Thursday, August 1, 2013

July Book List

July was a great month for reading--mainly because it was too hot to cross stitch under my bright (hot) lamp.

Books Read:
  1. The Mouse in the Mountain (1943) by Norbert Davis
    Very much enjoyed this well-written blend of the hard-boiled detective with a '40's screwball comedy.
  2. The House without a Key (1925) by Earl Derr Biggers
    The first Charlie Chan mystery, set in Hawaii of the 1920's.  I enjoyed it much more than I anticipated; Biggers developed the characters nicely--with the exception of Chan, who played a minor role.
  3. The Book of Secrets (2013) by Elizabeth Joy Arnold
    My review is posted here.
  4. Becoming Myself: Embracing God's Dream of You (2013) by Stasi Eldredge
    My review is posted here.
  5. The Barakee Mystery (1929) by Arthur Upfield
    Characters were nicely fleshed out and the narrative was detailed and surprisingly good.  I will certainly read other mysteries by Upfield.
  6. The Secret of the Mansion (1948) by Julie Campbell
    The first in the Trixie Belden series.  I adored these books as a preteen, so I'm doing a reread of the series. 
  7. The Case of the Velvet Claws (1933) by Erle Stanley Gardner
    My first Perry Mason mystery and wasn't at all what I expected.  Mason is a sort of soft version of the hard-boiled noir detective (soft-boiled?) and I enjoyed it tremendously.
  8. From This Dark Stairway (1931) by Mignon Eberhart
    Another enjoyable hospital murder mystery. I'll admit, I never once suspected the guilty party, though it all made perfect sense when all the pieces fell in place.
  9. Flame and Shadow (1920) by Sara Teasdale
    My discussion is posted here.
  10. The Red Trailer Mystery (1950) by Julie Campbell
    The second book in the Trixie Belden series.  I'm surprised at how good they still are; then again, it could just be because they are "comfort food" books.
  11. The Black Honeymoon (1944) by Constance and Gwyneth Little
    Another darkly funny mystery by these sisters; not as excellent as the other two I've read, but still good.
  12. Keepers of the Faith (1944) by Emilie Loring
    Loring was a favorite of my pre- and early teen years.  I've been nostalgic lately for the books of my childhood and bought a box of her novels recently.  This was the first I've read in well over twenty years.  I expected it to be hokey, but it wasn't all that bad; it was written during WWII and I always enjoy glimpses into that era.  It was, however, rather poorly written.  I don't know if Keepers is typical of her writing style, and plan to read at least one more (this time I'll pick one I had read and loved before) to see if they are all like this one before I give up on them.
  13. The Martian Chronicles (1950) by Ray Bradbury
    Wow!  My discussion is here.
  14. The Penguin Pool Murder (1931) by Stuart Palmer
    A delightful mystery introducing Hildegarde Withers.  I knew the killer early on, and I took umbrage at 39-year-old Miss Withers being described as middle aged (now 41 myself, I see things a bit differently), but the pleasure of the reading experience far outweighed any negatives I found. I look forward to reading more of this series.
  15. The Last Days of Ptolemy Gray (2010) by Walter Mosley
    What should have been a sad, melancholy story was not; well written, believable characters, engrossing plot.

Audio Books:
  1. Night Has a Thousand Eyes (1945) by Cornell Woolrich
    I couldn't connect to two of the main themes of this novel (near obsessive parent/child love and a paralyzing fear of death) and yet I was drawn into the story because of his power of narration and vivid word pictures.
  2. Mamur Zapt and the Return of the Carpet (1988) by Michael Pearce
    Set in British "advised" Cairo in the early twentieth century; enjoyable plot and interesting characters.  Will doubtless read others in the series.
  3. The Ocean at the End of the Lane (2013) written and read by Neil Gaiman
    Magical, terrifying, awe-inspiring and wonderful.
  4. Partners in Crime (1929) by Agatha Christie
    Another highly improbable, thoroughly enjoyable Tommy and Tuppence mystery.  Christie makes references to the popular fictional detectives of the time, including a hilarious poke at her own Poirot.
  5. The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared (2009) by Jonas Jonasson.
    I can't begin to say how much I enjoyed this book!  Allan Karlsson, with his sunshiny disposition and incredible adventures, was a fantastic, likable character.  Yes, the book was improbable, but it was extremely fun.  I highly recommend this one.
  6. Every Crooked Nanny (1993) by Mary Kay Andrews
    Another chick lit/Southern/mystery by Anderson, which I am sort of embarrassed to be caught reading (listening to?) and enjoying, but nonetheless, I did both.
  7. If You Ask Me (and Of Course You Won't) (2011) written and read by Betty White
    A set of short, cute vignettes--just what one would expect from Betty White.  It was especially fun to listen to it, as she made it very personal, as though she were conversing with the listener instead of reading.
  8. The Thirty-Nine Steps (1915) by John Buchan
    my discussion here
  9. N or M? (1941) by Agatha Christie
    As is typical of the Tommy and Tuppence mysteries, this is a rather unbelievable, national espionage story.  As is also typical of the Tommy and Tuppence novels, it is delightful.  My only quibble was that the reader (this was sadly not the Hugh Frasier version) didn't seem to have any experience with children; his voice for a child of two was atrocious!
  10. A Study in Scarlet (1887) by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
    The first Holmes novel and worth reading only for the introduction of Holmes to Watson, not for plot or solution.
If you aren't swooning over this dangerous,
dashing Captain, you must be dead.

Massive Disappointment of the Month award goes to my attempt to read the fourth book in the Burton and Swinburne series by Mark Hodder.

I had been looking forward to the Secret of Abdu El Yezdi since last April, when I finished the Expeditions to the Mountains of the Moon, with it's rather murky ending.  I was excited to have it all cleared up and go on adventuring with my favorite real life hero and now steampunk novel hero, Captain Sir Richard Francis Burton.

I was stunned when I was unable to fall right into this book. It just didn't grab me; I found it too dark, confusing. . .  I was afraid it was a dud.

However, other reviewers that are also lovers of this series are giving this new one high praise.

I am going to assume then, that I just wasn't in the mood for Burton (WHAT?!?!), that for some reason the time wasn't right.  Or maybe it's just that it didn't start out doing what I wanted, i.e. explaining the ending of Mountains of the Moon.

Anyway, my plan now is to reread the first three books (visually this time, as I did audio last time), making sure I remember everything and am in the right steampunky mood, and then start this one.

It's just so disappointing to have looked forward to it for so long and then to find it unreadable!

I still highly recommend the first two of this series (The Strange Affair of Spring-Heeled Jack and The Curious Case of the Clockwork Man), and a bit less highly the third.  I recommend even more highly that you read about the real Burton, an amazing man that no fiction could contain.  As a tantalizing morsel, I'll just say that the scar is from a lance that went through both cheeks!  The story is better than a Haggard tale!


  1. I'm listening to my first Tommy and Tuppence right now (Secret Adversary). I can't believe I've never dipped my toes in the T&T waters before! I'm glad to know that there are some Hugh Fraser narrated ones out there.

    1. I like the Tommy and Tuppence, even though they are rather improbable. It's their personalities that make it so fun. (And Hugh Fraser is just so awesome!!)