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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.

Booklikes-opoly: Turn 40 (July 24)

 

A new one for me and I'm going for a cozy that's total fantasy: Breach of Crust by Ellery Adams, about a woman with magic that's expressed in the pastry she bakes.  Cliche'd I know, but there's this whole hidden grotto, a fairy-tale magical tree, and definite Camelot allusions, so i'm going with it.

 

Because I rolled doubles, my next roll:

 

Another new one for me - amazing how many new ones there still are even after 3.5 months of play.  I thought I was really going to struggle with this one after searching all my paperbacks for a suitcase, but I found Fatal Forgeries by Ritter Ames tucked into a pile under the hardcovers and the MC and her partner are forced to go on the run across Europe.  I know she's based in NYC, so I'm going with this one.

 

Fatal Forgeries - Ritter Ames  Breach of Crust  - Ellery Adams  



Please, Mr. Einstein

Please Mr. Einstein - Jean-Claude Carrière

I feel like I hit the book lottery.  I hate hyperbole, and perhaps after the book hangover has faded I'll find myself backtracking or offering qualifications, but as of right now, this last minute impulse buy, at a used book sale for $1, might be the best book I've ever read.  

 

Ever.

 

I didn't think so when I started it, because the back-cover had me expecting an historical fiction; a what-if look back. I was not pleased to start that first chapter and find myself confronted with a speculative fantasy told in first person omnipresent POV.  I found the narrative voice a bit condescending and supercilious and I didn't see how this was possibly going to be anything other than a pretentious attempt at literary fiction.

 

Thankfully that only lasted for 4 pages or so, before it became obvious what the author was setting up, and I suddenly found myself totally hooked.

 

Imagine the chance to step outside of time and place to have to opportunity to speak with one person in history; not only about themselves and their work, but about their entire field as it spans time and events; to be able to learn and explore ideas with a hero of the discipline, someone who changed the world.

 

This is the setup for the book.  A nameless young woman 'finds' Einstein in a place that transcends time and she is gained admittance to his study for an 'interview'.  What follows is a conversation to which we are invisible observers.  This conversation spans all of Einstein's theories, what his work started; its repercussions; the emotional fall-out and the consequences of his overnight celebrity and the cost of his Jewish background.

 

What can I say?  It's beautiful, this odd what-if of a book.  The science isn't for those disinterested in physics but it isn't incomprehensible either.  The personal element is ... the author made you feel like you were there and made you feel Einstein's wonder, amazement, melancholy, regret, betrayal and pensiveness; the 'doors' were an incredibly vivid way to bring the times and events to life, and a drop-in visit by Newton was both funny and heart-wrenching.

 

I loved this book, I loved it so much.  It's so good I'm overlooking the times the author tried to argue against concepts by using the very same assumptions that he claims makes those concepts false.  Everything else was so overwhelmingly good that the fallacy isn't worth a 1/2 star demerit.  I closed the book wanting to hug it.

 

It's obviously a work of fiction but only in its construct; 85% of this book is factual representation of Einstein's and his contemporaries' theories, so if you're partial to science, philosophy, and think Einstein is a legend, definitely check this book out.  I honestly just wanted to stay in that room with him forever.

 

(This is a English translation of the book Einstein, s'il vous plait.)

 

 

 

 

 

Pages:  185

$$:  $6.00  (location multiplier)



Science Buddy Read Book Club: Vote for the name!

 I have NO idea at all if this is going to work - but here goes...

 

If it doesn't I'll redo it as a link somewhere else.  Please note it might work from the blog page but not the dashboard.  UPDATE:  Definitely does NOT work from the dashboard.  If you view it from my blog page, it works great!  Also, voting doesn't start until Sundaythe 23th of July (Australia time) and will run through 7 August.  

 

If you've joined the group, or would like to join the group, please vote for your favourite name from the 3 below (which are the three that seemed to draw the most interest in our discussion group).

