Showing posts with label Mysteries. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Mysteries. Show all posts

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust by Alan Bradley

And here it is!  The long-awaited latest Flavia de Luce mystery.  It was eminently confusing, thrilling, shocking, and very strange.  I loved it.

(I recommend reading this post before you read this if you haven't read these books)

Flavia has been sent from her beloved Buckshaw (the name of her home) in England to the Canadian girls' boarding school that her mother attended.  Feeling rejected and lonely, Flavia sets off with the awful Rainsmiths, members of the school board, to her new school, Miss Bodycote's Female Academy.  However, there may still be hope for Flavia when, on her first night at school, a mummified body wrapped in a Union Jack falls out of the chimney.  Rather than the expected child's response of fear, she pockets some pieces of evidence to examine and sets to work solving the case.  But there's more-along with all of this runs the mystery of three missing girls who are never discussed.  In addition to this, she's making friends, constantly having run-ins with the strict headmistress, and taking private Chemistry lessons from the Chemistry teacher.  And Flavia is determined that she will be the one to solve both mysteries.

Parallel to all of this is an overarching mystery that has been growing throughout this entire series.  Flavia's mother, who died in Himalayas on a mission, was in some sort of secret spy organization, or so we gather, which Flavia is now expected to join.  It is only hinted at and pretty much all we know about it is its name-the Nide.  It begins to be revealed in this book that Miss Bodycote's is a cover for all sorts of work done by the Nide, something that some of the girls and teachers are in on.  Even in this book, things just grow more cloudy and confusing, but this just gives me hope of another book in the series.

Reading through this summary, I am struck by how ridiculous and formulaic these books could be. It's my own opinion that mysteries can veer off in that direction very easily and everything about these books could, if given the chance, scream "unbelievable and cheesy".  But, Alan Bradley never for a second even considers allowing that to happen.  The books are crisp and funny and exciting and, yes, even believable.  Flavia is a gem of a character, brilliantly written, and even made me interested in Chemistry (her specialty).  The supporting characters are no cardboard props, but 3-dimensional characters with interesting stories and unique personalities.  Even the villains aren't formulaic!

In reading people's reviews, I discovered that a lot of people objected to this book on the grounds that it was too confusing and that Flavia didn't end up with a clear ending or even direction.  I will agree with this objectors that this book did feel a bit like just setting the stage for the next book.  However, what I disagree with is the objection that Flavia didn't end up with a clear direction.  She is told that she "passed with flying colors" and, though we don't know what this means yet, we can understand that she clearly accomplished something.

If you've been reading the Flavia series, you really need to get your hands on a copy of this one.  If you haven't read any of them, well, you are in for a big treat, I think.  And if you have read this book, please chime in and let me know what you thought of it!

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

What I Read in 2014

I read a lot this year.  I think I read so much because I had this blog that was quietly tapping me on the shoulder, reminding me to take the time to read and write on my blog.  Yes, there was my (brief) hiatus from blogging, back in the fall, but I could never completely leave this blog and, so, I'm committing to a brisker blog schedule and even more reading this year!  I thought I would compile a list of what I read this year.  I was so pleased, readers!  The list starts in March because that was when I started blogging and, honestly, I have absolutely no memory of what I read before that.


The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery (And my first blog post!)
The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver (Still one of my favorite works of fiction)
The Penderwicks Books by Jeanne Birdsall
Two Sherlock Holmes Books
Canterbury Tales
Kilmeny of the Orchard by L.M. Montgomery
Hotel Paradise by Martha Grimes
Don't Look Now by Daphne DuMaurier (NOT a hit!)
The Beginning of Flavia de Luce
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
Everyman and Medieval Miracle Plays
The Life of Pi

Saturday, November 22, 2014

In Which I Meet Amelia Peabody

Readers, I met Amelia Peabody and I do think that she is the most charming, fascinating, lively, and well-developed mystery heroine I have ever read in my entire life.

I discovered her after a friend very casually mentioned this fabulous mystery series by Elizabeth Peters about a Victorian archaeologist.  It didn't sound fabulous, but I trust this friend with book recommendations, so I checked the first one out and, oh, was I in for a treat!

The Amelia Peabody mysteries are about Amelia Peabody, a middle-aged, strong-willed, stubborn woman who spends her days charging through Egypt and working and learning at excavation sites.  Oh, and there are mysteries that she solves on the side, too.

