cheeryble Brothers, who embody the best motives and good will towards humanity that I have read about in a long time, perhaps forever. They do good works in a humble and self-effacing way, almost paranoid in their unwillingness to take credit or gain from their thoughtful saving of the lives, reputations, and health of the unfortunate people they run across. They do good for as many people as they can, in whatever way they can. Their actions also bring bad people to justice.

Smike, ill-fated, slow-witted Smike, breaks my heart. Abandoned to the Squeers and then financially abandoned so that the Squeers family turns him into a slave, his fate is sad yet almost predetermined. Consumption takes him in the end, but in the meantime Nicholas has rescued him and provided safety, love, and care. Their relationship is touching.

And finally, Newman Noggs, with that glorious name, is one of the prime movers and shakers of this book. He is behind quite a few of the actions that pull together what appear to be separate plot threads. He works for Ralph Nickleby, but is instrumental in how the lives of many of the characters are changed.

All in all, a long, rich, detailed, read. Also frustrating and occasionally slow. The beginning was quick paced, the middle rather bewildering. However, as many of the subplots turned out to be part of one big plot, things picked up again in the last 100 or so pages.

Feb 1, 6:51am Top

I absolutely could not bear to watch drumpf's speech, but it turns out that my first cousin once removed, Ryan Holets, and his wife Rebecca and baby Hope, were guests of Melania Trump. Nobody in the family let me know - I MIGHT have watched just to see my cousin. I hasten to mention that I've never met him, but am proud from a distance at what he and his wife did.

Feb 1, 7:20am Top

>55 karenmarie: I've heard lots of good things about A Man Called Ove - it's on my wishlist.
>57 karenmarie: Nicholas Nickleby is a Dickens I've never read, but you make it sound quite tempting. Maybe when Mt TBR is a bit more under control (hahahahaaaaa).
>58 karenmarie: I would have struggled to watch it too, although that's cool about your cousin. I saw a picture of them with Melania (who I must admit I find quite fascinating, in a sort of car-crash kind of a way. I certainly wouldn't want her life) but didn't read the story beyond my friend raving about them being so inspirational.

Feb 1, 7:51am Top

>57 karenmarie: Nicholas Nickleby wishlisted!

>58 karenmarie: saw a short excerpt of the speech on tv - I clapped ironically to begin with, at something he said along the lines of the economy will be great, because...American people. Then the anger and contempt crept in and I had to leave the room so as not to go to bed with that sick feeling. It was very admirable what your cousin did, but allowing their story to be in the SOTU speech condones drumpfdom - they'd be more admirable in my eyes if they'd told her first-ladyship to sling her hook ;)

Feb 1, 8:18am Top

>59 Jackie_K: Hi Jackie! Your Mount TBR isn't that huge, but my copy of NN weighed in at 789 pages.

>60 floremolla: Hi Donna! I'm always glad to finish a book by Dickens - this one is no exception. Very worthwhile, beautiful, if voluminously wordy.

I must admit that I immediately thought that if it was me, I'd tell drumpf & company to take a hike. However, that part of my family is extremely conservative, extremely Republican, and extremely religious (although I don't know why religious folks condone an amoral, immoral, unethical, and thrice-married waste-of-space like drumpf). Knowing how that side of the family votes, I know they considered it a high honor.

Feb 1, 10:35am Top

>61 karenmarie: indeed it is a high honour then. We all have our measures by which we stand, all different, and as you said elsewhere, must agree to differ.

Feb 1, 12:22pm Top

>56 karenmarie: Your re-reading of Grafton will likely get her into my TBRs this year.

>58 karenmarie: such an interesting surprise!

Oh Melania. Oh the choices she's made, especially whatever she agreed to in the prenup.

Feb 2, 1:21am Top

>55 karenmarie: What? They changed book club meeting for Downtown Abby and not for Super Bowl? That just seems wrong or unamerican or something.

Feb 3, 2:50am Top

>55 karenmarie: >64 Familyhistorian: I was surprised by that too. I'm not American but even I know the Super bowl is a real event for lots of people. It's not only unamerican but I think would be unfriendly all over the world.

Feb 3, 9:20am Top

>62 floremolla: When my uncle e-mailed me in return to a birthday greeting I'd sent him, he ask if I'd watched the speech. I said I hadn't, that I hadn't voted for the man, and left it at that. I did say that had I known Ryan would be there, I would have watched it. A bit deceptive, I MIGHT have watched it, but there was no reason to let politics get in the way of family pride. Yes. Agree to disagree.

>63 detailmuse: Hi MJ! I hope you read some of her books. Mysteries are my favorite genre and I have always liked hers. I did get a bit bored in the 1980s after about G, but re-read them all in 2010 and kept current after that.

I already knew about Ryan and Rebecca adopting Hope and admire them for that. It's separate from politics and I would admire anybody who did that. Ryan comes from a family of 10 or 11 - I forget how many there are - and so 5 instead of 4 wouldn't be out of the ordinary.

Part of me feels bad for Melania, part of me knows she's made her bed. She's not unintelligent. She's canny about money, I think, and either already has or will turn being First Lady into a money-making venture. I feel bad for Barron except that with those parents and that family I'm not sure he'll turnout any different than his siblings, none of whom I admire in the least.

>64 Familyhistorian: They did. One time on the fly to accommodate Diane (see below), and the next year when I wanted to change the Feb meeting to the next Sunday everybody got in an uproar (except Tamsie, who likes to watch with her family same as me). It's never happened again, and we'll probably go along as we always have. When I sent my e-mail out to the group saying I wouldn't be there this Sunday, I only said As with all February meetings, I won’t be there. without saying why, but two people responded with sincere "Hope you enjoy the Super Bowl" comments.

>65 connie53: I do get upset at not being accommodated, but it is what it is. They are all good people who just don't care for sports and aren't willing to accede to schedule changes for a sporting event. What I find really amusing and annoying is that some of them will leave the meeting early to watch something that starts at 9 p.m. because they either won't or can't record it for later watching. I got caught up in that by carpooling last month and won't make that mistake again because I'll ask before I accept a carpool ride if Diane is planning on leaving early (she drives most times).

Feb 7, 11:04am Top

Hi Karen - just popping by to wish you a happy Wednesday :)

Feb 7, 2:34pm Top

B is for Burglar by Sue Grafton
2/5/18 to 2/6/18

From Amazon:

Although business has been slow lately for P.I. Kinsey Millhone, she's reluctant to take on the case of locating Beverly Danziger's sister Elaine Boldt. It's a small matter that Beverly should be able to handle herself. So why is she enlisting Kinsey's services? Beverly claims she needs Elaine's signature on some documents so that she can collect a small inheritance. But the whole affair doesn't sit well with Kinsey. And if there's something she's learned in her line of work, it's to always follow your instincts…

Kinsey's hunch proves true when she begins her inquiries into Elaine's whereabouts and discovers that the attractive widow was last seen in a flashy lynx coat boarding a plane for Boca Raton. But the more Kinsey searches for Elaine the more questions she encounters. Is Elaine's disappearance tied in to the brutal murder several months ago of one of her bridge partners? And what happened to Elaine's Persian cat who seems to have also vanished?

Things take a turn for the worse when a stranger vandalizes the home of one of Elaine's neighbors and another neighbor turns up murdered. With her reputation and career on the line, Kinsey risks all to find a missing woman and a killer who's waiting in the shadows to strike again…

Why I wanted to read it: My continuing tribute to Sue Grafton, who died in December of 2017.

There are several early hints as to what really happens, and I noted a couple of them but didn’t put it all together until after Kinsey did. We learn that Kinsey is nothing if not stubborn, has a deep sense of what is right and wrong, and occasionally does stupid things like forget to take a weapon when she knows a killer is out there.

These novels are told in the first person by Kinsey as case reports. The last page is always Epilogue, either a bit of action that occurs after the dramatic ending, or a bit of philosophizing. And then

--Respectfully submitted,
Kinsey Millhone

Feb 7, 2:36pm Top

>67 Jackie_K: Hi Jackie! Happy Wednesday to you, too. I seem to be having a hard time lately keeping up with threads, but I'll get back into the rhythm of it soon.

Edited: Feb 9, 12:41pm Top

>68 karenmarie: I think I will have to find some Sue Grafton books!

Edit: I have them all digital! Never knew that.

Feb 9, 12:44pm Top

>70 connie53: Hi Connie! They're like candy to me. I just finished C is for Corpse.....

Yay for having them all digital! I hope you like them.

Feb 9, 12:44pm Top

C is for Corpse by Sue Grafton
2/7/18 to 2/8/18

From Amazon:


How do you go about solving an attempted murder when the victim has lost a good part of his memory? It's one of Kinsey's toughest cases yet, but she never backs down from a challenge. Twenty-three-year-old Bobby Callahan is lucky to be alive after a car forced his Porsche over a bridge and into a canyon. The crash left Bobby with a clouded memory. But he can't shake the feeling it was no random accident and that he's still in danger…


The only clues Kinsey has to go on are a little red address book and the name "Blackman." Bobby can't remember who he gave the address book to for safekeeping. And any chances of Bobby regaining his memory are dashed when he's killed in another automobile accident just three days after he hires Kinsey.


As Kinsey digs deeper into her investigation, she discovers Bobby had a secret worth killing for―and unearthing that secret could send Kinsey to her own early death…

Why I wanted to read it: My continuing tribute to Sue Grafton, who died in December of 2017.

This is a clever case, because there are several red herrings and very little is as it seems. I most recently read this book 8 years ago but could remember enough about the ending that I wasn’t terribly surprised when Kinsey figured it out almost too late.

There’s also an interesting personal note in this one as Kinsey meets her landlord’s new romantic interest and is immediately put off by her. What does a red-blooded female PI do? Why, she gets her police friends to check the lady out with amusing results.

Kinsey is very snarky in her descriptions of people and living spaces. Sometimes it grates, but it also vivid and you can see the person in your mind’s eye.

Grafton is Preachy, no two ways about it. It’s there in every book, sometimes a little, sometimes a lot, and you have to put up with if you want to read her books. In this book health food comes up for snark as Kinsey eats it to be sociable with Bobby but prefers her MacDonald’s hamburger, fries, and Coke. On the other hand, Grafton is also preachy about NOT judging people because of physical disabilities and even if some of Kinsey’s methods skirt the law, her overall goal is to find the crooks, criminals, and murderers and bring them to justice.

Edited: Feb 23, 11:35am Top

I've decided to go back to my original ROOTs methodology in order to make my goal comparable to other years, so I've read 10 ROOTs total. I won't post the reviews here, but here are links to them from my 75 books challenge threads in case you're interested. I'm still not counting The Alphabet Series in my goal, but am writing and posting reviews:

Every Dead Thing
The Country Girls
You're All Just Jealous of my Jetpack
No Middle Name
Dead Wake
Obsession in Death

D is for Deadbeat
E is for Evidence
F is for Fugitive

Feb 23, 1:04pm Top

>73 karenmarie: I want to get to You're All Just Jealous of my Jetpack this year. I have a cunning plan to buy it for my husband for his birthday so that it doesn't count in my TBR totals :)

Feb 23, 1:35pm Top

Hi Jackie!

I'd never heard of Tom Gauld before some 75 group noise last year and had my daughter get it for me for Christmas. His comics are absolutely wonderful.

And of course a book as a present does not count against your TBR. Even if you read it before he does, it's still his book so you're good to go! *smile*

Feb 24, 10:46am Top

>74 Jackie_K: I 100% endorse this plan :D

Feb 24, 11:03am Top

>75 karenmarie: >76 rabbitprincess: And it *is* on his wishlist, so it would be a really loving thing to do, right?

Feb 24, 1:05pm Top

Feb 25, 11:16am Top

>73 karenmarie: Hi Karen, I followed your link to one of the reviews and noticed you read Fire and Fury, which I'm also reading ... but it's feeling kinda tabloid. So I've switched for now to audio of Unbelievable by Katy Tur (journalist who covered Trump's campaign) and think you might like it.

Feb 25, 11:33am Top

>76 rabbitprincess: Hi RP! Two votes, Jackie.

>77 Jackie_K: Of course! Make it so. *smile*

>78 connie53: Hi Connie. Three votes, Jackie.

>79 detailmuse: Hi MJ! Yes, I did read F&F, it does feel kinda tabloidy but it also gives some good insight into the drumpf WH. I'd like to read Unbelievable, but only if I can find it at a thrift store or Book Sale. Is it only about the campaign or does it have anything about drumpf in the WH?

Feb 25, 4:47pm Top

>80 karenmarie: It's "Little Katy's" memoir of her coverage of the campaign for NBC. As far as I can tell, the main narrative timestamp is election night and the secondary is working forward from the announcement of his candidacy to election night. I downloaded audio from my library, it's a fast narrative that tries to gives sense and validation.

Feb 26, 5:37am Top

I keep getting both Fire and Fury and Unbelievable recommended to me by kobo recommendations, but I can't quite face either (although if I get any of them I'd go for Unbelievable). I already know what I think, I have no doubt that neither of them would change my mind. The snippets of news are bad enough, the detail would just be too depressing.

Mar 5, 3:05pm Top

81 Hi MJ! Thanks for the info re Unbelievable. I'll keep my eyes open for it.

>82 Jackie_K: Hi Jackie! Neither would change my mind. F&F confirms my worries about the WH, Unbelievable will probably make me crazy that this mindless and dangerous buffoon got elected by the Electoral College.

Mar 5, 4:46pm Top

>82 Jackie_K:, >83 karenmarie: I finished it -- had nothing about the campaign you don't already know. It did have a little bit of interesting stuff about being a journalist and being on the campaign trail.

Mar 6, 2:51pm Top

G is for Gumshoe by Sue Grafton
3/2/18 to 3/4/18

From Amazon:


When Irene Gersh asks PI Kinsey Millhone to locate her elderly mother Agnes, whom she hasn't heard from in six months, it's not exactly the kind of case Kinsey jumps for. But a girl's gotta pay her bills, and this should be easy money―or so she thinks. Kinsey finds Agnes in a hospital. Aside from her occasional memory lapses, the octogenarian seems fine. And frightened.


Kinsey doesn't know what to make of Agnes's vague fears and bizarre ramblings, but she's got her own worries. It seems Tyrone Patty, a criminal she helped put behind bars, is looking to make a hit. First, Kinsey's car is run off the road, and then days later, she's almost gunned down, setting in motion a harrowing cat and mouse game…


So Kinsey decides to hire a bodyguard. With PI Robert Dietz watching her 24/7, Kinsey is feeling on edge…especially with their growing sexual tension. Then, Agnes dies of an apparent homicide, Kinsey realizes the old lady wasn't so senile after all―and maybe she was trying to tell her something? Now Kinsey's determined to learn the truth…even if it kills her.

