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jenn

Murder by Death

I read cozy and historical mysteries, a bit of Paranormal/UF, and to mix it up, I read science and gardening books on occasion.

Kansas Troubles (Benni Harper #3)

Kansas Troubles - Earlene Fowler

Re-reading this 7 years later, this book did not hold up as well as the others.  My impatience with series books with 'away' settings reared its ugly head and I struggled with impatience.  And Gabriel was an ass throughout most of this book.  Not a misogynist, not a men-are-smarter-than-women ass, but just a closed off, overprotective one.  I'd have left him in the middle of a wheat field more than once. 

 

The writing continues to be solid though, as does the mystery plotting.  Harper doesn't pull any punches in her plots; people are devastated, lives ruined, very little in the way of true happy endings.  But compelling reading nonetheless.

 

---------old review below---------------

 

I think this series just keeps getting better and better. I normally dislike books within a series that "travel" - take place outside the normal setting. This book was an exception. Really, the mystery was just excellent and the character development, the relationship between Benni and Gabe, is outstanding. The author writes these stories with thought, deliberation, and authenticity. 



Irish Chain (Benni Harper #2)

Irish Chain - Earlene Fowler

I could have done without the massive relationship angst in this one, but in spite of this my original rating stands.  I loved the tie-in to the history of Japanese Americans during WWII; a part of American history that needs to be remembered and acknowledged.  

 

The mystery plot of this one was excellently crafted and ultimately tragic.  Overall it's a very well-written mystery and a generally well written, if somewhat dated in its gender dynamics, story.

 

I find myself eager to continue binging and moving on to book 3.  They just really don't write them like they used to.

 

----------Old review below------------

 

I found this to be a very enjoyable read - I loved the story line delving into the WWII issues with Japanese-Americans. I didn't see where the plot was going until the end and was quite surprised by the murderer. Outstanding character development as well. Looking forward to the next one, Kansas Troubles.



Treasure Hunt House

Treasure Hunt House: Lift the Flaps and Solve the Clues… - Kate Davies, Becca Stadtlander

I meet a couple of friends once a week for coffee/chai/chocolate and today one of them said "want to go to the bookstore afterwards?"

 

...

 

I assumed it was a rhetorical question.  Anyway, this friend has 2 small kids so we of course gravitated to the kids section, where she bought nothing, and I bought this book.

 

For myself. 

 

It has flaps. 

 

It has clues.

 

It has riddles.

 

Did I mention it had flaps?  Flaps are almost as good as pop-ups!  

 

The book is beautiful, with a gorgeous spread and multiple flaps for each room of a house owned by an obviously very wealthy Great Aunt Martha.  Behind each flap is a little fact about the object on the flap and they cover a multitude of subjects: art, music, inventions, history, and fashion.  

 

Each spread also contains a clue to one of the flaps - this was, unfortunately, the most disappointing aspect of the book as the clues seemed easy to the point of insulting.  Yes, yes, this is supposed to be a kids book, so the clues reflect that, I know.  But the clues' simplicity seem disproportionate to the relative maturity of the facts the other flaps contain.  There are a few concepts (like BC and AD, or royal executions as examples) that  imply a higher level of education than clues that consist of "Stop Press! Read all about it! The answer is here in black and white!", which is easy enough that I don't even have to tell you the answer.  Although perhaps in this digital age I'm giving kids too much credit.  

 

Regardless, the facts were great but the clues too easy.  But the book is lovely and I can't wait to show it to my nieces.



Fool's Puzzle (Bennie Harper Mystery #1)

Fool's Puzzle - Earlene Fowler

Benni is trying to move on after being widowed and moving off her husband's family ranch, taking a job in town as director of the folk-art museum.  3 months into the job, she finds a co-op artist dead in one of the museum's studios and her cousin fleeing the scene. Her family loyalty and her natural stubbornness become an unmovable object resisting the new police chief's unstoppable force.

 

According to my shelves I read this for the first time in 2011, but wrote a nothing review of it.  I re-read it it last night/today to see if it held up to my memory of it.