This first book, Crocodile on the Sandbank, starts out with Amelia aboard a train, traveling to Egypt just after the death of her father.  While on it, she meets a waif-like woman named Evelyn Barton, who is fleeing her erstwhile lover and her tyrannical grandfather, who is enraged over the fact that she ran away with the lover in the first place.  Amelia firmly takes Evelyn under her wing and they proceed to Egypt, with a cousin-cum-prospective spouse for Evelyn in tow.  While there, they meet the Radcliffe brothers, who are an excavating team.  Sparks immediately start to fly between Evelyn and Walter, the younger brother, and Amelia and Emerson Radcliffe, the older brother, immediately decide to hate each other.  However, the whole party is thrown together after a walking mummy keeps making repeated, unfriendly visits.

The party knows that it has to be an Englishman, since only a person with Western influence would think to do such a thing and so they set out to find the strange mummy.  There are all kinds of adventures and near-misses and, meanwhile, Amelia and Emerson are growing strangely fond of each other.

This book really has everything-good characters with plenty of witty dialogue, an exciting plot, a smattering of romance, and a thrilling mystery.  I read the book constantly for 2 days and it went with me wherever I went.  This book is also responsible for a pot of soup burned to the point of inedibility.

The relationship between Emerson and Amelia was quite entertaining.  It was very reminiscent of the Darcy/Lizzie romance and countless others like it that have appeared in fiction ever since Pride and Prejudice made its way into the world, but at the same time, it was different enough to not be annoying.  Oh, and, spoiler alert, Amelia and Emerson do get married by the end of the book.  You knew it was coming, so that wasn't a terrible spoiler.

These books were first written in the 1970s by Elizabeth Peters and I am amazed at how historically accurate they were.  I think that 70s and 80s writing has a bit of a reputation as being sadly anachronistic, but there was nothing anachronistic about this writing.  It was perfectly done and very historically accurate.

I really, really loved this book and think that, if you are any kind of a reader, you will like this.  It was well-written and funny and exciting (oh, so exciting), and a million other adjectives, and I think that this series is something that pretty much anybody should at least read one of.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Her Royal Spyness Book 3- Royal Flush

I read something on the definitely light-ish side this weekend-the 3rd in the Her Royal Spyness series.  The Her Royal Spyness series is absolute fluff, but everybody needs some fluffy, no-brain-work-involved reading every once in a while, right?  I read the first two books but, when I went to find them to link, I couldn't find them.  So, all this to say, I am quite positive that I wrote reviews of the first two, but I can't find them anywhere.

I thought that this book was the best of all of them.  It was funny, it didn't have some of that awkward, trying-to-be-royal thing that I encountered in the other two books, and it was well-written, in a fluffy kind of way.

In this book, Lady Georgiana, Georgie for short, has gotten into a bit of a sticky situation.  It is a hot London summer and, with her on-the-sly cleaning business over for the time being, she searches around for a suitable job.  She tries hiring herself out as a theater and dinner companion and puts and ad in the paper and uses rather unfortunate terms.  As the editor of the paper tells her the next morning, "You might as well have just written 'Call Fifi for a good time'".  Mortified at her naive mistake, Georgie allows herself to be shipped home to castle Rannoch, which includes tracking the disreputable Prince of Wales, who is still flirting with the not-yet-divorcee, Mrs. Simpson at the castle down the road, Castle Balmoral.

While on the train, Georgie is coerced into helping Scotland Yard.  It appears as though somebody is trying to kill off members in line to the throne and Scotland Yard suspects that it is somebody "on the inside".  While there, Georgie comes across the dashing Darcy O'Mara who still seems to be in pursuit of her in the odd moments when he isn't running around the countery.

Of course, the book was no end amusing.  I spent the majority of the last few evenings curled up on the sofa with a huge horse-blanket quilt over my knees, reading Royal Flush.  It was a lovely way to spend those evenings and I even caught myself being thankful for the dratted Daylight Savings.

While these books are definitely fun to read, I wonder if I'll read through the whole series.  The books do have pretty much the same characters doing the same things, with no progression whatsoever, which gets kind of annoying.  And I get the feeling that nothing much is going to change in the future.  Maybe I'll just space the books so that I'm reading one every 6 months, so they don't get on my nerves.