Why I wanted to read it: Next up in The Alphabet Series. I’m re-reading the series this year in honor of Sue Grafton.

I really like Kinsey's talk about her fears and phobias.
I was beginning to feel about the real world as I did about swimming in the ocean. Off the Santa Teresa coast, the waters of the Pacific are murky and cold, filled with USTs (unidentified scary things) that can hurt you real bad: organisms made of jelly and slime, crust-covered creatures with stingers and horny pincers that can rip your throat out. Mark Messinger was like that: vicious, implacable, dead at heart.
This one irritated me and pleased me at the same time. Kinsey hates the idea of doing anything anybody else tells her to do, so disobeys Dietz’s instructions/orders and runs into the hitman more times than desirable. I understand her independence and stubbornness, but her initial fear subsides when Dietz shows up and subsides again and she gets cocky and doesn’t pay attention. I really dislike it when my heroines/heroes do stupid stuff, so the constant refrain of Kinsey’s stupidity hovers over the book. But, she also is relentless in pursuing the Agnes Grey case. Her strength is her sheer bullheadedness so the mystery of Agnes Grey is well done.

Her love life takes an interesting turn, and Henry has outdone himself in providing her with excellent living space.

One of the best things about this series, to me, is that they start in 1982 and each book picks up after the end of the previous one, give or take a few months. So although this book was written in 1990, the events are in 1983 or so. Grafton works hard to keep to the technology and culture of the times.

Mar 6, 2:51pm Top

>84 detailmuse: Congrats, MJ!

Mar 10, 10:17am Top

Hi Karen - hope you're having a lovely weekend! What's happening with your bird life these days? I miss our feeder, even though we pretty much only had sparrows and blue tits ever visit it.

Edited: Mar 19, 9:10am Top

Hi Jackie!

I have had two lovely weekends since you wrote - daughter was visiting for spring break two weekends ago and we had a great time and last weekend I was successfully fending off my husband's cold germs. He got quite sick but I've just got a bit of congestion. Between snow and black ice and Bill's cold, he stayed home or came home early 4 of the 5 workdays last week. He went to work today, and I'm sitting here in my jammies drinking coffee. I'll eat some breakfast in a while, then do a bit of Friends of the Library Treasurer stuff and get more stuff organized for our taxes.

I realize that I forgot to post my H is for Homicide review here.

Mar 19, 9:10am Top

H is for Homicide by Sue Grafton
3/5/18 to 3/8/18

From Amazon:

When PI Kinsey Millhone's good friend and colleague Parnell Perkins is found murdered in the parking lot behind California Fidelity Insurance, she can't believe he had any enemies. The only clue that raises a red flag for Kinsey is one of Parnell's files on a Bibianna Diaz, who appears to have made a lucrative career out of scamming insurance companies with phony claims…


Taking an alias, Kinsey goes undercover to befriend Bibianna, hoping she'll get close enough to catch the con artist at her own game. But Kinsey never dreams that hanging out with Bibianna will get them both thrown in jail. And when they're released, Bibianna's very jealous, very dangerous ex-fiancé Raymond Maldonado is waiting for them.


Kinsey soon discovers the short-tempered thug is the kingpin behind Bibianna's and countless other phony insurance claims. But was Raymond also responsible for Parnell's death? All Kinsey knows is that she'll have to think quick to nab one of the most treacherous criminals she's come face to face with―and keep herself alive…

Why I wanted to read it: Next up in The Alphabet Series. I’m re-reading the series this year in honor of Sue Grafton.

This is fun:
It never pays to deal with the flyweights of the world. They take far too much pleasure in thwarting you at evern turn. I wa silent for a moment, trying to compose myself. Situations like this bring up an ancient and fundamental desire to bite. I could envision a half-moon of my teeth marks on the flesh of her forearm, which would swell and turn all colors of the rainbow. She’d have to have tetanus and rabies shots. Maybe her owner would elect to put her to sleep. I smiled politely.
Kinsey unintentionally goes undercover, trying to stay alive and taking advantage of moments here and there to discover incriminating evidence of the insurance fraud schemes. For someone who doesn’t love dogs, Kinsey makes friends with two guard dogs and is quite insightful about them. One of the main characters also has Tourette’s, and there is quite a bit of info and understanding of how it can affect your life.

I really liked this one – lots of plot twists and turns, lots of Los Angeles stuff that enhanced the story for me. This one was a lesson in insurance fraud, all of which was fascinating. It was also an insider’s view into LA Hispanic street gangs. Things moved quickly – a real page turner.

Mar 19, 12:38pm Top

>88 karenmarie: The weekend with your daughter sounds lovely. I'm sorry to hear about Bill's cold though, I hope he gets better soon. And I hope your congestion doesn't get any worse. I am the worst when I have a cold, I always joke that I am the one who suffers from man-flu in our house. Pete soldiers on and other than sleeping it off almost never takes anything, whereas I drug myself up to the eyeballs and am still miserable (and let everyone know about it, I'm angling for maximum sympathy!).

Mar 21, 12:09pm Top

>89 karenmarie: Hi Karen, this does sound fun and informative! "H" seems pretty far in to begin my reading of her though...

Regarding taxes, it's grown to be such a big project, even with software or outside help! We submitted our returns this week and it does feel freeing.

Mar 21, 12:15pm Top

>90 Jackie_K: Hi Jackie! He's doing great now, thank you. I haven't gotten worse, but it's still lingering a bit. You deserve sympathy when you're sick. I 'jammie' up and usually take stuff when I official feel sick. So far it's just lurking.

>91 detailmuse: Hi MJ! It'w best to start from the beginning if you can, and this series doesn't always appeal to people who otherwise love mysteries. I'm really enjoying this nostalgia trip.

Mar 21, 12:21pm Top

11. The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America by Erik Larson
2/25/18 to 3/20/18

From Amazon:

Two men, each handsome and unusually adept at his chosen work, embodied an element of the great dynamic that characterized America’s rush toward the twentieth century. The architect was Daniel Hudson Burnham, the fair’s brilliant director of works and the builder of many of the country’s most important structures, including the Flatiron Building in New York and Union Station in Washington, D.C. The murderer was Henry H. Holmes, a young doctor who, in a malign parody of the White City, built his “World’s Fair Hotel” just west of the fairgrounds—a torture palace complete with dissection table, gas chamber, and 3,000-degree crematorium. Burnham overcame tremendous obstacles and tragedies as he organized the talents of Frederick Law Olmsted, Charles McKim, Louis Sullivan, and others to transform swampy Jackson Park into the White City, while Holmes used the attraction of the great fair and his own satanic charms to lure scores of young women to their deaths. What makes the story all the more chilling is that Holmes really lived, walking the grounds of that dream city by the lake.

The Devil in the White City draws the reader into a time of magic and majesty, made all the more appealing by a supporting cast of real-life characters, including Buffalo Bill, Theodore Dreiser, Susan B. Anthony, Thomas Edison, Archduke Francis Ferdinand, and others. In this book the smoke, romance, and mystery of the Gilded Age come alive as never before.

Erik Larson’s gifts as a storyteller are magnificently displayed in this rich narrative of the master builder, the killer, and the great fair that obsessed them both.

Why I wanted to read it: I recently read Dead Wake and was so thrilled with Larson’s writing style that I wanted to read something else by him. Luckily, I already had this one on my shelves, just waiting to be read.

The World’s Columbian Exposition, otherwise known as the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893, was planned to honor the 400th Anniversary of Columbus’s discovery of America. There was a mad dash by large cities to win it for their city, and Chicago won, to the dismay of the East Coast, New York in particular. Chicago was seen as raw, ignorant, uncultured, and unable to pull off America’s answer to the Exposition Universelle of 1889 in Paris. Winning it and successfully implementing it were stunning accomplishments.

Here are a few things that made their first or most impressive early showing at the 1893 Fair:
Ferris Wheel
AC electricity which became the US standard
Spray paint
First Moving Pictures
First All-Electric Kitchen
First Zipper
Juicy Fruit Gum
Cracker Jack
Shredded Wheat
Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer – won the blue ribbon at the Fair
There were over 4 million visitors. The influence of the Fair was far-reaching in architecture, science, city planning.

Larson has woven his tale of two major events – the Fair and the murderer Dr. H.H. Holmes. He also tells the story about the first Ferris Wheel, the idea coming to Washington Gale Ferris Jr.’s mind in full and complete detail all at once. We also learn about Patrick Eugene Joseph Prendergast, who assassinated Chicago Mayor Carter Harrison Sr. two days before the end of the Fair, turning the closing ceremonies into a funeral instead.

An absolutely wonderful book. I spent a lot of time, as I did with Dead Wake, looking for more detail on the Internet and being thrilled with it all. A beautifully done microhistory.

But the most thrilling thing about reading this book is that I finally connected the dots. My Great-Great-Grandfather Robert Atkinson Hopps, from Talmage Nebraska, attended the Fair. He would have been 72 at the time, not a minor trip from Omaha NE to Chicago. Did he take any of his family? Alas, I’ll never know. Here is the silk souvenir he brought back. It was in my paternal grandmother’s effects and I finally got it framed and protected about 10 years ago. It says "Machinery Hall Chicago World's Fair 1893" and "Robert A Hopps" stitched in the right corner.

Mar 21, 5:35pm Top

Karen, that is SO cool that your great-great-grandfather attended the Fair and you have his keepsake! If you visit Chicago, you must take the Devil in the White City tour provided by the Chicago Architecture Foundation. Jackson Park will be the site of Obama's Presidential Center, opening ~2021.

Mar 22, 11:50am Top

Hello!! Just dropping by. It has just been TOO long. But I'm happy to see you're doing so well with your ROOTing! Life for me has been a bit crazy these past couple months, but maybe in the couple months to come, it'll calm down ;)

Mar 22, 3:14pm Top

>93 karenmarie: Wow, what a fantastic keepsake to have! A real link to the past, that's for sure, and to unknown family. Does it help make you feel 'rooted' (if you'll excuse the forum-based pun, it wasn't intentional!) in your family line? I live so far away from where I grew up that I don't feel particularly rooted in my wider family any more (although I do (mostly) love seeing them when we do get together), and wonder if having a keepsake like this as a link to my past would give me more of a sense of belonging. I don't know.

Edited: Mar 22, 4:10pm Top

>94 detailmuse: I think so, too, MJ! The Devil in the White City Tour would be right up my alley and I didn't realize that Jackson Park will be the site of Obama's Presidential Library. That is wonderful.

>95 avanders: Aletheia! Stranger! *hugs* to you. I hope things are good crazy and that we'll see more you this year.

>96 Jackie_K: Hi Jackie! I wish my Dad hadn't been such a loner and from such a small family. He was an only child, born when my grandfather was 42 and grandmother 39. He apparently had quite a bit of family in Omaha and other parts of eastern Nebraska. One of his two first cousins lived in Southern California when I was little, but we've lost touch with them. The other family would be hard to track down, I think. It's sad. I knew about G-G-Grandfather Robert Hopps and when our family went on a 13-day 3300-mile 13-state vacation in 2010, we stopped in Nebraska City to visit the cemetery where he and my G-G-Grandmother are buried and visit the library to look up a few things. It wasn't near enough time, but at least something.

Physical objects are very important to me. I have some opera glasses that my maternal grandmother had, a silk shawl she wore in the 1910s-1920s, and quite a few other things. When I look at them and touch them I definitely feel 'rooted'. We always discussed famiy and showed Jenna keepsakes from both sides of the family.

You should try to see if there are any family keepsakes that your relatives might consider giving to you - it would be good for your daughter to know about her relatives too as she's growing up.

Can't resist - here's a photo of my dad as a toddler - circa 1924.

Mar 22, 4:03pm Top

I is for Innocent by Sue Grafton
3/20/18 to 3/22/18

From Amazon:

Readers of Sue Grafton's fiction know she never writes the same book twice, and "I" Is For Innocent is no exception. Her most intricately plotted novel to date, it is layered in enough complexity to baffle even the cleverest among us.

Lonnie Kingman is in a bind. He's smack in the middle of assembling a civil suit, and the private investigator who was doing his pretrial legwork has just dropped dead of a heart attack. In a matter of weeks the court's statute of limitations will put paid to his case. Five years ago David Barney walked when a jury acquitted him of the murder of his rich wife, Isabelle. Now Kingman, acting as attorney for the dead woman's ex-husband and their child (and sure that the jury made a serious mistake), is trying to divest David Barney of the profits of that murder. But time is running out, and David Barney still swears he's innocent.

Patterned along the lines of a legal case, "I" Is For Innocent is seamlessly divided into thirds: one-third of the novel is devoted to the prosecution, one-third to the defense, and a final third to cross-examination and rebuttal. The result is a trial novel without a trial and a crime novel that resists solution right to the end.

When Kinsey Millhone agrees to take over Morley Shine's investigation, she thinks it is a simple matter of tying up the loose ends. Morley might have been careless about his health, but he was an old pro at the business. So it comes as a real shock when she finds his files in disarray, his key informant less than credible, and his witnesses denying ever having spoken with him. It comes as a bigger shock when she finds that every claim David Barney has made checks out. But if Barney didn't murder his wife, who did? It would seem the list of candidates is a long one. In life, Isabelle Barney had stepped on a lot of toes.

In "I" Is For Innocent, Sue Grafton once again demonstrates her mastery of those telling details that reveal our most intimate and conflicted relationships. As Kinsey comments on the give-and-take by which we humans deal with each other, for better and sometimes for worse, the reader is struck yet again by how acute a social observer Ms. Grafton can be. Frequently funny and sometimes caustic, she is also surprisingly compassionate-- understanding how little in life is purely black and white. Except for murder.

Somewhere out there, a killer waits to see just what Kinsey will find out. Somewhere out there, someone's been getting away with murder, and this time it just might turn out to be Kinsey's.

"I" Is For Innocent is Sue Grafton in peak form. Fast-paced. Funny. And very, very devious.

Why I wanted to read it: Next up in The Alphabet Series. I’m re-reading the series this year in honor of Sue Grafton.
”…but murder is an aberrant deed often born of passions distorted by obsessiveness and torment. Emotion doesn’t travel in a straight line. Like water, our feelings trickle down through cracks and crevices, seeking out the little pockets of neediness and neglect, the hairline fractures in our character usually hidden from public view. Beware the ark pool at the bottom of our hearts. In its icy, black depths dwell strange and twisted creatures it is best not to disturb. With this investigation, I was once again uncomfortably aware that in probing into murky waters I was exposing myself to the predators lurking therein.
This one has so many plot twists in it that my neck hurts. There’s a bit of confusion in my mind, still, about who was married to whom when, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying Kinsey’s detecting and perseverance.

