Current Reading – Bryson, Horowitz, Goldman

Note: while Patti Abbott’s blog Pattinaise is on hiatus,
she may not be doing her Monday “Things That Are Making Me Happy” post.
Please f
eel free to make a comment here on whatever is making you happy.

If the author list looks familiar, it should. I’ve read these same authors recently, all of them as follow-ups to an earlier book.

The Road to Little Dribbling by Bill Bryson – non-fiction, travel. This is a sequel to Bryson’s Notes From A Small Island, which about just last week. This one is, in a way, an update  of that earlier book, twenty years later. It doesn’t cover exactly the same ground (oops), but has a lot in common with the firs book. If you read and liked Notes, you may like this one too, though I confess for me it’s wasn’t as fresh or interesting.

Point Blanc by Anthony Horowitz – YA spy fiction. Same thing here, I posted on the first book in the series just last week, and here is the second. Alex Rider is again sent to spy out a criminal who’s running a “corrective” school, this time in the Alps, and has many close calls before escaping with the information he needs to foil the plot. This was okay, but I’ll not continue with this series. There is better Horowitz to be read.

Broken Ice by Matt Goldman – mystery. This is the second in the author’s private detective Nils Shapiro series. This time, Nils Shapiro has been hired to find missing Linnea Engstrom, a teenager from the small northern hockey town of Warroad, Minnesota. Most of Warroad is in Minneapolis for the state high school hockey tournament, and Linnea never returned from a quarter-final game. Linnea’s friend Haley Housch is also missing—and soon found dead.

At the crime scene, while talking to police officers, Nils is shot through the shoulder with an arrow and starts to bleed out. Only the quick work of the medical examiner, who is on hand to examine the dead girl, saves Nil’s life. Where is the other missing girl, Linnea? She could be anywhere, but as Nils continues to search, it becomes obvious someone doesn’t want her found. I liked the first book (see my July 22 post) and I liked this one even better. Recommended.

How about you?
What have you been reading lately?

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Forgotten book: The Saint – Wanted For Murder by Leslie Charteris

Another in my series of forgotten or seldom read books

The Saint – Wanted For Murder – the Further Adventures of The Saint, Triangle Books, 1943, short story collection – originally 1931, Sun Dial Press.

This 1943 hardcover contains six stories: “The Story of A Dead Man”, “The Impossible Crime”, “The National Debt”, “The Logical Adventure”, “The Wonderful War” and “The Man Who Could Not Die”. All of them very good.

I was a late comer to The Saint. I knew about the TV show, but watched it only a couple of times before tiring of Roger Moore. I didn’t see any of the films, hadn’t read any of the books. But then a few years ago I read a review of one of the books and it intrigued me enough to pick up an old paperback. I was surprised and pleased to find I liked the writing, plot and character.

So of course I got a bunch more Saint books and stashed them away. Finally I pulled this one out and read it over the space of a couple of a few days, enjoying myself the entire time. Why did I wait? Not sure. Lots of other things to read, there’s always that tall TBR stack. Regardless, I really enjoyed these stories.

I’m not going to summarize each story I’ll let the reader who’s interested have the pleasure of finding out for her or himself, but can recommend this collection. Very enjoyable. I’ll be reading more of those books I got, soon.

Posted in Books & Reading, Friday Forgotten Books | 9 Comments

Current Reading – Horowitz, Anderson, Bryson

Note: while Patti Abbott’s blog Pattinaise is on hiatus,
she may not be doing her Monday “Things That Are Making Me Happy” post.
Please f
eel free to make a comment here on whatever is making you happy.

Stormbreaker by Anthony Horowitz – YA spy novel. After reading the cover article in Mystery Scene Magazine I decided to try various Horowitz books, and this was one of the first that was available at the library (lately my first choice for getting a book). This is the first in the Alex Rider teen spy series, which stretches to six (or more?) short novels. I thought it was okay, and I might try another, but I wouldn’t want to make a steady diet of these.

The Complete Psychotechnic League Volume 3  by Poul Anderson, science fiction short stories. I’m reading these out of order, and will follow this up with the second volume, which I had temporarily mislaid but have since found. Thank goodness, I was about to re-order it! It’s no secret I’m a Poul Anderson fan, and I have these stories scattered amongst other collections, particularly the NESFA short fiction of Poul Anderson volumes (7 so far), but I wanted these Baen editions – this is the third of three – because it’s nice to have them all together. Some of these later stories are a little weaker than his earlier ones, though also less preachy, but I believe any Anderson is good Anderson.

Notes From A Small Island by Bill Bryson – non-fiction, autobiographical, travel. I like Bryson’s writing. After reading A Walk In the Woods, I read one of two more but that had been a while, so when I saw this at the library I got it, and enjoyed the heck out of it. I don’t know my way around England, other than what I might have picked up from a mystery novel now and then, and I admit a better map in this book would have helped, but what the heck. This was fun.