 

Results should show up as votes are made.  We'll see.  ;-)

 

 

Favorite name for the group?
Science for Poets
The Flat Book Society
Scintillating Science: Indulging Our Inner Geek
polls
 


Booklikes-opoly: Turn 39 (July 22)

 

FINALLY!  I've landed on Electric Company organically, instead of relying on Free Parking each time.  Conversely, because of the Free Parking move earlier this month, the location multiplier is in effect.

 

The options I have for STEM are many in non-fiction, but as we're gearing up to start our Science Book Club, I'm hesitant to start any of them until our books have been selected.  BUT,  I have Please Mr. Einstein by Jean-Claude Carrière that I bought on a whim at the last church book sale, and nobody's more STEM than Einstein, right?  ;)

 

Please Mr. Einstein - Jean-Claude CarrièreA young woman enters a building in a nameless contemporary European city. She walks into a waiting room where a dozen people, with briefcases or sheaves of documents, are gathered. She is ushered into a large office where she meets Albert Einstein who is engaged in trying to figure out the equation that explains the universe.

 

He is charmed by her, and agrees to answer her questions. He seems very used to receiving visitors. Among them, Isaac Newton is certainly the most regular and the most argumentative, desperately trying to prove Einstein wrong.

 

Einstein and the student start discussing the concepts of time and space. He explains his theories about relativity and his responsibility in the creation of nuclear weapons. Einstein also talks about the difficulty of being famous, about his relationship with other scientists and how his dreams of worldwide peace were shattered. He appears bright, witty, hugely sympathetic but also tormented and dreamy.

 

This is a remarkable book that makes complex concepts of physics and philosophy accessible to the non-scientific reader in a captivating and utterly charming manner.  



Murder in the Rue Dumas (Verlaque and Bonnet, #2)

Murder in the Rue Dumas - M.L. Longworth

The second in a (so far) 6 book series, this one started off much more slowly for me, as the author takes the time to set the murder scene, introduce the suspects, and hint at motivations before we ever hear from our two MCs.  I recognise the value of this, but I mostly find it tedious.

 

Once the body drops, the pace starts to pick up, albeit slowly, and Bonnet makes very few appearances until the last half of the book.  From this point on, I once again fell into Aix-en-Provence - and Umbria Italy! - and lost myself in the mystery, the setting and the characters.

 

The mystery plotting was very good, although I think Longworth could be accused of over-complicating it.  But I totally didn't see that ending coming and when it came it was tense.

 

Murder in the Rue Dumas wasn't quite as good as the first one, but it was still better than most cozies available now - it's got a much more 'traditional mystery' feel and I can't wait for book three to arrive in the post.

 

This was my Free Friday Read #5 and was 296 pages long. 



Death, Taxes, and a Chocolate Cannoli

Death, Taxes, and a Chocolate Cannoli - Diane Kelly

Not my favourite of the series, but not bad.  It had fewer mini-plots running concurrently, in fact, there was only one, and I missed them.  Kelly is really good at those multiple mini-plots and they keep the story moving and lively.  Without them, this one dragged a bit.

 

Tara is undercover here, working directly for the mobster's wife in her restaurant and the scenes with the wife were probably the best in the book.  I liked the dynamic between her and Tara.  Unfortunately, the rest of the storyline failed to catch my complete interest.  Tara didn't do much in the way of investigating at all and that's some of my favourite parts of past stories.

 

It was still a solid read and hopefully in the next book the author will have Tara back to juggling her usual caseload.

 

 

 

 

 

Total pages:  325  

$$: $9.00 (location multiplier)

 



Other-Wordly

Other-Wordly: Words Both Strange and Lovely from Around the World - Kelsey Garrity-Riley, Yee-Lum Mak

I'm a sucker for words; especially unusual words, or foreign-language words that have no straight translation into English, and the beauty of this book's cover made it impossible to resist it, even though I already have similar books.

