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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.

Spring Cleaning Bibliophile style...

I've been on two weeks holiday and today's the last day; back to the (semi) grind tomorrow.  This makes me very sad.  Offsetting this sadness is the fact that I have the whole day to myself:  MT's playing 18 holes of golf and spending the afternoon at the pub with friends.  Woo Hoo!**  


Since it is spring, and I've been lolling about for the last two weeks***, I thought I should do something resembling cleaning housekeeping.  So I started first thing this morning by running my dishwasher on the maintenance setting with dishwasher cleaning powder, then set up Rosie the robotic swiffer to start plugging away at first dusting, then damp mopping the wood floors.  


Now it's time to get down to the serious cleaning:  I've gone through my TBR and have a stack of short books; ones I think will only take an hour or so to get through, and they are my goal for today.  It's a deliciously gorgeous day outside, perfect for sitting in the garden reading (and cleaning).  


There will be, relative to my regular output, a mini-flood of review-like posts.


Disdain.  I have it.



** This cheering is in no way a reflection on his wonderfulness, but is rather an expression of joy by my inner hermit.


*** This is not strictly true; I spent 4 hours earlier this week doing a cull/clean/re-organise of my shelves.  I now have four boxes of books to get rid of and a teeny, tiny fraction of empty shelf space that will in no way adequately serve the books on my TBR.

Bingo Update #5 - Still no Bingo

Full tracking page is here.


I blacked my card out last week, but still have yet to get a bingo.  Three Four possible bingos-in-waiting, but 8 7 possible calls (thank you Linda, for pointing out the one I missed) that will keep me and my card bingo free.


I told MT at the start of the game that I would photograph the card with the cats to commemorate my bingos. 


I suspect the cats overheard and appropriate evasive measures were negotiated with Moonlight Reader and Obsidian Blue via secret communications.



Reading progress update: I've read 174 out of 481 pages.

The Golden Age of Murder - Martin Edwards

Having finished Part II, the narrative continues to keep me thoroughly hooked.  The more I learn about Christie and Sayers, the more I realise how back-to-front I got their two personalities.  Berkeley continues to put me off, but I'm more determined than ever to find some of Ronald Knox's work.


What surprises me most is the number of printing errors I'm finding - I swear I don't mean to be nit-picky but I do expect a book of this calibre to be better copy-edited.  I'm more than willing to overlook a missing conjunction or article here and there – sh*t happens – but in one spot it appears sh*t actually happens, as Martin quotes Dorothy L. Sayers as saying, in correspondence with Robert Eustace (her co-writer of Documents in the Case):


[...]If possible the trap should poop off while the villain is away in Town, or something.


Unless there's a whole scatological side to British slang I've so far not been introduced to, this is the kind of error it's hard to imagine getting past so many different sets of eyes.


It was funny though; imagining Sayers saying poop off.  

Distillery Cats: Profiles in Courage of the World's Most Spirited Mousers

Distillery Cats: Profiles in Courage of the World's Most Spirited Mousers - Brad Thomas Parsons

Ok, typing up the title to this post I realise I should have knocked 1/2 star off for inaccuracy in titling.  (I seem to be on a roll with this lately.)  Profiles in courage is stretching a point a bit, and as the book only covers American brewers and distilleries, which the author states upfront in the introduction, having the title say World's Most Spirited Mousers is more than hyperbolic and is flat inaccurate.


But other than that, the book is gorgeous with fabulous illustrations and charming stories of the cats earning their keep protecting the country's grains.  Interspersed amongst the stories/profiles are quotes about cats from writers and songwriters, and cocktail recipes inspired by all these fabulous cats.


This is a great book for cat lovers; steps above those 'gift' books that just have funny or motivational quotes overlaid on photos of kittens.  Guaranteed to make you smile at least once or twice.

Reading progress update: I've read 77 out of 257 pages.

The Last Alchemist in Paris: & Other Curious Tales from Chemistry - Lars Ohrstrom

As Elentarri Tannat (sorry for the mix up!) mentioned in one of her status updates for this book, the book starts off feeling a little scattered.  The author uses an anecdotal style that fumbles a bit in the first couple of chapters; mostly, I think, because events in chapter one's anecdote lead to events in the next chapter, but in order to setup chapter two properly, he has to digress.  


