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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.

The Witch and the Dead (Witchcraft Mystery, #7)

The Witch and the Dead - Heather Blake

These are always good fun: sweet without being sticky, sentimental without being sappy and the mysteries always well thought out.

 

As Darcy is moving out of her Aunt Ve's house into her own, Aunt Ve takes the opportunity to clean her garage out and finds a dead body: ex-husband #2 (Aunt Ve likes men) who disappeared the day after the elopement 30 years before.  Seems he never really left Aunt Ve (garage was used for storage, detached from the house, and Aunt Ve traveled extensively after he 'left' - for those wondering about the smell, flies, etc).

 

I'm not even going to bother touching on believability; the premise is a village full of magical witches so really, why bother?  But Blake does create believable characters; magic or not, these are real people and she makes it so, so easy to become invested in their lives. The mystery plot is well crafted too, and heartbreaking in its way.

 

It's a cute story and series, but it's a solid one and I'll keep on reading as long as Black keeps on writing.



How to: Shelves. Part 1 of possibly 100

A few Booklikers have struggles with shelves and it's something I've been wanting to do but have been overwhelmed just thinking about it.  

 

Linda Hilton, though, got me started as she had specific problems and questions that gave me a point of reference to begin.

 

This is by no means a comprehensive tutorial, it will be added to over time, and if you have specific issues with shelves, please post them in the How To BookLikes Group, (or in the comments below) and I or someone else will do our best to get them answered.

 

I'm going to presume everyone knows how to get to their BookLikes shelves.  By default, BookLikes displays your shelves as, well, shelves.  This is fine, but sometimes you need to extra power seeing your shelves in list view allows, so if you see shelves, please change the view to lists by clicking on this button:

 

 

Once you're in your list view - take a moment to check out the differences.... then click the "Settings" button on your toolbar:

 

 

This will take you to your shelf settings where you can choose things like your default view, default sort order, etc. etc.  But for the purposes of this tutorial we're focusing on the shelves themselves, so scroll a bit until you get to the list of shelves towards the bottom.

 

What is going to follow is a giant graphic of that section with notations about each function.  It just seemed the clearest way to explain all the different bits:

 

 

Notes:  

Exclusive statuses - these are shelves that allow you to mark a book without also setting it as Read, Planning to Read, or Currently Reading.   The best example of the usefulness of this is dictionaries .  Most of the time, you don't actually read, cover to cover, a dictionary.  Creating an exclusive shelf called Reference allows you to shelve it without having to mark your intention of reading it.   There are many other examples of these types of books, so you can create as many exclusive shelves as you'd like.  The checkbox for set as status allows you to move your shelves back and forth between exclusive and non-exclusive (in case you change your mind someday and decide to read the OED cover to cover).

 

click and drag - please note that older browsers and computers might struggle with this - if you think you're tech isn't a young whipper snapper any longer, use the Position numbers instead (although if you have a lot of shelves, yes, they're a pain).

 

I included the visible columns part of the page in the image above for two reasons.  1. It's where you can decide what to display in your list view, and 2. to highlight the multiple "Save Changes" buttons.  Now, I don't know for sure but rather to be safe than sorry, use the Save Changes button that applies to each section of the settings page.  So if you make changes to the table -visible columns section, use that save button.  If you make changes to the exclusive statuses, use that save button.

 

I suspect they're all the same but the sheer number of them make me concerned that they're not.  So, like I said, better safe than sorry.

 

Hopefully that will start us off.  Let me know.  ;-)



How to: Using BookLikes Widgets

Moonlight Reader's most excellent post regarding a reader's personal literary canon got us all thinking about the books that mean the most to us and/or define us as people and readers.

 

As I've been in a scripting mind space lately, I additionally started thinking about whether or not a BLer could display their personal canon on their blog pages, which is the basis for this tutorial.  But, this applies to anyone on BookLikes who wants to make widgets for the BL blog OR their personal blog; it just so happens that I'm customising mine for a book canon.

 

The following widgets are available, and they all more or less follow the same guidelines below:

 

Follow button -  (Follow my booklikes blog graphic)

 

Shelf widget - this is the one this tutorial is specific to; you can make more than one of these too, if you'd like to display multiple shelves.