 

Luckily this small but beautifully illustrated collection of words are almost entirely different from those found in the books I already have and the author also included English words that are rarely used or hardly known (Deipnosophist, n, someone skilled in small talk or in conversing around the dining table).

 

Bonus points to the author and publisher for including not only an index of the words themselves, but an index of the words by language.  Demerit points because once again nobody thought to include a pronunciation guide, and figuring out how to pronounce cwtch (Welsh, n, hug or cuddle; a safe place; the cupboard beneath the stairs) is beyond my meagre abilities to even guess.



Free Friday Read #5

Murder in the Rue Dumas - M.L. Longworth

I've been itching to get back to Aix-en-Provence since reading the first in this series, Death at the Chateau Bremont a couple of weeks ago.  My Free Friday read is the perfect opening.



Booklikes-opoly: Turn 38 (July 20)

 

I was on this square the last go-around, so the multiplier is in effect.  I'm also sticking with the same series for this one, and reading Death, Taxes, and a Chocolate Cannoli by Diane Kelly, since it's such a perfect fit: someone almost always gets shot and the MC's finesse with firearms is always mentioned.  This gets me caught up with the series too; at least as far as the books I already own - likely there are more out there published and waiting, I've gotten so far behind with this series.

 

 

Death, Taxes, and a Chocolate Cannoli - Diane Kelly TRUE CRIME DOESN'T PAY...TAXES.

IRS Special Agent Tara Holloway has risked her life to take down drug cartels and other dangerous tax frauds. But going after the mob is one offer she can't refuse...

He's no Tony Soprano. Still, local crime boss Giustino "Tino" Fabrizio is one shady character that Tara would love to see behind bars. He operates a security business-or so he claims on his tax forms-but his clients don't feel so secure when it's time to pay up. Problem is, no one can get close enough to nail this wiseguy for extortion. No one, that is, except Tara...   
(Page count:  325)



The Dead Witness: A Connoisseur's Collection of Victorian Detective Stories

The Dead Witness: A Connoisseur's Collection of Victorian Detective Stories - Michael Sims

Up front, I didn't read all the stories; there are 22 stories in this collection, and I didn't have time to read the whole thing, so this review only represents a small percentage of them. 

 

But, of the stories I read, none of them were bad.  In fact, they were all uniformly excellent and I'm looking forward to reading more of the collection at a later date.

 

Quick thoughts about each of the stories I read:

 

The Secret Cell by William E. Burton - The story itself is not only great, but so is its backstory:  Burton, the author, wrote it in 1837, before Poe wrote what is widely regarded to be the first detective story, Murders in the Rue Morgue. He wrote it for the magazine he himself founded, The Gentleman's Magazine, and the editor he hired was a certain Edgar Allan Poe (who published Rue in 1841.  While Dupin's standing as the first genius detective is safe, it's likely Poe read this story; whether or not it served as an inspiration can only be guessed at.  But it's a fun story with strong writing, lots of detective legwork, fisticuffs, disguises, abductions, nuns, asylums and hidden rooms.

 

On Duty with Inspector Field by Charles Dickens - Dickens and I are fair weather friends at best, but for downright vivid descriptions of poverty-stricken Victorian London, I'm not sure you could find better.  Not really much of a plot to this one at all - just a 'tour' through the dregs of London in the middle of the night as the police go about their rounds.  This story does not disprove my suspicions that Dickens was paid by the word.

 

The Diary of Anne Rodway by Wilkie Collins - As the title suggests, this story takes the form of diary entries, but the narrative is very smooth.  There's a real mystery here and it's engaging, but the solution felt somewhat abrupt and the coincidences verging on supernatural (a device, I'm guessing, Collins enjoyed using). 

 

You Are Not Human, Monsieur D'Artagnan by Alexandre Dumas, pere - This is an except from the final Three Musketeers book, The Vicomte de Bragelonne, but it feels fairly complete as it stands alone, even to a reader for whom the general story of the Three Musketeers comes strictly from the movies and popular culture.  In this short piece D'Artagnan plays the part of Sherlock Holmes as he uses sharp observations, empirical evidence and genius detecting to shed light on a shooting.