Once past this point though, the chapters work much better and I'm appreciating the anecdotal context because, as much as it pains me to admit it because I love chemistry, I totally suck at understanding chemical equations.  I think I understand them only to find out I could not have gotten it more wrong.  So the anecdotes soften the blow for me, as do the molecular illustrations which I understand without any problem.


Anecdotal or not though, this is (so far) hard science.  He's skimming over the periodic table, offering information that might entice non-science geeks, but what he offers isn't fluffy popular science stuff either.  Which is why I'm remembering so clearly how badly I suck at chemical equations.  

Reading progress update: I've read 107 out of 481 pages.

The Golden Age of Murder - Martin Edwards

Taking away nothing from The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books – because for what it is and what it's meant to be, it is excellent – but this Martin Edwards book is eminently more readable.  This is a narrative history of the golden age of murder and The Detection Club through small biographies of the founding members.  It's very easy to read, but I'm surprised to find myself only 20% of the way through; given the amount of time I've spent with it, I'd normally be much further along.  I take this as evidence that the writing and the subject matter are absorbing enough to slow me down so I can take it all in.


Random thoughts after finishing Part 1:  Sayers sooooo not what I was expecting.  I think I'd have liked her, but she might have been a little too mercenary, even for me (I find her reaction to Conan Doyle's passing ... cold).   Archie Christie was an ass, but I think I already knew that.  Berkeley... I'm getting the feeling no one ever really knew what to think of him and I do mean not one soul, which is regrettable.  But also - jonesing after your brother's wife... not cool.

A Charm of Goldfinches and Other Wild Gatherings

A Charm of Goldfinches and Other Wild Gatherings: Quirky Collective Nouns of the Animal Kingdom - Matt Sewell

Another charming and beautifully illustrated book, I was a bit disappointed at first with the writing, until I quickly figured out it's geared towards a much younger audience.  And as such, it's perfect. 


A small selection of land, sea, and air animals and the collective nouns we use to describe them, each blurb is written in a very friendly, chatty style that is sure to appeal to kids.  The illustrations should appeal to everyone.  There's a checklist at the end of the book, encouraging kids to look out for the different types of animals, some of them presumably at their local zoos, as I'm not sure many are going to see a camel walking down their street in the normal course of their day.

100 Plants That Almost Changed the World

100 Plants That Almost Changed the World - Chris Beardshaw

First let me get the major problem out of the way:


The title totally lies.  At best... 93.  Nettles have four separate entries and at least one other plant has 2.  There's an entry that covers the invention of the lawn mower.  While most can be argued to have had significant enough impact to fall under "almost changed the world", some, like entry #1, fail to impress (although it does have the impressive name of "Fishy Goatsbeard", which, in my opinion, is a different kind of impressive).


Aside from those things, the book is gorgeous.  Richly illustrated and easy to read it was chock full of interesting tidbits about different plants - not all of them the obvious run-of-mill plants, like roses, you'd expect (see Fishy Goatsbeard).  The author is definitely a big fan of Stinging Nettle.  Personally, I'm going to be googling bilberry jam when I'm finished writing this and quite a few of the plants I have in my garden have taken on a whole new importance.  MT's dislike of my tansy plant has lost all ammunition and I'll definitely be looking for a mother-in-law's tongue this weekend.


Die hard gardeners might not enjoy it as much as I did; it's not an in-depth exploration of any plant, but merely several paragraphs of highlights, but for the enthusiastic, avid, or newbie gardener, I think the book would be a treat.  Just don't pay any attention to the title.

The Golden Age of Crime bingo card and chart

Moonlight Reader, being the champ that she is, created a bingo card for those of us that are in The Detection Club.  It's not an active game, but more a fun, open-ended way of tracking the different types of mysteries we're hoping to sample over time.


This will be the post I use to update my progress.




