Monday, July 30, 2012

Guest Post At The Christmas Spirit

My good Friend Michelle of The Christmas Spirit, and tons of other blogs, asked me to come by and talk about some of my favorite Christmas Cards, Edward Gorey fans will love my choices.  Please come on by and check it out.

Charlotte Markham and the House of Darkling by Michael Boccacino (Giveaway Too!)

Synopsis From Back Cover:

When the nanny to the young Darrow boys is found mysteriously murdered on the outskirts of the village of Blackfield, Charlotte Markham, the recently hired governess, steps in to take over their care.  During an outing in the forest, they find themselves crossing over into The Ending, "the place for the Things Above Death," where Lily Darrow, the late mother of the children, has been waiting.  She invites them into the House of Darkling, a wondrous place filled with enchantment, mystery, and strange creatures that appear to be, but are not quite, human.

However, everything comes with a price, and as Charlotte begins to understand the unspeakable bargain Mrs. Darrow has made for a second chance at motherhood, she uncovers a connection to the sinister occurrences in Blackfield and enters into a deadly game with the  master of Darkling - one whose outcome will determine the fate of not just the Darrows but the world itself.

I have never thought about reading a slightly lighter Lovecraftian tale told within the confines of a Victorian  Gothic novel.  It's not something that I even considered before, but now that I've read it, I'm slightly confused as to the reason why nobody thought of doing this before.  Now when I say Victorian and Gothic, I'm still speaking of terms of being slightly lighter.  None of the thematic elements really dominate the structure of the novel.  Instead it's like the author used them as the basic outline of the structure, then filled those lines in with something else.  What that something else is, I'm still not sure I have a word for it.

Now despite my apparent confusion, I'm here to tell you that I actually really enjoyed this one.  Sadly, I can't really tell you the reason though.  There are sometimes, no matter how much you think about or analyze something, you can't really explain your reaction to it.  I know I liked it.  I know I enjoyed getting to know The Ending and those that dwelled inside.  I know I loved the way those denizens were structured after some of Lovecraft's well know Elder Beings.  I even liked the civil war the author forced them to fight.  I never thought of the Elder Beings as being political or of having schisms amongst themselves.  I also thought of them as monstrous beings bent on ending the world as we know it.  The author took the world of Lovecraft and made it more human, something I didn't think I would like until I read it.

I think the only thing that would have made this book stronger, at least for me, is that I would have liked to see the "romantic" elements be a bit stronger.  I guess I can't really enjoy a good Gothic novel without there being a strong romantic element.  The main "romance" was between Charlotte and Mr. Darrow.  It was never a relationship I ever bought into or liked, and it always felt as if it existed in her head more than anything else.  It was a bit too forced for my taste, and because of the direction the book took, it was doomed before it left the ground.  Similarly the minor romantic liaisons never felt all that explored and the one I liked the most was barely touched upon.  On one of their trips to Darkling, the oldest Darrow boy is introduced to a young man who belongs to a race of creatures that inhabit the world.  The particular family takes a human visage, and the two hit it off.  It's obvious from the get go that there is something between them from the start.  Of all the relationships, it was the only one that developed a real sense of affection, though it was only shown a few times towards the end.

I was going to ramble on about the causes behind the civil war, the landscape that Mr. Darrow and Charlotte traveled through on their last foray into the world, and the way Death is introduced; but I won't.  All these elements are interconnected and I think it best that a reader discover them on their own.  I was even going to touch upon the idea of a parent striking the deal that Lily Darrow made in order to see her children once again.  But her character and her motivations are, once again, best left to the reader to explore themselves.  What I will say is that whether you end up enjoying the book or not, Charlotte Markham and the House of Darkling will be more than worth the time.

Now onto the giveaway.  One lucky reader will win the book for themselves, though that reader must reside in the United States or Canada.  All you need to do is leave a comment letting me in on a secret.  I want to know about a book that you liked, but can't really explain why.  You also need to leave an email address so I can contact you if you are the winner.  The giveaway will run until 11:59 pm CST on Monday, August 13th.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Mailbox Monday for 7/30/12

Mailbox Monday is a weekly meme created by Marcia at Mailbox Monday and is being hosted all this month by Mrs. Q:  Book Addict.

I received a bound galley of Blood Eye by Giles Kristian for an upcoming TLC Book Tour.

The lovely Beth of Beth's Book Reviews sent me a very lovely package.  Inside were some great vintage mystery paperbacks.  She sent along two books by Mary Roberts Rinehart, The Confession & Sight Unseen and The Breaking Point.  She sent along another Rex Stout book, I really need to get reading them, The Sound of Murder.  She also sent along three books by Hazel Holt, Mrs. Malory's Shortest Journey, Mrs. Malory and the Festival Murder, and Mrs. Malory: Detective in Residence.  Inside the box was a really sweet surprise, a jar of maple sugar.  I can't wait to use it on some baked butternut squash.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Seance by John Harwood

Part Of The Synopsis From Dust Jacket:

Constance Langton grows up in a household marked by death, her father distant, her mother in perpetual mourning for Constance's sister,  the child she lost.  Constance takes her to a seance:  perhaps she will find comfort form beyond the grave.  But the meeting has tragic consequences.  Constance is left alone, her only legacy a bequest that will blight her life.