How about you?
What have you been reading lately?

Posted in Books & Reading, current reading | 15 Comments

FFB: A Natural History of Dragons, A Memoir by Lady Trent by Marie Brennan

A Natural History of Dragons, A Memoir by Lady Trent by Marie Brennan,  Tor Books hardcover, February 2014 – fantasy.

“Marie Brennan begins a thrilling new fantasy series in A Natural History of Dragons, combining adventure with the inquisitive spirit of the Victorian Age”
– Publisher’s Weekly

You, dear reader, continue at your own risk. It is not for the faint of heart—no more so than the study of dragons itself. But such study offers rewards beyond compare: to stand in a dragon’s presence, even for the briefest of moments—even at the risk of one’s life—is a delight that, once experienced, can never be forgotten. . . .
– Introduction

Before Isabella, who would one day be Lady Trent, became the illustrious figure she later became, there was a bookish young woman whose passion for learning, natural history, and, yes, dragons defied the stifling conventions of her day. This is her first adventure, based on facts and surmises, effort and a great deal of convincing those with influence to support her ideas, and into the field she goes, questing to find a dragon living in the wild, in it’s natural habitat, to discover, to learn. She is the remarkable woman who brought the study of dragons out of the misty shadows of myth and misunderstanding into the clear light of modern science.

Here at last, in her own words, is the true story of a pioneering spirit who risked her reputation, her prospects, and her fragile flesh and bone to satisfy her scientific curiosity; of how along the way she sought happiness despite her lamentable eccentricities. This is the account of her expedition to the perilous mountains of Vystrana, where she made the first of many historic discoveries that would change the world forever.

I really like these books a lot. I read this one soon after it was published, and have continued on with the series to the end. Well, almost – I recently found a small follow-up short story/novelette, which I now have on ebook. I like the setting, the character of Lady Trent, and many minor characters as well. I like the way Brennan writes. I like the settings. These are all good, but must be read in order. I think my favorite may be the third book, but I suggest you try the first, then go ahead as you think best. Yummy stuff.

The Lady Trent Natural History of Dragons series:

1. A Natural History of Dragons
2. The Tropic of Serpents
3. Voyage of the Basilisk
4. In the Labyrinth of Drakes
5. Within the Sanctuary of Wings
6. “
From the Editorial Page of the Falchester Weekly Review (A Lady Trent Story)” (short story)

Posted in Books & Reading, Friday Forgotten Books | 8 Comments

It’s Hot!

hot weatherEnough already!

It’s been in the 90s and closing in on triple digits for days…no, weeks. This is the hottest, driest Summer on record here in what ought to be cool, rainy Portland, OR.

As Gollum might say, “We hates it.”

Posted in Books & Reading | 10 Comments

Current Reading: Heywood, McManus, Sullivan

Note: while Patti Abbott’s blog Pattinaise is on hiatus,
she may not be doing her Monday “Things That Are Making Me Happy” post.
Please f
eel free to make a comment here on whatever is making you happy.

Meanwhile, my reading:
Chasing A Blond Moon
by Joseph Heywood – mystery, hardcover. I have enjoyed the two collections of Heywood’s short stories, Hard Ground and Harder Ground, the former more than the latter, so I thought I’d try one of the novels. This is the third (fourth?) in the series, the others were not available in my library, so it’s the one I got.

I happen to be a person who generally does not like to see or read about harming animals. I’m okay with the destruction of monstrous ants or suchlike, but when an author snuffs a dog, cat, or bunny, I’m not happy. I understand people hunt, and in the course of a story if hunters shoot a deer, I can accept that, though I’m not particularly happy with it. So when it soon became apparent, as I started reading this novel, that it was going to be about baiting and killing bears, for sport(?), that was it for me. I stopped reading. This was a DNF.

The Double-Jack Murders by Patrick McManus – mystery, ebook. This is the third in the humorous (or intended to be) Sheriff Bo Tully series. I read the first two and was just entertained enough to read this one. Tully is a Sheriff of Blight County, a large, sparsely populated county in Idaho. His grandfather and father were both Sheriffs before him, and he is widely known and mostly revered. In this one, a resort owner asks Tully to find out what happened to her husband, who disappeared 20 years before. Bo does some searching, and finds a slim connection to a mining company which has since closed.

There’s more, but that should be enough to give you an idea. These are soft, easy to read books that I found made a good break between other books.

