Friday, October 02, 2009

Day of the Assassins review

I don't read YA. Now I know why. Though YA novels seem to be picking up popularity amongst adult readers, I don't think I'll become part of that phenomenom. There are just too many problems with the quality of the writing, let alone the storyline. I accept time travel as a sci-fi plausibility. That has nothing to do with problems with the adventure novel.

Day of the Assassins follows the adventure of the teenager, Jack Christie as he travels back in time to 1914, before the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand.

Traveling back in time, Jack first gets caught on a ship with huge crates and large guns. Why is the narrator pointing out 'fifty-eight-ton gun barrels" and the smaller "twelve-pounder guns." Does Jack know what they are? Jack doesn't like like school or history much (though he plays a WWI video game) so I don't know if he's supposed to know what a fifty-eight ton gun barrel looks like. Is the reader supposed to know what they are? I know there are teens out there with far greater knowledge of war and weapons than myself, but I wonder if they have the faintest idea.

My wife complains that I pick out the inconsistencies of movies and feel that I have to let everyone else watching, know that such and such didn't happen or couldn't have happened. Good thing she couldn't have heard my thoughts as I read this book. She would have thrown it at me.

However, I do know who would be perfect to review this 14 year old goddaughter and maybe that's the point. It was written for her and her schoolmates. Not a thirty-year old picky reader.

Library Book Sale

Last Saturday morning, my sister and I were up early to get to the quarterly Medford Public Library Book Sale. The sale, held partly outdoors (mass market paperbacks $.50 ea.) and partly in two old garages behind the library, has become a must visit for me. During my last trip, I came away with a first edition Shadow of the Wind and a few other collectible books. And since I'm not collecting much anymore, I was able to spend some cash on some paperbacks. For $10.50 I got 11 books. Nice days work.

A few of the key finds were:

The Art of Detection by Laurie King
A Monstrous Regimen of Women by Laurie King
The Darwin Conspiracy by John Darnton
The Somnambulist by Jonathan Barnes
Arthur and George by Julian Barnes
Legacy of the Dead by Charles Todd

I'm halfway through The Darwin Conspiracy and although it's Possession-lite and not nearly as enjoyable as I was hoping, it's still a good lunchtime read.

Friday, September 25, 2009

The Brutal Telling

I've read Carolyn Hart and Joan Hess. They write 'cozy mysteries'. I had heard about Louise Penny's cozy mystery series featuring Montreal detective Inspector Gamache, but had never read one until I received the ARC for her latest, The Brutal Telling. This is no cozy mystery. It is a dark, complex mystery that has all the trappings of a cozy mystery (small town, fireplaces, B&Bs, etc.)but Penny doesn't follow the formula. Though Gamache is a different type of inspector for me (he's quite, friendly and thoughtful,) Penny makes good use of him and his team of investigators.

With a story line of a dead body found on the floor of the popular restaurant, the story could have petered out and become tiresome quickly. However, although nobody in the town says they know the stranger, the reader knows this isn't true. But we don't know if the person that knew the stranger actually committed the crime. Though investigating a crime in a small town where everyone knows one another is often times like trying to unravel a knot of Christmas tree lights, Gamache and his team see beyond the niceness and uncover a secret that unfortunately shows that greed and murder do not stop at the city limits.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

BBAW Reading Meme

Today I stole another Meme. This time from Marie at The Boston Bibliophile and SFP at Pages Turned.

Do you snack while you read? If so, favorite reading snack? my fingernails

Do you tend to mark your books as you read, or does the idea of writing in books horrify you? I used to all the time, but I have become lazy.

How do you keep your place while reading a book? Bookmark? Dog-ears? I dog-ear and mostly use pictures of my wife and daughter.

Laying the book flat open? for brief intervals only.

Fiction, Non-fiction, or both? mostly fiction, but I wouldn't be complete without non-fiction.

Hard copy or audiobooks? Books only please

Are you a person who tends to read to the end of chapters, or are you able to put a book down at any point? I don't think I've ever intentionally stopped at the end of chapter. Seems a strange way to think about reading. The end of a chapter isn't the end of the story, so what's the difference?

If you come across an unfamiliar word, do you stop to look it up right away? I've never looked up a word from a book I've been reading. If I don't know the word, it doesn't matter to me. Plus, I don't like reading books in which the author uses 'fancy' words when simple ones will do.

What are you currently reading? The Brutal Telling by Louise Penny and Justice Hall by Laurie King

What is the last book you bought? A stack of Little Golden Books for my daughter.

Are you the type of person that only reads one book at a time or can you read more than one at a time? No matter how much I try to read a couple books at once, I always end up dedicating my time to one book and one book only.

Do you have a favorite time of day and/or place to read? My couch at night.

Do you prefer series books or stand alone books? series. It allows for fun character development.

Is there a specific book or author that you find yourself recommending over and over? I have stopped trying after having many loved ones throw books at me.