For Constance's bequest comes in two parts:  a house and a mystery.  Years before, a family disappeared at Wraxford Hall, a decaying mansion in the English countryside with a sinister reputation.  Now the Hall belongs to Constance.  And she must descend into the darkness at the heart of the Wraxford Mystery to find the truth, even at the cost of her life.

I can't remember who's review I first saw that made me want to read this book.  All I know is that after reading that review, I knew I had to give it a go.  Of course I think it helped that I was on a Gothic fix at the time, so it sounded even better.  So to whomever you are, I thank you for reviewing this book and convincing me that I needed to read it.

It's going to be rather hard for me to say anything about the book without giving away plot points that need to be discovered on your own, but I do want to say how much I appreciated the author's ability to craft a tightly woven story, saturated in fear.  Every single character lives in a constant state of fear.  They are scared to live, scared to die, scared of what's around the corner, scared of being discovered; it's a wonder any of the characters are able to function.  What I loved though was that fear never overwhelmed me as a reader, it didn't bog down the book.  It allowed just the right amount of emotion to seep off the page and get me emotionally involved with what was going on.

Now I'm not saying this was a perfect book, because I did have a few issues with characterization, but nothing that detracted from the overall story.  It was a nice Gothic break form all the vintage mysteries I've been reading.

Friday, July 27, 2012

The Prisoner of Heaven by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Synopsis From Dust Jacket:

Barcelona, 1957.  It is Christmas, and Daniel Sempere and his wife, Bea, have much to celebrate.  They have a beautiful new baby son named Julian, and their close friend Fermin Romero de Torres is about to wed.  But their joy is eclipsed when a mysterious stranger visits the Sempere bookshop and threatens to divulge a terrible secret that has been buried for two decades in the city's dark past.  His appearance plunges Fermin and Daniel into dangerous adventures that will take them back to the 1940s and the early days of Franco's dictatorship.  The terrifying events of that time launch them on a search for the truth that will put into peril everything they love and ultimately transform their lives.

There are certain authors I always hear about.  Everyone I know seems to love their writing, rave about the characters they create, and worship the creative mind behind it all.  For whatever reason, those are the authors I tend to stay away from, at least for a little bit.  I'm not sure why.  Maybe it's that part of me that insists I can't like something, if everyone else does.  Everyone who knows me, personally, teases me about it.  I don't see it that way.  I see it as having different tastes than everyone else.  So when I kept on hearing how great Carlos Ruiz Zafon is, I found myself not paying a ton of attention.

His first book, The Shadow of the Wind, sounded like something I might like.  But I wasn't in a big hurry to find out.  I figured I would let the dust settle for a while, then find out for myself if this was something worth reading.  Then when the second book, The Angel's Game, I put both of them out of contention for my attention.  Now if I had been offered a chance to review either one of those books, I may have been more inclined to find out what everyone else was talking about.  That's how I ended up reading his third book, The Prisoner of Heaven.  I was willing to give it a go, if I didn't have to put much effort into getting my hands on it.
I'm going to admit that even after I got the book in the mail, I wasn't feeling that burning desire to open it.  I actually had to force myself to sit down and start reading.  And while I'm being honest here, I have something else I need to admit.  For most of the book, I really didn't get what everyone else was talking about.  I wasn't seeing the second coming of (insert your favorite author).  That doesn't mean I wasn't liking what I was reading, I just wasn't getting the hype.  It was okay, but it wasn't rising to the level I was expecting after all the glowing reviews I read after the first two books came out.  I really enjoyed getting to know Daniel and Fermin, who by the way is a great character.  I was drawn into the story and even found myself wanting to know what happened next.  Even after all that, I wasn't in a huge hurry to read the two previous books.  While I may have liked Daniel and Fermin, I wasn't chomping at the bit to read any more.
Then right around the last 30 pages, my internal attitude started to change.  I found myself buying into the Kool-Aid a bit more.  I was starting to understand what everyone else was talking about.  I began to appreciate the subtleties of the author's style and world building.  I'm not at the same level everyone else I know is at, but I'm now at the point where I want to read the first two books.  I want to, for myself, discover what everyone else is raving about.  After reading Prisoner of Heaven, I'm now convinced that I have some great reading ahead of me.
I would like to thank Trish of TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to read/review this book.  Please visit the tour page to read other reviews.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Absolutist by John Boyne

Synopsis From Book Flap:

It is September 1919:  twenty-one-year-old Tristan Sadler takes a train from London to Norwich to deliver a package of letters to the sister of Will Bancroft, the man he fought alongside during the Great War.