Some of her books start off with Boom! Bam! Action! but this one started off with her trying to follow up Morley Shine’s investigation. As she digs deeper and deeper she finds more and more inconsistencies and strange facts, leading to a very satisfactory denouement.

Henry’s brother William comes to visit and is smitten with Rosie. Henry’s cranky about it, making for some amusing dialogue. There’s an interesting dialog between Kinsey and one of the female characters about what people might feel like at the end of a marriage, and Kinsey’s firm commitment to the single state.

All in all another satisfying Letter.

Mar 22, 4:40pm Top

>97 karenmarie: Oh - your dad was such a cutie! I want to pick him up and swing him round and round and round!

My dad has some family photos he is scanning - if nothing else I would like copies of those. A few are of my paternal grandmother when she was very young, and then lots of when he was going out with mum and their married life before we came along. He also has hundreds of slides of our family holidays. Even something like that would be precious. I must remember to ask him how the scanning is coming on.

Mar 23, 7:50am Top

Thanks, Jackie! Good for your dad. I don't know how converting slides to files is done, but those would be wonderful to have, too.

Mar 28, 5:37am Top

>93 karenmarie: I read The Devil in the White City a couple of years ago and I really enjoyed it - especially the parts about the fair and the rapid development of American cities in general and Chicago in particular.

And what a cool souvenir you have from the fair. Sometimes books really do touch our lives in a very literal sense.

Mar 28, 8:04am Top

Hi Henrik! I could have basically re-written the book as a review - so many fascinating facts and results. And having G-G-Grandfather Hopps' souvenir is icing on the cake.

Mar 28, 9:50pm Top

Hi Karen, just popping in to say hi as I've had some time away on holiday and am slowly catching up.

Love the photo of your dad, he's like a little pixie-child!

Mar 29, 8:45am Top

Hi Donna! I hope you had a wonderful time. I love your description of my dad - little pixie-child.

I'm coming up on the 12th anniversary of the day he passed away - March 31, 2006 - and he's been in my thoughts a lot lately. I could kick myself for not asking him more questions about his family and childhood when I had the chance. So many questions.....

Mar 29, 11:42am Top

>97 karenmarie: Your dad is darling and I love the photo's composition! Thinking of you during this bittersweet time of year. You might consider a digital frame -- I have some photos of my dad that are so lifelike they stop me in my tracks and make me smile. I use a Nix frame -- comes in various sizes, excellent display quality, and I just use a local thumb drive instead of wifi connection.

Mar 29, 6:13pm Top

>105 detailmuse: My grandma has a digital frame with a thumb drive and she likes it, especially for pictures of the great-grandchildren (she has two, from one of my cousins). My parents recently went through the photos to add some more recent shots, and much to my amusement they added the picture I got with Peter Capaldi at ComicCon :D Not sure what she's going to think when THAT comes up in among the more conventional family shots.

Mar 29, 6:30pm Top

>106 rabbitprincess: Fab picture RP! :)

Mar 29, 6:37pm Top

>107 floremolla: My dad says that one is his favourite of what he's taken to calling the "Famous People Meet RP" series.

Mar 30, 10:19am Top

>106 rabbitprincess: great pic, Grandma will love it (and will have questions!!)

Mar 30, 11:01am Top

>105 detailmuse: Thanks, MJ. I think I'm going to put a collage of pics together of my Dad - just a few, 5 perhaps. I sort of like the idea of a digital frame, but for now will just put them together and save as a jpeg.

>106 rabbitprincess: RP! Thanks for sharing the picture. It's wonderful. Heh. Famous People Meet RP. I like it.

Mar 30, 12:42pm Top

>106 rabbitprincess: I've seen that picture before, but it still makes me happy! (from what I remember the David Tennant one is brilliant as well!)

>110 karenmarie: The collage sounds like a good idea - you certainly have a lovely photogenic subject!

Apr 1, 10:15am Top

Happy Easter Karen - have a lovely day!

Apr 1, 10:37am Top

>111 Jackie_K: My dad and brother were always photogenic, me, my sister, and Mom when we were young but not so much in later years.

>112 Jackie_K: Thank you, Jackie! Same to you.

Apr 2, 8:19am Top

Hi Karen, hope you've had a nice Easter weekend. (I accidentally typed 'Eater weekend' which more aptly describes my own)

Apr 5, 6:13am Top

13. The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes
4/1/18 to 4/5/18

From Amazon:


The future is not as loud as war, but it is relentless. It has a terrible fury all its own."

Harper Curtis is a killer who stepped out of the past. Kirby Mazrachi is the girl who was never meant to have a future.

Kirby is the last shining girl, one of the bright young women, burning with potential, whose lives Harper is destined to snuff out after he stumbles on a House in Depression-era Chicago that opens on to other times.

At the urging of the House, Harper inserts himself into the lives of the shining girls, waiting for the perfect moment to strike. He's the ultimate hunter, vanishing into another time after each murder, untraceable-until one of his victims survives.

Determined to bring her would-be killer to justice, Kirby joins the Chicago Sun-Times to work with the ex-homicide reporter, Dan Velasquez, who covered her case. Soon Kirby finds herself closing in on the impossible truth . . .

THE SHINING GIRLS is a masterful twist on the serial killer tale: a violent quantum leap featuring a memorable and appealing heroine in pursuit of a deadly criminal.

Why I wanted to read it: I’ve had it on my shelves for almost two years and it seemed like the right time.

Great concept poorly executed. The book was all over the place in time and characters. Harper in 1931, Harper in 1954, Harper in 1993. Kirby in 1974, 1989, 1992, 1993. Various of Harper’s victims in various times. It was confusing and never really seemed to make sense.

The short chapters, by character and date, never allowed for anything more than a shallow approach to each character. The research on the time periods was impeccable, but as Beukes says in the Acknowledgments,
“I had a crack team of researchers digging up information, out of print books, videos, photographs and personal histories on everything from illegal abortion groups to real-life radium dancing girls, the evolution of forensics, ‘30s restaurant reviews and the history of ‘80s toys.”
It felt like a research paper because of the combination of short chapters trying to evoke a time period quickly and stereotypical characters described in stereotypical ways.

Harper is the only really interesting character who is not a stereotype. He is a psychopath, was in WWI, was a bum during 1931 in Chicago, committed violence, took a key, and found the House. The House is never explained. Harper’s drive is never really explained either, except once again in short, sharp bursts of hit-and-run emotion and description. The action is a series of missed opportunities, coincidences, anachronistic clues.

Kirby, although horribly injured and traumatized by Harper, does not become a sympathetic character. She does a lot of research out of sight of us, the readers. She makes important decisions that we hear about after the fact. Beukes doesn't really share Kirby with us in a meaningful way. Dan is a mishmash of burned-out crime beat reporter, sports reporter, Hispanic who throws out Spanish words periodically; a divorced man who has no real focus in his life. All described in trite and shallow ways, never giving us a sense of him.

The whole thing just never coalesced for me.

Kirby never really solves the case. She has a vague premonition of what can be the only explanation, but never clarifies or elucidates it. It is Harper who implodes by coming to visit Kirby at the Sun-Times, misses her, and unintentionally leads her back to the House. She returns with Dan, all Hell breaks loose, and we're left with a tantalizing bit about the House's next caretaker.

Apr 5, 6:28am Top

>115 karenmarie: That sounds like a frustrating read, Karen, but well done for finishing it - another ROOT to add to the total! I generally find chapters alternating characters and/or time periods work really well for me as a literary device (I think because it means I don't get too emotionally invested and stressed out, as the scene/character/time changes before I get to that point), but that sounds like it was just too much.

Apr 5, 9:13am Top

Hi Jackie!

Yes another ROOT. I keep quite a few of my books, but this one got removed from my catalog this morning after I wrote the review.

That's an interesting take - to appreciate the alternating character/timeline chapters as a way to avoid getting emotionally invested and stressed out. Now that I think about it, there are many books I've read where that device works. Unfortunately, this one didn't.

Apr 5, 1:48pm Top

>117 karenmarie: I find fiction inherently stressful (films as well - give me non-fiction and documentaries any day!). I think I get so drawn into the story that I find myself thinking about it constantly and it just takes up so much headspace and emotional energy I find it quite exhausting. So devices which mean I can switch between characters before I get too 'sucked in' to a person's particular story often really help me to persevere. You're right though, it doesn't always work - most recently I gave up on The Poisonwood Bible, as although every chapter is from a different viewpoint, they were all so bleak it was unremitting misery!

Apr 5, 2:55pm Top

Hi Jackie! I read about 10% nonfiction per year and watch documentaries about 10% of the time, although that comes and goes in waves as we've taken to watching series and binge-watch. We're re-watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer right now, with nary the opportunity of nonfiction in sight.

I liked The Poisonwood Bible, but mostly because it was an indictment of religious hubris and colonialism.

Apr 5, 4:12pm Top

>115 karenmarie: very thorough review, Karen. Not a book I'll be seeking out, from your assessment - interesting premise but badly executed by the sound of it!

Apr 5, 4:45pm Top

>120 floremolla: Thanks, Donna! I really wouldn't recommend this book to anyone, although several of my 75er friends liked it.

Apr 6, 11:42am Top

>115 karenmarie: Yikes I couldn't even make much sense of the Amazon description. Yay not only ROOTed but purged!!

Apr 6, 12:27pm Top

Good for you, MJ! Gone AND forgotten.

Apr 10, 12:54pm Top

Hi Karen. Just popping in to say Hi. I hopelessly behind with threads so I'm skimming them. Lovely picture of your dad. It made me smile to see such a happy face. And how nice you have that souvenir from your great great granddad. That's really precious!

Apr 10, 4:17pm Top

Thank you, Connie! I'm feeling the same way about being behind on threads too. I'm so glad you stopped by for a visit.

Apr 10, 4:19pm Top

14. Euphoria by Lily King
4/6/18 to 4/10/18

From Amazon:

From New England Book Award winner Lily King comes a breathtaking novel about three young anthropologists of the ‘30’s caught in a passionate love triangle that threatens their bonds, their careers, and, ultimately, their lives.

English anthropologist Andrew Bankson has been alone in the field for several years, studying the Kiona river tribe in the Territory of New Guinea. Haunted by the memory of his brothers’ deaths and increasingly frustrated and isolated by his research, Bankson is on the verge of suicide when a chance encounter with colleagues, the controversial Nell Stone and her wry and mercurial Australian husband Fen, pulls him back from the brink. Nell and Fen have just fled the bloodthirsty Mumbanyo and, in spite of Nell’s poor health, are hungry for a new discovery. When Bankson finds them a new tribe nearby, the artistic, female-dominated Tam, he ignites an intellectual and romantic firestorm between the three of them that burns out of anyone’s control.

Set between two World Wars and inspired by events in the life of revolutionary anthropologist Margaret Mead, Euphoria is an enthralling story of passion, possession, exploration, and sacrifice from accomplished author Lily King.

Why I wanted to read it: Anthropology, romance, early 20th century: all things that interest me. This is a fictionalized account of Margaret Mead, her second husband Reo Fortune, and her third husband Gregory Bateson, caught in a love triangle. In this novel they are Nell, Fen, and Bankson.

The book has three points of view, but surprisingly none are Fen’s. One is Nell’s diary, and the other two are first person narration by Nell and Bankson.

We see Fen through Nell’s and Bankson’s eyes as a man caught in the unenviable role of always being second fiddle to his wife, who doesn’t approach the study of the aboriginal tribes in the methodological yet emotional discipline his wife does and feels threatened by it, and who eventually makes decisions that cause pain, banishment, and more.

Bankson is a passionate anthropologist yet after meeting Nell sees his approach as cold and rigid; he becomes a better anthropologist for having met her.

Nell is driven and clearly the best scientist of the three, combining detailed note taking, detailed emotion taking, and true involvement in the groups she studies.

The book is vivid in describing village life, hardships, and frequently presenting the conundrum of the fact that once you study something it immediately changes and cannot be completely understood by the very nature of its being observed.

There are also observations about colonialism and racial superiority and an interesting Grid of personality types with the four points of the compass as descriptives: North, East, South, West.

The emotional triangle unleashed once Nell meets Bankson is beautifully written. There are tantalizing bits from Nell, more obvious and immediate feeling from Bankson, and awarness, jealousy, and cruelty from Fen.

This is an educational book, an emotional book, and a very satisfying book.

Apr 11, 8:44am Top

>125 karenmarie: Now I'm glad I'm not alone!

Apr 11, 2:38pm Top

>126 karenmarie: That sounds really good, but I suspect I'd get on better with a biography. I love good anthropology though, and have been lucky to have several really interesting anthro friends (including one whose own book will be out hopefully later this year). If I had my time again, anthropology is pretty near the top of my list of studies/jobs I'd love to do.

Apr 17, 6:45pm Top

Hi Jackie!

I like a good biography, too, but this novel just captured me from the beginning. I am intrigued with your anthro friend - let us know when her/his book comes out.

I always wanted to be an archaeologist.

Anthropology has its pitfalls by the very nature of seeing a culture through one's own culture. This point was brought home rather forcefully for me 1973-ish. One of my sociology professors gave us an "anonymous" paper to read and try to figure out where in the world this group lived. It stumped us all. I kept my mimeographed copy for decades, but don't know where it is now. However, here it is online. It was originally published in 1956. Body Ritual Among the Nacirema. *smile*

Apr 18, 10:37am Top

>129 karenmarie: As a provider of charms in latipsos for many years ... very entertaining!

Apr 18, 2:33pm Top

>129 karenmarie: I've saved that to read later, but - Nacirema - heh heh heh!

My friend was researching in Ukraine when the Maidan protests happened right in the middle of her fieldwork, so her research ended up taking something of an unexpected turn. I expect the book will cost a fortune, like all academic books these days, sadly :(

Apr 18, 6:33pm Top

>129 karenmarie: must admit my charm-box is apt to overflow too - I suspect I share some genes with the Nacirema ;)

Apr 19, 9:43am Top

>130 detailmuse: Hi MJ! I'm glad you liked it. I still remember the feeling of being sucker-punched when my prof (I can't for the life of me remember his name!) Revealed All.

>131 Jackie_K: You'll enjoy it, Jackie. And yes, the price of academic/text books is absolutely ludicrous. Even in the early 1970s when I was going to Pepperdine and a bad book semester was $100, we felt that prices were ridiculous. I did have several courses where the profs used non-text books and paperbacks to ease the burden. We still learned things, too! *smile*

>132 floremolla: Hi Donna! My charm-box is smallish, but my husband's is overflowing too.

