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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.

You know it's going to be a bad month when...

...something dies in your wall.

 

Your solid stone, brick-fronted, 125 year old wall.

 

Your solid stone, brick-fronted, 125 year old bedroom wall. Behind your bed.

 

 

If you've never experienced the concentrated hell that is a dead animal decomposing in an enclosed space, I can only liken it to a skunk mixed with rotten eggs.  If you've never smelled a skunk before, I got nothing - there is nothing, nothing as bad as the smell of decomposition.

 

We've had two different companies come out and both have said the little bastard is completely inaccessible, which means we have to wait it out.  4 weeks, or as one inappropriately cheerful guy said "or, you know, if this cold weather keeps up, could be 6 weeks".

 

We live in a charming little historic house that has 3 rooms - 4 if you count the bathroom.  So it's not like we can just move into the guest room.  My "library" is so small you can't actually fit a double-sized mattress in it and be able to walk.  With 3 cats and 3 chickens, moving elsewhere isn't an option, so we're camped out for the duration in our lounge/living room, on our air mattress (which, thank the stars, is electric).  Once again I'll be piling up the miles on my washing machine, since everything in the bedroom is saturated with eau de rotting rat.  (We're assuming it's a rat, because there isn't anything else small enough, or ornery enough, to wedge itself into so small a space and die.)

 

Sorry, just had to whine and whinge a bit.  After the great bird-mite debacle, I'm a little bit 

 

 

 



BookLikes-opoly: Turn 6 (April 28)

Per the rule amendment laid out by our fearless games leader, Moonlight Reader, I get to roll again today, because it's been 3 days since I've last rolled.

 

Random.org says:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Really?  Do you know, I was almost sort of tempted to skip this round, because I'm not really in the mood for a cozy mystery at the moment.  But the point of this game, after having fun, is to knock off the TBR pile, and I have cozies on that pile that are almost eligible for social security benefits.

 

So, I'm going to play this, and I'm going to read the next Diane Kelly book in my pile, from her Paw Enforcement series: Against the Paw by Diane Kelly; these titles are almost too punny, even by my low standards.  

 

Against the Paw - Diane Kelly PAW PATROL IS ON THE CASE
Megan has her sights set on finding a convicted burglar who’s broken his parole, and she has the perfect partner to help sniff him out. Unfortunately, her shepherd-mix Brigit’s dog bowl is already full. A Peeping Tom has been spotted in an affluent Fort Worth neighborhood—and concerned citizens are looking for a few good watchdogs…

TO COLLAR A CRIMINAL
To catch the creep, residents start enlisting volunteers to beef up their Neighborhood Watch group. Which is fine with Megan. She needs to focus on catching a burglar who’s still at large. But when the Peeping Tom patrol grows into a virtual vigilante mob, Megan and Brigit have to jump in paws first—before some very angry people take the law into their own hands…

 

Page numbers:  352



Jane Eyre

Jane Eyre - Charlotte Brontë, Jessica Hische

Well, I finally did it.  I finally read Jane Eyre.  

 

::bracing myself::

 

It was okay.

 

I know I'm treading on sacred ground here with many, many fans - and I did like it!  I just didn't love it.  Not like I love Austen, the most obvious comparison to be made by classic lit neophytes such as myself.

 

I loved the plotting and the story; I loved reading about the path Jane's life took and how she chose to shape her life in spite of circumstances.  I loved the dialog between Eyre and Rochester and if I'd gone into this book having never known the first thing about it, I'd have been left gasping at the church along with everyone else.  That Charlotte Brontë could write is without question.

 

But the characters....  eeehhhhh....  I'm a character-driven reader, almost to the exclusion of everything else.  Or, at least, I can forgive a lot if I like the characters, but I can't forgive much of characters I don't like.

 

Jane Eyre - You can't dislike Jane, can you?  I mean, she's not a special snowflake, she's well educated, she's willing to work, and she stands up for herself... eventually.  But her need to please, to be loved, her starvation for affection... while they all came from a very understandable place, it was hard to respect her at times.  Eyre (as narrator) makes a very astute observation early in the book when she says, looking back, that her Aunt could not like her because she was so needy.  And yes, that was entirely the Aunt's fault, the witch, but it's one of those dooming, self-sustaining cycles.  I'd have liked Jane more if she'd done something with that moment when, at 10, she breaks the cycle; I'd have liked Jane more if she'd learned from that experience.