But the letters are not the real reason for Tristan's  visit.  He can no longer keep a secret and has finally found the courage to unburden himself of it.  As Tristan recounts the horrific details of what to him became a senseless war, he also speaks of his friendship with Will - from their first meeting on the training grounds at Aldershot to their farewell in the trenches of northern France.  The intensity of their bond brought Tristan happiness and self-discovery but also confusion and unbearable pain.

There aren't a lot of books that can break my heart.  No matter how much I'm able to connect with the characters or find myself lost in the action, I don't make a habit of emotionally investing myself on such a visceral level.  It's not something I make a conscience decision on, I just read so much that if I allowed myself to put my emotions into every book I read, I would be a basket case.  But every once in a while, I can't help myself.  I allow myself to fully invest in what I'm reading.  I get so involved in the character's lives that I'm not able to keep those walls up.  The Absolutist, is one of those cases.

I've been trying to figure out what I can say about this book, without giving way too much away, but get everyone who reads this to read the book for themselves.  I know one of the central themes of this book is how war can change and solidify personal beliefs and what those beliefs can lead too.  This book, in stark terms, examines what can happen when certain beliefs run in the face of what is expected of a soldier in battle.  I may not be wording this right, but I think it's a pretty important idea to explore in the face of what's been going on over the last 11 years.

It's the more personal face of the story that moved me the most though.  More than anything else, this is a story about Tristan and Will.  Granted it's told through the eyes of Tristan, but I think he gives a pretty accurate account of the events that lead up to that unbearable pain mentioned in the synopsis.  I don't think he pulls any punches or makes any excuses for his actions, though it may have been nice to have had Will's reasoning for his own behavior towards Tristan and for his final act that sets the course for the rest of the book.

I can pretty much tell you in one word the motivating factor for most of what happens, fear.  Fear of the unknown, but more importantly, fear of self.  It's the fear of allowing yourself to be who and what you are, that sets everything else into motion.  Neither one of these men can fully accept or deal with what they are feeling or what they did as a result.  It's the waste of life, both physical and emotional, that moved me in a way few books can manage.  It's what happens to both these men as a result of fear that broke my heart and forced me to think of the what might have beens in my own life.  It's not a reaction I want to have from every book I read, but when it does happen, I'm grateful for it.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Sally Ride, 1951-2012

When I was in the 4th and 5th grades I was obsessed with space and space exploration.  My heroes where the men and women who put their lives at risk and did what I could only dream of doing.  Astronauts like Buzz Aldrin, John Glenn, and Sally Ride where who I wanted to be like when I grew up.

I wanted more than anything to go to space camp those years, but we never had the money for it.  Instead I put puzzles together of the milky way, read every book I could get my hands on, and dreamt that one day I would get to follow in those footsteps.  That day never happened, but that never slowed my interest or passion for the subject.

Millions of other kids have shared that dream, a lot of them in my generation, because of Sally Ride.  She gave all of us, especially young girls, the inspiration to dream big.  She is one of my personal heroes and for that inspiration, she will always have my gratitude.

She will be rememberd for what she did, but her legacy will live on in the millions of young people who got into the sciences because of the example she gave us to follow.

Rhonda's Favorite Fictional Character --- Spencer Reid

Have I ever told you guys how much I adore Oregon and just about anything that comes from there, especially filberts.  I used to live in that wonderful state as a kid, though only for a few short years, but it reminded me so much of where I'm from in Minnesota, that I felt as if I was home still.  I think that's part of the reason why I like Rhonda from My Life In Not So Many Words... so much.  For those of you who don't know her, Rhonda is a fabulous book blogger from the Pacific Northwest.  I don't remember who found who first, but I do know that I love talking with her on twitter or visiting her blog to find out what she's been reading.  I even love hearing her camping stories and seeing the pictures, though I do get just a bit jealous of all the fun.  So please go by her blog and say hello.  I know that if you do, you will find a new blogging friend to hang out with.

When Ryan asked me to do a guest Favorite Fictional Character post, I jumped at the chance and I knew right away who I wanted to do one on.  It’s on a character from one of my favorite TV shows, Criminal Minds.

The actor is Matthew Gray Gubler and he plays Dr. Spencer Reid.

He’s is a FBI behavioral analyst that is so smart that you want to throttle him at times but can’t because he’s right and too dang adorable to throttle. He literally knows everything and has no problem telling you as much. It’s amazing the brain they gave this character.  I got to say, Matthew is genius in the way he pulls the character off.  He plays the character so well in fact, that I sometimes wonder if the actor and character personalities are similar in nature.

