No Friday Forgotten Book Post (again)

Sorry, I’m missing FFB again this week. I’ve just been too busy as well as a little under the weather.  I will have my short story reading up Monday, such as it is.

Posted in At Home in Portland, Friday Forgotten Books, Science Fiction | 12 Comments

Short Story February – Week 2

Here’s week two (Feb. 6 – 12) listed in story-author-source format.
* An asterisk indicates a story I particularly liked.

  • complete-short-stories-of-ernest-hemingwayA Place In the Shade – Robert Reed – Worldbuilders, SF Adventures in Terraforming, edited by Gardner Dozois
  • The Border-Line Case – Margery Allingham – The Black Lizard Big Book of Locked Room Mysteries edited by Otto Penzler
  • The Bradmore Murder – Melville Davisson Post – ibid
  • The Man Who Liked Toys – Leslie Charteris – ibid
  • The Ashcomb Poor Case – Holbert Footner – ibid
  • The Little House at Croix-Rousse  – Georges Simenon  – ibid
  • Glitch Mitchell and the Island of Terror – Philip Harris – The Jurassic Chronicles edited by Samuel Peralta
  • The Bird in the Hand * – Erle Stanley Gardner – The Black Lizard Big Book of Locked Room Mysteries edited by Otto Penzler
  • The Gulverbury Diamonds – David Durham – ibid
  • The Short Happy Life of Francis Mcomber – Ernest Hemingway – The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway 
  • The Capital of the World – ibid
  • The Snows of Kilimanjaro ** – ibid
  • The Man At the Bridge – ibid
  • The Screaming of the Tyrannosaur – Stant Litore – The Jurassic Chronicles edited by Samuel Peralta 
  • Ugly – Laxmi Hariharan – ibid
  • Cryptoscience – Emily Mah – ibid
  • Victor Mula’s Earth Dream – M. J. Kelley – ibid
  • The Ghost’s Touch – Fergus Hume (Fergusson Wright Hume) – Crimson Snow – edited by Martin Edwards 
  • The Chopham Affair – Edgar Wallace – ibid
  • The Man With the Sack *- Margery Allingham – ibid
  • Christmas Eve * – S. C. Roberts ibid

A few thoughts:

Twenty-one stories in seven days. I’ve slowed just a little, but in my defense some of the stories were a bit long. Then too, the sun came out, so I was outdoors just a bit. Also, we’ve been working on a jigsaw puzzle, which does eat up time.

It seems I’ve been reading The Black Lizard Big Book of Locked Room Mysteries forever. In truth, it’s probably been a year or more, because: a) it’s a really thick book and b) I read a few of the stories and then set it aside for something else, and get sidetracked, as we all do. It’s always nice to get back to it, and it’s just possible I’ll finish it this month (no promises, though).

It has been a long time since I read any Hemingway. I didn’t like the first two stories in the collection very much, as I don’t much care for hunting or bull fighting. Then I came to “Snows of Kilimanjaro”, and it really grabbed me. The style, so typical and iconic it’s often parodied, but so effective. I read the story as an assignment in high school, and again on my own in my late Twenties, and thought, yes, okay pretty good. But that was more than 40 years ago. My viewpoint is different now, and the story was very affecting. The next morning I re-read it, a rare thing.

The Jurassic Chronicles collection seems to have been front loaded, with fewer stories I liked as it went along. 

I enjoyed the Allingham story in Crimson Snow, though I’d read it before, despite the rather obvious plot it’s a fun story. As far as I’ve read in the rest of the anthology, it’s quite nice.

I’m really enjoying reading lots of short stories. I hope everyone else who is joining in Short Story February is liking it too!

Posted in Books & Reading, current reading, Fantasy, Fiction, literary fiction, Mystery, Science Fiction, Short Stories, Short Story February | 23 Comments

Short Story February week 1

Here’s my first week (five days, Feb 1-5) of reading, in story – author – source format. An asterisk indicates a story I particularly liked

the-jurassic-chroniclesAlien Animal Encounters * – John Scalzi – Miniatures
Bring Bring * – Conrad Aiken – Collected Stories of Conrad Aiken
The English Adventure – Paul Theroux – Paul Theroux, The Collected Stories
After the War – ibid
Words Are Deeds – ibid
Ghostweight – Yoon Ha Lee – Clarkesworld Year 5, edited by Neil Clarke
Perfect Lies * – Gwendolyn Claire – ibid
Tying Knots – Ken Liu – ibid
The Reckoning of Sins – Alison Joseph – Motives For Murder, edited by Martin Edwards
The False Inspector Lovesey – Andrew Taylor – ibid
The Walrus and the Spy – Catherine Aird – ibid
Dreaming of Rain and Peter Lovesey * – Ann Cleeves – ibid
Death In Pasig * – Raoul Whitfield – West of Guam: The Complete Cases of Jo Gar
Red Hemp – ibid
Signals Of Storm * – ibid
Fatal Mutation ** – Anthony Melchiorri – The Jurassic Chronicles edited by Samuel Peralta
Noble Savage – Terry Maggert – ibid
An Implant And A Hard Place * – Zen Dipietro – ibid
In the Desert Like A Bone – Seanan McGuire – The Starlit Wood edited by Dominik Parisien
Underground – Karen Tidbek – ibid
Even The Crumbs Were Delicious  – Daryl Gregory – ibid
The Super Ultra Duchess of Fedora Forest – Charlie Jane Anders – ibid
Szcar’s Trial – Harry Manners – ibid
Shall We Take A Little Walk – Gregory Benford – Worldmakers, SF Adventures In Terraforming edited by Gardner Dozois
The Catherine Wheel – Ian McDonald – ibid
Sunken Garden – Bruce Sterling – ibid
Out of Copyright * – Charles Sheffield – ibid

A few thoughts:
I read 28 stories in five days, which I think is pretty good! While reading one of the stories, “Signals of Storm”, wind and rain lashed at the windows beside my chair, while the characters were chasing a killer as a typhoon came onshore. Perfect!