This book was definitely faster paced with more intrigue and dashing here and there.  In the end, there's this section where Georgie is trapped up in an airplane with the murderer…talk about thrilling!  Of course Darcy O'Mara comes to save the day and everything ends alright, but the book is full of these kind of settings and adventures, something that was lacking in the previous two books.  It definitely kept the book from being totally repetitive and dry.

If you're in the mood for a light read with absolutely nothing that's going to make you have to seriously pay attention and if you like a good period mystery, then this is a good book for you.  Overall, I enjoyed it.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

The Baker Street Letters

I barely read at all on vacation (I know, go ahead and be shocked), but I did finish one book on the trip down there.  I read The Baker Street Letters, a book I'd been looking forward to for quite a while.  I am a big fan of the Sherlock Holmes books and so I thought that this story of two brothers who own offices where Sherlock Holmes "lived" would be right up my alley.

Here's the basic plot: Reggie and Nigel Heath are two brothers who are radically different.  Nigel, the younger brother, is a lawyer who is slightly mentally unstable.  After a month in a mental hospital, Nigel is back, working in an underling position for his big brother, Reggie, a very successful lawyer.  Nigel discovers letters from an 8 year old girl in Los Angeles, written to Sherlock Holmes, asking for help finding her missing father.  Nigel sets off on a wild goose chase, with Reggie close behind.

Doesn't that sound good?  Well, it was kind of a flop.  Michael Robertson, the author, is one of those people who don't sound entirely comfortable with writing.  The sentences were often a bit cumbersome and the experiences of the main characters felt rather contrived at times.  He also took far too long getting to the actual mystery, with lengthy chapters that delved into Reggie's supposedly complex emotional life.  I found myself alternating between yawning and the occasional eye roll.  In short, the book wasn't very well written.

It also had the fault of being not very Sherlockian.  There were no references to past stories, no links to things about Sherlock, except for the obvious connection of having the same address.  That's not enough, in my opinion, to warrant calling this a Sherlock spinoff or even a book inspired by Sherlock Holmes.  That clever way of solving mysteries through observation that Sherlock had was completely lost in this book.

But it isn't like this book doesn't have redeeming qualities.  Robertson does have the ability to write wryly and with a sly humor that could be very enjoyable.  I liked that Reggie and Nigel were both fully human people with understandable faults.  But that's about all the good I can find to say about this book.

So maybe I wasn't in the right mood for this book, but it's definitely not the kind of book where I want to immediately find the other books and read the rest of the series.  I'm wondering if this book will settle in my mind so that I remember it with fonder thoughts.  If so, I'll let you all know.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Her Royal Spyness: A Royal Pain

This is a review that I've been saving in my drafts for about a week now because I knew it would be such an easy review to write.  As summer comes upon us for real, I'm feeling the urge to pull out light, breezy reads to satisfy my bookish cravings in the little bits of time that I have available.  These mysteries fulfill that perfectly.  Her Royal Spyness is by no means a masterpiece of writing, yet the characters are well-drawn (I can't abide one dimensional characters) and there is a real, interesting plot.

In this, the second book in the Her Royal Spyness series, Georgie (short for Georgiana), is summoned by the queen.  Filled with the fear that the queen is sending her off to remote Scotland to wind wool for a dotty aunt until a suitable husband is found, Georgie sets off.  However, the queen only wants her to host a visiting German princess.  Georgie is in no position to host a young princess.  Her own allowance has been cut off by her stingy brother and she is living in a drafty London townhouse with no hired help at all.  However, how can she refuse the queen?  So the wild Hanni comes into her life.  Soon after Hanni arrives, a string of deaths occur that at first do not appear to be linked.   And so Georgie starts sleuthing around the bumbling police to find who is behind all the deaths.