I think the most favorite aspect of this character is how the group will be talking about one thing or another and he’ll just pipe up with some off the wall random fact regarding whatever subject they’re currently discussing. You’re never quite sure what you’ll hear when he starts to talk but you can be sure you won’t understand half of it, heh. I’ll post a couple of examples of his quips.

Here’s a quote from one of the shows that us bookies will know from Season 5 Episode 7:


What was the password?




Ah, of course. Thanks Garcia.


Who's Cullen?


The family from the Twilight books.


What's Twilight?

Another example from Season 1 Episode 10:


Melted wax?


Candle wax?


Candles are used in rituals.


They're also used on birthday cakes.


Actually, they were originally used to protect the birthday celebrant

from demons for the coming year. As a matter of fact, down to the

fourth century, Christianity rejected the birthday celebration as a

Pagan ritual.


What kind of a doctor are you?

It’s the quirky little quips like the ones in the quotes I posted that he does and the ways he portrays them that having me adoring this character. He’s that geeky, dorky guy you just can’t help but love and secretly wish you knew even a fraction of what he does and at the same
time thank God you don’t, heh.

I leave you with a YouTube video of funny moments:

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Let The Devil Sleep by John Verdon (Giveaway Included)

Synopsis From Back Cover:

The most decorated detective in NYPD history, Dave Gurney is still trying to adjust to life of quasi-retirement in upstate New York when a young woman who is producing a documentary on a notorious murder spree seeks his counsel.  Soon after, Gurney begins feeling threatened; a razor-sharp hunting arrow lands in his yard, and he narrowly escaped serious injury in a booby-trapped basement.  As things grow more bizarre, he finds himself reexamining the Case of the Good Shepherd, which ten years before involved a series of roadside shootings and a rage-against-the-rich manifesto.  The killings ceased, and a cult of analysis grew up around the case with a consensus opinion that no one would dream of challenging - no one, that is, but Dave Gurney.

Mocked even by some who have been allies in previous investigations, Gurney realizes that the killer is too clever to ever be found.  The only gambit that may make sense is also the most dangerous - to make himself a target and get the killer to come to him.

To be perfectly honest with everyone, while I love mysteries, I'm not normally a huge fan of thrillers.  There have been a few over the last few years that grabbed and held my attention, but none refused to let me go once I got started on them.  Let the Devil Sleep is the first thriller that I didn't want to put down, and if it weren't for that fact I'm getting old and tire easily, I would have stayed up all night reading.

I was sucked in from the very beginning, and I'm not even sure I can truly say the whys of it.  I wish I could tell you what made this book so much better than the other thrillers I've read in the past.  If I had to make a guess, and a weak one at that, I would have to pick the fact that I loved the characters.  For me, there wasn't a weak one in the bunch.  Dave Gurney has to be one of the most interesting male protagonists that I've read in a thriller, since most of what I've read stars female leads, I'm not sure that really means anything though.  I found him to be compelling and someone I couldn't take my attention away from.  I haven't read the other books in the series, but he seems to be a character that has a lot of history and depth to him.  All of which has shaped who he is and how he reacts to situations.  He is joining a group of strong male leads that I'm discovering this year.  Now I just need to get caught up on the series.

I would like to thank Lisa of TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to read/review this book.  Please visit the tour page to read other reviews.

To enter the giveaway please leave a comment letting me know of another strong male lead you have come across lately.  You will also need to include your email in order to contact you if you are the winner.  The giveaway is open to residents of US/Canada only.  The giveaway will run until 11:59 pm CST on Tues. Aug. 7th.  Winner will be chosen by  I will contact the winner will have 48 hours to get back to me or another winner will be chosen.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Winers! Winners!

The winner of Twilight of the Elites is...... Lauren!

The winner of Darkness All Around is..... Kathy!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Mailbox Monday for 7/23/12

Mailbox Monday is a weekly meme created by Marcia at Mailbox Monday and is being hosted all this month by Mrs. Q:  Book Addict.

I received trade paperbacks of The Gospel According to the Fix by Chris Cillizza and The Unconquered by Scott Wallace from the publisher for review.

I received a hardcover of Off the Grid by P.J. Tracy from the publisher for review.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

This Year I Need To Blow Out Three Candles

When they say time flies when you are having fun, they really mean it.  I'm still a little puzzled that I've now been blogging for three years, well three years and a day.  My blogoversary was actually on the 18th, so I guess you can say I'm celebrating a belated birthday.  When I started Wordsmithonia, I never thought I'd still be doing this three years later.

I was going to sit here and wax poetic about all the wonderful people I've gotten to know over the years, but I think you guys already know how wonderful you are.  I then thought about highlighting my favorite books that I would have never read, had it not been for blogging.  I decided to pass on that because I wanted to do something that was a little more important.  All I'm going to do is say two words:


Thank you, to all the bloggers out there who have welcomed me with open arms and always took the time to help me out or answer a question.  I never understood what people meant when they talked about an online community until I started this blog, you guys are the best.