Edited: Apr 19, 9:27pm Top

15. Blue Monday by Nicci French
4/13/18 to 4/18/18

From Amazon:

The stunning first book in a new series of psychological thrillers introducing an unforgettable London psychotherapist Frieda Klein is a solitary, incisive psychotherapist who spends her sleepless nights walking along the ancient rivers that have been forced underground in modern London. She believes that the world is a messy, uncontrollable place, but what we can control is what is inside our heads. This attitude is reflected in her own life, which is an austere one of refuge, personal integrity, and order.

The abduction of five-year-old Matthew Farraday provokes a national outcry and a desperate police hunt. And when his face is splashed over the newspapers, Frieda cannot ignore the coincidence: one of her patients has been having dreams in which he has a hunger for a child. A red-haired child he can describe in perfect detail, a child the spitting image of Matthew. She finds herself in the center of the investigation, serving as the reluctant sidekick of the chief inspector.

Drawing readers into a haunting world in which the terrors of the mind have spilled over into real life, Blue Monday introduces a compelling protagonist and a chilling mystery that will appeal to readers of dark crime fiction and fans of In Treatment and The Killing.

Why I wanted to read it: A friend recommended this last fall. I started it and put it down. It seemed time to try again. I was immediately drawn in the second time around.

This book is written by Nicci French, the husband-and-wife team of Nicci Gerrard and Sean French. It is seamless and well paced, easily flowing among a rather large cast of characters.

It is a rich and dark and intelligently written. The anguish of parents whose children are abducted and how it impacts their lives is thoughtfully portrayed. Frieda’s deliberate coolness and logic and her avoidance of messy emotions and involvement are a bit of a shock. It took me a bit to warm up to her. Her logic and aloofness stand her in good stead as she realizes that one of her patients may hold the key to finding Matthew. She comes up against a tough DI, whose increasing obsession with the case leaves him flailing around in procedure. Frieda offers a different take and eventually he sees the value of her insights and actions.

However, Frieda is not perfect. Her involvement of her old mentor Reuben leads to a bad decision on his part that Frieda will feel guilty about for the rest of her life. She isn’t always observant, and breaks rules for the first time ever, which shocks her as much as it does us.

She revels in her isolation and aloneness. There is one glimmer of a breaching of her emotions as she befriends and is enriched by Josef, a carpenter, who falls through the ceiling of her office one day as he's working on an upstairs apartment. He's different from anybody she's ever met before and she is fascinated by his warmth and openness. There's no romance here, by the way, just a widening of Frieda's small circle. Frieda is romantically involved with someone else in this book, not related to the case at all. She makes an important decision about this relationship, but it is peripheral to the case.

To even say much about the plot will be a spoiler, but the endings are as shocking and satisfying as one could hope for. I do say endings because much more than just one thing is going on in Blue Monday.

Apr 19, 6:51pm Top

>134 karenmarie: oooh, intriguing review - for Frieda, read Freud? I haven't read any Nicci French but that sounds interestingly psychological. Your Blue Monday touchstone is bizarrely going to Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut but I've found the right one and wishlisted it!

Apr 19, 9:29pm Top

Hi Donna! I fixed the touchstone. I posted this review on my 75 book challenge thread and had to fix it there. I made a bad assumption and thought that copying the review would copy the right touchstone. You'd think I'd learn by now.....

Anyway, I really liked this book and if you can find it, I hope you like it.

Apr 20, 5:27am Top

I hadn't realised Nicci French was a husband and wife team. The other day on the radio I caught the tail end of an interview with Graeme Simsion (author of The Rosie Project) and his wife Anne Buist, who as well as being a psychiatrist is also a crime novelist, and they have co-authored a book too (with another one on the way, I think - hence the interview). I'm not sure if writing a book with your other half would be a great experience or a really frustrating one! In my case, although Pete and I are both pretty nerdy, we tend to be nerdy about completely different things, so I don't think it's something we'll try!

Apr 20, 7:57am Top

Hi Jackie! I hadn't realized either until I was updating my spreadsheet after reading the book. I keep track of what country the author's from, and so I found out then.

Charles Todd is another team - they write the WWI Ian Rutledge series and the Bess Crawford series. They're mother and son, though. Ellery Queen was also another team, male cousins. Hey! This is fun!

You and Pete are like Bill and me - nerdy about completely different things.

Apr 22, 2:06am Top

I've read all 8 books in the Frieda Klein series and they are all great. Sean French and Nicci Gerrard both write books alone and as a duo. I have 20 books by them as a duo. So there is more to read if you would want to.

Apr 22, 8:03am Top

HI Connie! Good to see you here, and good to know about the books and the additional individual books.

Edited: Apr 29, 12:27pm Top

16. The Watchmaker of Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley
04/23/18 to 04/29/18

From Amazon:

1883. Thaniel Steepleton returns home to his tiny London apartment to find a gold pocket watch on his pillow. Six months later, the mysterious timepiece saves his life, drawing him away from a blast that destroys Scotland Yard. At last, he goes in search of its maker, Keita Mori, a kind, lonely immigrant from Japan. Although Mori seems harmless, a chain of unexplainable events soon suggests he must be hiding something. When Grace Carrow, an Oxford physicist, unwittingly interferes, Thaniel is torn between opposing loyalties.

The Watchmaker of Filigree Street is a sweeping, atmospheric narrative that takes the reader on an unexpected journey through Victorian London, Japan as its civil war crumbles long-standing traditions, and beyond. Blending historical events with dazzling flights of fancy, it opens doors to a strange and magical past.

Why I wanted to read it: It was supposed to be our May book club discussion book, but the chooser changed to another book. This one made it to top of stack, so to speak.

To my knowledge, this is the first novel I’ve read after having heard the term steampunk. It is a combination of Victorian England and Japan and futuristic mechanical things that buzz and crawl and fly.

Frankly, by the end I wasn’t quite sure of what had happened, but that is part of the point of the book, I think. Keita Mori is an enigma and I was never quite sure of what he remembered, let happen, or caused to happen. By the time he is through with Thaniel and Grace, I wondered how much of their lives he truly had influenced and when.

There is an amazing mix of history, fantasy, alternate realities, and switches between countries and dates. I found it a tad hard to keep track of.

I also had a preconceived notion of how it might end which was absolutely and totally wrong, and there are also tantalizing glimmers into Thaniel and Grace’s futures.

I was glad to read it and actually surprised to learn after finishing it that so far it is a standalone novel. I wouldn’t mind a book about more of Grace’s adventures. Pulley has written a second book, not a sequel, published in 2017, The Bedlam Stacks.

Apr 30, 6:32am Top

Hi Karen! Steampunk is a term I've only heard from your side of the Atlantic but now that you've explained about the book I can see where the term comes from. Not sure I'd seek it out as a genre but I've probably read something that counts as steampunk - HG Wells maybe? We live and learn...

Apr 30, 8:36am Top

Hi Donna!

Here's Wikipedia's definition of steampunk: Steampunk is a subgenre of science fiction or science fantasy that incorporates technology and aesthetic designs inspired by 19th-century industrial steam-powered machinery. Although its literary origins are sometimes associated with the cyberpunk genre, steampunk works are often set in an alternative history of the 19th century's British Victorian era or American "Wild West", in a future during which steam power has maintained mainstream usage, or in a fantasy world that similarly employs steam power. However, steampunk and Neo-Victorian are different in that the Neo-Victorian movement does not extrapolate on technology and embraces the positive aspects of the Victorian era's culture and philosophy.

I'd consider HG Wells steampunk although further on in the entry it says that the earliest steampunk is from the 1950s. But fantastic machines and time travel were certainly one of the things that HG did early and well.

I have one other book that's officially steampunk on my shelves - Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld. I love the cover:

Apr 30, 10:21am Top

I think steampunk is also a form of art - a few years ago we went to a wedding where both bride and groom were really into steampunk (literature, art etc) and they incorporated touches of steampunk into everything - designs on the cake, little metal bits and bobs in the bouquet and decorations, etc. It worked really well.

Apr 30, 1:08pm Top

Hi Jackie! Yes, it's an entire mindset - art, clothing, literature, everything. That must have been a lot of fun.

Apr 30, 1:59pm Top

>142 floremolla: Steampunk is a term here in the Netherlands too. I guess the term can't cross an ocean or a sea ;-)))

Apr 30, 7:03pm Top

>146 connie53: haha, maybe less about crossing oceans than crossing generations - I don't know anyone who's into steampunk. I'll ask my children ;)

May 2, 10:11pm Top

I'll have to ask my daughter, too - I'll be surprised if she knows the term, though.

May 3, 4:44am Top

I think our friends who had the steampunk wedding (who are younger than us - early 30s I think) are particularly into things like gaming and fantasy (all the tables at the wedding were different fantasy place names - Helms Deep, that sort of thing), so I think it often goes along with those kind of sensibilities/preferences. Mind you, it's not my world so I only have the vaguest idea what I'm talking about here!

May 3, 10:26am Top

>143 karenmarie: and all -- interesting intro to steampunk! I took a look at the LT tag to see if I had any steampunk surprises in my library ... nope, at least not in the top-500 tagged titles.

May 3, 3:25pm Top

>149 Jackie_K: Hi Jackie! Sounds like a similar interest to SCR - The Society for Creative Anachronism.

>150 detailmuse: Hi MJ! You can search your books on all fields, and any references to steampunk, even if it's not tagged as such, would show up.

May 3, 3:26pm Top

18. The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
4/3/18 to 5/3/18

From Amazon:

From the celebrated author of The Secret Life of Bees, a magnificent novel about two unforgettable American women

Writing at the height of her narrative and imaginative gifts, Sue Monk Kidd presents a masterpiece of hope, daring, the quest for freedom, and the desire to have a voice in the world—and it is now the newest Oprah’s Book Club 2.0 selection.

Hetty “Handful” Grimke, an urban slave in early nineteenth century Charleston, yearns for life beyond the suffocating walls that enclose her within the wealthy Grimke household. The Grimke’s daughter, Sarah, has known from an early age she is meant to do something large in the world, but she is hemmed in by the limits imposed on women.

Kidd’s sweeping novel is set in motion on Sarah’s eleventh birthday, when she is given ownership of ten year old Handful, who is to be her handmaid. We follow their remarkable journeys over the next thirty five years, as both strive for a life of their own, dramatically shaping each other’s destinies and forming a complex relationship marked by guilt, defiance, estrangement and the uneasy ways of love.

As the stories build to a riveting climax, Handful will endure loss and sorrow, finding courage and a sense of self in the process. Sarah will experience crushed hopes, betrayal, unrequited love, and ostracism before leaving Charleston to find her place alongside her fearless younger sister, Angelina, as one of the early pioneers in the abolition and women’s rights movements.

Inspired by the historical figure of Sarah Grimke, Kidd goes beyond the record to flesh out the rich interior lives of all of her characters, both real and invented, including Handful’s cunning mother, Charlotte, who courts danger in her search for something better.

This exquisitely written novel is a triumph of storytelling that looks with unswerving eyes at a devastating wound in American history, through women whose struggles for liberation, empowerment, and expression will leave no reader unmoved.

Why I wanted to read it: Having finished the Harry Potter audiobook series (again), I wanted something completely different and simply picked this off the shelf.

I am humbled, I am stunned. This book of historical fiction is absolutely amazing. It is written as the alternating stories of Hetty Handful, a slave, and Sarah, daughter of a wealthy and powerful slave-holding family. I listened to the audiobook, and the two women chosen for the parts of Sarah and Handful, did a masterful job.

I did not realize that Sarah and Angelina Grimke were real people, that their story as abolitionists and feminists is true. It appears that I need to some more reading of the early years of feminism. The sisters lived and worked before Seneca Falls, and their writings were inspirational to Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin.There was an extensive author’s note at the end, where Ms. Kidd talks about how she wanted to write a novel about sisters. She may have already heard about the Grimke sisters, but became more aware of the sisters, conceived of the novel, and she melded fact and fiction to give us a dramatic and beautifully plotted fictional account. None of the slaves owned by the Grimke family are historical figures, but Denmark Vesey and four of his insurrection-planning lieutenants are.

One thing I usually abhor about women readers of audiobooks is how they voice the male characters, usually trying for a gravelly and gruff voice and only irritating me. The male voices were subtle and didn’t detract from the ebb and flow of the reading.

The descriptions of how slaves were treated and the point of view of slaveholders – specifically Sarah’s mother and sister Mary – were hard to hear. So, too, was Sarah’s father’s deathbed confession that he abhorred slavery but couldn’t bring himself to break free of the wealth, power, and influence the lifestyle brought to him.

Sarah was radicalized and traumatized as a child by witnessing a slave being whipped. She acquired a stutter that was with her, to a greater or lesser degree, her entire life. She was an abolitionist at heart before she could even have known the word or power of the movement in the North. As godmother to her sister Angelina, she influenced her sister. She was also a feminist, yearning for a profession in a time when women of the upper classes were simply married off or stayed maiden aunts at home.

Handful, her mother Charlotte, and her half-sister Sky, are beautifully written characters. They never forgot their roots, never forgot that they were slaves and not members of the family. Charlotte ran away multiple times, first from the Grimkes, then from the slave holding family she was sold to. She and Handful always wanted freedom. Charlotte’s quilt is an homage to the real life Harriet Powers, a slave, who made appliqued quilts. Here is one of the two surviving quilts by Harriet Powers, allowing us to see how Charlotte’s story quilt might have looked.

I can’t say enough good things about this novel. It interweaves historical fact with fiction seamlessly. The whole is greater than the sum of the parts. It speaks to feminism, abolitionism, slavery, plantation life, life in the North. We learn about the Quakers and the difference between abolition of slavery and true equality of the races. The former was desired, the latter much less so. I don’t think I’ve ever seen emancipation/abolition of slavery as separate from equality of the races until I read this book. Thoughtful and thought-provoking, lyrical and harsh, detailed and big picture, a stunning book.

May 3, 3:53pm Top

>152 karenmarie: Oh wow, what a stunning review, Karen! I have The Invention of Wings on my TBR - and although I'm not a big fiction buff as you know, I absolutely loved her The Secret Life of Bees. I really hope I can get to this sooner rather than later, especially after your glowing review.

And wow, that tapestry is just beautiful. Thanks for sharing it!

May 3, 4:38pm Top

Thanks, Jackie, I appreciate your kind words. I haven't read The Secret Life of Bees, so looks like we're both in for a treat!

