I read cozy and historical mysteries, a bit of Paranormal/UF, and to mix it up, I read science and gardening books on occasion.
Is it time to start playing yet? CanWe CanWe??
Are we there yet???
There is no getting around that these books are the very definition of cozy; they're also charming in a way that endears them to even a thoroughly unromantic soul such as mine. And while the focus of the series is an overall sweetness and innocence, Bowen occasionally slips edgier tragedies in that makes them all the more heartbreaking. I think Bowen manages to capture perfectly a certain naiveté at a time in history when the world was at a tipping point, before everyone found out how truly evil humanity can be.
This eleventh book is a good example of this, even though the mystery itself wasn't quite as finely crafted as some of her others. Anyone who has read the series will be thoroughly at home with Georgie and Belinda (another one!), Darcy and Fig. And Queenie was left behind in this one - YAY! This time Georgie is in Mussolini's Italy and there are dodgy goings-on at a house party the Queen has sent Georgie to, in order to spy on her son and that hussy Wallis Simpson.
I guessed the murderer early on (too much page time) but the story never failed to keep me amused, and there was a scene between Georgie and a German soldier that purely broke my heart for it's sweetness and naiveté.
The ending for Belinda's story line was just way too convenient, in the way these story lines always are, but in spite of that, I'm happy to see it wrapped up and I'm looking forward to the next book - may the fates keep Bowen from turning it into a wedding-in-peril story.
I don't really know what to say about this book. The writing is superb; really just near perfect. The dialog is crafted so well it just trips off the tongue, even though it's a speech pattern that's hardly common today.
And I genuinely liked Lord Sale and his cousin Gideon (him best of all, I think); I even didn't mind the pompous uncle and Tom was moderately amusing. I should give Heyer a fourth star just for that story about the two donkeys, a horse and a cow. But as for the rest...
Lord Sale's staff were insufferable. Heyer meant them to be, of course; that's a big point of the plot from the beginning, but she did her job so well it was tedious to endure the reading of it.
Liversedge was probably brilliant and towards the end even I thought the situation was hilarious, but the first half of the book his character was just smarmy.
But the character I save most of my ire for is Belinda. It was coincidence that I was reading this book the same time I was reading Grey Mask by Patricia Wentworth, but it was also perhaps karma having a go at me: I claimed nobody could be as stupid as Margot in Grey Mask and so the fates brought Belinda into my reading life. Belinda makes Margot look like a genius; Belinda makes air look literate. Belinda, in short, should have been institutionalised. Nobody – nobody – could be that vacuous and still show signs of life.
If this book failed at all it was with Heyer's decision to make Belinda too stupid to be believed. I could not be sympathetic to her story at any point because she was not even believable as an automaton. And because she played such a huge part in the middle of the book, the story dragged dangerously midway through and at one point, I just didn't want to finish it. Fortunately, the POV shifted to Gideon, and the story picked up pace considerably. The last half of the book was great, in fact: even though Belinda got to let her stupid shine to the very end, there was a lot less of her and the story focused on the characters that were interesting - the sentient ones.
The moral of this story: stupid people can ruin even the best story.
Moonlight Reader made my card for me yesterday, but I wanted to wait to post until I had it printed out (go MT!), my books chosen, and my bingo markers decided on. So you're getting it all in one hit.
Last year I created my own bingo markers, each one's theme tied to its square. I know I'm not going to have near enough time for that this year, so I decided to go with an enhanced version of my Dia de los Meurtos gecko I use for my avatar. I did two versions, just to keep things lively and do justice to my bingo card.
I spent last night putting together most of my list and after clarifying one or two things, finished up this morning. I was smart this time, and slapped a post-it on each book with the bingo square it's meant for written down, and MT had the idea of collecting them all in a wooden crate and it's going to work perfectly!
I might swap stuff out if I feel like it, but this way it's all in one spot and won't get mixed up with the rest of the TBR.
My absolute steadfast rule is that I can only use books I already own - no buying books, or even borrowing them from the library, because truly, the TBR situation is getting dire. My desire to own an infinite number of books is colliding violently with the reality of my finite amount of real estate. I either reduce my TBR or bring in a contractor, and the contractor isn't available until February - so, only books I own. This means a couple of them are going to be re-reads.
This is what's in the box, by bingo row, left to right:
Finn Fancy Necromancy by Randy Henderson (Kirkus review refers to ghosts.)
The Elusive Elixir by Gigi Pandian (A bit of googling; one of her parents is from India)
The Big Book of Locked-Room Mysteries edited by Otto Penzler: I'll read a few shorts.
The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen This is a re-read.
Gone Gull by Donna Andrews There's a bad joke here that made me do it.
Bibliomysteries edited by Otto Penzler: I'm going with a Micky Spillane short.
Selected Tales by Edgar Allan Poe: I'll re-read some of his short tales.
Endless Night by Agatha Christie: if you look hard at my cover, there's a forest. :)
** I'm told one of the 3 books in this has demons, so it might not be this book, but I have all three, so after reading them, whichever one is the most demon-y is the title I'll use.
