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