How do you organize your books? (By genre, title, author’s last name, etc.?) The books I collect, I categorize by author's last name. My other books, I categorize by author only.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Louise Penny - Brutal Telling

I'm making my way through Louise Penny's Brutal Telling, the second of three ARCs I have to review this month. This book has become my lunchtime reading so it may go a little slow, but it is certainly a much better novel than Barclay's Fear the Worst. I've never read Penny before so this is my first Inspector Gamache mystery. I really like the detective so far and the small town Canadian setting is a different read for me. I can't wait to get deeper into the investigation and enjoy some more of Penny's great writing.

I've taken on another Mary Russell novel as well. Laurie King's Justice Hall, sends Holmes and Russell to Justice Hall, an elegant, elaborate and enormous estate to help two old friends uncover the truth about what happened to their nephew. I don't know what to say about King's Mary Russell series that hasn't been said before. All I can really say is that they are perfect reads.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Fear the Worst

A couple months ago, I was thrilled to receive my first Review Copy from LibraryThing. I snagged Linwood Barclay's new thriller, Fear the Worst.

Tim Blake is Barclay's everyman and the driver of all the action. Blake is a divorced car salesman and father of a teenage daughter, Sydney. One day, after a brief argument over breakfast, Sydney never comes home. Weeks go by with no leads. What's a father to do? Well, like most good action heroes, Blake takes it into his own hands. He relentlessly retraces Sydney's last steps, continuously going by the hotel where she worked, her picture constantly in hand. Though Blake is a likable character, I couldn't help but be reminded of Frank Bascombe from Richard Ford's Independence Day and Liam Neeson's character from the movie Taken. I think Barclay got Blake right, but missed out on bringing real tension to the plot. The 'bad guys' aren't bad enough (like Eli Wallach said in The Good, The Bad and the Ugly, "When you have to shoot, shoot, don't talk.")and the reason for Sydney's disappearance wasn't believable enough for me.

Worst of all was the cliche climax. A bridge at night, unlikely suspects, guns being kicked away, just out of reach. It seems as though Barclay was writing a movie script and they put it between covers and called it a book. This isn't always a bad thing. The book was fast and it was fun and I may read Barclay again, but I won't be passing Fear the Worst on to anybody that hopes for the best.

Friday, September 04, 2009

This is one of the saddest stories I've read in a long while.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

ARCs to review

I just began reading See Delphi and Die, my first Marcus Didius Falco mystery, but I have a small pile of ARCs beginning to pile up on the bedside table, eagerly waiting to be reviewed. I think it's time that I turn my attention to some books and authors that I want to review. First up will be Linwood Barclay's Fear the Worst. I got this from Library Thing a month or so ago. Second on the list is My Cousin Caroline by Rebecca Ann Collins. It's book six in the Pride and Prejudice sequel series, but it'll be my first time reading the series. I got this book via BookBlogs.ning. The third book on the list, is Louise Penny's Brutal Telling. It's Penny's new Inspector Gamache mystery.

I don't post typical reviews to begin with, but it's time to get my reviewing brain on and stop procrastinating. There are some good books waiting to be read!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Life and Books Meme

Since I've been laying low the past few weeks, I thought I'd try and get back into the swing of things with a fun meme that I saw over at Of Books and Bikes.

Using only books you have read this year (2009), answer these questions. Try not to repeat a book title. It’s a lot harder than you think!

Describe yourself: My Life and Hard Times (James Thurber)

How do you feel:
The Unburied (Charles Palliser)

Describe where you currently live: Back Bay (William Martin)

If you could go anywhere, where would you go? Harvard Yard (William Martin)

Your favorite form of transportation: Ghost Walk (Marianne Macdonald)

Your best friend is: The Beekeeper's Apprentice (Laurie King)

You and your friends are: The Sunday Philosophy Club (Alexander McCall Smith)

What’s the weather like: The Night Calls (David Pirie)

You fear: The Last Judgement (Iain Pears)

What is the best advice you have to give:
Die Trying (Lee Child)

Thought for the day:
Die Once (Marianne Macdonald)

How I would like to die: One Shot (Lee Child)

My soul’s present condition: Death and Restoration (Iain Pears)

My responses were fairly limited even though I've read 33 books so far. I guess that's what happens when you read the same authors all the time.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Comfort reading

Like my mom's meatloaf, reading a familiar author is comforting. I've been going through a life changing event the past few weeks, but I still crave the written word. I still seek the written word to comfort and placate my worries. My reading meatloaf, yes, my reading meatloaf, is William Martin. Martin's books are full of New England history, incredibly detailed family histories and characters that are oftentimes larger than life. With titles like Harvard Yard, Cape Cod and Back Bay, they may sound a touch prosaic and fluffier than they really are. However, that's a disservice to Martin's skill as a storyteller. Each novel is epic in length and follow a similar format mixing stories lines taking place in the present day and in the past.