Thank you, to everyone who chooses to spend even a fraction of their time reading and commenting on my posts.  I can never fully explain how grateful that I am over the fact that their are people out there who want to know what I think and are willing to take the time to find out.  I'll never in a million years have the words to explain how guys make me feel.  So thank you once again.

Thank you, to the authors, publishers, and publicists who have been willing to take a chance and allow me the honor of reading/reviewing their books.  I know it can't be easy to send a labor of love out there to be reviewed by people you have never met.  It's a trust that I take seriously and treat with respect.

I'm not sure if I'll still be blogging in another three years, but I do know that I've loved the last three years and I'm so grateful to everyone who has made it all worth it.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Lydia's Favorite Fictional Character --- Anne Shirley

One of the most pleasant aspects of the book blogging world is the sense of community and how quickly another blogger can feel like an old friend.  You may never talk about the latest love of your life or how much you just paid for that new pair of jeans, but you share something more than that, a love of books and everything that entails.  Lydia of The Lost Entwife is one of the bloggers for me.  She is one of those reviewers to whom I look to before I buy a new book.  If I see a book at the store I'm not familiar with, I go to her blog to see if she has read it.  If she has, and did not like it, I will probably not buy it.  I trust her taste and her ability to put her reaction down in words, in such a way as to make me understand what my own reaction to it would be.  She is a gifted blogger, writer, and she is someone I hope to have around for many years to come.  Bloggers like Lydia, make the all the work worth it.  So go on by her blog, say hi, and I know you will be sticking around for a long, long time.

Hi folks!  My name is Lydia, and I blog over at The Lost Entwife, and about a year ago I discovered Ryan and his fantastic feature of Favorite Fictional Character and have loved reading each and every one of them.  So I was honored when Ryan asked me to contribute a guest post - and then the next day freaked out as I tried to pick one, JUST one, character I could talk about.  I mean - my latest favorite has definitively been Tyrion Lannister of Game of Thrones fame, but everyone loves that little dude, so I went to my bookshelves and looked and looked.  But then I realized there really is just one answer.

One of the first books I remember getting from my Aunt for Christmas is Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery.  I've read the book, and all its sequels, and watched the movies so many times that for every event, small or big, that happens in my life, I can give an Anne quote to bolster my spirits or get me settled back on solid ground.  This is the book I give my nieces to read, it's the book that comforts me when it's raining outside and I feel as if the world is a dark and dismal place.  Gilbert was my first crush and when I was younger, raspberry cordial sounded like it would be the thing to drink.

Anne taught me what it was to be patient, to be kind.  She is a character who struggles with her temper and with saying the wrong thing, but she also is able to swallow her pride and seek forgiveness for her brash actions.  She struggles with her red hair (and boy could I relate to having things about me I didn't like), but ultimately comes to accept that hair and how much it sets her apart and makes her Anne-with-an-E.

Through Anne I experienced loss the first time when Walter Cuthbert passes away.  I cried into my tissues, and still do to this day.  I learned what it means to be a "bosom friend" to someone, how to love Tennyson and the spoken word in the form of poetry, and how important imagination is.

I'm going to finish this post with a few of my favorite quotes from the various Anne books, and I hope that if you haven't experienced the story of Anne's life that you seek it out and introduce yourself.  Trust me, she's been a good friend to me all these years and I'm sure she will be the same to you.

“We should regret our mistakes and learn from them, but never carry them forward into the future with us.”

“Perhaps, after all, romance did not come into one’s life with pomp and blare, like a gay knight riding down; perhaps it crept to one’s side like an old friend through quiet ways; perhaps it revealed itself in seeming prose, until some sudden shaft of illumination flung athwart its pages betrayed the rhythm and the music; perhaps . . . perhaps . . . love unfolded naturally out of a beautiful friendship, as a golden-hearted rose slipping from its green sheath.”

“I believe the nicest and sweetest days are not those on which anything very splendid or wonderful or exciting happens, but just those that bring simple little pleasures, following one another softly, like pearls slipping off a string.”

“Dear old world', she murmured, 'you are very lovely, and I am glad to be alive in you.”

Listen to Anne's Theme here.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Album by Mary Roberts Rinehart

Synopsis From Back Cover:

For years the five families on exclusive Crescent Place had lived in peaceful seclusion.  The Halls, the Lancasters, the Talbots, the Wellingtons, and the Daltons thought they knew each other as well as they knew their own families.  But they were wrong - dead wrong -  as they were about to discover when old Mrs. Lancaster was found in her bed, brutally killed with an axe.

It could have been any one of them.  In fact, as the array of suspects and motives multiplied, it began to seem to young Louisa Hall that the only person she could be sure of was herself - especially when the killer struck again... and again.  Louisa wasn't much on detective work, but she did happen to pick up on a few things that the police had missed.  It was all a matter of knowing where to look, and developing a picture of murder....