 

Reading challenge widget - this gives you the progress bar/# of books box on your blog

 

Giveaway widget - what it says:  a box on your blog page announcing a book giveaway

 

Reading in Progress - Customisable to one book you're currently reading, so would need manual updating; gives you a progress bar like what you see on your dashboard.

 

Quote widget - this will pull the last Quote post you created (it must be a quote post - not a text post) and put it in a box on the side of your blog page

 

Discussions Widget - pulls the last user-defined-number of posts you've made in discussion groups; updated automatically.

 

My Latest Posts Widget - same as above: you define the number, and it pulls that number of latest posts you've made and makes teasers for them.

 

My Profile Widget - Allows your visitors to see a bit of data on you - data you can turn on or off.  Includes Country/# of Followers/Following/# of shelves/books reviewed, etc.

 

Reading List Widget - Customisable to show your most recently created lists (if any)

 

Author Widget - I'm guessing this is most useful for authors, but also fun for diehard fans of certain authors.  Search out your author name, name the list, define # of books to display, etc.

 

As I said earlier, they all follow more or less the same instructions - each is customisable (or not) in its own way, but all require you to go to the same page, get some code and paste it in your blog and that's what these instructions cover.  So, to begin:

 

Go to your Dashboard menu (the green one) and choose "Goodies".

 

 

 

From the Goodies page, select the "widgets" tab:

 

 

 

The widgets page is going to list all the widgets I've listed above and their customisable fields.  Whatever widget you want to make is going to be made on this page.  So for the the shelf widget, scroll (if you need to), down just a bit - it's the second one on the page: Shelf Widget

 

 

As you can see, the customisable fields are all pretty self-explanatory.  Play around a bit if you'd like; the preview updates as you make changes, so you can see what the finished product will look like.  Once you're happy with the look, press the "Get Code" button directly under the preview.  You'll get something that looks like this (but not exactly - because customisation):

 

 

If yours isn't highlighted automatically, highlight all the text in this box - make sure you get ALL of it, and use your Edit - Copy function to copy it.

 

From here you need to leave this page and go to the Settings page.  Again this also applies to all the other widgets. So, from the green dashboard menu, choose Settings:

 

 

 

On the settings page, you want to choose the "Blog" tab from the line of tabs that runs along the top of the page:

 

 

 

 

Once you're on the blog settings page, you have to scroll WAY down the page.

 

 

Further down...

 

 

A little bit further...

 

 

 

Until you see "Theme: Customise"

 

 

Click the "customize" button, and you'll be taken to a split page:  the first 25% will be a black bar running down the left hand side, and the other 75% will be a sort-of preview of your blog page (I say sort of because it's propagated with fake posts).  What we care about is what is in that black bar, and it's almost at the very bottom of it, so more scrolling...

 

You're looking for the box titled "Widgets area".

 

Now, stay with me, this can sound complicated but it isn't.

 

This box might be empty or it might not be.  If you've used widgets before, there's going to be other text in this box.  If this is your first time, the box is likely empty.

 

Care must be taken about where you paste your new widget code.  If you paste it in the middle of stuff that's already there, you'll break your widgets and probably get some crazy stuff showing up on your blog page.  

 

Each widget's code begins with a bracket ( < ) and the word 'iframe' and ends with 'iframe' and a ( > ) bracket.  Just make sure anything you paste into this box is before or after an 'iframe' tag text block.

 

Where you paste it determines where it appears on your blog.  If you paste it beneath your Reading Challenge widget, for example, then it's going to appear beneath your Reading Challenge box on your blog page.  

 

Most of the blocks of widget code will have a title= in them and this is the easiest way of identifying which block of code creates which widget.  So in the screenshot to the left, you can see "title=My Profile" (it runs across two lines) - that's my profile widget.  If I paste my shelf widget code above that, it will appear above my profile on my blog page.

 

So, place your cursor in the box and use the arrows on your keyboard (it's the easiest, if tedious, way to navigate the small little box; you can expand the box by pulling down its lower right corner, but it can be fiddly).  Once you have your curser in a clear space, paste the code in for your shelf widget.

 

If getting this right worries you - the safest thing to do is either place your cursor at the very top of the box, or at the very, very bottom and paste the code there.  Both ways will ensure that you don't paste into existing code.

 

Once you've done that, click the "Save" button located at the top of the black bar.  The image below shows you what - generally - the shelf code looks like in place (yours will be different because it's your custom settings) and where the "Save" button is.