Georgie's friends are all back including, surprisingly, the love interest who I was sure was going to get cut out.  There may be hope yet for Georgie and Darcy, although I'm still going to be pretty surprised.  Rhys Bowen has still managed to write a unique book.  With series like this, I'm always worried that the books are going to run together in my head in one indiscernible mush so I can't remember what happened in one book.  But, so far, both stories were different enough to be enjoyable, yet familiar enough that it was easy to come back into Georgie's world.
The next book

This book really isn't for everybody.  However, if you've ever loved a British mystery, a funny novel, a light-yet-still-well-written book, and a group of lovable characters, then this would be a great choice for you.  I loved it and can't wait to read the third one!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Her Royal Spyness

I just finished reading the first in a great new series!  It's called the Royal Spyness series and they are about a young woman who is 34th in line to the throne.  Lady Victoria Georgiana Charlotte Eugenie is in the uncomfortable position of being a young, unmarried woman in the 1920s with not very many encouraging prospects (romantic or financial).  Georgie, as she is called by her friends, is poverty-stricken because she has no financial support thanks to her half-brother cutting off her allowance, yet she can't respectably get a job thanks to her title.  The Great Depression in the United States is obviously affecting things, which makes it even harder.  However, Georgie has a job thrust upon her when a villainous Frenchman who was trying to get the family estate is found dead in her half-brother's bathtub.  Of course, the brother is accused although he is innocent, so Georgie sets off to find out who the real murderer was.

When I first saw this book at the library, I was slightly skeptical.  There was something slightly cheesy about the cover and, really, pun titles do not impress me.  However, it was a really enjoyable romp of a read.  Sure, it's not the most serious writing and will never compare to, say, Agatha Christie, but it's well-written and an interesting story.  I actually laughed out loud in several places.  It was a perfect book to devour in one sitting Sunday afternoon.

Georgie is a likable character and the characters around her are all very well-drawn too.  From her bumbling half-brother who never does anything right to her pinched, humorless sister-in-law, the characters are all interesting and different.

There were some minor faults I found with the book, but none of them were enough to make me dislike the book.  The whole "upholding the family honor" thing was played so heavily that it felt really overdone.  I'm sure there were expectations of a young, unmarried woman so close to the throne.  But bringing up the brave uncle who stood to face the cannons on the Scotland moor every. single. time. there's a creaking noise in the house felt crazy.  The love interest is of the sort that you know is going to be unsuitable as soon as you meet him.  These crime solving women never, ever end up with the romantic interest (I've never understood why).
The next one in the series.

In spite of it's occasional faults and foibles, the story is well-written and I'm very much looking forward to reading another one of these books.  I'm off to check it out of the library!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Mary Stewart Series: Nine Coaches Waiting

Nine Coaches Waiting is probably Mary Stewart's most well-known (and well-loved) book.  And I can see why.  This was the second time I've read this book and it was just as enjoyable as the first time I read it.

In this book, young Linda Martin goes to Chateau Valmy in the French Alps as a governess.  There is a sad past involving brutal orphanages that is mentioned briefly, but other than that, we know absolutely nothing about her.  When Linda arrives at the chateau, she is struck by its beauty and grace and is determined to do well.  But after several days, she begins to realize that the chateau is full of dark secrets.  There is the pale, shy little boy named Philipe and host of characters that surround him: the creepy, yet brilliant uncle and the aunt who is nervous and takes pills, the friendly American who is working as a forester, and the wild young cousin who comes for visits.  After one harrowing night where Philipe narrowly misses being shot in the woods, Linda begins to suspect the uncle and his son.

This book is quite gripping.  In some of Mary Stewart's books, she overdoes the atmospheric suspense a bit, but in this book, that hefty does of suspense works wonders.  As Linda and Philipe creep through the foggy forest and hide in a little wooden cabin to escape the evil uncle (whoops, spoiler...but you knew that was coming), you can just feel the tension build.  The characters who were evil were just evil enough to be convincing and the good characters were nice, but not nicity-nice.

The one thing that mildly annoyed me was the French.  The French characters would speak English to Linda and then just say one or two random words in French.  As Linda is speaking only English (even though she knows French quite fluently-it's her one power over her employers, they don't know she can tell what they're saying), I have no idea why they're assuming that she just knows the occasional French word.  But that's such a nit-picky thing and it wasn't a huge part of the plot, so I really shouldn't complain.  At least it wasn't as bad as the 50s movies where all of the characters speak English throughout the whole movie with a stilted, awkward French accent.  Gah.

Of course, I read this book in the new edition I got with the pretty vintage illustrated cover.  I am having so much fun reading these books all over again in a nice edition.  This book is a must-read.  If you never read another Mary Stewart book again, this is the one to read.  But I say that with every Mary Stewart book I review, so just read any of the Mary Stewarts and you'll be glad you did.