Whether Martin searching for lost copies of the American Constitution or tracking down a tea set made by Paul Revere, Martin only uses the 'thing' as a MacGuffin. The true story and the true fun resides in the characters faults, failures and heroics as they chase each other across the New Hampshire mountains, down the cobble stoned streets of old Boston and across the centuries.

With the birth of my daughter a couple weeks ago I couldn't settle on a book to read. Then I saw Martin's Cape Cod on my top shelf. It was perfect. Each time I open the large novel, I smell the salty waters of the Cape and I think of my mother's meatloaf and mashed potatoes.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Two weeks later

I'm not getting too much sleep, but I'm hopefully getting back into the reading and writing flow. The first book I'm reading P.B. (post baby) is William Martin's Cape Cod. I've really enjoyed all his other novels, especially Harvard Yard and Back Bay. He's a Boston based writer and being a local myself, I enjoy reading great stories about my 'neighborhood,' i.e. Massachusetts.

On the side I'm reading Laurie King's Justice Hall. I just couldn't stay away from Mary Russell too long.
I knew I liked Lee Child and Jack Reacher for a reason. Here's a quick article abour Lee Child creating a scholarship in Jack Reacher's name. He even has a beer named after him.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Big News

I might be out of commission until next Monday. I don't think I'll be reading or blogging much over the next week because on Friday, July 17, my wife and I welcomed our first baby, Ava Celeste Barresi!

Happy blogging!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Frank McCourt is ill and unlikely to survive

This is sad news to hear. I loved Angela's Ashes when it came out and I think McCourt did a great service to the reading public. His memoir/novel was a phenomenon before The DaVinci Code.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters

Just in time for the Everything Austen Challenge. Quirk Books is set to release a follow up to their surprise hit Pride and Prejudice and Zombies with Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters.

Juliet Marion Hulme

Last night I broke the news to my wife that I had bid on a batch of 10 Anne Perry novels. Four or five hardcovers and the rest paperbacks. A mixture of her William Monk, Thomas Pitt and WWI series. For $10 or $11 I thought it was a steal. For whatever reason I decided to Wikipedia Anne Perry. Wow. I knew Wikipedia was good for something. Anne Perry was born Juliet Marion Hulme in London, was sent to South Africa as a child (for health reasons) and then moved to New Zealand at 13 to be with her family. Perry/Hulme then became part of one of New Zealand's most notorious murders along with Pauline Parker. If you've ever seen the Kate Winslet movie Heavenly Creatures , Kate Winslet portrayed Perry/Hulme. The young women killed Parker's mother in cold blooded murder. They only served five years in prison and as part of their sentence they were told they could never contact one another again.

Perry/Hulme is now 70 years old and lives in Scotland and has written dozens of murder mystery novels. Strange. I had recently begun her novel No Graves as Yet which centers around two brothers trying to unravel the suspicious death of their parents. There is more to the story than that, but I just can't get the real Perry/Hulme out of my head. How can I? I wouldn't read the books of a man that was a convicted murderer, why should I read Perry's novels?

I'm stopping No Graves and I'm going to begin a book by someone that doesn't have a killer instinct, only a killer imagination.

It's a good thing I didn't win the auction on eBay.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Everything Austen Challenge

I've finally narrowed down my selection for the Everything Austen Challenge hosted by Stephanie's Written Word.

I haven't read Austen in awhile so I will read one Austen novel, three Austen inspired books and two movies.

Lost in Austen - movie
Jane and the Man of the Cloth by Stephanie Barron - novel
Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen - novel
Austenland by Shannon Hale - novel
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith - novel
Emma - movie

Books bought last week

I had a good book buying week. A few Sherlock Holmes pastiche, two bibliomysteries and a book for the Everything Austen Challenge.

Castle Rouge A Novel of Suspense featuring Sherlock Holmes, Irene Adler, and Jack the Ripper.
Death at Dartmoor A Victorian mystery featuring Arthur Conan Doyle.
Locked Rooms The eighth book in Laurie King's Mary Russell series. Russell and Holmes travel to San Francisco to take care of some unfinished business.
Jane and the Man of the Cloth The second book in the Jane Austen Mystery series. Jane Austen solving crimes? Sounds like a good fit for me in my attempt at the Everything Austen Challenge. I haven't read the first book in the series yet, but I'm going to read this one first because I have it.
The Godwulf Manuscript I got a nice condition 1973 paperback edition of Parker's classic bibliomystery. It's the first in the Spencer series. And although I've already read it, this is going in my collection.
A Conspiracy of Paper I read part of this novel years ago when it first came out. I think it high time I take it on again and finish it once and for all. Benjamin Weaver is a former boxer in 18Th Century London trying to uncover family secrets and investigate a couple of murders. Can't wait.
No Graves As Yet The first in Anne Perry's World War I mystery series. I haven't read any Perry before, but have only read rave reviews.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Off the beaten path