Looking forward to September 1st! :)
I've always been familiar with the name Patricia Wentworth as one of those Golden Age authors omnipresent on my mom's bookshelves, but I had no idea at all about the books themselves. That gave me the chance to come at this one completely fresh, with no pre-conceived notions of what I'd be getting with Miss Silver or the mystery.
The TL;DR; version is: it's a good mystery and very good writing. Definitely worth your time if you enjoy going back to the golden era of mystery writing and like a good female sleuth of a certain age.
To go a bit further into things, Miss Silver was in and out of the mystery, never the focal point, but she comes across as kind, if a bit condescending, with a Holmesian level of intelligence and skill for deduction. She's obviously not new to the investigation gig, as she has her own office and an apparently long client list by the time this book starts.
There's a big element of romance in this first book that I could have done without, especially since it is coupled with a woman-in-peril theme that I'm not at all a fan of. Margaret got on my nerves because I find it tedious when women claim independence by refusing to avail themselves of the help they need when they need it; that's not independence, that's martyrdom. And while I liked Charles in almost all other ways, he was an idiot about Margaret. 2/3 of the way through the book I wanted to knock both their heads together.
I liked Archie, although I doubt I'd have been as charmed by him if he'd had more page time. But Margot... well, thank god they just don't make them as stupid as they used to anymore. Honestly she was magnificent in her vapidity; a true danger not only to herself but to all around her. Rather than leave me constantly irritated by her stupidity though, Wentworth left me constantly gaping in incredulity at her instead. If she had to play this card, at least she played it brilliantly.
There are a couple of twists and hints of twists throughout the story. I nailed one of them - the identity of #40, but I totally didn't see the twist concerning Margot coming, nor Grey Mask's identity. And I have to say, I'm not sure I can buy it. To hind that kind of identity in plain site for so long without ever getting caught... believing that requires a suspension of disbelief that exceeds my abilities. Towards the end he was unable to pull it off, as evidenced by yet another twist, but that whole bit felt undeveloped, like it was either tacked on, or didn't work as well as the author hoped it would.
The ultimate fate of Grey Mask felt unsatisfactory, although amusingly karmic given his comments at the end, and I'd have liked a better explanation of Miss Silver's activities as part of the denouement, but I suppose that's a modern need to reveal the magician's tricks and I'll get over it. I'd happily read more of the Miss Silver books, and plan to keep my eyes open for more of them in the future.
Can any of the many fans of this series tell me: are there any demons in these books? Or shapeshifters, vampires or zombies?
I finished up to chapter 35 last night, and will likely finish up this afternoon. Events conspired against a more timely update, but I wanted to post a quick update of my thoughts up to this point.
In no particular order:
Miss Standing reaches heights of TSTL that are really quite impressive. I haven't read so vapid and empty -eaded a character in recent memory. She is actually a hazard to herself and everyone around her.
Miss Silver is, so far, not what I was expecting. Which is a good thing, by the way. She's remote, but not unlikeable. I think it makes a great deal of difference that I'm coming into the series fresh with zero idea of what kind of character she becomes in later books. She's definitely a female Holmes though; she might knit like Miss Marple, but she thinks like Sherlock.
Grey Mask is a Moriarty wannabe if I've ever read one; in fact, I'd go so far as to say Miss Silver's explanation of Grey Mask verges on plagiaristic (if only a couple of sentences can be considered plagiaristic). I'm beginning to think Themis-Athena isn't at all wrong about his identity, but if it is him, boy howdy is he a good actor. I'm not sure I'd buy that someone was able to live that level of lie authentically day in and day out for decades.
Interesting little twist that Lesbia drops into conversation with Margaret.
I just want to bang Charles and Margaret's heads together.
I've read through chapter 11 tonight and have met Miss Silver. It was a brief meeting, so I can't say much about her personality yet; so far she comes across nice enough, if a bit condescending.
I can figure out Charles' role at all yet, beyond bankrolling Miss Silver and mooning about over Margaret. And I started out really disliking the attorney, Mr. Hale, but quickly changed my mind after the scene with Egbert, which made me laugh. There's a sort of humour in this book that keeps making me think of Jane Austen.
So far I'm liking everything except what feels like the inevitable girl-in-peril focus of the romantic subplot; I'm not a fan of tragic heroines in need of rescue and that vibe is definitely dampening my enjoyment so far. Hopefully I'll turn out to have been wrong about that part.
Voting for the first two books came to an end today and we have two books tied at 7 votes each, so they're our first two reads.
Starting September 1st and running through October 31st:
The alimentary canal is classic Mary Roach terrain: the questions explored in Gulp are as taboo, in their way, as the cadavers in Stiff and every bit as surreal as the universe of zero gravity explored in Packing for Mars.
Why is crunchy food so appealing? Why is it so hard to find words for flavors and smells? Why doesn’t the stomach digest itself? How much can you eat before your stomach bursts? Can constipation kill you? Did it kill Elvis?