 

 

Once you've save it - you're done.  Go to your BookLikes blog page and you should find it there, along the left or right side, depending on which template you're using.  This is mine - or, maybe not.  I think I've hit BookLikes limit on image sizes per post.  But, you can see your own once you try it.  :)

 

Happy widgeting - please let me know if you have any questions in the comments below, or in the How To BookLikes group.

 

One last note:  This code should also work on your own outside-of-BookLikes blogs but I cannot comment on how easy or difficult it is to do this.  Each blog platform varies, but if you're interested, check out your blog platform's documentation for how and where to place this code to see your BookLikes shelves/widgets on your personal blog.  



The Wonderful Weekend Book

The Wonderful Weekend Book: Reclaim Life's Simple Pleasures - Elspeth Thompson

One of my impulse buys from the library sale, I thought it would be a fun source of inspiration for new weekend activities.  

 

As it turns out, the author and I are apparently on the same page when it comes to ways of enjoying a weekend:  most of the things she recommends or suggests are things we already do, to some extent.  Except learning to play the ukulele - er, no thanks, I'll pass on that one.  Still, MT and I are guilty of the weekly Sunday shop; something both he and I dread, and even though we take advantage of farmer's markets, there's just always something on the list that can't be gotten without a supermarket trip.  (We're not quite ready to trust online grocery shopping yet, either.)

 

There are a lot of good ideas here, helpfully broken down by season and all-year-round activities.  While the ideas are universal to all, the main drawback is that the book is entirely UK-centric, providing liberal lists of UK sources and the author's anecdotes about great places to stay or things to do in the UK.  The debate about how worthwhile it is to go to France to stock up on alcohol seems a particularly moot one to someone living in Australia (or anywhere else that isn't Europe for that matter).

 

Frankly, it's not a book I'd say is worth buying in the shops, but if your library has it, or like me, you find it for a buck at the library sale, it's not a bad source for ways to mix your weekend up a bit.



How to: Adding BL linked book covers and/or text links into the body of your posts.

I think a lot of us know how to do this, but I think there are an equal number of BL'ers out there that don't know about this useful tip for putting BL-linked book covers and title/author links into the body of your posts.

 

It's easy, but it's not obvious at all.  It's also not the most stream-lined process, if you think about it, but it works really well and here's how to do it.

 

Create your post and use the "+" to Add Book, up at the top (I'm calling this the BookLikes book bar for the sake of this tutorial) to add a book from either the BookLikes database or your bookshelves.  Even though you don't necessarily want the book there, you need it there temporarily - you'll remove it later (unless you're me, in which case you'll forget every time and have to go back to remove it).

 

Once your book is added up in the BookLikes bar, hover your mouse over it and you'll notice three small buttons appear on top of the cover (depending on how busy the cover art is, one or all of these can be hard to spot).  I used a coverless book to make them easy to see:

 

 

 

When you're ready to insert your cover or your link, make sure the cursor is where you want them to go, and click on the appropriate little popup button.  They will instantly produce a cover or a link in your post, wherever the cursor is.

 

Once you're finished, use the 'x' to remove the book cover from your BookLikes bar, unless you want two cover images of the same book in your post.

 

Observations:

1.  You can do this for as many books as you'd like - just add them to the book bar first.  If you want to add more than 10, you'll have to remove them as you go, since 10 is the limit for books added to the BL book bar at any one time.

 

2.  You can edit the text title/author link.  When you hover over it with your mouse it'll look like it's going to take you to the link, but just ignore that and click in the part you want to edit: the cursor will move there and you can edit without losing the link.  I usually replace the '-' booklikes uses between the title and author with 'by' so it reads nicer.

 

3.  You can move both the text link and the cover around, but it's easier to move the text link. The text link moves the same way any other text can be moved: cut/paste or highlight/drag.  If you're not comfortable with html enough to feel like you can fix any errors, don't move the cover - just delete it from the post and then place it in its new spot from the BL book bar.  

 

4.  You can treat the cover link the same way you'd treat any other image:  click on it to highlight it and change its justification (left, right, center, justified) or change it's image attributes using the image button in the format bar.

 

That's all there is too it - when you're finished, just remember to use the 'x' to remove any covers from the BL bar that you don't want to keep in the finished post.

 

Happy posting.  :)

 

 

ETA:  Well, I did it again - posted and forgot to remove the cover from the book bar.  I am nothing if not consistent.  :P

 



Library sale!