Last night I wanted to read something different. Our bed has a built in bookshelf and one of the books on the shelf was an ARC I received a couple of months ago...The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte. I hadn't read anything by Charlotte Bronte since high school and I had never read anything about her. So I picked up Syrie James's novel. 100 or so pages and I know it was a good decision. It's a very fast read and a lot of fun. I also checked some accuracy of the book and it's seems fairly historically accurate too. The book has a cute green cover with the title written in black script. I don't mind carrying it around with me. But it's so good, I don't think I'll be carrying it along too long.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Jack Reacher always gets his man

Two Jack Reacher books in one week. I wish I could read two every week. For those who may not be infatuated with Jack Reacher, Reacher, as he's most commonly called, is the protagonist in Lee Child's numerous thrillers. Reacher is a former MP (Military Police) Captain and he was one of the best. Now that he's out of the service, he's a drifter that only carries his passport, a fold-up toothbrush, an ATM card and the clothes on his back. After a couple days he just buys more clothes and throws the others out. He's a man of few words and follows the old maxim..."if you're going to shoot, shoot." Basically, he's a comic book superhero for the (somewhat) grown-up reader. Did you see Liam Neeson in Taken? That's kind of like Jack Reacher.

In Persuader, Reacher is walking by Symphony Hall on Huntington Ave. in Boston, when he suddenly sees a man that he thought was long dead. "Truth is by that point I had been in for eleven whole days, since a damp shiny Saturday night in the city of Boston when I saw a dead man walk across a sidewalk and get into a car. It wasn't a delusion. It wasn't an uncanny resemblence. It wasn't a double or a twin or a brother or a cousin. It was a man who had died a decade ago. There was no doubt about it. No trick of light. He looked older by the appropriate number of years and was carrying the scars of the wounds that had killed him."

This starts Reacher on an intense undercover infiltration that will bring him face to face with his 'ghost' where he plans to finish him once and for all. And as all readers of the Reacher novels know, Jack Reacher always gets his man.

Just finished:
Persuader by Lee Child

Now reading:
A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle
I, Claudius by Robert Graves

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

"It's a major award"

Thanks to Okbo Lover, I was given my first award, the Kreative Blogger Award. Now I have to list my seven favorite things and tag seven award worthy blogs. Here's the Meme and thanks again to Okbo Lover:

These are a few of my favorite things (not family related):

1. Reading (historical fiction, Beat literature, detective fiction, literary bio)
2. Book collecting (Bibliomysteries, Kerouac, Arturo Perez-Reverte, David McCullough)
3. Photography (I'm a total amateur, but love it)
4. The History Detectives on PBS
5. studying the American Revolution
6. traveling
7. Making lists

Here are my seven award worthy blogs:

1. Bookgirl's Nightstand
2. Historically Obsessed
3. Of Books and Bicycles
4. Box of Books
5. A Work in Progress
6. Nonsuch Book
7. Pages Turned

Monday, July 06, 2009

Weekend Reading

Thursday during lunch I began Lee Child's Bad Luck and Trouble. Friday afternoon I finished. That's how it usually goes with Child's Jack Reacher novels. They're fast, furious and fun and Bad Luck was no exception. I'll hopefully have time to write post my review tonight.

Yesterday we spent a part of our morning reading at Starbucks. My wife was finishing up the last 100 pages of the latest in the Maisie Dobbs series, Among the Mad, and I was beginning Robert Graves', I, Claudius. It may be an ambitious book to begin considering that Baby Barresi is due in 16 days, but I figured that if I didn't begin it now I never would.

Side Projects: I'm still finishing up my re-read of A Study in Scarlet and I may begin another Jack Reacher novel to distract me from anxiously awaiting the little one.

Now reading:
I, Claudius by Robert Graves
A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle

On deck:
Persuader by Lee Child
The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte by Syrie James

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

LibraryThing - Early Reviewer

I finally snagged my first Early Review book via LibraryThing. I will be reviewing Linwood Barclay's Fear the Worst.

A Letter of Mary

What would you do if you received a letter, written by Mary Magdalene. What if the woman that gave you the letter was a noted expert on Jerusalem and later was mysteriously killed? Those are only a couple of the questions Mary Russell and her husband, Sherlock Holmes have to try and answer in Laurie R. King's A Letter of Mary. The third book in King's Russell series begins when Dorothy Ruskin, an archaeologist that Russell and Holmes had met in the Middle East a few years prior, visits them at their home and presents a letter supposedly written by Mary Magdalene. In the letter, Mary writes of being an apostle, news that would shock modern (1923) Anglican England and the world. Ruskin asks Russell and Holmes to investigate the letter and try to determine if it is authentic. Unfortunately, they do not even have time to begin their inquiry, when Ruskin is killed in an automobile accident. With her untimely death, Russell and Holmes set to uncover the truth about her death, enlisting the aid of Detective Lestrade and Sherlock's brother, Mycroft.