 

More to the point, I lost a lot of respect for the book and for Eyre when, after all is revealed, not once does she so much as question Rochester's continual charade and methodical lies.  I don't know what I'd have been more pissed about if I were her; the attempted bigamy or the fact that the man who professed undying love to me systematically lied to me while I lived under his roof about the existence of someone who liked setting beds on fire.

 

Also, I gotta say, the whole "sir" thing got creepy.  Totally to be expected when she was working for him, but after he kissed her?  No, no, no.  Before kiss: sign of respect; After kiss: sign of submission.  Don't care what time period it was, it was creepy.

 

Edward Rochester - I know that over time, Rochester and Heathcliff have become confused in my mind, but I was expecting someone broodier.  Still, I really liked him and understood the appeal, until the scene in the orchard, where he struck me as hopelessly, delusionally (new made up word), romantic and - again, apologies for what's coming - something of a man-child.  His optimism that he'd be able to marry Jane and keep Bertha in the attic indefinitely was ludicrous.

 

Question:  If this man was so outstandingly rich, why didn't he just put Bertha in her own house with a nurse somewhere in the back of beyond?  He says he was going to use his other manor house, but that it was too damp (although not too damp for him, apparently); if that's the case, why not just buy another cottage somewhere else?  There were too many alternatives to this disastrous arrangement for me to fully buy into it.

 

St. John Rivers - What a prat!  I liked him until his proposal, at which point he become one of those religious nuts I particularly loathe; the kind that use faith to manipulate and control.  Brontë flat-out failed here, in my opinion; it seems clear she wanted readers to admire his purity and devotion, but all I really got from him after that scene was an abusive narcissist in the making.

 

Ultimately, I'm glad I read the book and I'll likely re-read it (although I'll probably skim some of the more verbose bits).  That I don't think it the masterpiece of literature I do Austen's work is entirely down to my personal reading preferences and my own personality quirks.

 

I'll end with my favourite quote, which, oddly enough, doesn't come from the text of the story itself, but the preface Brontë wrote for the second edition:

 

"Conventionality is not morality.  Self-rightousness is not religion."

 

 

 

 

Page count: 514

 

BookLikes space/#7

"Double your dollars
on your next read!"


Dollars banked: $10.00



BookLikes-opoly: Turn 5 (April 25)

Random.org finally started getting random for me:

 

 

Which lands me on the BookLikes square.

 

Since the possible options for the BookLikes square are numbered 1-12, I knew I needed to only roll one die, but it needed to be a 12 sided die and Random.org doesn't seem to allow for that (that I could find) so I used the original link supplied by our hostess with the mostest, Moonlight Reader, and I rolled a 7.

 


7.  Double your dollars on your next read!

 

I have to clarify this in the Q&A, but I think I can now choose any book I want to read for the duration of my time on this square.  Once I get the answer to that, I'll choose my book and update this post.

 

Edit: Ok, BrokenTune was a step ahead of me and clarified this question for herself (and now, me!) already.  

 

Since I can read any book, I'm going with Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë, because when I walked up to my TBR pile, this is the first thing I saw:

Jane Eyre - Jessica Hische,Charlotte Brontë

Perfect, no?  I'll just keep rolling with the whole "B" theme.  :)

 

Orphaned Jane Eyre grows up in the home of her heartless aunt, where she endures loneliness and cruelty, and at a charity school with a harsh regime. This troubled childhood strengthens Jane’s natural independence and spirit—which proves necessary when she takes a position as governess at Thornfield Hall. But when she finds love with her sardonic employer, Rochester, the discovery of his terrible secret forces her to make a choice. Should she stay with him and live with the consequences, or follow her convictions, even if it means leaving the man she loves?

 

Pages:  514

 

 



The Card Catalog: Books, Cards, and Literary Treasures

The Card Catalog: Books, Cards, and Literary Treasures - Carla D. Hayden, Library of Congress

 This is probably the most pleasant, and by extension, interesting, history of something as mundane as a card catalog as I'm likely to ever run across.  From the first example of a book catalog, pressed into clay in cuneiform, to the modern day usage of MARC records, the text flows in a tight, succinct narrative that is neither chatty nor dry (and I'm sure nowhere near comprehensive).

 

Where the book truly shines is in its photographs and illustrations.  The author and publisher were generous with the photographs and they fill at least 1/3 of the pages.  Most of them are photos of the old cards and the books they belong to, but there are many old pictures of the Library of Congress and other related images.  The number of cards the Library of Congress had to deal with daily in the mid-50's is staggering.  I can't even imagine the logistics.