Hit up my local library systems quarterly sale today and had a much better than usual haul (including 5 books for MT, not shown here).

 

 

See that book second from the bottom?  The Lost Book of Salem by Katherine Howe?  Yeah, turns out I already own that one but under its original title The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane.  I freaking HATE when publishers do that.  grrr...

 

I'm looking forward to the rest though; all but the Pratchett are titles new to me.



BookLikes-opoly: Turn 14 (May 21th)

Today's roll is once again my old friend, 11:

 

This put me on the BL square and a roll to determine my task:

 

5. Collect $10.00 for yourself and one other player!

 

 

Woo hoo!!  As I get to choose another player to bequeath $10.00 to, I choose BrokenTune, I need to make up for torturing her in her post's comments with bad alliterative nonsense.  ;-)



How to: Customising fonts in an individual post.

I've been asked in the How To BookLikes group how to change the font size (or color) in an individual post, as opposed to across your entire blog.  If you have any familiarity with HTML, this is actually easy to do, but these instructions will assume nothing.

 

Please note:  I cannot recreate the 'greater than' or 'less than' symbols in this post, so whenever I'm talking about the html tags below, please remember that they should look like the screenshots, NOT like I type them out.

 

Also, for the sake of keeping this simple, I'm only discussing the 'P' tag and font size and color.  

 

Step 1.  Create a post.   ;)

 

Step 2. Once you've written the body of your post, or at a minimum, the text you want to format, look at the tool bar across the post body and specifically that last button on the right:

 

 

When you click on this button a window is going to pop up in front of your post and show you what it looks like under its kilt, so to speak.  Raw code baby!  But really, not very raw - mostly, if your unfamiliar with html, a lot of brackets around what will be recognisable as your post.

 

 

Look for the text you want to change.  For this example, I'm looking for the next two lines:

 

Big font

 

Small font

  

Which looks like this when it's naked:

 

 

To change the format, we need to add information to the "p" tag.  We'll start with the line that says Big Font.  We're going to change it from:

so that the 'p' tag says 

p style="font-size: 26px;"    (make sure you include the brackets though)  which gives us:

 

Big font

 

and if we change it to, say:  p style="font-size: 9px;"  we'll get:

 

Small font

 

A few notes about size:

'px' = pixels.  You can also use:

'em' = well, em.  It's used by developers, mostly, but 1 em is equal to the current font size. The default text size in browsers is 16px. So, the default size of 1em is 16px.

 

If you prefer, you can use relative values:

xx-small Sets the font-size to an xx-small size
x-small Sets the font-size to an extra small size
small Sets the font-size to a small size
large Sets the font-size to a large size
x-large Sets the font-size to an extra large size
xx-large Sets the font-size to an xx-large size
smaller Sets the font-size to a smaller size than the default font size
larger Sets the font-size to a larger size than the default font size

 

when using relative sizes the tag will look similar to this:  p style="font-size: x-large;"

 

you can also set the size as a percentage of the default font size:

p style="font-size: 200%;" will get you this:

 

200% Font Size

 

 

If I go back to the "source" button my code now looks like this:

 

 

Changing the color:

(Please note:  this tag uses the US spelling of color.  The UK spelling might be recognised by some browsers, but for predictable results, if you're outside the US, make sure you buck your spell checker and use the Yank spelling variation.)

 

Changing the color is the same process, just different wording.  So, if I want blue text the easy, peasy way to do that is to hit the source button, look for the text you want to be blue and change the 'p' tag so it says:

p style="color: blue;"   this gives me:

a blue font

 

Easy right?  Now some people might think this is limiting, only using color names.  It is, but not nearly so much as you'd think.  There are a lot of predefined colours such as:

Slate Blue

Indian Red

Olive

 

Check out this list of all the pre-defined colours currently supported by all browsers.

 

But if you want total control, you can have that.  For those that want to get down to the nitty gritty, the following are also supported:

 

Hexadecimal values:  these are the web codes for each color on the spectrum and they are a combination of 6 letters and/or numbers preceded by a hash tag.  So they look like this:

#000000  (black) or

#FFFFFF (white) or

#df2020 (red)

Hex will look like this:  p style="color: #df2020;"

 

RGB values:  red, blue, green

RGBA values:  same as RGB, but you can add a transparency value

 

RGB will look like this:  p style="color: rgb(0, 255, 0);"    (this is green)

RGBA values will look like this:  p style="color: rgba(0, 0, 255, 0.3);"   (this is blue with 30% opacity)

 

HSL and HSLA values are also supported, but that's nerdy even by my standards, so rather than bore you with it, you can read more about it here.