 

The Dead Witness; or, The Bush Waterhole by W.W. (Mary Fortune) - I didn't set out to read this one, but as I was flipping through, a mention of Australia caught my eye, so I stopped.  Turns out this is the first known detective story ever written by a woman.  Fortune was a prolific writer in Australia, although sexism being what it was, she was forced to write under a pseudonym kept so tight a secret that no one knew Mary Fortune was W.W. until decades after her death.  Her life was not a happy one, but it was not for want of talent if this story is any judge.  It's a short one, but it's vivid and well written and the end, while a bit fantastic, is also deliciously grotesque.

 

The Assassin's Natal Autograph by Mark Twain - Another except, this one from Puddin' Head Wilson.  This one is slightly harder to follow, as there are characters named that are obviously important, but missing any backstory at all, but in most aspects it works really well.  It's Twain, so the setting (a courtroom) is full of detail and suspense; the focus of the scene is the power of fingerprints and the denouement, even without the backstory is climatic.

 

The Stolen Cigar-Case by Bret Harte - Another one that caught my eye, this time because I saw "Sherlock Holmes" in the introduction.  This is a parody of the Greatest Detective of all time, as well as a parody of his long suffering Watson.  It started off hilarious - laugh out loud funny - but by midway, it felt a bit hateful.    Parodies are supposed to mock, but reading this one gets the impression that Harte really hated Watson and Holmes both.

 

An Intangible Clue by Anna Katherine Green - The author of the first known detective novel by a woman (Mary Fortune, above, wrote only short stories) and the author of The Leavenworth Case, this was my first introduction to her work and Miss Violet Strange.  I hope it won't be my last; Miss Strange has claims to Sherlockian abilities in her own right, and I found the story both intricate and slyly funny.  The mystery itself was complete enough, but I was left wanting more when it came to Miss Strange and her mysterious employer.

 

If you're a fan of the old-style detective stories, I don't think you can go wrong with this collection. They just don't write them like they used to.

 

I read this for BookLikes-opoly and completed a total of 202 pages.

 

 

 

 

 

Total pages read:  202

$$: $6.00



Humorous Charts and Graphs Show What Being an Introvert Is All About

http://mymodernmet.com/anna-borges-introvert-graphs/

 

Some of the graphs in this short piece are... I want to frame them and hang them everywhere.  A taste:

 



The Invention of Nature: The Adventures of Alexander Von Humboldt

The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt's New World - Andrea Wulf

The Lost Hero of Science is not hyperbole.  It's one of the great tragedies of history that this man's name is no longer on the tip of every man, woman and child's tongue (at least in the English speaking world).

 

I don't know where to begin, but to put it as concisely as possible, read any headline about environmental science today and Humboldt called it almost 200 years ago.  Deforestation: check.  Desertification: check. The long term devastation of monoculture: check.  Climate change: check.  At the more extreme ends, he was calling for the creation of the Panama canal decades before it was a glint in America's eye and he insisted that even rocks contain life (they do - look it up).

 

Humboldt was acerbic, impatient, and had a level of energy few can imagine without pharmaceutical assistance.  He devoted his life in every way to science and nature, eschewing most personal relationships in favour of relentless study, but he was also generous with his knowledge and money - much to the betterment of the world and the detriment of his finances.  He was in almost every way a true hero, as the title claims, and unarguably a role-model for more than just fellow scientists.  Without Humboldt we very likely would not have Darwin (Darwin himself said without Humboldt, he would not have found his calling on the Beagle).  Without Humboldt we wouldn't have those lines on weather maps, either (isotherms/isobars).