I'm trying really hard not to giggle to myself while I'm writing this review.  For some strange reason I enjoy listening to Christmas music when it's extremely hot outside.  It seems to take my mind of the fact that if I step outside, I'll melt into a puddle.  Not something I would really look forward too.  So juxtapose the idea of writing a review for a book where not one murder, but 4 murders take place; all the while Dean Martin and Perry Como are singing some of my favorite Christmas songs.  Not sure if any of you guys care about that, but it was making me chuckle to myself, so I felt I needed to share.

Now back to the manner at hand.  Can I just say how much I love a good murder done with an axe.  There is just something so physical about taking an axe to somebody and having a go at it.  I really think if I ever go off the deep end, that's the way I'm taking somebody out.  It also seems to be a weapon that Mary Roberts Rinehart liked as well.  I think this is now the second, maybe third, book that I've read where the killer takes up an axe and chops the victims up like firewood.

Like most of her books, Rinehart gives us a sympathetic character in Louisa Hall.  It's Louisa who is giving us the narration, after the fact of course.  Louisa is the typical Rinehart heroine.  From a good family, who financial situation isn't what it used to be.  She has a sense of her place in the world, even if she doesn't quite like what it is.  She's fearless and doesn't shirk from danger or from the inevitable love interest that shows up, in this case blown out by a stove.  Now the typical Rinehart heroine doesn't really solve the crime, but she does give the clues that allows the "detective" to do the solving.

Once again, I loved the atmosphere that Rinehart builds around her characters.  Though the story takes place on a block with five large homes and a huge back lot, she is able to create an air of oppression that hangs heavy in the air.  If I can feel the heaviness of it as a reader, I can only imagine the smothering the characters would have felt.  They would have been living in fear and desperation, but their gentle manners would never allow them to admit it.  Even if I hated Rinehart's characterizations and plot developments, which I don't, her ability to develop the right environment for her characters would keep me coming back for more.

Challenges: VM (Golden Age Girls)

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Mailbox Monday for 7/16/20

Mailbox Monday is a weekly meme created by Marcia at Mailbox Monday and is being hosted all this month by Mrs. Q:  Book Addict.

I received a hardcover of The Prisoner of Heaven by Carlos Ruiz Zafon for an upcoming TLC Book Tour.

I received a second package from the lovely Becke of The Mysterious Garden Muse and the moderator of the Mystery Board at the Barnes & Noble Book Club site.  She sent along Traitor's Purse by Margery Allingham, The Greek Coffin Mystery by Ellery Queen, The People From the Sea by Velda Johnston, and a hardcover that includes The Sleeping Bride and The Deadly Travellers by Dorothy Eden.

Summer Vacation: Village Flea Market

I bet nobody knew, or cared, that Wichita has the largest flea market in the state of Kansas.  Now before anyone starts rolling their eyes at me for doing a post over a flea market, let me explain.  If I have a Sunday off, which rarely happens, I rather enjoy going to the Village Flea Market.  It's not because I think I'm going to find a nice piece of home decor or something I can't live without for my kitchen.  It's more about people watching.  This place is always packed, and it's a  lot of fun to just go and hang out there.  It's amazing what you will see people do and say in order to buy something that somebody else thought was junk.  

Now there are the booths that sell new items: cologne, incense, belt buckles, painted cow skulls (not sure if that qualifies as new), and questionable (taste wise) furniture.  It's the other booths I'm more interested in.  I can never figure out what makes people buy some of this stuff.  Who really needs a velvet moose that bobs it's head up and down?  Does anyone really need to own a wooden duck that looks like a 5th grader in 1953 made it?  Do people really take this art home, and hang it on their walls?  I don't know the answers to those questions, but I'm assuming yes, otherwise there wouldn't be people selling the stuff.

I never buy all that much, maybe a few books or records at the most.  I have bought an Eeyore toy and a Doctor Strange action figure, but don't tell anybody.  One of the first sections I'll head to when I get there is this huge area of used books.  Most of them are paperbacks, well worn paperbacks, but there are a few hardcovers mixed in.  I can't really say I buy a whole bunch from here, I rarely find one I like, or in good enough shape to take home.  If it's a really hard book for me to find, I'll go ahead and buy it, but I'll always be on the lookout for a copy in better shape.  This time around I did manage to find a Mary Roberts Rinehart book in decent shape, but it's one that I bought at a used bookstore just a few days before.

Right next door to the book tables, I think they are owned by the same people actually, are boxes and boxes of kids toys.  Most of them are the type that come from fast food kid meals, but there are some pretty cool action figures thrown in sometimes.