 

Here's what that code looks like:

 

As a grand finale, here's how you'd make your fonts both custom sized and colourful:

 

Big, Purple Font!!

 

 

A VERY IMPORTANT NOTE!!!

Make sure if you do this that you NEVER forget the semi-colon.  If you don't see the results you expect, check your syntax very carefully and make sure that semi-colon is at the end.  IF YOU USE MULTIPLE VALUES - color and size, make sure there is a semi-colon after each:  one after the size and one after the color, as in the screenshot above.

 

Have fun and remember - people have to read your posts, hopefully without eyestrain, so keep it classy!  ;-)



The Matchmakers of Minnow Bay

The Matchmakers of Minnow Bay - Kelly Harms

I don't normally draw parallels, but think Mary Kay Andrews, or Jennifer Crusie minus the purposeful hilarity, and you have a good idea of what The Matchmakers of Minnow Bay is going to deliver.

 

Lily is one of those artists who has the potential to make it big, but she's a doormat; a cheerful, I-just-want-everybody-to-be-happy, doormat.  Normally I'd have tossed this book aside because I don't like reading about doormats, but Lily never wallowed, so that during the clueless stage of the story the irritating bits washed over me.  

 

While packing to move out of her apartment, Lily stumbles across a 10 year old notice from Nevada telling her the annulment she applied for is incomplete.  She's been married to a guy she can't even remember for a decade, and of course she's feeling all her shortcomings so determines to go to Minnow Bay to apologise in person and fix things.  This is when she has her "I'm a doormat" epiphany, and while her turnaround is a work in progress, her wry humor about herself and the way she owns up to her shortcomings made it easy for me to relate to her and like her more than I normally would.

 

Added to her likeable qualities are the characters of Minnow Bay, all of whom are poster-small-town-perfect and quite a lot of them the kind I wish I had for neighbours.  Colleen and Jenny's antics trying to keep Lily in Minnow Bay are funny and Simone is acerbic but hilarious.

 

I thought the writing really readable and I easily finished it yesterday afternoon and evening; it's not a long book and the engaging narrative sucked me in.  I'm not sure I'd say it's worth the sticker price, but it's definitely worth the used bookshop price (in hardcover) and I thought it was a fun read, perfect for the mood I was in.

 

 

 

 

Total pages: 280

$$: $3.00



Above the Paw (Paw Enforcement, #5)

Above the Paw - Diane Kelly

Another so-so entry.  Kelly has the plotting down pat, but she struggles with the amount of research to share with her reader; even when it's interesting stuff, it's over-bearing.

 

Megan and Brigit go undercover at a local University to try to break up an ecstasy dealing ring.  Kelly writes this series from multiple POV: Megan's, Brigit's (which is, thankfully, usually only a paragraph or two, because there's only so much doggy POV a reader can take) and the villain's.  She does a bit of slight-of-hand with the villain's POV here and I'm not sure it totally worked.  It did obfuscate things nicely, but she failed to tie it all together in any satisfying way.  

 

It was a good enough read to hold my attention but not quite strong enough to suck me in.  I'd read another one happily, but I won't wait on the edge of my seat for it.


 

 

 

Total pages: 370

$$:  $3.00



BookLikes-opoly: Turn 13 (May 19th)

The Matchmakers of Minnow Bay - Kelly Harms

Today's roll:

 

Being doubles I get to roll again:

 

 

which lands me on:

 

respectively.  The first one is easy; I've been eyeing a mystery, Above the Paw by Diane Kelly from my pile all day.  For the second one, I could also go for another cozy - most of them take place in small towns, but I wanted to mix it up a little and I've had The Matchmakers of Minnow Bay by Kelly Harms  for a few weeks now; I've been itching for a reason to pick it up over the veterans of my TBR, and this is the perfect excuse.