 

Yes and no.  I found the first half dragged.  I remember a slower pace, but I wouldn't have said it dragged.  On the other hand, the writing was much more affecting than I remember; the MC Benni is a recent-ish widow in that horrible transition, when pain of loss mingles with guilt from moving on.  Fowler combines scenes of nail-spitting, verbal sparring matches between Bennie and Ortiz with quiet scenes of horribly raw pain that will choke up more susceptible readers.

 

The mystery plotting and the sub-plot romance are both a tad 90's cliche, but I found them both done well enough to enjoy, once things finally started moving.  I like the chemistry between Benni and Ortiz, and the murder mystery - which I didn't remember enough of - satisfyingly constructed and resolved.

 

I haven't felt like binge reading in longer than I can remember, but I'm definitely picking up the second in this series for a re-read straight away.

 

----------- Original thoughts below ----------------

 

 

I checked this one out at the library and they only had the large-print edition, which I found a bit distracting.

 

This was a good first, I really enjoyed it and it moved really quickly. I'd love to read more in the series.



How-to: Finding, installing and using the Shelve It widget to add books to BookLikes.

As of this writing, the BookLikes functionality we all depend on - the automatic importing of new books into the database when we use the search function - is 'under review'.  That means that for the time being books have to be manually added using the Add New Book button, OR

 

Use the Shelve It widget.  This widget currently works only with Amazon.co.uk, but the UK site has almost all the same inventory access as the other Amazons, so other than remembering to go to .co.uk instead of .com, or whatever your default may be, this might be a viable way to add books to the database faster.

 

So where is this widget, how do I install it, how do I use it?

 

Turns out finding it is the hardest part, because it hides in plain sight.  Go to your shelf page.  You'll find it there on the top right.  It looks like a small book. Drag that to your browser bookmark bar (you might have to turn this on in your browser settings). 

 

 

That's installation taken care of. 

 

To use it, simply go to http://www.amazon.co.uk and search for your book.  Once you find it, click the Shelve It link that's now in your bookmark bar.  There will be a small pause and depending on which browser you use, you might see it starting to load another page.  It should then take you to the new BookLikes book page for that book.  Done.  Imported.  Now you just have to remember to add it to your shelves.

 

Notes:

The shelve it function does not, at this time, bring in the book cover.  If you think about it, when you're on the Amazon page, before clicking the Shelve It button, drag the cover to your desktop (or screenshot it, whichever you feel comfortable doing).  After you hit the Shelve it button and it takes you to the new BL book page for that book, you can "Add Cover" and upload the cover too.  This will make everybody's day.

 

If for any reason clicking the Shelve It button takes you directly to the BL dashboard instead of the book page, the import failed.  Make sure you're on the Amazon.co.uk site, not any of the others, and try again.  If that doesn't work uninstalling/reinstalling it might: drag the widget off the bookmark bar (which uninstalls it) then go back to your shelves and drag it back on.  Try again.

 

Happy importing.  :)



Headstrong: 52 Women Who Changed Science–and the World

Headstrong: 52 Women Who Changed Science-and the World - Rachel Swaby, Lauren Fortgang Headstrong: 52 Women Who Changed Science-and the World - Rachel Swaby

A collection of short biographies highlighting 52 women who changed science - many of them Nobel prize winners - that most people have probably never heard of.  Or, at least, never heard of in relation to their scientific accomplishments.  

 

Most everybody of a certain age or with a fondness for old movies knows Hedy Lamar as a siren of Hollywood movies; fewer know she developed and held the patent for the technology that makes wi-fi and cellular phones possible.  Literature and poetry readers will recognise Ada Lovelace as the daughter of Lord Byron but how many of those same readers know her paper on Babbage's Analytical Engine is considered "the most important paper in the history of digital computing before modern times.", or that she wrote the first computer program?  Ever.

 

All of these women were amazing not only for their accomplishments in a time when women didn't accomplish much beyond home and hearth, and not only because they accomplished these achievements in the most male dominated of all the fields in a male dominated world.  They were amazing because they just did what they wanted to do.  They didn't wail, gnash their teeth, or whine, or cajole.  They just got on with their passions and went around anyone who got in their way.  An astonishing number of them worked for free.  All of them kicked ass.