 

Did you know that the Library of Congress still has their old card catalog and it's still in use?   (Most of it.)  I think that's wonderful and the perfect example of how old and new methodologies can complement each other instead of competing.  

 

This isn't the kind of book that's going to have wide appeal, but for those that find the subject interesting, it's a beautiful book, thoughtfully put together.

 

 

Page count: 220
Dollars banked: $3.00



The Best of the Raconteurs

The Best of the Raconteurs - John Lawrence, Tim Heald, Sheridan Morley

I'm calling this finished, even though technically I haven't read it cover to cover.  In part because it's really not meant to be read cover to cover, but dipped into now and again more or less randomly and in part because it's making me itch to see it squatting on my Currently Reading list.

 

The Best of the Raconteurs is a rather large collection of anecdotes, bits from speeches and other odds and ends - some seem almost to be snippets of conversation - collected from an incredibly varied cast of wits including Nora Ephron, William Churchill, Oscar Wilde, and David Niven, to touch upon just a very few.

 

The quality of the entries is all over the place; as some of them aren't more than a paragraph, while others are 2 or 3 pages long, odds were always long that every entry was going to be a winner.  Nora Ephron's entry had me laughing out loud, while Ogden Nash's poem charmed me until the very end, where it promptly made my hair stand on end (which is exactly the effect Nash would have wanted).  Those that fell flat were the definition of unmemorable.  

 

Generally, a good collection, if you like anecdotes, and very likely to have something for everyone.



Tales of the Peculiar

Tales of the Peculiar - Andrew Davidson, Ransom Riggs

 In much the same spirit as J.K. Rowlings The Tales of Beedle the Bard, this is meant to be a companion book of the fairy tales that peculiars learned as part of their peculiar folklore in the series Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children.  

 

The book is structured as authentically as possible, from the copyright page to the annotations by the editor/author/compiler of the stories, Millard Nullings, a name that might be familiar to the fans of Miss Peregrine's.  

 

The stories themselves really are morality tales and suitable for non-peculiar children too, no matter what Nullings claims (although i didn't try to read the third one backwards, out loud, so I can't speak as to the authenticity of his dire warnings).  Some of them work better than others, just like most collections of stories, but most of them were good and a couple were great.  A few petered out before they could get started.

 

My favourites were probably The Splendid Cannibals and the Girl Who Could Tame Nightmares.  

 

The book is beautifully illustrated and it's definitely something I'd read to my nieces when they get a little bit older.

 

 

 

Page count: 160
Dollars banked: $3.00



Ninja Cat

Ninja cat says: I'm sitting on your laundry, getting fur all over your clean sheets.



BookLikes-opoly: Turn 4 (April 23)

Today I rolled:

 

Which takes me to:

 

 

It was also a double, so I get to roll again and I ended up with:

 

Which leaves me wondering about the randomness or Random.org's dice because I seem to end up with an alarmingly high proportion of 11's, and it lands me right back on:

 

 

I've come full circle.

 

For the first space - the YA/TomorrowLand book, I'm choosing, by virtue of it being the only YA book on my TBR pile right now, Tales of the Peculiar by Ransom Riggs,and Andrew Davidson  

 

Tales of the Peculiar - Ransom Riggs,Andrew Davidson  A companion to the bestselling Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, soon to be a major motion picture directed by Tim Burton. 

Before Miss Peregrine gave them a home, the story of peculiars was written in the Tales.

Wealthy cannibals who dine on the discarded limbs of peculiars. A fork-tongued princess. These are but a few of the truly brilliant stories in Tales of the Peculiar—the collection of fairy tales known to hide information about the peculiar world, including clues to the locations of time loops—first introduced by Ransom Riggs in his #1 bestselling Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children series.

Page count: 160

 

 

 

For the second space - the ? space calling for a mystery or has a title that begins with any letter in the word CLUE, I've decided to go with the title, since reading a mystery feels, for me, like a gimme.  So I've chosen The Card Catalog: Books, Cards, and Literary Treasures by the Library of Congress, and Carla Hayden  

 

The Card Catalog: Books, Cards, and Literary Treasures - Library of Congress,Carla Hayden

The Library of Congress brings booklovers an enriching tribute to the power of the written word and to the history of our most beloved books. Featuring more than 200 full-color images of original catalog cards, first edition book covers, and photographs from the library's magnificent archives, this collection is a visual celebration of the rarely seen treasures in one of the world's most famous libraries and the brilliant catalog system that has kept it organized for hundreds of years. Packed with engaging facts on literary classics—from Ulysses to The Cat in the Hat to Shakespeare's First Folio to The Catcher in the Rye—this package is an ode to the enduring magic and importance of books.
 