 

Above the Paw - Diane Kelly When a rash of college students falls seriously ill after ingesting Molly, a “club drug” also known as ecstasy, Officer Megan Luz and her K-9 partner Brigit are tasked with tracking down the dealers. Going undercover at the university leads Megan closer and closer to infiltrating the drug trafficking ring. But when the investigation implicates her former partner and workplace nemesis, Officer Derek Mackey, Megan’s powers of discernment are put to the test.

Thwarted when the Feds seize control of the investigation and frustrated by the lack of attention the DEA is putting into the case, Megan continues her own unofficial investigation with Brigit’s help. But when the trail leads them in an unexpected and dangerous direction, Megan and Brigit find their own lives at risk. Can the K-9 team take down those in power? Or are some criminals simply above the law—and paw?
   Page count: 370

 

The Matchmakers of Minnow Bay - Kelly Harms

A young painter, Lily has reached a crossroads in her life. Her career hasn't taken off, her best friend may no longer be the trusted friend she thought, her boyfriend is a disappointment, and now she can't keep up with the rising cost of living in the city. With no one to turn to, Lily is forced to move from her beloved apartment, but while packing she comes across a piece of mail that had slipped to the back of her junk drawer: a letter detailing further action needed to finalize the annulment of a quickie Vegas wedding. Ten years ago!

Lily decides it's time to turn over a new leaf and the first item on her list of things to fix is getting the annulment... but you can't just send a reply ten years later, "Hey by the way we are still married." This is something that must be addressed in person. Lily takes to the road to track down her husband - the charming, fun, and sexy man she connected with all those years ago - Ben Hutchinson.

Ben Hutchinson left a wealthy dot-com lifestyle behind to return home to his family and the small town he loves, Minnow Bay. He's been living off the grid and the last thing he expects is a wife he didn't know he had to show up on his doorstep.

By chance, Lily arrives at the magical Minnow Bay Inn, and there she will discover not just a place to lay her head, but new friends, a thriving art community, and maybe even the love of her life.  Page count:  280

 



Prudence (Book One of The Custard Protocol)

Prudence - Gail Carriger

In that way that two strong, bold personalities often have children that have wispy, paler personalities than themselves, Prudence is a pale imitation of Connel and Alexia Maccon in Soulless.

 

It's not for lack of trying, but Carriger's attempts at giving Prudence (Rue) her own eccentric personality just falls flat for me.  What felt like effortless eccentricity and resulting hilarity in Alexis feels forced in Rue.  What felt natural in Soulless feels affected in Prudence.

 

Still, it wasn't a bad read; if I hadn't read The Parasol Protectorate and The Finishing School series first, I'd likely have enjoyed this a lot more.  But even though we get to see the beloved cast of characters from TPP return, it's sadly just not the same.  It just never really came together for me.  It was o.k., but it was never fun.

 

 

 

 

Total pages: 357

$$:  $3.00



BookLikes-opoly: Turn 12 (May 17th) - UPDATE

Today's roll:

 

 

Puts me squarely on:

 

There is not a category on this board I'm less likely to welcome, as I pretty generally dislike all things related to space and robots, thereby cancelling out almost all science fiction (before you say it, not a dystopian fan either, and I'd rather set Orwell's books on fire than read them).  I thought I might squeak by with Gail Carriger's Prudence, as most of her books have what she calls "mechanimals" - a steampunk version of robots.  But a word search using google books leaves me out of luck with this one.  

 

This is o.k. with me - I knew odds were good that I'd hit this space sooner or later and was relieved at the beginning of the game to know that we had the choice of passing.   Which is what I'll be doing here - I'll be back at the game on Friday, and in the meantime, I'll catch up on some non-fiction.

 

Update:  SusannaG, in the comments below, has informed me that Prudence, by Gail Carriger, which I started reading last night after creating this post (because it was right in front of me), is actually listed on GR as Sci-Fi and appears on the first page.  So it looks like I'm in this round after all!  Thanks again SusannaG!

 

Prudence  - Gail CarrigerON BEHALF OF QUEEN, COUNTRY...AND THE PERFECT POT OF TEA.

When Prudence Alessandra Maccon Akeldama (Rue to her friends) is given an unexpected dirigible, she does what any sensible female would under similar circumstances -- names it the Spotted Custard and floats to India in pursuit of the perfect cup of tea. But India has more than just tea on offer. Rue stumbles upon a plot involving local dissidents, a kidnapped brigadier's wife, and some awfully familiar Scottish werewolves. Faced with a dire crisis and an embarrassing lack of bloomers, what else is a young lady of good breeding to do but turn metanatural and find out everyone's secrets, even thousand-year-old fuzzy ones?
 