I can't do the Amazon link for these Mary Stewart books because they're only sold through Amazon UK.  So for my American readers, if you want to get this specific edition, google Amazon UK and then type in any of the Mary Stewart titles and you'll find them.

Saturday, May 31, 2014


After endlessly procrastinating (I have no idea why), I finally got around to reading Unpunished.  And I am so glad that I did!  Unpunished is written by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, a fairly famous feminist writer from the 20s.  She is better known for writing such things as The Yellow Wallpaper and Herland.  However, before she became a famous writer, she wrote a little mystery gently poking fun at mysteries of the time and providing radical (for the time) social commentary.  This mystery is Unpunished.

Unpunished is the story of a surprisingly (again, for the time) equal couple.  This husband and wife are joint detectives.  Every evening, they come home, cook supper, and then clean up together.  This might not sound jaw-dropping for today, but for that time period, this was pretty ridiculously unexpected.  The husband finds out about a new case in which a very unlikeable man has been shot, stabbed, bludgeoned, hanged (not hung, people), and poisoned.  As the couple digs into the mystery, they realize what a truly awful person this man was.  This man (sorry, I can't remember his name) ruled all of the women in his home with an iron fist and oppressed so many people that were "lower" than he was to such an awful extent that any number of people are suspected for murdering him.  In fact, the reader is actually expected to sympathize with the suspected members, rather than the murdered person.  The family is miserable and oppressed and would like nothing better than to get back at this tyrant.  Gilman writes so bitterly about this man that I was quite sure that she had had some experience with somebody rather like him.  I went back and read the preface and, sure enough, her brother-in-law was, apparently, a hateful and bossy old somebody who ruled her after her father died.

Aside from being a good mystery that left me saying, "What?!" at the end of it, this story was well written and made some pretty important commentary, even for today.  Sure, bossy old fathers forcing their young daughters into unwanted arranged marriages isn't happening very frequently, but the way people interact with each other and the world is still a relevant topic today.  This book is slow going at first, but the story starts to seep in to you after a few chapters.   I highly recommend it

And I have the amazon link.  Our library was discarding it and I just happened to catch it, so I don't know how many libraries are keeping the book.  (I'm not saying that your library doesn't have it- our's has the unfortunate tendency to throw out the old books and keep buying new, more "relevant" books.)  Happy Reading!

Sunday, May 18, 2014

The Dead in their Vaulted Arches

You know those books where you finish them and have no desire to go back into regular life or read another book?  The book is still so present in your mind that all you want to do is sit and go over the book again and feel sorry that it wasn't longer.  Well, that was how the last Flavia de Luce book was for me.  I've read some great books recently, but none of them have stuck with me like this.  I read it in about two sittings in one day and it was wonderful.

I'd heard some bloggers mention that this book isn't like the earlier books and this made me a little worried that I wouldn't like it as well.  I definitely agree with them, this book is a little different from the earlier books.  The other books followed the pattern of a pretty classic mystery that Flavia solves by traveling around her little village finding clues and talking to people.  Along the way, of course, there is some family friction and little side adventures, but the point is solving the mystery.  Well, this final book doesn't follow this pattern at all.

As the story begins, the de Luce family is standing on the railway station waiting for their long-lost dead mother who wrecked in the alps (I think...but I can't absolutely remember where it was) when Flavia was a baby.  As they stand waiting, a tall man comes over to Flavia and murmurs, "You like pheasant sandwiches, too?"  Minutes later, somebody shoves him onto the railway and he is run over by the train.  As the family members begin to flock to Buckshaw, Flavia learns more and more about her mother and she begins to suspect that there is more to her mother's death than meets the eye.  Is it perhaps connected to the man who died on the railway tracks?

Alan Bradley wrote about Flavia's mother's death and the reactions of the family so beautifully; I found the funeral scene so heartbreaking that it gave me chills.  I tend not to like extremely emotional scenes in books, but this was so believable and understandable that I thought it was very appropriate. The ending surprised and pleased me and the loose ends were so nicely tied up that I was left feeling quite satisfied with Flavia's lot.