Page count: 220
 
 

 



Gone With the Twins (League of Literary Ladies, #5)

Gone with the Twins - Kylie Logan

I'm not going to lie, I liked this book a lot in spite of knowing how it was going to end, and I might have bumped it up a 1/2 star because that title... I love that title!

 

Logan does such a great job with the characters and setting that even though the mystery plotting wasn't as intricate or clever as it could have been, I still did not want to put the book down.  I was less concerned about clues (probably because my confidence as to whodunnit was high) and way more concerned about Bea, her friends, her Inn and her love life.

 

This book reads like it could be the final one and if it is I feel like it's ending in a good place.  If it's not, I look forward to the next one!



Fifty Days that Changed the World

Fifty Days That Changed The World - Hywell Williams

A beautiful book, with 50 well chosen, although as the editor freely admits, subjectively chosen, days that inarguably changed the world.

 

But the writing was dry, and overly focused on battlefield/military statistics for my personal tastes; I quickly lost track of who did what to whom, and when they did it - especially since the writer(s) often went back and forth in time in an attempt to flesh out events.

 

I was also surprised by the poor editing; call me naive but I expected better from a Folio Society publication.  Spaces missing between words and sentences that were incomplete or nonsensical did nothing to improve my opinion.  It's not a bad read; it's just not as good as I'd hoped.



The Pioneer Woman: Black Heels to Tractor Wheels

The Pioneer Woman: Black Heels to Tractor Wheels - Ree Drummond

Ages ago, I picked up The Pioneer Woman Cooks while I was looking around for a new cookbook.  I can't say I've ever tried any of the recipes, but her stories about life on the ranch stuck with me, so when I saw this one at a book sale for $1 I figured 'why not?'  

 

I was in the mood for something memoir-ish to go alongside my monopoly read this morning, so I started this first, thinking to get a chapter or two in before picking up my other book, but not only did I get hopelessly sucked into Ree Drumond's story, it turned out that this was a much more fitting book for the monopoly square I'm on (WaterWorks).

 

This is Ree's story about how she met her husband, the man she adoringly refers to as The Marlboro Man - her very own real life cowboy.  I gotta tell you, I wan't even half-way through this book before I was half in love with the man myself.  He might be a certified saint in a Stetson.  On the flip side, Ree is probably harder on herself in the name of honesty and, likely, entertainment than could be strictly considered fair, but it works; oftentimes hilariously. She creates an incredibly compelling re-telling of her courtship, wedding, honeymoon (omg, what a nightmare honeymoon!) pregnancy, and first year of marriage.

 

I'm not going to claim the writing is outstanding; this definitely has that blog-turned-into-book feel, which it is, but for me, the story transcended any shortcomings in the writing (which, btw, was better edited than most of my reads nowadays).  I thoroughly enjoyed it.

 

As Ree spends an alarming amount of time turning on the WaterWorks in the second half of the book, in the form of crying, bawling, sobbing and blubbering (and wow, is it justified), I could not have picked a more tailor-made book for my monopoly square if I tried.

 

 

Page count: 319
Dollars banked: $3.00



BookLikes-opoly: Turn 3 (April 21) - **Book Change**

Hopefully back on track!

 

 

Today's roll:

 

 

Which puts me on the FREE PARKING square:

 

 

 

Instructions say I roll again:  Odd number sends you to the waterworks, even number sends you to the electric company, doubles sends you to the luxury tax.

 

So I rolled again and got:

 

Which puts me on WaterWorks:  Read a book with water on the cover, or where someone turns on the waterworks (i.e., cries) because of an emotional event.

 

Well, it's definitely going to be a book with water on the cover... going to check out the stacks...

 

Well, that's what I get for making rash proclamations.  I intended to read Gone with the Twins by Kylie Logan, but a the same time, I started The Pioneer Woman: Black Heels to Tractor Wheels by Ree Drummond, thinking I'd just read the first chapter before starting my monopoly read.  And then promptly read the whole thing in one sitting.