Age of Myth by Michael J. Sullivan – fantasy, hardcover. The series is titled Legends of the First Empire. I read a fine review on the Black Gate blog of this, and since it had been a long time since I’d read any of what is generally called “epic fantasy” I decided to try it. The review showed three volumes, all in print. I got the first book from the library and dug in. I liked the setting, the world building was good, with some different races (which would translate to human, elf and, later, dwarf but here have different names), the primary character is somewhat unsure of himself but gains in assurance as the book goes on in it’s 490 pages.

Age of Swords by Michael J. Sullivan – fantasy, hardcover. I finished the first book in this series and went straight on to this one (slightly longer at over 500 pages). The story is continuous, and the threats to the humans at the end of the first book result in a battle at the beginning of this one. But it is plain that the humans are outmatched and need better weapons. The dwarves have them, but are not trustworthy and a large portion of the book has our three main characters in dwarf lands, where they must break a curse in order to secure swords. Meanwhile, in the land of the elves, there is an attempt on the high leader’s life, and generally things are not going well…

I found myself liking the world, the overall story, the individual plot lines and characters, and was eager to move to the third book, only to find a rather long wait at the library. Sigh.

So how about you?
What have you been reading?

Posted in Books & Reading, current reading | 22 Comments

Forgotten Book: Hazzard by Frederick C. Davis

Hazzard, the Complete Series by Frederick C. Davis, Altus Press 2016 trade paper

This 282-page trade paper edition includes all six of Davis’ pulp-length novels (really novelettes) featuring District Attorney Mark Hazzard.

Davis was fairly prolific, writing stories featuring The Moon Man, Nick Carter, Keyhole Kerry, Bill Brent, The Flying Phantom, the Sky Pirates, Secrets Incorporated (led by Clay “Oke” Oakley), Ravenwood, the occult detective appearing in Secret Agent X, which is where these Hazzard stories originally appeared in 1935 and January 1936.

Davis wrote stories for many other pulps as well, prominently Dime Detective, but also Air Stories, X,, Dime Mystery, Aces, Ace Mystery Magazine and others.

Mark Hazzard, District Attorney of King County (somewhere in the Eastern U.S.), is a red-headed, hot tempered fighter for Justice, even if sometimes, or all the time in these stories, it doesn’t match with the Law. When the technicalities of the courtroom fail to convict the guilty, Hazzard swings into action on his own. He is helped by his friend Dan Carey, an escaped criminal – an ex-cop railroaded by a “Boss” into actions which framed him – hiding from the authorities in an apartment over Hazzard’s garage. But there’s more. Hazzard is himself an escaped criminal, falsely accused and convicted of murder. Years later, after remaking himself, he has become a Distirct Attorney who wants nothing more than to convict those who frame and get convicted the innocent.

Hazzard’s nemesis is Inspector Trencher, head of police operations. They should be working together (think of D.A. Hamilton Berger and Lt. Tragg in the Perry Mason books), but instead, Trencher mistrusts Hazzard and is convinced there is something he is hiding. Soon he suspects the truth, and tries to trick the D.A. into confessing. All this is laid out in the first novel, Coffins for Two, and becomes the overreaching plot line while each of the rest of the novels have their own story of Hazzard solving a case against a criminal, often in order to save himself in some way.

In each of the novels, Hazzard’s real identity is nearly discovered, or if known, proved. But each time Hazzard slips out of the trap, to the frustration of Trencher. Sure, there’s a good bit of formula in these stories, and in each the history of Hazzard and Trencher is repeated, and in each Hazzard gets into a bind that threatens his job and security. But the two-fisted, hot-headed D.A. fights his way to solving the case and finding justice. Pretty fun pulp stuff.

One shortcoming of this collection is the lack of an introduction.

Contents:

  • “Coffins for Two” August 1935 issue of Secret Agent X
  • “Juggernaut Justice” September 1935 issue of Secret Agent X
  • “Corpses’ Court” October 1935 issue of Secret Agent X
  • “The Murder Crypt” November 1935 issue of Secret Agent X
  • “Terror Tribunal” December 1935 issue of Secret Agent X
  • “The Death-Chair Challenge” January 1936 issue of Secret Agent X
Posted in Books & Reading, Friday Forgotten Books | 12 Comments

Current Reading: Rhys Bowen, Lissa Evans

I hope you’re having a pleasant Summer, enjoying the green, beautiful world and also getting some reading done. Here’s my reading of late.

In Farleigh Field by Rhys Bowen. Historical Mystery. The setting is early World War II and Paris has been taken but England not bombed nor invaded. Among the aristocracy, life can go on as usual, with the exception of sons off to war and soldiers in the home front, setting up barracks in grand houses in the country. From the author’s website, this blurb:

World War II comes to Farleigh Place, the ancestral home of Lord Westerham and his five daughters, when a soldier with a failed parachute falls to his death on the estate. After his uniform and possessions raise suspicions, MI5 operative and family friend Ben Cresswell is covertly tasked with determining if the man is a German spy. The assignment also offers Ben the chance to be near Lord Westerham’s middle daughter, Pamela, whom he furtively loves. But Pamela has her own secret: she has taken a job at Bletchley Park, the British code-breaking facility.