You're welcome re Harriet Powers' quilt. I think they're both stunning - looked her and them on Wikipedia.

May 3, 6:50pm Top

>152 karenmarie: wonderful review, Karen, your enthusiasm really shines through! I have The Secret Life of Bees on my TBR and will move it up the pile, but first I'll get The Invention of Wings onto my wishlist!

May 3, 7:07pm Top

Thank you, Donna! I finished it in the car on the way back from an orthotics appointment, and stayed in the car in the garage to listen to the 20 minutes of Kidd's comments. Totally fascinating.

I need to add The Secret Life of Bees to my wish list.

May 4, 2:05am Top

>149 Jackie_K: Maybe that's why I know the term. My main book genre is Fantasy (not gaming though)

May 4, 4:13pm Top

Beautiful review, Karen! I too loved The Secret Life of Bees and think it was her fiction debut.

May 11, 9:58am Top

>157 connie53: Hi Connie!

>158 detailmuse: Thanks, MJ! I'm sure I'll run across a copy eventually - I've been trying really hard (except for the book sales) to not buy books. I haven't bought any in May so far.

May 11, 10:01am Top

20. The Supremes at Earl’s All-You-Can-Eat by Edward Kelsey Moore
5/5/18 to 5/11/18

From Amazon:

This diner in Plainview, Indiana is home away from home for Odette, Clarice, and Barbara Jean. Dubbed "The Supremes" by high school pals in the tumultuous 1960s, they’ve weathered life’s storms for over four decades and counseled one another through marriage and children, happiness and the blues.

Now, however, they’re about to face their most challenging year yet. Proud, talented Clarice is struggling to keep up appearances as she deals with her husband’s humiliating infidelities; beautiful Barbara Jean is rocked by the tragic reverberations of a youthful love affair; and fearless Odette is about to embark on the most terrifying battle of her life. With wit, style and sublime talent, Edward Kelsey Moore brings together three devoted allies in a warmhearted novel that celebrates female friendship and second chances.

Why I wanted to read it: I bought it at the Friends of the Library book sale last fall on the recommendation of friend Rhoda. It just called my name.

This book took a bit to get into. There were too many characters introduced too quickly, and it was a while before I got the right husband matched with the right Supreme. The story moved back and forth in time and chapters were told from various points of view and various people’s perceptions. Chapter titles would have helped me keep things in perspective a bit better. However, by about 2/3 of the way through, I was in the groove and thoroughly enjoying it.

I really liked the ghosts. They weave seamlessly through the book, moving the story along, helping when needed. We’re introduced to the fact that Odette sees ghosts in the first chapter. In addition, there was a warmhearted humor throughout the book that encompassed most of the characters – Earl, his first wife Miss Thelma, Miss Minnie, and of course the Supremes and their husbands, children, and grandchildren.

The male author does a beautiful job of writing from a female perspective. Here’s what he says about the book:
The Supremes at Earl’s All-You-Can-Eat is rooted in the fond memories I have of a childhood spent eavesdropping on the women of my family as they talked at family gatherings. Even I was too young to fully understand the often very adult subject matter of their conversations, I was struck by how quickly the topics veered from heartbreakingly tragic to wildly hilarious. My intention in writing this novel was to celebrate the joy of true friendship and to invite readers to remember the smart, funny, and strong women in their lives.”
Mission accomplished, Mr. Moore.

May 11, 11:38am Top

>160 karenmarie: That sounds good - it's nice to hear that a male author can write from a female perspective (the recent "write yourself the way a male author would" - sorry can't remember the exact hashtag - was hilarious, but also really quite depressing).

May 15, 5:05pm Top

Hi Jackie!

Sorry I didn't reply sooner - thank you. It was entirely believable. I haven't heard abut the 'write yourself the way a male author would' hashtag - that would be Twitter, right?

May 17, 8:18am Top

>162 karenmarie: Hi Karen! Yes, it started on twitter, and was hilarious - this link gives you a good idea of what people came up with (TL;DR version: male authors, we don't spend our entire consciousness aware of our breasts!): https://www.boredpanda.com/challenge-describe-yourself-like-male-author-would-whitney-reynolds/

Edited: May 18, 10:24pm Top

21. Longbourn by Jo Baker
5/11/18 to 5/18/18

From Amazon:

• Pride and Prejudice was only half the story •

If Elizabeth Bennet had the washing of her own petticoats, Sarah often thought, she’d most likely be a sight more careful with them.

In this irresistibly imagined belowstairs answer to Pride and Prejudice, the servants take center stage. Sarah, the orphaned housemaid, spends her days scrubbing the laundry, polishing the floors, and emptying the chamber pots for the Bennet household. But there is just as much romance, heartbreak, and intrigue downstairs at Longbourn as there is upstairs. When a mysterious new footman arrives, the orderly realm of the servants’ hall threatens to be completely, perhaps irrevocably, upended.

Jo Baker dares to take us beyond the drawing rooms of Jane Austen’s classic—into the often overlooked domain of the stern housekeeper and the starry-eyed kitchen maid, into the gritty daily particulars faced by the lower classes in Regency England during the Napoleonic Wars—and, in doing so, creates a vivid, fascinating, fully realized world that is wholly her own.

Why I wanted to read it: It called out to me. The timing was right.

Pride and Prejudice is one of my favorite books of all time, confirmed by multiple readings and the 6-hour BBC miniseries with Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth.

The footman, mentioned only once in P&P according to Ms. Baker, becomes a pivotal figure, with a dramatic and completely fabricated backstory. His backstory reveals a shocking aspect of one of the major characters, and his brutal experiences as a foot soldier in the Napoleonic wars are described in great detail.

So, too, the daily trials and tribulations of servants in a house with claims to gentility are described in meticulous detail. We see the drudgery, invisibility to their master and mistress and three youngest daughters, and bare and condescending visibility to Elizabeth and Jane.

The chapter headings are direct quotes from P&P and are amusing as they place the servants experiences relative to the P&P storyline. This knowledge of what is going on with the Family tie us even more to the story of Mr. and Mrs. Hill, Sarah, Polly, and the mysterious footman. Elizabeth, Jane, Bingley and Darcy are wraiths flitting in and out of the detailed story of the people who keep Longbourn running. Mrs. Bennett becomes a character of some sympathy, as does Mary. Mr. Bennett loses some of the respect I had held for him although his distance and distaste for his wife and 3 of his girls were made clear in the original.

This novel is a very welcome addition to the Pride and Prejudice canon.

May 19, 3:03pm Top

>164 karenmarie: I have that one on my TBR, Karen, your review has made me quite enthusiastic about it when the Jar of Fate eventually decides to give it to me! I'm particularly intrigued by the idea of a sympathetic Mrs Bennett!

May 19, 5:26pm Top

I hope it gets picked soon, Jackie! That's one of the beauties of this book, being told by the servants and their totally different observations and understandings of the gentry.

May 20, 4:52am Top

Hi Karen, just popping in as I'm catching up with the threads - Longbourn sounds like a fun read! I have a few modern 'spin-offs' from classic novels and haven't got round to them yet - must move them up the pile this year!

May 20, 9:34am Top

Hi Donna! I've read quite a few P&P spinoffs, but always from the point of view of the gentry. They've either been modern day women fantasizing about Mr. Darcy or the continued lives of Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy. This one has much more depth, more creative what-if-ing, and historical detail. It's been on my shelves for half a year. It's amazing how sometimes books just call out to me and then actually work!

May 20, 11:14am Top

>164 karenmarie: Karen, I think you might have convinced me to add this one to the to-read list! I've seen it around for years but never been quite sure.

May 20, 2:16pm Top

Hi RP!

Ah, what we in the 75ers group call a Book Bullet! If you like P&P, then I can wholeheartedly recommend this one.

May 26, 4:35pm Top

I'm slightly ashamed (but more so excited!) that I still have P&P in my TBRs. Must get to it this year!

May 26, 8:51pm Top

Hi MJ!

You have a treat in store, whenever you decide to read it.

May 28, 10:32am Top

K is for Killer by Sue Grafton
5/26/18 to 5/28/18

From Amazon:

Lorna Kepler was beautiful and willful, a loner who couldn't resist flirting with danger. Maybe that's what killed her.

Her death had raised a host of tough questions. The cops suspected homicide, but they could find neither motive nor suspect. Even the means were mysterious: Lorna's body was so badly decomposed when it was discovered that they couldn't be certain she hadn't died of natural causes. In the way of overworked cops everywhere, the case was gradually shifted to the back burner and became another unsolved file.

Only Lorna's mother kept it alive, consumed by the certainty that somebody out there had gotten away with murder.
In the ten months since her daughter's death, Janice Kepler had joined a support group, trying to come to terms with her loss and her anger. It wasn't helping. And so, leaving a session one evening and noticing a light on in the offices of Millhone Investigations, she knocked on the door.

In answering that knock, Kinsey Millhone is pulled into the netherworld of unavenged murder, where only a pact with the devil will satisfy the restless ghosts of the victims and give release to the living they have left behind.

Why I wanted to read it: Time to read some more Kinsey Millhone mysteries in my year-long quest to re-read The Alphabet Series by Sue Grafton.

I really liked my re-read of this one, although there are several convenient plot twists that reveal the murderer to Kinsey. Grafton vividly portrays some of the peripheral characters in all their strengths and weaknesses, and there is a minor plot about Lorna’s jewelry and money. Mostly it’s just Kinsey being Kinsey, by which I mean tenacious as a pit bull, relentless in her pursuit of the truth, and, once again, somewhat careless of her own personal safety.

K is for Killer had no romance, no Henry, nothing to tie Kinsey to her routine or environment. As she digs deeper and deeper she realizes that there are powerful figures in the background and powerful motives for murder; however, this mystery could be taking place in a vacuum as far as character and relationship development goes for Kinsey and her friends and acquaintances.

What always appeals to me in these books is how Kinsey is a combination of tough and smart and vulnerable and misguided. Here’s a bit of fun about her arachnophobia:
Gingerly I got down on my hands and the balls of my feet and duck-walked my way under. The spider kiddies viewed me with alarm, and many of them fled in what must have been spider fear and panic. Later they would have horrified conversations about the unpredictability of humans. “Eeew. All those fingers,” they’d say. “And those big nasty feet. They always look like they’re about to squish you.” Spider mothers would console them. “Most humans are completely harmless, and they’re just as scared of us as we are of them,” they’d say.
I really liked how Grafton developed the oddball relationship between Kinsey and a friend of Lorna’s, Danielle. Kinsey gets emotionally involved in this case and lets her heart overrule her head to make a fateful phone call. In some ways Kinsey acts very un-Kinsey-like, but for some reason it works and this is a solid entry in The Alphabet Series.

May 29, 4:21pm Top

22. The Grand Tour: Around the World with the Queen of Mystery by Agatha Christie, edited by Mathew Prichard

From Amazon:

Agatha Christie is the most widely published author of all time, outsold only by the Bible and Shakespeare. In this fascinating travelogue of the prolific author's yearlong trip around the British Empire in 1922, Christie provides the clues to the origins of the plots and locales of some of her bestselling mystery novels. Containing never-before-published letters and photos from her travels, and filled with intriguing details about the exotic locations she visited, The Grand Tour is a must-have for Agatha Christie fans, revealing an unexpected side to the world's most renowned mystery writer.

In 1922 Agatha Christie set sail on a ten-month voyage around the world. Her husband, Archibald Christie, had been invited to join a trade mission to promote the British Empire Exhibition, and Christie was determined to go with him. It was a life-changing decision for the young novelist, a true voyage of discovery that would inspire her future writing for years to come.

Placing her two-year-old daughter in the care of her sister, Christie set sail at the end of January and did not return home until December. Throughout her journey, she kept up a detailed weekly correspondence with her mother, describing the exotic places and the remarkable people she encountered as the mission traveled through South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii, and Canada. Reproduced here for the first time, the letters are full of tales of seasickness and sunburn, motor trips and surfboarding, glamor and misery. The Grand Tour also brings to life the places and people Christie encountered through the photos she took on her portable camera, as well as some of the original postcards, newspaper cuttings, and memorabilia she collected on her trip.

Edited and introduced by Agatha Christie's grandson, Mathew Prichard, and accompanied by reminiscences from her own autobiography, this unique travelogue reveals a new adventurous side to Agatha Christie, one that would ultimately influence the stories that made her a household name.

Why I wanted to read it: Meg (Familyhistorian) recently mentioned that she just read The Man in the Brown Suit. One of the characters, Sir Eustace Pedler, is based on the real-life Major E.A. Belcher, head of the trade mission.

The Grand Tour is fascinating and repetitious, narrowly focused and limited to the things the locals wanted the Mission to see. There is only one time when local politics and unrest made their way into the story. One has to view it through the prism of 1920s British hubris in Christie’s prejudices and occasional snobbery.

However, she was passionately interested in everything she saw and everyone she met. She desperately missed her mother, sister, brother, and of course her daughter Rosalind, “Teddy”. But she was on an adventure which she saw as her one and only opportunity to see the world. Little did she know that her marriage with Archie Christie would end in recriminations and divorce 4 years later and that she would marry the archaeologist Max Mallowan and travel the world by his side.

There are dozens and dozens of photographs, menus, newspaper articles, and photocopies of the letters she sent home, both handwritten and written on her Corona. They all shed light on her attention to detail, joy at being where she was (most of the time!) and insights into life in the remoter parts of the British Empire. Retaining British customs and lifestyles is clearly displayed. Social hierarchy is maintained. One can see the real life people who became characters and caricatures in her later short stories and novels.

Well worth the read to a serious Agatha Christie fan, perhaps less so to someone not quite as appreciative of her works and life.

May 31, 4:23pm Top

23. The Man in the Brown Suit by Agatha Christie
5/29/18 to 5/31/18

From Amazon:

A young woman investigates an accidental death at a London tube station, and finds herself of a ship bound for South Africa... Pretty, young Anne came to London looking for adventure. In fact, adventure comes looking for her - and finds her immediately at Hyde Park Corner tube station. Anne is present on the platform when a thin man, reeking of mothballs, loses his balance and is electocuted on the rails. The Scotland Yard verdict is accidental death. But Anne is not satisfied. After all, who was the man in the brown suit who examined the body? And why did he race off, leaving a cryptic message behind: `17-122 Kilmorden Castle'?

Why I wanted to re-read it: Meg (Familyhistorian) recently mentioned that she just read The Man in the Brown Suit. One of the characters, Sir Eustace Pedler, is based on the real-life Major E.A. Belcher, head of the trade mission in Agatha Christie’s memoir The Grand Tour. I just read The Grand Tour and so it was definitely time for a re-read of The Man in the Brown Suit.