One of the reasons I go to the flea market is because I'm looking for two particular glasses.  As a kid,  I loved character glasses from restaurants like Hardee's.  As an adult, I'm not sure if I think it's because they are actually cool, or if it's more of a nostalgia factor, but I really want the Simon Sivelle and Brainy Smurf glasses.  Twice now, I've found a Simon Sivelle glass, only to have them break at home.  I have yet to find the Brainy glass.  So if you guys ever run across them, think of me.

I do have to admit that I'm always a bit excited when I find a item that I never knew existed and can't imagine anyone being able to live without.  I was being a tad sarcastic there, but this time around, I came really close to buying it anyway.  Who knew that Tammy Faye Baker recorded albums when she was still with her cheating husband.  I found this one on a table of things listed for $.25 and I came so close to getting it.  I actually kinda admire Tammy Faye now, how couldn't I after seeing The Eyes of Tammy Faye when it came out.  Alas, no matter how campy it would be to buy it, I ended up passing.

This trip, all I ended up buying where four comic books.  I haven't read a comic since I was in junior high.  When I did read them, I only read Marvel.  For some reason, I could never get into DC comics.  My son doesn't see to enjoy them all that much, so we don't buy any for him either.  For what ever reason I was in the mood that Sunday so I spent $4 for 4 comic books.  I took them home and read them all the same day.  I think I'm hooked again, so next time I'm at the flea market, I have a feeling I'll be bringing some more home with me.

I was going to go and eat lunch after the flea market, but I got rather hungry when I was there.  I had never ate there, but I figured what the hell.  When I walked in the restaurant area, it reminded me of some of the food joints you will find on a fairground.  Which truth be told, have some of the best food in the world.  I wasn't sure what to get so I asked the woman at the counter what the best burger was, and she said the jalapeno burger.  I love spicy food, so jalapeno burger it was.  It was so frickin good, tons of fried jalapenos, bacon, cheese, a little lettuce and pico de gallo, and it was good to go.  The fries were homemade but a little soggy, they were still good though with lots of mustard.  I think I'll be eating there again.

So that was my exciting trip to the flea market during my summer staycation.  It was really the last time I did anything worth mentioning.  The rest of my vacation was used up by getting caught up on stuff around the house and avoiding the 105 plus temps.  I read a lot, watched Buffy: The Vampire Slayer and just relaxed. It was a good time.  Hope you guys enjoy your summer no matter what you end up doing.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Murder In Mesopotamia by Agatha Christie

Synopsis From Dust Jacket:

Something has terrified Louis Leidner.  In fact, she is so frightened and acting so delusional that her husband, archaeologist Dr. Eric Leidner, hires Amy Leatheran, a young nurse and the book's narrator, to look after his wife while they're on a dig in the Persian desert.  Soon Louise tells Amy that she' been receiving threatening letters from her ex-husband - who died years earlier.  The nurse assumes this is just an example of the woman's paranoia - until Louise is murdered.  Clues are few and far between, but suspects and motives abound.  It is up to Hercule Poirot to put together the pieces of this seemingly unsolvable puzzle.

I'm a sucker for mysteries that take place in locales that I'll never be able to visit.  I have serious doubts that I'll, at least anytime soon, have a chance to visit archaeological digs in the deserts of the Middle East.  So the next best thing is to delve into a juicy mystery, especially if it's from the pen of Agatha Christie.

Once again I was able to enjoy Hercule Poirot because of the narration of an intermediary, Amy Leatheran.  Amy is one of those characters that Agatha Christie was superb at creating.  She is a strong, independent woman who isn't afraid to experience something new.  I would have to admire anyone who is willing to leave their family, the only home they know, and go work half way around the world.  When she is asked to nurse a woman at a dig site, she jumps at the chance.  Where I learned to worship the ground she walked on, is the idea of seeing Poirot through her eyes.  It softens the egotism and eccentricities that Hercule is so good at displaying.  It allowed the genius he displays to seem a little more human, because she doesn't seem to take him all that seriously.  I think by the end, she respected him, but she still couldn't quite buy into the whole package of who he is.

I'm not going to go into the motives or details of the mystery itself, because that would spoil it for you, but I must say jealousy never reared it's ugly head more than in this book.  What made this book a little different from the normal Christie book though, was the setting.  Most of her books take place on a grand scale.  The books are normally set in various locations, not a single spot.  Murder in Mesopotamia for the most part takes place within a single building, which allows the tension to simmer a bit more than usual.  It allows the atmosphere to take a more prominent role, something I relish in a good mystery.

Challenges: VM (Golden Age Girls)

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Last Policeman by Ben H. Winters

Part Of The Synopsis From Back Cover:

What's the point in solving murders if we're all going to die soon, anyway?

Detective Hank Palace has faced this question ever since asteroid 2011GV1 hovered into view.  There's no chance left.  No hope.  Just six precious months until impact.