As Ben follows a trail of spies and traitors, which may include another member of Pamela’s family, he discovers that some within the realm have an appalling, history-altering agenda. Can he, with Pamela’s help, stop them before England falls?

I liked this quite a lot, Bowen is very good at crafting characters the reader can relate to. The romance aspect is done with a light touch, and the background is well displayed.

Their Finest by Lisa Evans. Fiction. Set during World War II, and the reason I read it on the heels of the previous book, this is straight fiction. During the blitz, the Ministry of Information wants a stirring, heroic film made about the Dresden rescue. It’s to be based on a “true” story of two sisters who stole their father’s fishing smack and took it to France to bring back soldiers. The book describes the making of the movie through the eyes of three major characters: a screen writer, an actor, and a costumer. A little slow at first, it gained enough momentum that I carried through and liked it, especially from mid-point on. It was made into a film in 2016.

So how about you?
What have you been reading?

Posted in Books & Reading, current reading | 20 Comments

FFB: Crime Through Time edited by Monfredo & Newman

This is a revised version of a post that originally appeared in The Broken Bullhorn

Crime Through Time edited by Miriam Grace Monfredo & Sharan Newman
Berkeley Prime Crime 1997 – paperback – historical mystery short story collection

I have been reading a few historical mysteries and this seemed like just the ticket to discover new authors and to read a little by the names I knew. This collection contains twenty one stories by an impressive list of authors.

The collection is arranged in chronological order and begins with Lynda S. Robinson’s “Death of a Place-Seeker, featuring Lord Meren, the protagonist of her novels set in Egypt. If you haven’t had the pleasure of reading any of these [Murder in the Place of Anubis, Murder at God’s Gate, Murder at the Feast of Rejoicing and others, or if you have wondered if you would like them, this short story will give you an idea of the character and atmosphere of these enjoyable books. That’s the nice thing about ALL of the stories in this collection, they give an excellent introduction to these authors and their works. I won’t go on at length about each story, but I will list some of the authors: Steven Saylor (Rome), Sharan Newman (1142 France,), Edward Marston (Elizabethan England), Leonard Tourney (Elizabethan England – I particularly liked this one),  Edward Hoch (1920 England), Peter Lovesey (1860 England), Laurie King (1918 England), Troy Soos (1894 Baltimore), Anne Perry (188? England, another real goodie), Barbara Paul (1917 New York), Michael Pearce (early 1900’s Cairo), Ken Kuhlken (1941 San Diego) and several others.

There was only one story of all these that I didn’t particularly like (I won’t tell you, perhaps you’ll guess when you read the engrossing collection). This will give you a great look at many top historical mystery authors and may turn you into a fan of the subgenre. If you’re already a fan, this will be a real treat!

Posted in Books & Reading, Friday Forgotten Books | 7 Comments

Current Reading – Gailey, Dozois, Goldman

It’s hot! Thank goodness for books and air conditioning. Here’s what I’ve been reading.

River of Teeth, and Taste of Marrow by Sarah Gailey collected in American Hippo. Fantasy. These are two novelettes (perhaps novellas, not positive about the word count) set in a fictional south in which hippopotamuses have been brought into the swamps of Louisiana to be ranched and raised for meat. Of course things go awry. But the book is full of wonderful characters and the setting is unique and well-drawn. I liked these both a lot. The author’s next book doesn’t carry on with these characters, but I can hope for more of this in the future. Recommended.

Worldmakers edited by Gardner Dozois. Science Fiction. This was my Friday Forgotten Book two weeks ago, so no more need be said.

Gone to Dust by Matt Goldman. Mystery. Set in Minnesota, this is a debut private eye murder mystery from Emmy Award-winning Seinfeld writer Matt Goldman.

The crime scene, the house of the murdered woman, is thickly cover with vacuum clear dust. Impossible to pick up any prints, DNA or clues to who slipped into the house and cut the throat of a much-liked suburban divorcee Maggie Somerville while she slept. Private detective Nils Shapiro has no cases and is spending time trying to forget his ex-wife and making a living. He’s glad to get a call from old friend Anders Ellegaard, who is a Police Detective for the nearby City of Edina. Ellegaard wants Nils to find clues where it seems none can exist. But Nils finds phone records leading to more than one suspect before the FBI steps in to order a halt to the investigation. Why? Nils and Ellegaard are forced to take their investigation underground, where the case grows less clear as the weather worsens. I thought this was a pretty good one.

So, how about you?
What have you been reading lately?

Posted in Books & Reading, current reading | 20 Comments