Bingo Square

Book Title

Date Read

Row #1





The Ironists










Serpents in Eden





The Birth of the Golden Age





Across the Atlantic



Row #2





Resorting to Murder





Inverted Mysteries





Capital Crimes





Play Up! Play Up! and Play the Game!





Multiplying Murders



Row #3





Making Fun of Murder





The Way Ahead










Murder at the Manor





The Psychology of Crime



Row #4




The Justice Game

 Murder on the Orient Express

 15 Oct.



Playing Politics





The Great Detectives





Scientific Enquiries





Cosmopolitan Crimes



Row #5





Fiction from Fact





Miraculous Murders





A New Era Dawns





The Long Arm of the Law





Education, Education, Education




My card:


Wildfire (Hidden Legacies, #3)

Wildfire -  Ilona Andrews

Ok, I'm going to go on record here with my prediction for Caesar's true identity:


Linus Duncan.  Because he is both the least likely and the most devastating.  Also, he's mentioned in earlier books and earlier in this book, that he dislikes being bored.

(show spoiler)


Of course, there would have to be a fourth book published in order to find out if I'm right, and that's not a given at this point.  Still it's fun to speculate.


There's a lot going on in this book - it's action packed and there are revelations galore, including finding out what Arabella actually is.  But even though it's a neck-and-neck race, I think I liked the second book better (White Hot).  The narrative felt smoother, more coherent.  Wildfire was just... chaotic.  Fun, highly entertaining chaos, but chaos.  And I really didn't like all that nonsense with Rynda, and I'm not convinced it was in any way necessary.  But I loved Zeus.  I'd have liked to have seen a lot more Zeus - and (Sergeant?) Teddy.  But mostly Zeus.  


Here's hoping Avon will wake up and smell the coffee and a fourth book is just around the corner.

The Flat Book Society - Remember to vote!

Just a reminder from Huggins that everyone in the group participates in choosing the group reads.  There's a list of books under the "Next Books" tab that have been nominated by members, and the books with the highest number of votes are the ones that get chosen for group reads.


At the moment, the frontrunner for our January 1st read is:

(Please note: this is NOT the official selection, just the one currently leading in the votes - I won't call the January read until November 1.  Sorry if I confused anyone.)


Storm in a Teacup: The Physics of Everyday Life - Helen Czerski A physicist explains daily phenomena from the mundane to the magisterial.

Our home here on Earth is messy, mutable, and full of humdrum things that we touch and modify without much thought every day. But these familiar surroundings are just the place to look if you’re interested in what makes the universe tick.


In Storm in a Teacup, Helen Czerski provides the tools to alter the way we see everything around us by linking ordinary objects and occurrences, like popcorn popping, coffee stains, and fridge magnets, to big ideas like climate change, the energy crisis, or innovative medical testing. She guides us through the principles of gases (“Explosions in the kitchen are generally considered a bad idea. But just occasionally a small one can produce something delicious”); gravity (drop some raisins in a bottle of carbonated lemonade and watch the whoosh of bubbles and the dancing raisins at the bottom bumping into each other); size (Czerski explains the action of the water molecules that cause the crime-scene stain left by a puddle of dried coffee); and time (why it takes so long for ketchup to come out of a bottle).

Along the way, she provides answers to vexing questions: How does water travel from the roots of a redwood tree to its crown? How do ducks keep their feet warm when walking on ice? Why does milk, when added to tea, look like billowing storm clouds? In an engaging voice at once warm and witty, Czerski shares her stunning breadth of knowledge to lift the veil of familiarity from the ordinary. You may never look at your toaster the same way.


For the record, I've read this, I thought it was great, and the flap is right: I no longer look at my toaster the same way.


The Flat Book Society - November Read

Forensics: An Anatomy of Crime - Val McDermid Forensics: What Bugs, Burns, Prints, DNA and More Tell Us About Crime - Val McDermid

Just a reminder that our BookLikes Science Book Club, The Flat Book Society, is scheduled to kick off a group read of Forensics: An Anatomy of Crime by Val McDermid (also known under the title Forensics: What Bugs, Burns, Prints, DNA and More Tell Us About Crime).  