I don't just recommend this series.  You must read this series.  I'm even considering buying these and re-reading all of them, they were so good.  However, if you don't want to buy them, please, please, please check them all out of the library and read them.  I promise, you will be glad that you did.

And that's the end of the Flavia de Luce series.  I've heard murmurings about there being more books, but who knows.  On Good Reads, the seventh book is listed with a 2015 release date, so we'll see...
Oh, but please, Alan Bradley, I want more!

Here are the links to all the blog posts I wrote about Flavia de Luce:

And here's the handy-dandy amazon link, so you can order this straight away, if you so choose.

Monday, May 12, 2014

The Data

The poll about how to pronounce the name Flavia from the Flavia de Luce books is over.  The result is that the name is....
Flaevia!  5 out of 6 people agreed that the name was Flaevia, while 1 person told me it was Flahvia.  Since the one person who disagreed is a member of my family who never read the books (*cough* Aden *cough*), I'm going with the other 83% that say Flaevia.  Now I just have to wait to get the last book back (it was accidentally returned to the library) and I'll be all set!
So now you know.  In other news, this is what I'm going to be doing today:

That green stuff is flats of little plants waiting to go in the dirt.

People, look at all the onions!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Belle Ruin

My latest read has been Belle Ruin, the third Emma Graham book in the series by Martha Grimes.  This book is just as wonderful as the first and second.  In this book, Emma discovers another mystery that seems to be tied in to the other two mysteries she is working on.  Years ago, the child of the rich owners of the hotel called Belle Rouen was kidnapped.  The press never really covered the story and the child appeared to have dropped off the face of the earth.  Emma is determined to figure out what happened to this baby and how it is related to the other two mysteries.  There were also several new plot developments, about which I was very pleased.

First of all, nasty old Ree Jane, the daughter of the co-owner of the hotel, is finally starting to get her comeuppance.  Emma has a job as a cub reporter, which infuriates Ree Jane to no end.  Emma also appears to have just realized that she can tease and torment Ree Jane to no end.  It is surprisingly refreshing reading about it.

Also, Emma is starting to gain respect from the people in her town and from her formerly quite cold mother.  Even the eccentric aunt on the top floor is coming to be slightly nicer, although she still requires that her daily martinis delivered by Emma.   The other relieving event was when the sheriff, who had formerly been on the outs with Emma, made it up to her by letting her help him check meters.
The Author

Now for the bothersome parts:  I really, really, really want to know the back-story of why Ree Jane and her mother are still hanging around the hotel.  What does Emma's mother owe them?  I'm hoping that this gets resolved in the fourth, and last, book.  Also, the ghost that only Emma can see makes me curious.  Who is this spectral figure?  I have a feeling that all is going to be revealed soon.

So those were my thoughts about the third Emma Graham book.  I'm looking forward to reading the last book!

Friday, April 25, 2014

Speaking from Among the Bones

I'm done with Flavia de Luce # 5, Speaking From Among the Bones.  Well!  I finished the last page and shrieked a little when I finished it.  The very last sentence drops a huge bombshell.  I have recommended Flavia over and over on this blog, so I don't think I need to rhapsodize anymore about how wonderful the books are.  Instead, I'll give a brief summary and then some of my favorite quotes from this book.

In this book, the little Hamlet, Bishop's Lacey, in which Flavia lives is holding a five-hundredth anniversary celebration of Saint Tancred.  In this celebration, they will dig up his remains.  Flavia just so happens to be on the spot and is the first to discover the former church organist, killed and wearing a gas mask in the tomb of Saint Tancred.  Nobody can think who would have bad feelings for the mild mannered Mr. Collicutt, but Flavia is determined to find out.

Quotes (Some of these, I marked in the book because I liked them, and some are thanks to GoodReads, who helps me remember every book quote I ever forgot):

“I was the eighth dwarf. Sneaky.”

“There's an unwritten law of the universe which assures that the thing you seek will always be found in the last place you look. It applies to everything in life from lost socks to misplaced poisons. . .”- This is so true!  

“The word “actually,” like its cousin “frankly,” should, by itself, be a tip-off to most people that what is to follow is a blatant lie— but it isn’t.” -  And, I would add, "No offense".  Of course you are going to say something offensive, there's no need to add that annoying little preface. 