 

In short, his life was incredible and Wulf does a better than creditable job illustrating not only his adventures and indefatigable levels of energy, but his impact on the world; not just scientists, but artists, authors, poets and politicians.  She writes a very readable narrative and communicates what must have been an enormous amount of information in a way that remains coherent throughout.  She remains objective but is never dry or academic.  My half-star demerit is only because some of the chapters devoted to others I found less interesting that the star of the book himself.

 

I'd like to insist that every single person read this book, but realistically... every single person should read this book.  For those that enjoy science and history, it's a definite do-not-miss.

 

(This was a BookLikes-opoly Free Friday Read for July 7th and was 341 pages (minus the various appendices and index).



My BookLikes-opoly read for July 18 - Paradise Pier

The Dead Witness: A Connoisseur's Collection of Victorian Detective Stories - Michael Sims

I rolled last night last thing before heading to bed, so my post didn't include my choice.  After scouring the TBRs, I came across this anthology of Victorian mysteries.

 

I'm going to play a bit fast and loose with the DNF rule and Moonlight Reader or Obsidian Blue can smack me down if it's not an acceptable adaptation.  I don't intend to read the entire anthology - it's about 600 pages thick and there are quite a few stories, or excepts from stories, that I've already read.  So I'm going to read what I can between today and tomorrow night, when I can roll again.  I'll keep track of the number of pages I read to determine my dollars earned, and review the stories I read.

 

Having said all that, I read the editor's introduction last night and I'm looking forward to quite a few stories that are included.  There's one that's written before Poe's creation of Dupin; a bit of a lost treasure that is a serious contender for earliest example of a murder mystery - it's never been reprinted until it's inclusion in this anthology.  There's also a mystery by Mark Twain - no question that must be read.

 

 



Booklikes-opoly: Turn 37 (July 18)

 

I needed to roll before I head to bed, but I don't yet know what I'm going to read; shall hit the stacks on the way and update tomorrow.



This Rough Magic

This Rough Magic - Mary Stewart

It took awhile, but I've come to a book that my mom and I don't necessarily agree on.  She remembers this book fondly, while I have more ambivalent feelings about it.  

 

I was less than 8 pages in before I was ready to chuck it all and go to Corfu; Stewart's creation of the setting was downright seductive.  I loved the scenes with the dolphin too - even the midnight scene, which ratcheted up the suspense and had me muttering threats at the author under my breath until the end.  The way the caves figured into the plot was fun and no way did I see how the book was going to end - where Stewart was taking her readers - although she does foreshadow the culprit early enough that the who was not a shock, even if the what certainly was.

 

The entire title-referencing-Shakespeare, went right over my head (I was expecting, you know actual magic), but Shakespeare's The Tempest plays a big part throughout the book.  I have no idea if her characters' theories hold any water, but the parallels they drew were fun to read about. 

 

What I didn't like was, unfortunately, the entire "Romantic" part of the romantic suspense.  "Didn't like" might be too strong; it just failed to move me in any way at all.  The scene on the beach (at midnight - the one with the dolphin) felt like a realistic evolution of the moment, but when the characters go straight from that one moment to this weird assumption that their relationship is a fait accompli, I felt like entire chapters of character development were missing.  As a result I never bought into the romance part of their relationship.

 

Not a bad read at all, but not as strong as Touch Not the Cat, for example; which started off slow, but had me riveted by the end.

 

 

 

 

 

Page count: 285

$$:  $6.00



Booklikes-opoly: Turn 36 (July 16)

 

I know exactly what I'm reading for this one - I've been saving This Rough Magic by Mary Stewart for just this space.  It's set on the island of Corfu and has an ocean on the cover.

 

 

This Rough Magic - Mary Stewart British actress Lucy Waring believes there is no finer place to be "at liberty" than the sun-drenched isle of Corfu, the alleged locale for Shakespeare's The Tempest. Even the suspicious actions of the handsome, arrogant son of a famous actor cannot dampen her enthusiasm for this wonderland in the Ionian Sea. Then a human corpse is carried ashore on the incoming tide ...