The investigation takes them to four different groups of potential murderers with four valid motives. Under disguise and careful observation, Russell and Holmes infiltrate and begin to build their case. And though Russell and Holmes are under no real threat of imminent danger, the mystery unravels at a great pace, never leaving the reader too relaxed. Russell as narrator is quick witted, self-depracating and funny. Her personality resonates throughout the book and her smarts are on par with Holmes's. Being married to Holmes, Russell allows the reader to see Holmes during his downtime and during those moments of self-doubt. All of King's novels are full of insight and maintain an authenticity to them that you don't get in a lot of pastiche.

Did the killers kill for money (greed) or were they out to stop the publication of the potentially shattering letter? This is a story about family, ambition and relationships. Especially relationships between between sisters and husband and wife.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

What I'm looking forward to

Another friend will be leaving me all to quickly. But as the cliche goes...every ending brings a new beginning. I'm nearing the end of another book. We've spent hours together on the couch or in my car; in my office and in waiting rooms. Though they may sleep in my bag or on table tops, they'll always be on my mind and we'll never be that far apart. And though I may not be spending time with Mary Russell or Sherlock Holmes over the next couple of weeks, I may begin a new relationship with Charlotte Bronte or continue an old one with Jack Reacher. What I'm looking forward to is my next book, my next literary trip.

On deck:
The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte by Syrie James
Bad Luck and Trouble by Lee Child

Monday, June 29, 2009

New template

Please be honest and tell me what you think about the new template. I'm in the mood to change up the appearance, but I don't think I can trust my own judgement. Is the blog easy to read? Too busy? Just drop me a dime and let me know.
Cool site, but even cooler books. I'm definitely going to have to get these as they come out.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Historical fiction

I don't know what it is with me, but nearly everything I read, buy or browse, is historical fiction. It may be a historical mystery, but, it is historical fiction nonetheless. My question is why do I enjoy reading historical fiction more than fiction that was written years ago. Case in point...I like reading Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes. One of my favorite authors and certainly one of, if not my favorite, literary characters. However, I don't have a need to read all the stories. But then I read one of the books in Laurie King's Mary Russell series, or one of Nicholas Meyer's books and I can't wait to read the next. The styles are akin to Doyle's. The characters are either about Holmes or his fictitious wife Mary Russell or even Doyle himself. To my amateur understanding, there is no real discernible difference between the "real Holmes" and the historical fiction Holmes. Maybe it's best to read them at the same time.

With that being said, I'm reading Laurie King's A Letter of Mary and Arthur Conan Doyle's A Study in Scarlet. The King book is book 3 in the Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes series and of course, A Study in Scarlet is the first Doyle story to feature Holmes.

You've been in Afghanistan I presume?

Monday, June 22, 2009

Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Carlos Ruiz Zafon is going to be discussing The Angel's Game tonight at Harvard Bookstore. I just bought the book last week, but I may have to get a second copy and have him sign it. If I'm not too lazy to go out in the rain.

Now reading:
A Letter of Maryy by Laurie King

On deck:
Among the Mad by Jacqueline Winspear

Friday, June 19, 2009

Book collecting

Last week I went to a little used bookstore a couple miles from my house. I had been there years ago, but somehow forgot about it. I'm glad I remembered it because it's a great little store. Their stock of current/contemporary paperbacks is considerable. And though their hardcovers are few and far between, I did find two that I had been looking to add to my collection. I purchased Nicole Krauss's The History of Love, one of my favorite novels, and Geraldine Brooks's March. Both are first edition/first printings in Fine to Very Fine condition. The Brooks is a UK first edition though. I gauge that they are valued at $30-35 each and I paid $12 for the two. I'm proud to have added them to my library.

The other day I purchased a new hardcover book for the first time in a couple of years...and I'm not even going to read it. I bought Carlos Ruiz Zafon's The Angel's Game because I had to have it. I'm going to collect Ruiz Zafon and I recently purchased The Shadow of the Wind for a buck (worth about $65-70) and though The Angel's Game doesn't have much value as of yet, I'm hoping that it will appreciate while it sits peacefully on my library shelf.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Smoke Scree and The Night Calls

I read every Marianne Macdonald book faster than the last. I don't do it on purpose. She just writes about a subject that I enjoy (bookselling/collecting,) has a great protagonist (Dido Hoare,) and writes well. It's the Trifecta. Smoke Screen was one of the more enjoyable Dido Hoare mysteries. Dido is asked to buy the book collection of an old and odd family. While making an inventory of the library, which is far better than she ever expected, Dido realizes that the woman was once married to a fairly famous, though now dead, poet. Mint copies of his books are in a special case in one of the rooms and she knows there must be manuscripts that go along with them. A valuable find. However, that's when all the trouble begins. She is accused of stealing a lost canto and she can't account for how she got possession of the poem. She happens to find the poem in her car on the same night the poet's ex-wife is murdered in the home that Dido spent the night. Though the mystery of who really committed the crime is fairly easy to uncover, Dido never makes anything easy for herself, her young son or her academic father, Barnabas. If you like mysteries or book collecting or amateur sleuths, this book may be just what you were looking for.