 

I shy away from calling these women role models: the biographies here are restricted solely to their scientific accomplishments and for all I know some of these women might have been drunks or addicts or gamblers in their private lives.  Certainly Hedy Lamar had a rather colorful, and often pragmatic, love life (which I've read about elsewhere). I'm not judging Hedy for her choices - personally I say more power to her - but her choices are probably choices I'd rather not see my nieces have to confront.  But they are amazing sources of inspiration for all women interested in STEM subjects.  If these women changed the world in a time when they weren't even legally allowed to vote, imagine what similarly headstrong women today can accomplish (and are)?

 

My favorite quote is from Nobel prize winning physicist Rosalyn Sussman Yallow, who, along with her partner, identified the differences between humans an bovine insulin and developed radioimmunoassay: the process of measuring hormones by looking at their antibodies.

 

When asked "How does one get past discrimination?" she replied:

"Personally, I have never been terribly bothered by it ... if I wasn't going to do it on one way, I'd manage to do it another way."

 

This was an excellent read in audio.  Fortgang's voice is clear and easy to understand and she reads the material naturally and with spirit. 



Monk's Hood (Brother Cadfael Mystery, #3)

Monk's Hood  - Ellis Peters

I finished this two days ago, which means the details are fuzzy at this point.  It's excellently written, of course, and the plotting equally well done.  Peters was clever; obfuscating the murderer with ease and subtlety.  

 

I resisted this series for a long time; I like historical mysteries, but tend to prefer Victorian time periods.  The middle ages don't interest me in general, but Ellis Peters' storytelling transcends the time frame its written in.  I'm reading it wondering what happens next, not cringing over the living conditions.  

 

I like Brother Cadfael quite a bit; he's not pious with all its negative connotations; there's no preaching or evangelising.  He's devoted to his faith and his calling to monastic life (a devotion that is tested in this book) but he's not trying to be a martyr to either.  I was a little disappointed that Hugh didn't have more page time, as he brings a spark to the pace, but overall, this was an excellent mystery.



It's that time again - reminders from your friendly librarian.

With BookLikes' automated import on search functionality in limbo (please for not much longer), everyone not finding their books in the system is adding them - YAY!  BUT...that means the queue of approvals for librarians is so. much. longer.

 

That's totally fine, but in order to churn through them in a timely manner it becomes more important than ever to keep the following in mind:

 


Covers:  Changing covers must have a valid source librarians can verify.  Librarians won't change covers without source URLs.  Please note:  Goodreads error rate has gone significantly up, they are no longer a reliable source for correct cover art.  Librarians may or may not accept a request depending on other sources.

 

Some ISBNs have multiple cover art.  If your book is one of them, please file a report (flag icon on book page) to indicate you would like to have an alternate cover edition made, providing a valid source URL for your cover of choice, and the ISBN it is an alternate for.  I do not recommend trying to change an edition's cover with alternative art - it may or may not be accepted depending on what the librarian finds.

 

Titles:  DO NOT include series information in the title.  DO NOT include the format in the title.  Just the title please.  And  a subtitle if applicable.  Series are not subtitles.  Please use the series field for series.

 

ISBN/ASIN fields:  I cannot stress this enough:

 

Hardcovers and paperbacks get ISBNs only.  NEVER USE AN ASIN FOR THESE!

Ebooks get ISBNs only: NEVER USE AN ASIN FOR THESE!

 

Kindles get ASINs only:  NEVER USE ISBNs FOR THESE!

 

Please add seperate editions for ebooks and kindles.  Librarians will not leave records with both ISBNs and ASINs. 

 

Audible audiobooks get ASINs.  Digital download audiobooks from EVERYWHERE ELSE get an ISBN.

 
Seriously, the number of "ebooks" with ASINs that come through AND the number of "kindles" that have only ISBNs drives me a little nutty.

 

Books without any ISBN or ASIN need valid source URLs.  Please make an effort to find the ISBNs or ASINs.   If you add a book without either of these numbers and there are matching editions that DO have them, your added book will be merged with the edition that is correctly identified.   (Note: see alternate cover notes above if this applies.)

 

Format:  Please see my rather frantic notes above under ISBN/ASIN.