The economy spirals downward while crops rot in the fields.  Churches and synagogues are packed.  People all over the world are walking off the job - but not Hank Palace.  He's investigating a death by hanging in a city that sees a dozen suicides every week - except this one feels suspicious, and Palace is the only cop who cares.

I'm not normally a huge fan of apocalyptic fiction, though I guess this could be called pre-apocalyptic.  Most of what I've read in the genre is too heavy and depressing or so far fetched that I can't take it seriously.  I think the only two I've ever really enjoyed are The Road by Cormac McCarthy and Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank, both of which were preblogging days.  And while the premise of this book was interesting, I'm not sure that would have been enough to sell me on the idea.

I guess you could say the biggest reason I decided that this was a book I wanted, or needed, to read was the author.  After reading Bedbugs last year, I think it's safe to say I'm a huge fan of Ben H. Winters.  Now that may be a little hard to believe after reading only one book, but for those of you who have read Bedbugs, I think you will understand.  After reading The Last Policeman, I know I was right in my initial judgement and I can't wait to devour everything else this author puts out for general consumption.

I'm going to have to admit upfront that I have a slight crush on Detective Hank Palace.  He is the kind of man I would hope I could be in such circumstances.  I'm still not sure how I would react if I was told the Earth only has 6 months to live, but I would be proud to act in the way Hank does.  He, despite the fear and despair anyone would feel in such situations, understands that falling apart isn't going to do anyone a bit of good.  He realizes that people, whether they are willing to admit it or not, want those in positions of power to still do their jobs.  A police officers first duty is to protect the public, and that's what Hank is holding onto within everything in him.

When anyone else just would have assumed the unassuming accountant hanging from a rail in a McDonald's bathroom did it to himself, Detective Palace is willing to admit that things just don't look right.  There are too many signs that somethings amiss, signs that would have been obvious to everyone else if a big hunk of rock wasn't six months away from annihilating the human race.  Through careful investigation, including some genius manipulation of what he can get away with, Hank takes it upon himself to figure out why someone wanted this man dead.

This is the beginning of a trilogy, so I'm rather excited to see what happens next.  It will be interesting to see Hank as the asteroid gets closer to ending everything he knows.  There was some action centered around his sister and a possible plot she is involved with, so that will be something to look forward to in the next book.  Of course, and I'm rather hoping for it, the next book could take place after the asteroid hits and the human race has been thrown into it's final death spasms.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Beth's Favorite Fictional Character --- Miss Parker

Today's guest blogger is one of the first bloggers I met, and one of the kindest.  Beth from Beth's Book Reviews is one of the gems of the book blogging universe.  And I'm just not saying that because she sends along quite a few of her read mysteries my way after she is done with them.  She has sent along a few Rinehart books that I haven't read yet, and I appreciate that more than I could ever say.  It's more than that though, she seems to be everywhere I look.  She always seems to have a kind word or a helpful answer to any question.  She was one of the examples I looked to when I first started my blog, an example I wanted to emulate.  So I hope if you don't know her, that you stop on by her blog and say hi.

When Ryan asked me to write a Favorite Fictional Character guest post  my mind immediately went into overdrive.  Who did I love more?  Should it be Paddington Bear?  Mole from The Wind in the Willows?  Rose from Doctor Who?  The possibilities were endless.  I finally settled on one of my favorite characters from one of my favorite television shows - Miss Parker from The Pretender.

Why not Jarod, you ask?  Well, despite his sheer hotness, Jarod is just a bit bland for me.

In the age of the 90s Ally McBeal micro mini Miss Parker rocked her wardrobe with those fabulous legs (the actress was a former dancer) like Ally & Co. never could (well, except for Portia de Rossi and Dyan Cannon), but alas, I digress.

Miss Parker was the perfect blend of brains, beauty, and balls and men wanted to be with her and the women wanted to be her.  She was fiercely loyal to her friends and at heart a genuinely good person doing the best with what she had.

She really developed as a character throughout the show's four short seasons.  She started out as an uberbitch just trying to bring Jarod back so she could leave her job once and for all, to someone with true compassion beneath her gruff exterior.  The rare moments of softness she displayed, beautifully shown in the season 2 finale when Angelo was regressing and could no longer play the piano, were a heartbreaking glimpse into her soul.

Thankfully we also got to experience her lighter side in the fabulous dream scenes from "Cold Dick".  Sadly, there are no good clips of this on YouTube.  

She also had some of the most wonderful lines in the series:

Sydney:  How come you know so much about Greek lore?

Miss Parker:  I did a lot of frat boys in college.


Miss Parker:  (phone rings)  What?

Jarod:  Well, well, well, long time no see.  And how's life treating you?

Miss Parker:  Like he caught me in bed with his wife.


So, Miss Parker joined all those other great characters of shows whose lives were cut short yet remain beloved by devoted fans.

I'm feeling all nostalgic now and must go fire up my Apple TV for a Pretender marathon!