“History is like the kitchen sink,” Adam answered. “Everything goes round and round until eventually, sooner or later, most of it goes down the waste pipe. Things are forgotten. Things are mislaid. Things are covered up. Sometimes, it’s simply a matter of neglect.” 

And finally, I have a poll for all you readers.  How do you pronounce the name Flavia?  When I read the first book, I pronounced it "Flahvia".  But here's the thing: Flavia nicknames herself "Flave", which makes me think that maybe it's "Flaevia."  I wonder if this is a British/American thing. I have a poll to the right and I'd love it if you would vote one way or the other.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

I am Half-Sick of Shadows

I got my Flavia de Luce book back!  I sat down and started reading.  I think this might be my favorite of the Flavia de Luce books so far because of all the developments in character and in the ongoing story about Flavia's mysterious mother.  I really was very pleased with what happened in this story.  The other new new thing about this book for me is that for the first time, I actually am interested in Dogger's character.  (Dogger is Flavia's father's valet of sorts and also a gardener/odd jobs man.  They were also in a war together and Dogger still has painful flashbacks.)  He seems to be developing into a main character and not just a background character.

In this book, Colonel de Luce (Flavia's father) is even closer to bankruptcy on the old mansion in which they live.  Finally, he hears about a film producer that is looking for an old English mansion for his latest film.  Colonel de Luce rents out the mansion and the set trucks and the famous actors start appearing a few weeks before Christmas.  This both disappoints and thrills the de Luce daughters, who are excited to have real live actors living with them, but also disappointed because it means that there will be no Christmas tree and presents.  However, things start to get very exciting when Flavia becomes friends with the selfish but strangely likable leading actress.  The night after a play that the actors give for the locals, Flavia can't sleep and so is wandering the halls.  Suddenly, she hears a movie that the actress starred in.  She hurries to the actress's room and finds her, hung from the ceiling with rolls of film.  But the odd and slightly chilling thing is that the actress was dressed and covered with make-up after she died.  Now it's up to Flavia, with the grudging assistance of the inspector, to find out whodunnit.  There are a pile of suspects, as half the village has been snowed in with the de Luces.
The quote on which the title of the book is based.
Each book title in the series is from a quote.

I am enjoying each Flavia de Luce book more and more as I go along.  Each story stands out in my mind and the characters are well-developed.  My next read will probably be the 5th Flavia book.  I'm also very excited because there is a TV show about Flavia de Luce being made this year!  I will most definitely be watching it.

Monday, March 31, 2014

An Update on Emma Graham

(See the first post)
Well!  I've just finished Cold Flat Junction and for some reason, this book set me more abuzz than the first book.  For one thing, I felt like the unfinished pieces were more apparent than in the first.  I desperately want to know why, WHY? the dreadful Davidows have to live with the poor Grahams.  The Davidows are a truly despicable mother and daughter who, for some inexplicable reason, are living with the Grahams and driving them insane with their awfulness.  I also am curious about the crazy great aunt Aurora who lives on the fourth floor and, it appears, drinks cocktails around the clock, prepared by Emma.  I also felt bad that the sheriff, Emma's only friend and confidant, grew slightly distant in this book.  And why is Emma's mother so stern and cold?  I'm sure there's a dark secret there.  I hope these questions get resolved by the end of the series.

This story is just a continuation of all of the themes and stories of Hotel Paradise.  But Emma is in deeper than ever and is discovering that the mystery that she thought she was solving has turned into three mysteries.  There's still more of Emma's incessant questions and the same quirky characters who help her find the answers to mysteries that have remained buried for years.

I can't wait to read Belle Ruin!  I hope that it answers some questions and gives me more of the same wonderful writing.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Flavia de Luce

I just finished a mystery called The Weed that Strings the Hangman's Bag and before that I read The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, both written by Alan Bradley.  They are mysteries about a young girl in 1950s England named Flavia de Luce.  She is a brilliant chemist, living with her slightly absent-minded father and two aggravating sisters who are respectively a brilliant musician and reader.  Flavia rides around her small English village on her bike, name Gladys, and solves mysteries.

As I said in this post,  I love stories about precocious young detectives who solve difficult mysteries in their everyday lives and I think that Flavia is going on my list of favorites.  Her funny voice shines through so well.