Kindle=ASIN

ebook=ISBN

 

Descriptions:  Please do not include quotes from other authors, notes from the author of the book, a list of other titles, or any other marketing material that is not directly describing the plot of the book you're adding.  If you do, it'll likely be removed.

 

While I'm on that subject - When editing author records, please keep the bio of the author to being an actual bio.  NO MARKETING, no title lists, no quotes from other authors, no announcements of book sales, upcoming releases or free stuff in exchange for a newsletter subscription.  These will also be removed.

 

 

Please feel free to reblog this if you think you can get it to a wider audience.  Complete records for new added books will help librarians get through  the lists faster and free up their time to clean up other parts of the database that are in urgent need to attention.

 

Thank you from your friendly (mostly) neighborhood librarian.s



Book Towns

Book Towns: Forty Five Paradises of the Printed Word - Alex Johnson

A travel itinerary for all bibliophiles, bound in hardcover for easy reference.

 

All kidding aside (if I am kidding), this is a gorgeous book filled with 3-4 page spreads on towns that have dedicated their existence, or tried to, to the joy and importance of the written word in all its forms.  Except digital.  Because digital is evil (now I'm definitely kidding.)

 

The bittersweet part of this is the success rate of some of the towns.  At least half, by my very loose and statistically inaccurate count, have struggled, or find themselves with far fewer bookshops than they started with.  Some of this is the natural atrophy of any business category; there are always those that failed to prepare themselves adequately for the roller coaster that is small business ownership, but the ever shifting market of bookselling and the control of the market by big business, of course, bears the brunt of responsibility.  

 

There are success stories too, and those success stories are significant.  Hay-on-Wye (my personal nirvana/paradise/heaven), Wigtown, and embarrassingly enough, Clunes here n Victoria.  The one that's only 90 minutes from my doorstep and I haven't been to yet!  Boy, is my face red.  Anyway - these towns as well as others all over the world are proof that the concept is important and chock full of possibilities.

 

Johnson does a good job generally, giving a solid overview of each town, featuring the shop names you hope are solvent enough to be around by the time the reader figures out how to get there. He even occasionally mentions (especially for the French towns) the concentration of languages shops focus on.  My only complaint is that I'd have liked this thoughtful touch to be more consistent.  At least one reader of this book does see it as a bucket list (me), and, while most of the towns in this book would stand on their aesthetic merits, it would be helpful to know whether I'd be unlikely to find much in the way of reading material if I'm to visit.

 

Definitely a book to put off reading if you're trying to avoid the travel itch.



The Flat Book Society: Reminder to vote (again) for September book

Just a quick reminder for all members of The Flat Book Society to check in with the voting list to vote for a new September read (one that's hopefully easy to source for most of us).  There are some very good suggestions, if I do say so myself (and that's unbiased, since the titles I seeded the list with are all at the bottom of the voting, lol).  

 

Get in there and have your say.

 

Huggins says Vote!



The Italian Garden: Restoring a Renaissance Garden in Tuscany

Italian Garden: Restoring a Renaissance Garden in Tuscany - Paul Bangay, Cecilia Hewlett, Narelle McAuliffe

In 1967, while doing some shoring up of the outer walls surrounding the Pallazo Vaj, gorgeous frescoes from the 1400's were found hidden inside the wall (one assumes it was a double wall sort of thing).  This became the later inspiration for Monash University's restoration of the Pallazo's car park, back to the Renaissance garden it originally was.  This book is a chronicle, of sorts, of that "restoration".  Explanation of the quotes later.

 

First, let me say this book is gorgeous.  Beautiful in its construction, photography - all of it.   The writing was ... adequate.  Mostly written like University professors submitting committee reports, but on a subject so rich and interesting that, with the exception of one section, it's still easy reading.  (Not sure who Luke Morgan is, and I'm willing to bet he's a delightful, engaging person when he's at home, but his writing is nothing but pretentious gibberish.  I've read articles about quantum physicals that were less opaque and obscure.)

 

So, this book would make a lovely gift - but maybe not for a gardener.  The thing is, and this is my biggest disappointment, that while the book is beautiful, the garden is most decidedly not.  I realise beauty is entirely subjective, and I realise too that this garden needed to serve as a public space.  