'Memoir' is a deceptive term, because it was an editor’s dream to have letters, photos, menus, programs, newspaper articles, and Agatha Christie’s diary to present us with her Grand Tour. Her grandson did a fine job. Agatha Christie never saw this book, but it is a spirited account of an adventuresome young woman traveling around the world.

Having read one after the other, I’ll always think of these two books as related. Christie could be Ann Beddingfeld herself - fearless, curious, ready to go on an adventure at a moment’s notice, not worried about money, open to any and all experiences.

There are so many little references to things Christie wrote about on the tour that I wonder what adventures later in her life became references, details, characters, and plots in other books.

We see Sir Eustace Pedler as autocratic, childish, and pompous, much as Major Belcher was described. Peaches are thrown, early breakfasts are abhorred, secretaries are bullied. Several stick-in-the-mud secretaries and clerks make a combined appearance as long-suffering secretary Guy Pagett. I think that Harry, the Man in the Brown Suit, is Archie Christie himself, still in love with and still passionately loved by Dame Agatha.

As far as the story goes, there are many coincidences, improbable plot manipulations, and stereotypes. It’s dated but fun, a frivolous romp if you discount the murders at the beginning and the evil things done for filthy lucre.

May 31, 4:43pm Top

Do you know, I've only ever read one Agatha Christie book in my life (The Mysterious Affair at Styles). I really should read some more, and I'm really keen after your reviews to read some biographical stuff about her too, as she seems such an interesting person!

May 31, 5:40pm Top

>22 karenmarie: Ooh that sounds so good! Like Jackie, I'm a Christie novice (I've only read Murder on the Orient Express and And Then There Were None, both of which I loved) but this sounds right up my alley!

May 31, 6:09pm Top

>176 Jackie_K: Hi Jackie! You have many to choose from - Poirot, Miss Marple, Colonel Race, Tuppence and Tommy, Harley Quin, Superintendent Battle, .... let's see. Mr. Satterwaite. Parker Pine. ...? I think that's it but am not 100% sure. Oh, one more - Ariadne Oliver.

Agatha Christie is only one of a few authors whose short stories I love. Dorothy L. Sayers, J.D. Salinger come to mind, some O'Henry, some Edith Wharton.

Have fun finding something wonderful by Christie - Agatha Christie Bibliography

>177 Miss_Moneypenny: Welcome to my thread, Miss_Moneypenny. Your first is a Poirot, the second a standalone mystery. The Man in the Brown Suit is a lot of fun.

Edited: Jun 10, 9:36am Top

M is for Malice by Sue Grafton
6/7/18 to 6/10/18

From Amazon:

Brace yourself for an "Electrifying and thoroughly satisfying" read (Publishers Weekly) from #1 New York Times bestselling author Sue Grafton

"M" is for money. Lots of it. "M" is for Malek Construction, the $40 million company that grew out of modest soil to become one of the big three in California construction, one of the few still in family hands.

"M" is for the Malek family: four sons now nearing middle age who stand to inherit a fortune--four men with very different outlooks, temperaments, and needs, linked only by blood and money. Eighteen years ago, one of them--angry, troubled, and in trouble--went missing.

"M" is for Millhone, hired to trace that missing black sheep brother.

"M" is for memories, none of them happy. The bitter memories of an embattled family. This prodigal son will find no welcome at his family's table. "M" is for malice.

And in brutal consequence, "M" is for murder, the all-too-common outcome of familial hatreds.

"M" is for malice . . . and malice kills.

Why I wanted to re-read it: Next up in my year-long re-read of The Alphabet Series by Sue Grafton.

One of the best in the series so far, this one led me on the wild goose chase Grafton cooked up for her readers. There are red herrings galore and a surprising yet highly satisfactory end.

Guy Malek left eighteen years earlier and hadn’t been heard from again. Bader Malek, the father, had written a new will leaving Guy out. When he died, only the old will could be found, which included Guy and gave each son a hefty five million dollars. This caused some ill will, as you can imagine.

Kinsey finds Guy easily, in a nearby town. Guy comes home and things don’t go well.

Kinsey feels an instant rapport with Guy and although she can’t envision them as a couple, sees annual trips to Disneyland and a sweet friendship. This is in contrast with her relationship with Robert Dietz, who rumbles back into her life for a bit on his way north to see his two sons. Kinsey’s hot button is being abandoned, which Dietz does each time he rolls into her life. He’s never dishonest with her, but her needs complicate what to him is a simple occasional fling with someone he really likes.

Grafton likes to philosophize and preach. M is for Malice is no different, although it’s mostly philosophizing here. I loved the following:
Every investigation has a nature of its own, but there are certain shared characteristics, namely the painstaking accumulation of information and the patience required. Here’s what you hope for: a chance remark from a former neighbor on a skip-trace, a penciled notation on the corner of a document, an ex-spouse with a grudge, the number on an account, an item overlooked at the scene of a crime. Here’s what you expect: the dead ends, bureaucratic bullheadedness, the cul-de-sacs, trails that go nowhere or simply fade into thin air, denials, prevarications, the blank-eyed stares from all the hostile witnesses. Here’s what you know: that you’ve done it before and you have the toughness and determination to pull it off again. Here’s what you want: justice. Here’s what you’ll settle for: something equivalent, the quid pro quo.
Kinsey’s own bullheadedness pays off in the end, with help from Dietz.

Jun 18, 3:09pm Top

24. End of Watch by Stephen King
6/13/18 to 6/18/18

From Amazon:

The spectacular finale to the New York Times bestselling trilogy that began with Mr. Mercedes (winner of the Edgar Award) and Finders Keepers—In End of Watch, the diabolical “Mercedes Killer” drives his enemies to suicide, and if Bill Hodges and Holly Gibney don’t figure out a way to stop him, they’ll be victims themselves.

In Room 217 of the Lakes Region Traumatic Brain Injury Clinic, something has awakened. Something evil. Brady Hartsfield, perpetrator of the Mercedes Massacre, where eight people were killed and many more were badly injured, has been in the clinic for five years, in a vegetative state. According to his doctors, anything approaching a complete recovery is unlikely. But behind the drool and stare, Brady is awake, and in possession of deadly new powers that allow him to wreak unimaginable havoc without ever leaving his hospital room.

Retired police detective Bill Hodges, the unlikely hero of Mr. Mercedes and Finders Keepers, now runs an investigation agency with his partner, Holly Gibney—the woman who delivered the blow to Hartsfield’s head that put him on the brain injury ward. When Bill and Holly are called to a suicide scene with ties to the Mercedes Massacre, they find themselves pulled into their most dangerous case yet, one that will put their lives at risk, as well as those of Bill’s heroic young friend Jerome Robinson and his teenage sister, Barbara. Brady Hartsfield is back, and planning revenge not just on Hodges and his friends, but on an entire city.

In End of Watch, Stephen King brings the Hodges trilogy to a sublimely terrifying conclusion, combining the detective fiction of Mr. Mercedes and Finders Keepers with the heart-pounding, supernatural suspense that has been his bestselling trademark. The result is an unnerving look at human vulnerability and chilling suspense. No one does it better than King.

Why I wanted to read it: chellebearss just finished The Outsider, King’s newest. In talking about it, she says that there are spoilers to the Bill Hodges Trilogy, so I thought I should finish up the trilogy before even thinking about The Outsider.

Bill Hodges is so likeable, so what a good cop should be. He cares about his partner Holly and about his old partner Pete. He is obsessed with his old nemesis Brady Hartsfield, but stopped visiting him in the Traumatic Brain Injury Clinic when Holly asked him to. Bill knows that Brady’s “in there”, but he never imagines Brady’s final plan to wreak havoc on the people he thinks put him where he is, and his intention to kill thousands.

Typical King in a good way. The writing drew me in immediately. Characters are vivid and as the horror slowly unfolds, there is nothing that makes it NOT seem believable.

My biggest criticism is that we’re moving along nicely, events unfolding, things being revealed, when we suddenly make an irritating detour back to details about some events that we don’t need. We’ve gotten the gist of it already. However, there’s the insecurity of possibly missing something new, so I read through it, somewhat impatiently, and realizing that at least for me, it didn’t add anything necessary to the story.

A second criticism is about all the coincidences that abound. Brady Hartsfield is one unlucky evil criminal – people he attempts to kill don’t die but he doesn’t make sure, a damsel in distress is rescued by a knight in shining armor, and an amok piece of equipment does serious damage to a human body.

Other than that, dread, fear, horror, and an inevitable confrontation make this a good read that I couldn’t put down. Of course this is in the daytime – I couldn’t read it at night, when the fear and knowledge of evil are heightened.

Jun 19, 12:27pm Top

>180 karenmarie: I enjoyed reading your recap and loved the reminder of things being scarier at night. The dangers of the dark are fascinating and must be so hard-wired in us!

Jun 19, 2:17pm Top

>180 karenmarie: Brrr, I'm a literary wimp so there's no way I'd read Stephen King! I'm too much of a cowardy-custard, I like my sleep nightmare-free (and reading in the day wouldn't be enough of a deterrent) :)

Jun 19, 4:45pm Top

>181 detailmuse: Thanks, MJ! I agree about the dangers of the dark being hard-wired into us!

>182 Jackie_K: Hi Jackie. It's good to know what's good for you and to take care of yourself, book/fear wise.

There are some authors I can't read because they creep me out. There are some Stephen King novels I can't read for that reason, and a couple I regret reading. But this one was okay in the day. *smile*

Edited: Jun 27, 5:14pm Top

Hi Karen

I could be making this up, but I seem to remember you talking about a birthday around about now. I hope you've had a good day - happy birthday! :)

Jun 28, 9:25am Top

Hi Jackie!

My birthday was on the 26th. Thank you. I had a wonderful day - I'm visiting a college friend in Montana. We've been to book stores, had a first-time meet up with an LT friend in Missoula (streamsong), have talked 'til all hours of the night, and have been adding birds to my life list. I'll be here 'til July 13th.

I haven't been getting much reading done, but am probably going to send 2 of 3 boxes of books home from friend Karen (duplicates she's acquired over the years) and the 10 books I've bought so far. *happy dance*

Jun 28, 11:15am Top

>183 karenmarie: hmm wondering which Kings you regret reading? I enjoy suspense and thrillers and even the scary aspects of horror, but have a low tolerance for "disturbing."

Happy belated birthday! And what a wonderful, long getaway, enjoy!

Jun 28, 11:44am Top

>185 karenmarie: Oh that sounds wonderful! I gather Montana is really beautiful, so I'm sure you're having a brilliant time. And meeting old and new friends is the icing on the cake!

Jun 28, 5:58pm Top

>185 karenmarie: Oooh, bookstore visits! I expect a full report on your haul when you get home ;)

Jun 28, 6:16pm Top

>186 detailmuse: Hi MJ! Bag of Bones and Dreamcatcher specifically, Hearts of Atlantis just because I didn't like the story.

Thank you re my birthday. I'm having a wonderful time.

>187 Jackie_K: Montana is gorgeous, Jackie. I'll try to post a picture of the view from Karen's deck tomorrow. And you're right - old and new friends, icing on the cake!

>188 rabbitprincess: Hi RP! Absolutely! I'll be mailing boxes home as I get closer to the end of the journey so Bill won't have to cope with boxes.

Edited: Jul 30, 4:35pm Top

Well, here we are, a month later. I got home Jul 13th, had a wonderful time, mailed home 4 boxes of books containing 95 books, 3 of which turned out to either be duplicates or upgrades of copies of books I already had.

Surprisingly, I'm not reading anything just acquired, but am reading a ROOT, Confederates in the Attic, in honor of Karen's mentioning Cats of the Confederacy, which is mentioned on page 32, formed by a woman who had no offspring to join the Sons or Daughters of the Confederacy.

Jul 30, 9:59am Top

>190 karenmarie: Oh wow that sounds like quite the haul - and only 3 duplicates, not bad! I'm glad you had a great holiday - I hope you're feeling rested and batteries recharged!

Jul 30, 4:36pm Top

Hi Jackie!

I've been busy, and my daughter's home for a week or more - she turns 25 on August 3rd and I'm having book club for 12 at my house on August 5th.

Today she and I watched a couple of movie, rearranged some of my books, and have just been enjoying each other's company.

Jul 31, 7:32am Top

>192 karenmarie: Sounds like you have a pretty full-on week ahead of you! Happy birthday to your daughter for Friday! (I wish I was 25 again! My next birthday is twice that and I'm feeling it today!).

Jul 31, 7:46am Top

Hi Jackie! Thank you - I'll pass your greeting on.

I don't think I stopped to think when I turned 50 - Jenna was 10, I was working full time, and ... let's see... if she was in 5th grade at the middle school, we were paying for a trombone and I was Treasurer of the Parent/Teacher Association. Busy times.

Sorry you're feeling your age today. Of course, being 65, I'd like to feel 50 again!

Aug 4, 8:44am Top

25. Confederates in the Attic by Tony Horwitz
7/15/18 to 7/29/18

From Amazon:

For all who remain intrigued by the legacy of the Civil War -- reenactors, battlefield visitors, Confederate descendants and other Southerners, history fans, students of current racial conflicts, and more -- this ten-state adventure is part travelogue, part social commentary and always good-humored. “Splendid.” –Roy Blount, Jr., The New York Times Book Review

When prize-winning war correspondent Tony Horwitz leaves the battlefields of Bosnia and the Middle East for a peaceful corner of the Blue Ridge Mountains, he thinks he's put war zones behind him. But awakened one morning by the crackle of musket fire, Horwitz starts filing front-line dispatches again this time from a war close to home, and to his own heart.

Propelled by his boyhood passion for the Civil War, Horwitz embarks on a search for places and people still held in thrall by America's greatest conflict. The result is an adventure into the soul of the unvanquished South, where the ghosts of the Lost Cause are resurrected through ritual and remembrance.

In Virginia, Horwitz joins a band of 'hardcore' reenactors who crash-diet to achieve the hollow-eyed look of starved Confederates; in Kentucky, he witnesses Klan rallies and calls for race war sparked by the killing of a white man who brandishes a rebel flag; at Andersonville, he finds that the prison's commander, executed as a war criminal, is now exalted as a martyr and hero; and in the book's climax, Horwitz takes a marathon trek from Antietam to Gettysburg to Appomattox in the company of Robert Lee Hodge, an eccentric pilgrim who dubs their odyssey the 'Civil Wargasm.'