After finishing Smoke Screen, I had the choice of beginning one of two books, both mysteries. David Pirie's The Night Calls or Jacqueline Winspear's Among the Mad. I had every intention of moving onto the latest Maisie Dobbs, so I picked up The Night Calls for a page or two to see what I was eventually going to get myself into. Forty pages later, I couldn't put it down. I guess Maisie and Among the Mad will have to wait a few days as I make my way through The Night Calls. It's just too entertaining to put down.

David Pirie has written a series of books subtitled The Dark Beginnings of Sherlock Holmes: A Novel featuring Arthur Conan Doyle. These books take us back to Doyle's medical days and his apprenticeship under Dr. Joseph Bell, widely regarded as the archetype for Sherlock Holmes. Like Holmes, Bell is brilliant and erratic and posseses superior powers of deduction, which Doyle calls, his 'method.'

The series is akin to Mark Frost's in that they are adventures and mysteries about Arthur Conan Doyle and not Holmes. However, Pirie's takes us back further and we see the development of Doyle as med student and how he became part of the investigate and detective process.

"And I found that I missed my jousts with Bell even if, despite my painful lesson, I still had doubts about the man's 'method'. Perhaps he had won that particular contestt, but was there not, even here, some plain old-fashioned luck? After all, in his attempt to divine human character from an inanimate object, I had fed his ego by handing over a damaged artefact."

Now reading:
The Night Calls by David Pirie

On deck:
Among the Mad by Jacqueline Winspear

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Bookish Wednesday

I stopped by the library after work yesterday and picked up a few books. I was hoping to get Matthew Pearl's The Last Dickens, but it was out on loan. Instead I picked up a few other highly anticipated reads. I got the new Maisie Dobbs, Among the Mad, Marianne Macdonald's Smokescreen and David Pirie's The Night Calls.

I've already started Smokescreen and I'll move on to Amond the Mad next. Macdonald has quickly become a favorite author of mine. Her Dido Hoare series is fantastic. I love reading about murder and intrigue anyway, but making the protagonist a rare bookseller makes this series a must.

I haven't read David Pirie before, but he's a must read for Sherlock Holmes pastiche. He writes a series subtitled: The Dark Beginnings of Sherlock Holmes, and chronicles Holmes's early career, beginning as a med student. I can't wait to get into this one sometime next week. I already collect Winspear and Macdonald and can envision beginning a Pirie collection before long.

Now reading:
Smokescreen by Marianne Macdonald

On deck:
Among the Mad by Jacqueline Winspear
The Night Calls by David Pirie

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

The 6 Messiahs

I started Mark Frost's The 6 Messiahs on Friday and I'm making my way through the book much too quickly to be honest with you. The 6 Messiahs is a sequel to Frost's The List of Seven and both follow Arthur Conan Doyle as he takes part in grand adventure mysteries with Jack Sparks, the archetype for Sherlock Holmes.

In The 6 Messiahs, Doyle is in America on a book tour, getting mobbed by the hungry American readers. Doyle has just killed off Holmes and the American reading public wants more Holmes stories. The reason Doyle killed off Holmes is because Sparks had supposedly met his fate the same way 10 years earlier. But in America, much to Doyle's astonishment, Sparks appears again. Sparks is searching for the sacred missing holy books that are being stolen from around the globe. And it's up to Sparks, Doyle and Doyle's brother, to save the texts before they are put to evil use.

Sparks is a great character, but Doyle is the real star in the Frost novels. In this book, Doyle is a more mature, stronger, self assured man than in the first book. And though he has developed a greater sense of deductive reasoning and a taste for adventure, his natural hesitations in tight situations play nicely against Sparks's absolute actions.

Frost does a nice job making this series (though he only wrote two books) a Sherlock Holmes story on crack, without going overboard. In fact, though I hate to make the correlations, Frosts books bare more of a resemblence to the upcoming Sherlock Holmes movie, than to Doyle's stories. The books are grittier and more adventuresome, but Doyle (as Watson) keeps the reader interested and grounded, trying to reign in Sparks from time to time. Luckily for us, he's not always able to do so.