 

But 80% of it is GRAVEL.  Hand to god, 80%. According to the book, there were only 4 types of plants used in the entire space: box (so. much. box), jasmine, magnolia and lemon.  Lovely plants, beautifully scented, but nothing else and EVERYTHING clipped to within an inch of its life.  Even the magnolias are forced into a Christmas tree shape.

 

This is the "restored" garden:

 

I'm pretty sure you could still use that as a car park, just sayin'. 

 

So, thus my rating.  Great book, decent writing, horrific garden.  Sorry Monash Uni, that's not a garden.

Source: http://www.google.com/url?sa=i&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=images&cd=&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=2ahUKEwj59sKQ-azcAhVQ7mEKHSyOBWcQjB16BAgBEAQ&url=http%3A%2F%2Fartsonline.monash.edu.au%2Fexpectations-in-healthcare-testing%2Fevents%2F


The Inner Life of Cats: The Science and Secrets of Our Mysterious Feline Companions

The Inner Life of Cats: The Science and Secrets of Our Mysterious Feline Companions - Thomas McNamee

I'm going almost the full five stars on this because it's the best cat book I've read to date.  I've not read a ton, to be honest, but McNamee manages to capture both the science and the essence of the relationship between a cat and its owner.  He is undoubtedly a man coming at the subject with heartfelt appreciation and love for our feline overlords and his advice is rational, sound and passionate.

 

I learned a lot from this book.  I never knew that the sticking out of the tongue was a sign of friendship and acceptance; I always thought Easter-cat just left her tongue sticking out sometimes.  The front leg stretch isn't really a stretch, so much as it's a gesture of acceptance and friendship.  McNamee has me a little stressed out about Easter-cat's insistence on only eating dry food.  Small things like that, as well as much bigger issues like separation anxiety have given me much to think about. 

 

McNamee also talks about a lot of very sticky issues, especially regarding breeding, the cat's need to hunt, and the feral population problem that plagues communities around the world.  His overview of how Italy - specifically Rome - is tackling the issue is an inspiration, if not a complete solution.  I think he does a phenomenal job bringing home the basic idea that cats (and any pet for that matter) are not merely personal possessions or accessories; they are living creatures with as much right to quality of life and dignity as we might and arrogant humans so.

 

This book is a weaving of science and personal anecdotes about the author's cat, Augusta.  Those personal parts are brilliant, and sometimes nail-biting.  Full disclosure:  I flat-out skipped chapter 7 on sickness and death.  I'm a sissy, and the first 6 chapters convinced me that McNamee was going to write chapter 7 with at least as much passion and heartfelt sincerity and there aren't enough tissues in the world to get me through that chapter.

 

I knocked off half a star because some figures at the start seemed to fantastical to be true, and though there is a notes section at the back, those figures weren't cited, leaving me and others feeling distrustful of the data.  Otherwise, I thought this was a brilliantly written, fantastic resource for anybody who wants to be a better cat slave.



The Flat Book Society: September read Do-Over.

Ok, after some discussion the prevailing feeling of the group is that we should have a new vote to find a book for our September read.  Our first selection turned out to be hard for most everyone to source.  So I've cleared the list and added back the 2nd place book as well as 3 selections from my own shelf just to start things off.

 

Please suggest books for our September read, and/or vote for the book you'd most like the group to read together.

 

Voting and contributions will stay open until July 30th, at which point I'll announce the new winner.  Which will hopefully be easier for us to get ahold of.

 



Strange Fascination (Essex Witch Museum Mystery, #3)

Strange Fascination - Syd Moore

Consider my enthusiasm for this series dampened.  This was a very average effort, with a number of problems I couldn't overlook.

 

The biggest is the MC, Rosie.  I'll give the author the benefit of the doubt and say she probably has a long-range plan for Rosie's personal growth, but if so, she's not executing it well.  The MC has a chip on her shoulder about being from Essex and the stereotypes involved in being an "Essex Girl"; the chip is big enough to sit firmly in soapbox/crusader territory, as she frequently fights the good fight against the idea that an "Essex Girl" is cheap, trashy, and dumb.  And then proceeds to refer to vegetarians as "nut-nuts".  And utterly dismiss someone's conversation about ecology, because ... who cares?  And when people fail to fawn over her best friend for being the "black urban goddess" she is, her knee-jerk reaction is to dismiss them as backward conservatives. (They were polite, mind you, they just didn't fall to their knees in awe.)  Not sure how she can find the time to fight the Essex Girl stereotype when she spends so much time stereotyping everyone else.