Of Cats and Men

Of Cats and Men: Profiles of History's Great Cat-Loving Artists, Writers, Thinkers, and Statesmen - Sam Kalda

The illustrations save this book.  It's a really attractive books and the illustrations and drawings are colourful and joyful.

 

The writing is... so-so.  First, it's solidly aimed at men: Kalda doesn't even pretend that women might read this, and he often breaks the fourth wall to talk to the reader man-to-man about the hidden manliness of preferring cats over dogs.  Kalda is an illustrator by profession, and perhaps that accounts for writing that attempts to be chatty and witty but fails just short so that there are moments that feel awkward.

 

The profiles don't really share anything new or even biographically informative, but they are somewhat interesting.  Nonetheless, as I said, the illustrations and quote typography are the thing here.  The book shines from this perspective, which is why my rating ends up at 4 stars.



Mycroft Holmes

Mycroft Holmes - Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Anna Waterhouse

The title of this book was the first thing to catch my eye; the second was Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's name on the cover as one of the authors.  How can I possibly pass this up?

 

As an avowed fangirl of Sherlock Holmes, I've learned to stay away from almost all pastiches and mysteries featuring my fictional hero, but his brother... Mycroft makes few enough appearances in the canon that I thought perhaps it might work for me.

 

I thought wrong.  I've realised reading this book that in my mind Mycroft is a distillation of Sherlock; a purer essence of all the things that make Sherlock so formidable.  Put another way, Sherlock is Mycroft with an added touch of humanity (just a touch).  The canonical Mycroft is only ever found in his home, and in his club.  His club, the Diogenes Club, of which he is a founding member, is described thusly in The Greek Interpreter:

 

There are many men in London, you know, who, some from shyness, some from misanthropy, have no wish for the company of their fellows. [...] It is for the convenience of these that the Diogenes Club was started, and it now contains the most unsociable and unclubbable men in town. No member is permitted to take the least notice of any other one. Save in the Stranger's Room, no talking is, under any circumstances, allowed, and three offences, if brought to the notice of the committee, render the talker liable to expulsion. 

 

So a Mycroft that hares off on a rip-roaring adventure on the high seas with his best friend, in pursuit of the love of his life and fiancee, is rather an anti-canonical Mycroft.  Sure, he has the stunning faculties the Holmes family is renowned for, but he's also a romantic and, even if this book takes place when he's quite young, entirely too social and emotional a creature to truly call himself Holmes.

 

BUT... boy is this a good story.  In spite of all my grumpiness above, I could not put this book down.  I don't know exactly how accurate it is from a historical perspective, but it certainly felt very, very accurate.  The authors didn't shy away from some of the less savoury aspects of the Victorian age, but thankfully didn't beat the reader over the head with it either.  The atmospheric picture of Trinidad, from balmy weather to superstitious panic felt almost like a character itself. 

 

I don't want to touch too much upon the plot, because the dawning reveal of the plot is, I think, somewhat central to the success of the book.  Suffice it to say that it's a fitting subject for the Victorian time it takes place in, but probably not one that would immediately come to mind when thinking about Victorian fiction.

 

There are some rather extraordinary action scenes, especially at the end; extraordinary in the sense that they are wholly unrealistic and require the reader to suspend disbelief, but I suppose from a statistical point of view, it is almost impossible for an adventure mystery written by a man to begin and end without fisticuffs, gunfights and explosions.

 

If you know nothing about Mycroft Holmes, or can divorce yourself from the canonical Mycroft, definitely check this out if you're in the mood for a fun action adventure.  I truly enjoyed it for that alone, in spite of myself.

 

 

 

 

Total pages: 336

$$:  $3.00



BookLikes-opoly: Turn 11 (May 15th)

I'm super late posting this - I have gotten into a pattern where I finish my book right before bed, so it's all I can do to roll the dice and figure out my next square so I can pick a new book to start in bed before sleep.

 

So last night I rolled:

 

Which put me on:

 

 
I had a few books to choose from that fit the Victorian period, and one that qualified as steampunk.  In the end I let MT choose and he went with Mycroft Holmes by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Anna Waterhouse.

 

I've since finished it, but as usual these days, it's time for bed, so a review will follow tomorrow.