In Gulp we meet scientists who tackle the questions no one else thinks of—or has the courage to ask. We go on location to a pet-food taste-test lab, a fecal transplant, and into a live stomach to observe the fate of a meal. With Roach at our side, we travel the world, meeting murderers and mad scientists, Eskimos and exorcists (who have occasionally administered holy water rectally), rabbis and terrorists—who, it turns out, for practical reasons do not conceal bombs in their digestive tracts. Like all of Roach’s books, Gulp is as much about human beings as it is about human bodies.
And Starting November 1st running through December 31st:
The dead talk. To the right listener, they tell us all about themselves: where they came from, how they lived, how they died - and who killed them. Forensic scientists can use a corpse, the scene of a crime or a single hair to unlock the secrets of the past and allow justice to be done.
Bestselling crime author Val McDermid will draw on interviews with top-level professionals to delve, in her own inimitable style, into the questions and mysteries that surround this fascinating science. How is evidence collected from a brutal crime scene? What happens at an autopsy? What techniques, from blood spatter and DNA analysis to entomology, do such experts use? How far can we trust forensic evidence?
Looking at famous murder cases, as well as investigations into the living - sexual assaults, missing persons, mistaken identity - she will lay bare the secrets of forensics from the courts of seventeenth-century Europe through Jack the Ripper to the cutting-edge science of the modern day.
Reminders will definitely go out closer to our starting dates, and threads will be setup beforehand. (There is one thread for each in the club now for general comments).
If either (or both!) of these books sound good to anyone not already in The Flat Book Club, our door is always open and everyone interested is welcome.
This is going to be one of those reads that can be devoured in very little time, so I'm making myself stop at Chapter 5 for tonight.
It's a strong start so far. Since everything from the author to the series to the book is brand new to me, I'm not missing Miss Silver's presence; at this point it reads like any mid-century classic stand alone mystery. The first few chapters are from the POV of Charles, whom I'm guessing is meant to be the primary hero of this book, and chapter five is from the POV of Miss Standing. Charles has a slight air of Bright Young Thing to him but Miss Standing ... she might be one of the earliest examples of TSTL. I'm guessing the villains are going to rapidly regret ever involving themselves with her. Vapid with a side of chocolates.
I feel like I'm missing someone... am I missing someone? If so, please speak up. :)
I'll be cracking this book open tonight. Lets use the tag grey mask if we feel like we need to use one.
This series has always been oddly compelling to me - I can't say I ever really loved it, but yet I keep coming back for the next one. Part of the problem, I think, is that of the three permanent characters in the books, Hudson, Tex and Madison, I really only like Hudson and Tex. I don't have patience for Madison; she's not written to be a warm or likeable character, in my opinion. Vallere touts Madison's independence to much, she ends up being off-putting, and her independence isn't really independence at all; her heart got broken so she shut everyone out. That's a bitter cage, not real independence.
Anyhow, I like the two males and generally the mystery plots are pretty good. But this one just failed for me. I'm tired of the lack of growth in Madison, even when she's supposedly growing, and the plot was just too twisty and convoluted. At several points, it reads as though the author confused herself trying to make the plot too labyrinthine. And what am I supposed to do to with that damn ending? Are she and Hudson breaking up? If so, over what? It was as clear as mud and I'm not in the mood for obscure endings.
I also have to say that while Henery press generally has a stellar record regarding publishing quality, this one was a hot mess. Grammatically it was, I think, nearly flawless, but the timeline was messed up in places (Madison referring to things happening the day before that happened that morning) and there were more than a few places where she'd start out inside at the beginning of a sentence only to suddenly be outside by the end of it. Lots of evidence of a major re-write without a final read through for consistency.
Not sure I'll read another if it's published. Not because of the editing but because I'm just over Madison's issues and the emotional cages she keeps creating for herself.
For whatever reason, as much as I love this series in general, this one failed to pull me in completely at the beginning. Maybe it was the movie backdrop, or the over-the-top nastiness of one of the characters, or the batshit insanity of one of the others, but it just didn't grip me. Jitty the ghost was also back to her nagging, irritating ways.
The mystery plot though was a big old snarl of a puzzle. So many suspects, so many red herrings, but a plot twist that was supposed to shock but was telegraphed early on. But still, a very good mystery.
I am though, for the record, thoroughly jacked with the way Haines is yanking her readers and Sarah Booth around over Coleman. This is the book where it stopped being moving and starting just being ridiculous. Either put them together or kill one of them off already. The suspense has officially been over-played.
If anyone would like to join in and it's not too last minute, please do - everyone is welcome!
Just a quick reminder that there are 3 days of voting left to choose our first and second books. This is the last reminder too - the winners will be announced on Tuesday.
Voting for these first two books will close on August 15th. Voting remains open for reads beginning January 1st.
The first read will begin September 1.
We've had great turnout and so far two books are tied for first place with 7 votes each. You'll have to go to the group to find out which ones. ;)
Click the octopus (he/she needs a name!) Huggins to go to the bookclub.