Our first official read in September wasn't a very auspicious beginning, but I have high hopes for this one.  Gulp by Mary Roach was a bit of a dark horse winner in our voting, but Forensics was a title most of our club members expressed a great interest in.  


So.  November 1st.  Forensics by Val McDermid.   And if anyone would like to join us for this or for any other of our reads, we'd love to have you.  Huggins here will tell you how to get there.  ;-)


(hint: hover your mouse over Huggins and wait for the tool tip.)


September: Coda

It's a Book - Lane Smith Bibliomysteries: Stories of Crime in the World of Books and Bookstores - Otto Penzler Burn for Me -  Ilona Andrews White Hot -  Ilona Andrews Jamaica Inn - Daphne du Maurier Magic and Macaroons - Bailey Cates

I'm going to preface this monthly wrap-up with the disclaimer that there were a lot of short books and short stories in the mix this month.


Total number was 26 - A number I was completely unprepared for.  I think the Bingo game sort of distracted me from paying attention to numbers, even though on some level I knew I'd read enough to complete my bingo card. 


Not including re-reads, I had one 5-star read this month; a children's book that I recommend for all ages, It's a Book by Lane Smith.  If you see it in the library or store, read it - even if you have no reason to buy it, it'll make you laugh when you get to the end.


I had three 4.5 star reads, one an anthology (up front, I've only read a few of the stories - the rating reflects the stories not the overall collection), and the first two in Ilona Andrews' new urban fantasy series, masquerading as paranormal romance.


My least favorite read was easily Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier; literary classic or not, that ending was horse-shit.


In the midst of all of that were a lot of 4 star reads, and the completion of my 2017 Reading Challenge (Magic and Macaroons by Bailey Cates on 14 Sept), all of which tally up to a very successful reading month.  

Bingo Update #4 - Card completed... but no bingo yet.

I just completed Moon Over Soho for my Darkest London square and that completes my bingo card.  Now I just have to wait for the calls that will eventually get me a bingo - so far, they've stubbornly refused to line up properly.



The full keeping track post is here.  Luckily, it looks like Moonlight Reader has issued a new bingo card for Golden Age mysteries.  ;)

Moon Over Soho (Peter Grant, #2)

Moon Over Soho  - Ben Aaronovitch

There are two storylines running through Moon Over Soho: one that begins and ends with this book, involving a string of suspicious deaths, all of them jazz musicians.  The other centres on a mysterious, faceless, unknown sorcerer running around London killing and conducting his own Dr. Moreau type experiments, and the reader is left hanging as to its resolution, presumably because it will come back up in future books. 


I knew how the first story line would play out by the time I got to a page that falls somewhere in the range of 40-60 (I won't give the exact page number because I don't want to risk spoilers).  This is why my rating is only 3.5 stars.  The story is still good, but it's definitely hampered by knowing the ending, and wanting to smack Peter for not figuring out what was right in front of him a lot sooner.  To give credit though, I did not foresee how he would try to resolve the situation; I liked it, even though it didn't work out quite the way he's hoped.


Hollow City (Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, #2)

Hollow City - Ransom Riggs

More often than not, I struggle to like the second book of a trilogy and Hollow City is no exception.  To me, the second book feels like all the boring bits between the excitement of discovery and the thrill of the finale stretched out to 'make do' as a book.  In other words, book two is all existential navel gazing and I get bored.


Hollow City was not without excitement though; there were plenty of battles between the peculiar children and the hollows, and Jacob gets to use and stretch and refine his power, but mostly it's children bonding (go team!), true love (*eye roll*), evil plot to end the world revealed in all its evil glory (*gasp*) and existential navel gazing.


I'm being a bit cheeky; I did enjoy, it just wasn't great.  There are a couple of twists at the end; one I really didn't see coming and the other was, I suppose, inevitable, and it ends in something of a cliffhanger with the tried and true 'friends in peril' plot device fully engaged.  I already have the third book so it's definitely going to get read, but I'm not in a rush.


I read this for the Chilling Children square and it was more apt than I could have dreamed, as the power of one of the peculiar children is, in fact, freezing whatever she touches.  Chilling children indeed.