 

And let me tell ya - it fits!  This poor woman spent half the book blubbering with very good reason.  So, I'm going to use it instead.  It's much more fitting for WaterWorks than a book with a small slice of Lake Michigan on the cover.

 

The Pioneer Woman: Black Heels to Tractor Wheels - Ree Drummond"That's when I saw him—the cowboy—across the smoky room."

 

I'll never forget that night. It was like a romance novel, an old Broadway musical, and a John Wayne western rolled into one. Out for a quick drink with friends, I wasn't looking to meet anyone, let alone a tall, rugged cowboy who lived on a cattle ranch miles away from my cultured, corporate hometown. But before I knew it, I'd been struck with a lightning bolt . . . and I was completely powerless to stop it.

 

Read along as I recount the rip-roaring details of my unlikely romance with a chaps-wearing cowboy, from the early days of our courtship (complete with cows, horses, prairie fire, and passion) all the way through the first year of our marriage, which would be filled with more challenge and strife—and manure—than I ever could have expected. This isn't just my love story; it's a universal tale of passion, romance, and all-encompassing love that sweeps us off our feet. It's the story of a cowboy. And Wranglers. And chaps. And the girl who fell in love with them.

 

 

Page count:  319 (not including recipes)

 

 



Miss Dimple Rallies to the Cause (Miss Dimple, #2)

Miss Dimple Rallies to the Cause - Mignon F. Ballard

 Set in small-town Northern Georgia during WWII, this series gives a great sense of time and place; it reminds me a lot of that old TV series Homefront (early 90's?).

 

As for the mystery though, it was o.k., but overly-convoluted.  If Ballard had been able to structure it differently it would have worked a lot better, but as is, it's more than a little hard to follow.  A skeleton is discovered during a school outing, the money from a bond rally goes missing, the town slacker goes missing, Miss Dimple's landlady is getting mysterious notes and someone is shot during the follies.

 

There are a lot of characters in this book and, told in third person, from the POV of several of them, the first few chapters felt like a hot mess - I couldn't keep anybody straight.  Even after they sorted themselves out I never felt entirely confident about who was who as the POV shifted - I had to remind myself often about how someone was related to everyone else.  Each chapter starts with the internal dialogue of one of the characters, but it's never the same one, and they all remain unnamed.  This is likely done on purpose because it's the criminal, but when it wasn't, it became overly confusing.

 

The author kept using rifle and shotgun interchangeably; for someone who knows the difference, this is a big deal: a rifle shoots a single bullet at a time; a shotgun shoots a single shell full of tiny bullets (called buckshot) that spray outwards soon after exiting the barrel.  So, when a shotgun was reported missing, but later someone was shot and had a single bullet wound, it messed with the plot and my head; until the terms were used interchangeably again and it became obvious what was going on, I thought there were two weapons.

 

Still, I enjoyed the story and the characters.  The series is "Miss Dimple" but really the mystery solving is a team effort on the part of the women holding everything together while the war rages on.  At the end it becomes clear that there are several threads of mischief running through Elderberry at the same time, but really, I stuck around to see if Will would show up for Charlie one last time before being shipped off.

 

                                                                                              

 

 

Page count: 262
Dollars banked: $3.00



BookLikes-opoly: Turn 2 (April 17)

Update:  FAIL.

 

I spent all of Tuesday and Wednesday with a mother of a headache - I haven't had a headache last more than a day since I was 10 - so I did not get my reading done and have lost out on my turn until tomorrow.

 

Ah, well.

 

_______________________________________________

 

 

 

 Which puts me on the 18 square (#18):

 

 

Weirdly, I balked when I first saw this one and it's really one of the easiest - I went with the publication date and chose: Miss Dimple Rallies to the Cause by Mignon F. Ballard  

 

Miss Dimple Rallies to the Cause - Mignon F. BallardIt's September 1943, and the town of Elderberry, Georgia, including their beloved first-grade teacher, Miss Dimple Kilpatrick, has exciting plans for the Bond Rally to support the troops fighting the war abroad. Miss Dimple's friend, Virginia Balliew, has agreed to chair the big event, with the help of Buddy Oglesby. But when children discover a skeleton at the edge of a field, and Buddy disappears along with the war bond money, it's clear that something is amiss in the little town; and Miss Dimple, along with her fellow teachers, is soon on the case. 

 

 

Page count:  262

 

 

 



For BrokenTune