Written with Horwitz's signature blend of humor, history, and hard-nosed journalism, Confederates in the Attic brings alive old battlefields and new ones 'classrooms, courts, country bars' where the past and the present collide, often in explosive ways. Poignant and picaresque, haunting and hilarious, it speaks to anyone who has ever felt drawn to the mythic South and to the dark romance of the Civil War.

Why I wanted to read it: Friend Karen in Montana had pulled it from her stacks for me to read while I was on vacation, but I read other things instead. I pulled it out of my stacks when I got home.

Amazon’s description is almost adequate as a review, with the exception of how intriguing it is to me that 20 years after its publication all the same issues of polarization, white supremacism, racism, pride, Southernness, and fascination with the war – even including what to call it – are still here. Sometimes I just shake my head in wonder at the impact of and fascination with the war, other times I want to cry.

And in looking up Tony Horwitz, I discovered that he’s been married to Geraldine Brooks for 34 years – how cool is that?

Aug 4, 4:10pm Top

Karen, welcome home, happy birthday to Daughter and good luck with 12 book clubbers tomorrow!!

>195 karenmarie: Want to read this right now. Just went to a family reunion and wandered into Pennsylvania to see Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater and also the 9/11 Flight 93 memorial. While planning the trip, I noticed we were only 3 hours from Gettysburg...and three more from DC... We're overdue in getting back to both those places but it was not in the cards for that trip. Must read Confederates in the Attic before Gettysburg!

Aug 5, 8:57am Top

>195 karenmarie: That sounds a really interesting read, Karen - although I must admit I don't get the attraction of the whole re-enactment thing at all. I mean, we've gone to watch re-enactments before and they've been entertaining, but doing it week after week and it being the main thing to do in your life, I don't really see the appeal of that.

Aug 5, 9:53am Top

>196 detailmuse: Thank you, MJ! It's been a very busy time since I got home and will continue through this week. The week of the 13th I should be able to relax a bit. But I'm having fun, and preparing for book club tonight. The menu is:

Appetizer: White Bean Dip with Pita Chips, Carrots and Celery, Gherkins and Black Olives
Dinner: Fiesta Chicken Salad with Honey-Lime Vinaigrette, Italian Pasta, Mozzarella and Albacore Salad, Bread and butter
Dessert:Lemon meringue pie

White and red wine, Water, Lemonade, Decaf coffee

In 2010 the three of us went on a 13-day, 14(?) state vacation, combining sight seeing, visiting family, and genealogical research. One of the more memorable parts was our visit to Shiloh.

I think you'll like the book, and it will be a good read prior to any Civil War battlefields/sites visits.

>197 Jackie_K: I don't get it either, Jackie. You could write a book about the reasons people do it, and, indeed, a large part of Horwitz's book is dedicated to re-enactments, re-enactors, and the motives for participating.

Aug 5, 4:01pm Top

>198 karenmarie: YUM!! If you can, will you post what book you discussed and the group's reactions?

Aug 5, 9:54pm Top

Of course, MJ!

We discussed Shine Shine Shine by Lydia Netzer. Here's a link to the review I wrote on my 75 Book Challenge thread: review of Shine Shine Shine

Of the 10 people present, one got confused and read next month's book - The Storied Life of A.J. Fickry, one recently had a major stroke and hadn't read it. So of the 8 of us, everybody liked it although there were specific scenes that a few folks didn't like (violence with a baseball bat). We all were charmed that the protagonists were what society would consider weird yet were just trying to live their lives like anybody else. I found the book hopeful and intelligently written. It also had some terribly funny, some poignant, and some just plain sad scenes.

Aug 7, 4:55pm Top

>200 karenmarie: Karen your review kept sounding familiar and I realized that I've read that one! I listened to it on audio, actually … it was some years ago and I never connect as well with audiobooks, so the fact that it's memorable speaks well of it!

Aug 8, 8:45am Top

Hi MJ!

I'm glad you remembered thinking well of it. I'm rather stingy with stars, so for me to give it 4.5 stars - "stunning" in my rating world - says how much I liked it.

Edited: Aug 9, 9:06am Top

Hi Karen. Just popping in and trying to catch up on threads (Lots of them)

Aug 9, 9:15am Top

Hi Connie! I know the feeling of being behind on threads.

Aug 18, 9:35am Top

N is for Noose by Sue Grafton
8/17/18 to 8/18/18

From Amazon:

Tom Newquist had been a detective in the Nota Lake sheriff's office--a tough, honest cop respected by everyone. When he died suddenly, the townfolk were sad but not surprised. Just shy of sixty-five, Newquist worked too hard, drank too much, and exercised too little.

Newquist's widow, Selma, didn't doubt the coroner's report. But still, she couldn't help wondering what had so bothered Tom in the last six weeks of his life. What was it that had made him prowl restlessly at night and brood constantly? Determined to help Selma find the answer, Kinsey Millhone sets up shop in Nota Lake, where she finds that looking for a needle in a haystack can draw blood--very likely, her own.

Why I wanted to read it: Next up in The Alphabet Series. I’m re-reading the series this year in honor of Sue Grafton.

I love the kind of mystery that starts as a tiny little blip - like trying to discover why a husband was upset the last few months of his life - and builds layer upon layer until there are bad guys, assaults, and murders.

As always, Kinsey is a combination of expert P.I. and blundering fool. I liked the small town atmosphere of Nota Lake although its unsavory aspects become apparent after a while. There are a lot of secrets, one or two screeching coincidences, and our lovable Kinsey, warts and all.

I only had one problem with this one: Why, after actually getting her hands on Tom’s notebook through a series of good deductions and relentless interviewing, does she tell anybody at all, much less Brant, the person who turns out to be the attacker and murderer. As soon as I read those few fateful sentences, I thought “Well, that was really stupid, Kinsey.” Admittedly, this usually occurs once a novel, but this one was glaring and stunningly stupid.

As I just wrote in the spoiler (but don’t look unless you want to know who the murderer is), Kinsey usually does one stupendously stupid thing per novel. Nobody’s perfect, but I almost always see it right away. Sometimes it’s a dead giveaway to the solution, other times it’s a bit more nuanced than that.

Anyway, Kinsey’s usual snark is present in her criticisms of home décor, processed foods, and descriptions of people, usually derogatory. She’s also persevering and stubborn. All in all, this is a solid entry in the series.

Aug 19, 2:04pm Top

>205 karenmarie: This is the second or third Grafton you've made me really eager to read ... each of them too far into the series to realistically just jump in on. But keeping it all in mind, maybe someday!

Aug 19, 5:25pm Top

Here's another one:

O is for Outlaw by Sue Grafton
8/18/18 to 8/19/18

From Amazon:

Once Mickey Magruder was a cop with a wild streak. And Kinsey Millhone was a younger cop who adored and married him. Then Mickey was implicated in a fatal beating, and Kinsey walked out. Now, fourteen years later, she comes face-to-face with those tragic years and Mickey's harrowing downward spiral after he lost the job he loved--and the marriage he loved a little less.

Mickey lies dying in an L.A. hospital. Trying to find out how Mickey got there, Kinsey uncovers evidence that he was innocent of the beating charge. But as she searches through the lives that swirled around Mickey's--lives gone wrong and lives gone well--Kinsey must also search the blind spots of her own life, including one that hides a killer.

Why I wanted to read it: Next up in The Alphabet Series. I’m re-reading the series this year in honor of Sue Grafton.

This is one of the books in the series that reveals quite a bit about Kinsey. We’ve always known she’s been married twice, but now we learn about her first marriage to Mickey. Kinsey once again comes across as dogged, stubborn, and persistent, but also vulnerable, immature, and, when she marries Mickey, definitely in love with him.

We have loads of delicious snark in this one, too:
A serving wench was circulating with a tray of hors d’ouevres: teeny-weeny one bite lamb chops with paper panties on the ends. P 174

With her flat tummy, tiny waist, and minuscule hips, my guess was she’d had sufficient liposuction to create an entire separate human being. P 176

… an air of innocence, the same look babies have before they learn to bite and talk back. P 261
Every once in a while we get to hear about authors that Sue Grafton and/or Kinsey likes. Elmore Leonard, Len Deighton, and Dick Francis get mentioned frequently, but this time a peripheral character is reading The Conjure-Man by Rudolph Fisher, and, darned, if it isn’t a book bullet for me.

We get a bit of Henry, a bit of Rosie, a reference to Jonah and his on-again-off-again marriage, and some deft character portraits.

Aug 22, 3:12pm Top

The Storied Life of A. J. Fickry by Gabrielle Zevin
8/20/18 to 8/22/18

From Amazon:

“Funny, tender, and moving, The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry reminds us all exactly why we read and why we love.”*

A. J. Fikry’s life is not at all what he expected it to be. He lives alone, his bookstore is experiencing the worst sales in its history, and now his prized possession, a rare collection of Poe poems, has been stolen. But when a mysterious package appears at the bookstore, its unexpected arrival gives Fikry the chance to make his life over--and see everything anew.

Why I wanted to read it: My choice for our RL book club’s September discussion.

Something I rarely think – this book could have used about another 100 or pages to flesh things out more. I liked all of the characters except one, and wanted more explanation and interaction. The ending seemed rushed and sadder than it needed to be.

Having said that, I loved the conceit of each chapter’s title being a short story and the first page of each chapter a note from A.J. to one of the characters about the story and etc.

There are so many references to authors and books that I quickly gave up trying to note them all because it would have seriously interfered with my actual reading of the book.

The characters are deftly if sparingly portrayed. I particularly liked the ‘conversion’ of a one-author reader to being the leader of a book club with expansive choices and attendance. There are tragedies and joys and much is left unsaid, see my first comment about desiring a more detailed book. I don’t necessarily mean baby-step explanations of some of the things implied, but I felt like the author got tired of the book by the end and just wanted it finished.

Here are a few things of note:
They had only ever discussed books but what, in this life, is more personal than books? … And how rare is it to find someone who shares your tastes? P 18

… speaks to the necessity of encountering stories at precisely the right time in our lives. P 41

A.J. nods out of politeness, but he doesn’t believe in random acts. He is a reader and what he believes in is narrative construction. If a gun appears in act one, that gun had better go off by act three. P 59
And so, a very enjoyable book that could have given a bit more than it did.

Sep 1, 9:38am Top

28. The Bridge by Doug Marlette
8/26/18 to 8/31/18

From Amazon:

From Pulitzer Prize winner Doug Marlette comes the captivating story of Pick Cantrell, a successful newspaper cartoonist whose career has hit the skids. In the grip of a midlife meltdown, Pick returns with his wife and son to a small North Carolina town, where he confronts the ghosts of his past in the form of the family matriarch and his boyhood nemesis, Mama Lucy. What follows is an extraordinary story within a story, as Pick uncovers startling truths about himself and about the role his grandmother played in the tragic General Textile Strike Of 1934

A novel about family, love, and forgiveness, The Bridge explores how much we ever really know about others, and most important, about ourselves.

Why I wanted to read it: I’ve had it on my shelves for 6 years, but friend Louise raved about how good it was and gave me a well-read copy she said I could keep. I thought it would be a friendly gesture to read it and I’m glad I did.

Pick severely beats the editor of the paper he works for after a political cartoon is apologized for and Pick will be given restrictions on what he can draw and who has to approve it. Needless to say, he’s fired.

There are a few laugh-out-loud moments when Pick, wife Cameron, and son Wiley relocate from New York back to North Carolina. They used to live in Charlotte, but have now settled into an old mansion in a small town near Chapel Hill. It’s delightful to read about an area you’re familiar with. The Bridge of the title is Chicken Bridge, which is real and near where I live.

As they settle in, Pick starts spending time with his grandmother Mama Lucy, a woman he dislikes and holds responsible for his mother being sent to a mental institution. Mama Lucy pulls no punches, is a powerful matriarch, and always gets her way.

Mama Lucy has a cockatiel named Petey, which reminded me of my husband’s cousin John, who had several generations of parakeet named Petey. This amused me mightily.

Eventually Pick starts hearing bits and pieces of Lucy’s tumultuous teenage/early marriage years and the story of riots, union busting, and murder and mayhem come out. Pick’s astounded because he’s never heard any of this before.

Cameron and Pick’s relationship becomes very complicated and several incidents occur in which their marriage is tested. There are also some events that seem wildly improbable to me, any one of which would qualify as a major trauma, yet they keep occurring regularly and life just seems to go on. Perhaps this resiliency is part of what Marlette's trying to tell us.

This book was not as good as I thought it would be. The story jumps from the present to the past, which is all well and good in theory. It proceeds chronologically telling Pick’s story; however, it doesn’t go chronologically telling Mama Lucy’s story in the 1930s. I thought it was confusing. I understand why he did it, I think – he wanted to stagger the reader with a true explanation of a critical event during a particularly violent confrontation between workers and management. It made the story hard to follow for me, though, and the light-hearted early voice gave way to a self-important voice. I thought it was a bit too sentimental and the emotions were thrown at me without any lyricism or substantive credibility. It’s easy to think about love and betrayal and poor life choices, but it’s harder to write about them in a way that is not trite and shallow.

Having said that, the union organizing and busting activities of the 1930s were well portrayed as were the poverty of the times and the power of the rich in exploiting the poor.

I’m glad I read it but disappointed because it could have been more than it was.

Sep 1, 3:44pm Top

Two books that could have been more, Karen, I hope your next read is better.

I am going to read The Storied Life of A. J. Fickry this month.

Sep 1, 4:58pm Top

Hi Anita! Yes, each was good but a tad disappointing. I'll be interested in what you think of Storied Life.

My next read is not a ROOT.

Edited: Sep 1, 5:05pm Top

I never noticed I was on your ROOT thread, Karen! Just saw Storied life and replied. My copy is from the library.
Next read doesn't HAVE to be a ROOT to be a good read ;-)

Sep 1, 7:30pm Top

What a hoot, Anita! I think we're both on both threads, right? I usually just stick to one thread per person, but it's very nice to see you over here! I posted the Storied Life review on my 75 thread, too.

Sep 2, 7:04pm Top

>213 karenmarie: Yes we are, Karen, I probably starred you in both threads :-)
I will let you know when I have read The Storied Life of A. J. Fickry on the 75 thread.

Sep 11, 10:41am Top

Hi Karen

I've been hearing scary things about Hurricane Florence on the news - I'm not (to my embarrassment) very up on the geography of American states, but am I right in thinking NC is near where the hurricane is going past? If so, I really hope that you're safe and avoid damage.

Sep 11, 12:57pm Top

Hi Jackie!