 

The author also seems intent on making Rosie a bit of a dim bulb through the use of scenes and dialog that are obvious choices to highlight her ignorance without showing any desire to correct it.  Again, it's hard to square this with Rosie's righteous mandate to stamp out the cliches.

 

She also spends a lot of time drunk.  Absolutely pissed.  Bottles of Prosecco at a time pissed.  Now, I don't care what socio-economic class you are in or are perceived to be in by others - being a drunk is not classy.  I understand some cultures enjoy the plonk more than others, but sorry, drunk is tawdry in any culture and economic class.

 

So.  MC with contradictions.  It happens, and as I say, the author might have a master plan I'm just not seeing.

 

Unfortunately there were some egregious editing issues too.  Poor and odd word choices (she kept referring to the ground as the floor - is this a common interchange in UK English?), and poorly copyedited, this 3rd instalment felt rushed to press.  The pace dragged too, and the plot was all loosey-goosey.  A more severe editor would have done this book more justice.

 

I liked the story though, once I was able to dig through all the extraneous dead-ends.  I enjoy the factual elements of historical record the author uses, tying them and local legends into her modern day murder plots.  If the author dropped the hypocritical chip on the MCs shoulder, matured her up, dried her out, and tightened up her plotting, she'd have a hit series on her hands.  She might yet, but this book won't be a contributing factor.  I'll be taking a close look at the fourth one (if/when it comes out) before I commit to reading further in this series.



Notes from a desperate bibliophile

Shelving.  That elusive infrastructure that literally supports every bibliophile's habit.  There's never enough of it; it's been in perpetual shortage since the first library in Alexandria was built and a new daily lament was heard:  We're running out of room for all these scrolls!!! 

 

This bibliophile has been especially challenged by her delusional idea that it would be good for her character to live in a small home (Learning to live with less will be good for me!).  Less of everything except books, of course.  Coupled with the equally delusional: I'll never fill this small "second bedroom" with books - this will be fine!, I'm constantly challenging the laws of physics, attempting to fit an infinite number of books in a very finite space.

 

I know a lot of my fellow bibliophile friends double-row their bookshelves.  I've never been able to stomach the idea, because, of course, I will immediately want/need the books in the back row and not be able to find/access them.  But I've been thinking about this ...  

 

Last weekend was spectacular, weather wise - pure sunshine and warmish temps - so I cajoled MT into rummaging around in our shed for scrap wood.  A bit of further sweet-talking and he sawed some of it down, left me with the hammer drill, self-drilling screws and a couple of cans of left over paint. The result was two of these:

 

 

I did the bare minimum putting these together: the quickest sanding, one coat of black paint and one coat of clear.  I eyeballed the location of the legs and hammer-drilled the screws in.  What are they?  Well, they're elevated shelves that are half the depth of my bookcase shelves.  In the bookcases, they look like this:

 

 

This is not the greatest picture for depth perception, but you get the gist.  They allow me to double shelf my smaller books, but still allow me to see the titles AND easily access the books in the back.  Finished it looks like this:

 

 

With the smaller books it works PERFECTLY (those are my Agatha Christie books).  I'm not as pleased with the look when I add the larger hardcovers, as you can see them on the right.  They fit fine, but they look too 'in your face', but I didn't want to waste the space.  I doubt I'll do more of these for my hardcover fiction, but I'm definitely going to cobble together some more for my smaller non-fiction books and my paperbacks.  

 

I figure this should buy me at least one month before I have to start stressing about bookshelf space again!

 



Reading progress update: I've read 151 out of 288 pages.

The Inner Life of Cats: The Science and Secrets of Our Mysterious Feline Companions - Thomas McNamee

I've been stalling on finishing this one; sad times ahead - but it's going to get as read as I'm willing to read by the end of today.

 

Anyone else still reading this?  How are you going?  Have you hugged your cat today?

 

You want your book?  Well, I want some PETS!!!