In the first book, a man is killed in her garden and she is convinced that her father did it.  But, to solve this mystery, she has to go back and solve another mystery about a man with whom her father went to school.  In the second book, Flavia meets a famous puppeteer and his assistant, the frantic and slightly distressed Nialla.  When the puppeteer is killed by a bolt of electricity and then hung by marionette strings, Flavia sneaks around the village inspector who is looking in all the wrong places and does some sleuthing on her own.

I have read just the first two in this fantastic mystery series.  I can't wait to read the next!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Don't Look Now by Daphne DuMaurier

Daphne DuMaurier is a very interesting writer.  When I opened Rebecca (DuMaurier's most famous novel), I fell in love.  I read the story through twice and it continued to haunt me.  It is a book that I still return to regularly
Crocuses!  Pictures in this post are of spring sightings.
However, Rebecca is the only one of DuMaurier's books that I have ever really enjoyed.  I read Jamaica Inn and liked it, but didn't adore it.  I didn't like the heroine and there was something odd about DuMaurier's writing style.  Then I attempted My Cousin Rachel and enjoyed it even less.  Two weeks ago, when I was at the library, I was browsing through DuMaurier's many works, thinking, "I need to get over this aversion and read something else by Daphne."
Pink rhubarb noses poking out of the ground!
Unfortunately, Don't Look Now, a collection of haunting short stories written in the 60s was my least favorite of all of DuMaurier's writing.  I happily started the first short story one drizzly evening and prepared to enjoy a good shiver.  At first, the story was very enjoyable, with a set of psychic twin sisters in Italy and two grieving parents.  But then, as I moved through the story, I started to frown.  A story that had great potential to be a good, eerie yarn, went down a gruesome path, ending (Spoiler Alert!) with the main character getting an ax thrown through his head by a dwarf woman.  Now, don't get me wrong, I love a good, haunting thriller, but this was too eccentric and gory to be thrilling.   I stopped reading. "Huh?" I said.  I skimmed the rest of the stories and found them just as odd.  I firmly shut the book and finished up the evening with something a little lighter.

Another kitty shot
In my opinion, Rebecca is the exception that proves the rule.  I don't particularly like DuMaurier's writing style, but she did manage to produce one pretty wonderful book.  So, I highly recommend Rebecca, but don't bother reading any of DuMaurier's other writings, unless you like lots of the supernatural and a very dark writing style.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Hotel Paradise

I was at the library and a title caught my eye.  I had heard of this series several times and I  kept meaning to read them.  The Emma Graham series, written by Martha Grimes, is about a 12 year old girl who solves the mystery of a young girl's death nearly 40 years ago.  This series is different from the usual mystery in that it is an ongoing story throughout all three books.  I just finished Hotel Paradise, so I have yet to see how the rest of the books are, but I think I'm going to love them all as much as I did the first.

The second book in the series.
In Hotel Paradise, Emma Graham is working with her mother at a hotel that they own.  She is kept very busy cooking and serving meals, but she still manages to make time to solve a mystery.  She has a gift for getting adults to tell her stories, which is mainly how she solves the mystery.  She makes many friends along the way and learns more about the mysterious girl's past, including the aunts that wouldn't talk to the girl and the sad story of how this girl was almost rescued from her lonely fate, but instead drowned.

The third book in the series

I really enjoy mysteries that are solved by precocious children who, even though they are quite young, manage to surpass even the police.  One of the first of these was Nancy Drew, who, while not very well written, paved the way for all kinds of mysteries with this theme.

I'm heading to the library today, and I'm definitely going to be checking out the next two Emma Graham books.

Monday, March 17, 2014

On Sherlock Holmes

I became obsessed with watching Sherlock recently.  About halfway through, I decided that I needed to read the actual books, because I almost always read the book first before watching something.  So, I checked out a collection of Sherlock Holmes stories.  I have a new fondness for the obsessive, slightly insane detective and his admirable sidekick, Dr. Watson.  I never guess how a mystery is going to turn out, no matter how hard I try, but that just makes me admire Holmes more.

Each episode of the show is loosely based on one or more short story.  It was so fascinating to read the original and see how the writers of the show changed the stories.

My favorite stories are The Speckled Band and A Study in Scarlet.  The collection I checked out of the library was very nice and included some good stories, but there weren't very many stories, so I'm going to look for a nice fat collection of Sherlock Holmes.