Now reading:
The 6 Messiahs by Mark Frost

On deck:
Bad Luck and Trouble by Lee Child

Thursday, June 04, 2009

The Unburied

If you are in the mood to take a little trip, I have a recommendation. How about Victorian England. Cobbled streets, kerosene lamps, churches, choirs, fog and murder set the mood for Charles Palliser's The Unburied. A middle aged historian, Dr. Courtine, visits his old friend Fickling, who is teaching at a shabby little school in the country. Courtine and Fickling had a falling out 20 years ago over an event involving Courtine's estranged wife. After all these years, Fickling has invited Courtine to visit and Courtine accepts...but why? Did Courtine accept so he could visit the famous old church in the town? To investigate a 200 year old murder? Or maybe to get some closure on the traumatic event in his own past?

Courtine's investigation into the murders and deaths of church officials 200 years in the past, is wrought with double crossing, murder and deceit. Is Fickling playing Courtine, setting him up? Is the librarian, Dr. Locard, misleading Courtine?

Palliser creates lots of questions for the reader to try and unravel, making the reader use their imagination as much as Courtine.

As Courtine sets out to find the Truth, we curl up and go along for the ride down the crooked cobbled streets, up the slanted, narrow stairs and right into the story.

"I was awakened by the Cathedral clock striking the hour, though I came to consciousness too slowly to count the chimes. The room was in darkness, the heavy curtains admitting no light that could give me a clue to the hour. I lit a candle and, with an effort of will, forced myself out of the bed and into the bonechilling cold of the unheated room. Once I was dressed I looked at my watch. It was eight o'clock! Horrified at such self-indulgence, I pulled back the frayed curtains and found the fog still thick. Even in the muddy light, the time-blackened stonework of the Cathedral was startling close to the window."

This is a heavily saturated Victorian murder mystery, but it never feels overdone. Palliser touches on all the cliches, but doesn't fall victim to them. He enhances them and develops character.

If you're going to take a trip back in time, let Palliser be your guide.

Now reading:
The Unburied by Charles Palliser

On deck:
The Six Messiahs by Mark Frost

Friday, May 29, 2009

Back to what works

A friend at work gave me variety of books to read. Some non-fiction, some fiction. I finally read The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher by Kate Summerscale and it was well worth the wait. It was great being able to see the actual creation of the detective in the late 19th Century and the prototype for detective novels for years to come. Inspector Whicher was highly praised, much maligned and consistently right. If you are interested in detective mystery novels, this is book is a must.

After having such success with this book, I moved on to a novel, The Princess of Burundi by Kjell Eriksson. I haven't read much Scandanavian crime novels, but they seem to be crashing the mystery scene these past few years. I just couldn't get into this book. It was dark and gloomy and seemed to take a long time to build up momentum. I don't usually mind a prolonged build-up if it is well written and atmospheric. Eriksson's novel never really got me motivated. It's snowy and cold. I get it. The characters were never fully developed for me either. John used to get in trouble with the law, but now he's a family man who knows a lot about exotic fish. And? Maybe I'm not going to get into the Scandanavian crime scene, but I have loved the Wallander mini-series on PBS.

With that being said, I'm back to what works for me. I'm reading Charles Palliser's The Unburied. It's an atmospheric (yes, twice in one posting) Victorian mystery that involves ghosts stories, old churches, fog, and crooked cobblestone streets. Like a kid reading under the covers at night with a flashlight, I still get a kick out of getting spooked. And tonight, when my wife shuts off her bedside light, I'll stay up a little while longer with The Unburied, flashlight in hand.

On deck:
The Six Messiahs by Mark Frost

Thursday, March 12, 2009

I had every intention of reading more of the The List of Seven tonight, but after cooking dinner, washing dishes, and paying bills, I've put the book and picked up the computer (laptop.) After browsing the blogs and checking the usual sites, I made my way to Amazon and bought four books. I know that I'm playing a major role in the death of bookstores, but I can't ignore books for $.01 (not counting $3.99 shipping & handling.) I did pay $1.98 for a book, but four books for $19.92 makes for a successful night. Books purchased, To Kingdom Come by Will Thomas, Ghost Walk and Die Once by Marianne Macdonald and Homicide in Hardcover by Kate Carlisle. The Macdonald and Carlisle are bibliomysteries and the Thomas novel is part of the Barker and Llewelyn series. And though I know the books won't arrive for at least 5 business days, I'll be anxious until the package(s) arrive. I think everyone should have books delivered to them everyday. Preferably for free.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Alexander McCall Smith

It was either earlier this year or late last year that I read my first Alexander McCall Smith book. It was The Sunday Philosopher's Club. I enjoyed McCall Smith's humor and wit, and his characters leaped off the page. Not only do I want to read all his novels now, I want to begin to collect his books as well. If I decide to collect his works, it will be quite the endeavor already, because he's published upwards of 14 novels already, along with a list of children's books. But the adventure and search for all his first editions would be a great challenge for me as an amateur collector.