Thank you for thinking of me. We are prepping as well as we can and feel confident that regardless of how nasty it is we'll be okay. The hurricane is projected to come ashore in North Carolina, a little bit north of where my daughter lives. Her classes were cancelled starting yesterday at 5 p.m. through at least Saturday. She came home this morning, thank God. Right now the path is projected to travel east-west about 60 miles south of us with 70-80 mph winds and lots and lots of rain. We've had a lot of rain recently, so the ground is saturated, making it likely that trees will fall and therefore we anticipate power outages. We do have a generator and food and water and etc., but it's stressful. It could change paths and be worse than we think or change paths and go far enough away from us that we'll only get a bit of wind and rain. We simply don't know yet, but as far as state-wide, it's going to be devastating.

Sep 11, 3:11pm Top

Oh my goodness! That is really too close for comfort! I'm glad you're well-prepared, and that your daughter is with you. I'll be thinking of you lots and looking out for news.

Sep 11, 3:29pm Top

Thanks, Jackie! I appreciate it.

Sep 11, 6:47pm Top

Thinking of you and hoping all goes well.

Sep 12, 11:15pm Top

Hi RP! Thank you. The storm has done one good thing for us here in central NC and one bad thing - it's tracking further south, meaning that it will probably actually go through South Carolina, which is better for us, but it's going to linger on the coast for up to a day or two, meaning more rain, more flooding, more trees down, more power outages, more danger.

We're just waiting it out. It still could change track and come through NC, could go even farther south, or, in a highly unlikely scenario, make a sharp turn and go back out to sea.

It's tiring worrying about it, for sure. Bill has to go into work tomorrow even though we expect tropical storm force winds starting about 2 p.m. tomorrow. Jenna and I secured all the patio and deck furniture today and brought in potential small flying projectiles. We'll have to keep the kitties in starting about noon tomorrow. We have a kitty door that we can lock with them inside, fortunately, since they're indoor/outdoor kitties.

Edited: Sep 13, 5:18am Top

Thinking of you, Karen, looks like you did all preparings to stay safe!

ETA: Oops, I did it again, I am on your ROOTs thread ;-)
I did finnish Storied Life a few days ago.

Sep 13, 2:37pm Top

Hi Anita!

Thank you. We've done the best we can to prepare. I'll finally be able to relax and ONLY worry about the storm when Bill gets home from work today. It's overcast, with an occasional hint of a breeze, but nothing to indicate a hurricane.

I'll have to go to your 75 thread and see what you think about Storied Life.

Sep 15, 10:25am Top

How are you doing, Karen? Please check in when you can/when power allows. I hope Florence isn't giving you too much of a battering/soaking.

Sep 15, 11:33am Top

We're all okay although the generator died. We've only had 2.5 inches of rain and only a few small wind gusts, thank goodness. The coast is trashed. Jenna's worried about her apartment and we don't know when she'll be able to get back into Wilmington. I'm thinking I might go with her when she goes - we'll see.

They were saying that this is a 1000-year storm for the coast and southeast North Carolina.

We have a call into the generator guy, but if it can't be repaired we'll still do fine. Jenna and I played some Yahtzee, I finished a book.

Thank you for checking in, Jackie!

Sep 16, 12:14pm Top

Ah, I'm so glad to hear you're safe! Although what a rubbish time to have your generator die! I hope it's not too long before you are able to venture out, and that Jenna's apartment is minimally affected by it all. I think going back with her sounds like a good idea - as well as support for her you can hopefully reassure yourself too that she's going to be OK.

Sep 16, 12:37pm Top

Hi Jackie! It turns out that the battery for the generator has died, and we can jump-start the generator with the tractor battery. We'll get a new generator battery sometime after this is over. We have power.

We have lost a large branch from our beautiful oak in the pasture. It's probably not going to be very pretty - here's a before and after - the 'before' is from 2016 when 3 ironwoods fell during Hurricane Matthew. Believe it or not, the ironwoods righted themselves when the foliage and top branches were cut and are fine.

We have no idea about Jenna's apartment. There are no roads open into Wilmington at this time - not a single one. We don't know how bad the flooding is where she lives - but we can't do a anything about it. We don't even know when she can get back into Wilmington. She's handling it pretty well, all things considered.

Sep 16, 12:45pm Top

I'm glad to hear you and your family are safe, Karen. I saw some pictures of Wilmington on the news and it looked terrifying.

Sep 16, 2:34pm Top

Hi Birgit!

We are, thank you. Most of the southeastern portion of North Carolina is under water and/or without power.

Sep 17, 5:19am Top

>226 karenmarie: Oh that is a shame about that beautiful tree :( I hope it can recover as well as the ironwoods did.

Continuing to think of you all.

Sep 17, 9:00am Top

Hi Jackie! Have no idea if the oak will survive. We're still staying indoors. Looks like the rain is ending. We've had 10.5 inches since Friday and the creek has overflowed the banks. It's not close to the house, fortunately. You can see the foliage from the downed oak branch.

Sep 18, 9:02am Top

We're all safe and sound. Bill's back at work today but we do not know when Jenna will be able to return to Wilmington. Classes are still cancelled indefinitely and the roads into Wilmington are still flooded.

Hurricane Florence is gone, but we had a thunderstorm yesterday afternoon. Imagine my surprise to turn around and see this outside the Sunroom:

Sep 18, 10:36am Top


Sep 18, 1:02pm Top

>231 karenmarie: Nice! So glad for your generally good news, sad about your beautiful tree! Know you must be so relieved that Jenna evacuated to be with you. Continued good wishes!

Sep 18, 3:28pm Top

>231 karenmarie: Wow - it's nice to see a sign of beauty after so much destruction. Wishing you well from here too, and I hope things settle down to something approaching normality soon.

Sep 18, 3:40pm Top

>232 MissWatson: Neat, huh, Birgit?

>233 detailmuse: Hi MJ! Thank you. We're muddling along. Jenna just got a text from her apartment complex that the street she lives on has been closed by the City of Wilmington. No telling when she'll be able to get back to her apartment, even if she could get back into Wilmington.

>234 Jackie_K: Hi Jackie! I thought so, too. Thank you.

Sep 18, 3:40pm Top

73. My Reading Life by Pat Conroy
9/7/18 to 9/18/18

From Amazon:

Bestselling author Pat Conroy acknowledges the books that have shaped him and celebrates the profound effect reading has had on his life.

Pat Conroy, the beloved American storyteller, is a voracious reader. Starting as a childhood passion that bloomed into a life-long companion, reading has been Conroy’s portal to the world, both to the farthest corners of the globe and to the deepest chambers of the human soul. His interests range widely, from Milton to Tolkien, Philip Roth to Thucydides, encompassing poetry, history, philosophy, and any mesmerizing tale of his native South. He has for years kept notebooks in which he records words and expressions, over time creating a vast reservoir of playful turns of phrase, dazzling flashes of description, and snippets of delightful sound, all just for his love of language. But for Conroy reading is not simply a pleasure to be enjoyed in off-hours or a source of inspiration for his own writing. It would hardly be an exaggeration to claim that reading has saved his life, and if not his life then surely his sanity.

In My Reading Life, Conroy revisits a life of reading through an array of wonderful and often surprising anecdotes: sharing the pleasures of the local library’s vast cache with his mother when he was a boy, recounting his decades-long relationship with the English teacher who pointed him onto the path of letters, and describing a profoundly influential period he spent in Paris, as well as reflecting on other pivotal people, places, and experiences. His story is a moving and personal one, girded by wisdom and an undeniable honesty. Anyone who not only enjoys the pleasures of reading but also believes in the power of books to shape a life will find here the greatest defense of that credo.

Why I wanted to read it: American Authors Challenge, a book I already had on my shelves waiting for me to pay attention to it.

The description has not been updated since Pat Conroy’s death in March of 2016.

What a paean to reading, books, and authors. Pat Conroy was being groomed to be a Marine like his father when his mother’s passion for books and reading overtook him and made him want to become an author.

This book is part autobiography, part memoir, part catalog of his extensive library, and part explanation for the influences on his writing. It is a wonderful book with frequent lapses into the “storytelling” that his critics have ‘accused’ him of.

At the risk of having missed one or two, I counted references to 118 different authors and 95 different works (poems, plays, novels, essays). His reading was eclectic and deep. He also re-read books, something I frequently do, although I can’t imagine reading War and Peace three times.

Here are some quotes that will give you a flavor of the book:
I’ve never been a great admirer of the pun so I didn’t quite catch my mother’s drift because there lives a strange literalist inside me who swats away at puns as though routing a swarm of flies. p 9

I trust the great novelists to teach me how to live how to feel, how to live and hate. I trust them to show me the dangers I will encounter on the road as I stagger on my own troubled passage through a complicated life of books that try to teach me how to die. p 11

Great books invited argument and disagreement but ignorance didn’t even earn a place at the table when ideas were the subject of dispute. p 53

I don’t think I’ll ever get over his death (Gene Norris, teacher and friend) and I don’t see much reason to try. p 69

France is the only country in the world where friendliness is one of the seven deadly sins. p 208

… obsessed with the sharp beauty and all the prickly, mettlesome dilemmas of the Old South. p 210

Now, when I pick up a book, the prayer that rises out of me is that it changes me utterly and that I am not the man who first selected that book from a well-stocked shelf. Here’s what I love: when a great writer turns me into a Jew from Chicago, a lesbian out of south Carolina, or a black woman moving into a subway entrance in Harlem. Turn me into something else, writers of the world. Make me Muslim, heretic, hermaphrodite. Put me into a crusader’s armor, a cardinal’s vestments. Let me feel the pgymy’s heartbeat, the queen’s breast, the torturer’s pleasure, the Nile’s taste, or the nomad’s thirst. Tell me everything I must know. Hold nothing back. p 243

…as lonely as an earthworm… p 253

And having decided against the other 8 quotes in the interest of not losing your interest, here’s the last one:

Even today, I hunt for the fabulous books that will change me utterly. p 310
A wonderful book, occasionally self-congratulatory, but forgivable because of his joy with the written word and its authors.

Sep 20, 1:35pm Top

>236 karenmarie: I like the sound of that book. Would not having ever heard of the author dull its impact, do you think?

Sep 20, 9:48pm Top

Hmm. Good question, Jackie. Pat Conroy is a very US Southern writer and I'm trying to think how I would have responded to the book had I not lived in the South for the last 27 years. His discussions about the influences of his writing and the books and authors he's read will work for anybody, I think. I suppose that reading any book about a different country puts one at a disadvantage immediately, and there are subtle references to the South, but overall I think you would enjoy getting to know this author on general terms simply because he loves reading and always wanted to be a writer.

Oct 8, 2:51pm Top

>238 karenmarie: Oh, how did I miss this? I'm so sorry not to reply to this earlier! Thanks, I will probably add this to my wishlist as I do find other people's reading interesting (which is why these forums are so addictive, I guess!).

Oct 12, 3:38pm Top

Hi Jackie! No problem. You're welcome and I hope that if you do get your hands on it that you like it.

Edited: Oct 12, 3:39pm Top

30. Lisey's Story by Stephen King
10/3/18 to 10/12/18

From Amazon:

Lisey Debusher Landon lost her husband, Scott, two years ago, after a twenty-five-year marriage of the most profound and sometimes frightening intimacy. Scott was an award-winning, bestselling novelist and a very complicated man. Early in their relationship, before they married, Lisey had to learn from him about books and blood and bools. Later, she understood that there was a place Scott went -- a place that both terrified and healed him, that could eat him alive or give him the ideas he needed in order to live. Now it's Lisey's turn to face Scott's demons, Lisey's turn to go to Boo'ya Moon. What begins as a widow's effort to sort through the papers of her celebrated husband becomes a nearly fatal journey into the darkness he inhabited. Perhaps King's most personal and powerful novel, Lisey's Story is about the wellsprings of creativity, the temptations of madness, and the secret language of love.

Why I wanted to read it: October 2018 American Author Challenge.

It took me about 200 pages to remember Lisey rhymes with CeeCee, but now, finally, I’ve got it down and think LeeCee automatically. It’s surprising how important that seemed as I was reading this book.

It’s hard to classify this novel, because it contains elements of psychological horror, romance, and the paranormal. Among other things, that is.

I thought the first person female voice totally authentic and take my hat off to Stephen King for achieving this. I kept forgetting as I was reading that a man wrote this book because Lisey is as female and feminine as the day is long. Perhaps, as acknowledged by Mr. King in the Author’s Statement it is his wife and her 5 sisters who formed the ‘sister thing’ in the book and the strong female voice.

Lisey doesn’t start strong, though. Two years after her husband’s death she’s numb and wooly. She hasn’t cleaned out anything of her husband’s. As memories resurface, as a crazy comes after her and she becomes a strong and decisive woman, she combines the impenetrable love of her marriage with the biological love for her sisters to take charge of her life.

King’s writing is sweet, vivid, scary. The book’s length and convoluted timeline, which go back and forth among Scott’s childhood, Lisey’s childhood, their marriage, and her widowhood can be criticized, but not by me. I found the book exactly right, compete but not sloppy, long but not fuzzy. King addresses this potential issue in the Author’s Statement:
Nan Graham edited this book. Quite often reviewers of novels – especially novels by people who usually sell great numbers of books – will say “So-and-so would have benefited from actual editing. To those tempted to say that about Lisey’s Story, I would be happy to submit sample pages from my first-draft manuscript, complete with nan’s notes. I had first-year French essays that came back cleaner. Nan did a wonderful job, and I thank her for sending me out in public with my shirt tucked in and my hair combed. As for the few cases in which the author overruled her… all I can say is, “reality is Ralph.”
And, as I have been doing recently, I’ve found a few quotes that I like:
When it was done and you went to sleep, I lay awake and listened to the clock on your nightstand and the wind outside and understood that I was really home, that in bed with you was home, and something that had been getting close in the dark was suddenly gone. It could not stay. It had been banished. It knew how to come back, I was sure of that, but it could not stay, and I could really go to sleep. My heart cracked with gratitude. I think it was the first gratitude I’ve ever really known. I lay there beside you and the tears rolled down the sides of my face and onto the pillow. I loved you then and I love you now and I have loved you every second in between. I don’t care if you understand me. Understanding is vastly overrated, but nobody ever gets enough safety. I’ve never forgotten how safe I felt with that thing out of the darkness. p. 20

… an instant of empathy that was gruesome in its strength and nearly unendurable in its human harmony. p. 450

Some things you never forgot. She had come to believe that the very things the practical world dismissed as ephemera – things like songs and moonlight and kisses – were sometimes the things that lasted the longest. They might be foolish, but they defied forgetting. And that was good. p. 461
Stephen King is a fine writer, and this book is a stunning execution of a complex and layered story.


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