I'm currently reading Espresso Tales, the second book in the 44 Scotland Street series. I usually try not to read books in a series out of order, but I needed something to read and Espresso Tales was on the bookshelf and 44 Scotland Street was not. Such are the necessities of a reader.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Amid all the hoopla, yes, hoopla, surrounding the launch of Kindle 2, I've been able to keep my distance from the eReaders. I've found my solace in Will Thomas's Barker and Llewelyn series and Iain Pears's Jonathan Argyll series. Thomas's Llewelyn as narrator of Thomas's series is a highly likable character and guide through the streets of Victorian London. The Llewelyn novels are akin to Caleb Carr's 19th Century novels that take place in dark NYC,The Alienist and Angel of Darkness. Grisly murders, underground societies and shady cobblestone streets. But they differ in that Thomas's novel are a little lighter in tone, which makes for a much quicker read. Carr's novels are often time lengthy and tiresome...and dreary. Thomas brings humor and self deprecation into an already rich story. Thomas Llewelyn is a young man that has just lost his young wife to TB and had spent 8 months in prison. He finds work for one of London's leading Enquiry Agents, Cyrus Barker and begins his tutelage, investigating murders. Barker is one of London's first "Orientalists" and is well known for spending years in China, learning the culture, martial arts and fighting side by side with some of China's most infamous armies. All of this is incredibly new to Llewelyn and every few chapters he learns something new of his master. In a way, I'd say these novels are more entertaining than any Sherlock Holmes story. Though they may not be breaking any new ground, they are exactly what I want from mystery novels...excellent writing, good stories and unforgettable characters.

Pears's Argyll novels are part of the Art Mystery series set in Rome and involve art dealer Jonathan Argyll and his fiance, Flavia de Stefano, inspector in Rome's Art Squad. These books remind of a lot of different Italian mysteries and I don't know why. A mix of Andrea Camilleri, Michael Dibdin and Donna Leon. But the strange thing is, these are nothing like that. I don't have a good reason why I keep relating these series, I just do. The Argyll novels are written in third person, but I think they would have been better if told from either Argyll's perspective or better yet, from Flavia's. She seems to have the most internal turmoil and I'd like to see her cursing or speaking in Italian every now and then. Either way, anytime I get to visit old monasteries, read about religious icons or imagine looking at Baroque paintings, is worth my time. I'm only two books into each series, so I have quite a few more to get my hands on. Can't wait.

Currently reading:
Iain Pears Death and Restoration
G.K. Chesterton The Complete Father Brown Stories

On deck:
Marianne Macdonald Blood Lies

Thursday, February 19, 2009

I first read Wallace Stegner a few years ago. His novel Crossing to Safety was filled of gorgeous prose and heartfelt reality. Now it's the centennial of his birth and he's still fighting (or not fighting) for recognition.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

I'm in NYC for the Tools of Change Conference for Publishing and finally made my way down to the Strand Bookstore last night and made my way through the 18 miles of books. This may come off like blasphemy, but there was just too much. Too many books, too many shoppers, not enough space. I did buy three books and if I was shopping like I used (without care for condition of a book,) I'm sure there would have been many more books making it to the checkout line with me. Instead, I got three firsts in G (good) to VG (very good) condition. The third book in the Barker and Llewelyn series by Will Thomas, The Limehouse Text; Road Kill and Blood Lies in the Dido Hoare series by Marianne Macdonald.

None are the first books in the series and none are in F or VF condition, but I believe they were good buys for $6 each. I think my library will be happy to greet them tomorrow afternoon. Right now they are only worth what I paid, but these were bought for my personal collection, not for potential resale.

Monday, January 26, 2009

My last few purchases have been for my personal collection. This past Saturday I picked up a copy of Louis Bayard's Mr. Timothy and Joan Hess's Out On a Limb for $1 each. Both are 1st/1st's and were well worth the two bucks, even if they don't have much actual value yet. I'm going to pick up Bayard's books because he's one of my favorite authors and writes pseudo-bibliomysteries. Mr. Timothy is a mystery that involves Dickens's Tiny Tim, all grown up and living in a whorehouse, tutoring the madam. I intend to get The Pale Blue Eye and The Black Tower as I go along. The Joan Hess book is a prime, albeit inexpensive, bibliomystery. It reads like a cozy murder mystery and involves Hess's protagonist, bookstore owner, Claire Malloy.

And after spending the day book hunting with my wife, we enjoyed a coffee and a couple magazines at the Barnes & Noble in Danvers. While going through pregnancy magazines, I showed her Oliver Jeffers's The Incredible Book-Eating Boy. Jeffers is my new favorite children's book illustrator and luckily, my wife enjoyed him too. First thing we did when we got home, was to buy four of his books on-line. We purchased The Incredible Book-Eating Boy, The Way Back Home, Lost and Found and How to Catch a Star. I'm not sure if any of them are firsts, but we got these to enjoy for years to come. I hope our baby will devour them. All four cost $32, counting shipping.

All in all, a pretty good book day.