Although I had high expectation for The Starlit Wood, after the first 6 of 13 stories I was disappointed, so I’m not going to continue reading it.

My favorite story of the week was “Fatal Mutation” by Anthony Melchiorri, the first story in The Jurassic Chronicles, which I downloaded as an ebook purely by chance. A solid anthology so far.

Posted in Books & Reading, current reading, Fantasy, Fiction, literary fiction, Mystery, Science Fiction, Short Stories, Short Story February | 28 Comments

Forgotten Book: The Xibalba Murders by Lyn Hamilton

this is the 253rd in my series of forgotten or seldom read books

xlbalba-murders-oldThe Xibalba Murders by Lyn Hamilton, Berkley Prime Crime, 1997, paperback, a Lara McClintoch archaeological mystery

“The beginning of this journey was a phone call from Dr. Heran Castillo Rivas, a scholarly gentleman whose enthusiasm and knowledge of the ancient civilizations of Mexico have inspired in me a lifelong interest in that part of the world.

I’d had this and the next book in the series sitting around here for a long time. I had a vague feeling I’d read a review of it that wasn’t too positive, but I wasn’t sure and figured if I didn’t like it I could always stop and toss. However, though I had a few problems with it, I liked it pretty well.

I especially liked the main character and the setting. The book has a lot of background and information about Mayan culture which I found interesting. The writing was good, the plot was fine. The rest of the cast were adequately three dimensional.

Those problems: Lara McClintoch did some things that didn’t make sense; she put herself in jeopardy unnecessarily which I suspect was the author’s way to get past a kink in the storyline and move the story along. There were a couple of instances when she took pretty unreasonable risks. Well, she’s certainly not the first, nor will she be the last, to do that.

I figured out the identity of the “bad guy” a lot sooner than she did, and I think the clues were there for her. From that point on, for me, it was a matter of watching her figure out what I already was pretty sure of. Of course there could be a twist…

The ending was a little abrupt, but I have no qualms and in fact enjoyed the book. It’s background and characters are good enough for me to recommend it to a reader who might like an archeological mystery. I went ahead and read the next two in the series, and enjoyed them too.

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

Short Story February gets underway

keep_calm_and_focus_on_short_storiesHere we go

February 1st is the start of Short Story February, during which I’ll be reading pretty much exclusively short stories. Starting next Monday, and continuing through the end of the month, I’ll be reporting on my short story reading, and hoping you comment on yours, here and/or on your blog, if you have one. Give us a link in your comment.

Each week I’ll pick a cover of one of the collections/anthologies from which I’ve read during the week.

note: Barbara isn’t much of a short story reader, so we’ll catch up with her reading in March.

Posted in Books & Reading, Short Story February | 19 Comments

Current Reading: Earley, Camilleri, Child

snack-thiefI finally finished Ten Years Beyond Baker Street, by Cay Van Ash. I’d had it on the shelf, intending to read it for more than a decade, perhaps even two, and now that I’ve read it, I have to say I’m disappointed. It felt overwritten, with whole scenes – even chapters – that could easily have been omitted. The character of Dr. Petrie stumbled about, dumber than the dumbest screen Watson, while Holmes seemed to pull solutions out of a hat. I’m not sorry I read it, because now I can “check it off” as it were, but I wouldn’t bother reading it again, nor can I recommend it.

I read two books by Tony Earley, Jim the Boy  and The Blue Star. These are YA books about a young boy (Jim the Boy) and then a young man (The Blue Star) growing up on a farm in North Carolina in the Twenties and Thirties and then on the eve of WWII. They were good enough to keep me reading.

Now I’m reading The Snack Thief by Andrea Camilleri, the 3rd in the Inspector Montalbano series. These are always enjoyable. I’ll try to finish it before Wednesday, February 1, when Short Story February begins.

make_me_-_bookcoverBarbara is reading Make Me by Lee Child, a Reacher novel. She’s enjoying it but it’s taking a while as she has been busy making a baby quilt for a neighbor.

She’s also feeling some pressure as she has a stack of books from the library crying out to be read.

So how about you?
What have you been reading?

I hope you’ll be joining me in reading short stories in February. If you do, please post a comment on the Short Story February post (here) and let us know!

Posted in Books & Reading, current reading, Mystery | 24 Comments

February: Short Month, Short Stories!

Short Story February

benefits-of-reading-short-storiesLast year I tried focusing on short stories during the month of February, and I read a lot of stories. I picked a dozen collections and anthologies and cycled from one to the other throughout the month. I didn’t finish all those books, but I had a good time reading the stories I did get to.

It worked so well, I’m doing it again this year.

Starting February 1, I’ll be reading (almost) exclusively short stories. Of course, something else may come along that demands my reading attention, but I’m going to try to spend as much of the month as possible reading short stories.

I have lots of collections and anthologies here, with stories ranging from literary through science fiction, fantasy, pulp and, of course, mystery. My Monday Current Reading posts will include lists of stories I read and the book they were in.

How about you?
I hope you’ll be joining me this “short story February”
by reading some short stories.

If you do, post them on your blog, (if you have one) and
add a comment below to let us know!

As the month gets underway, here are some of the things I’ll be dipping into:

Posted in Books & Reading, Fantasy, Fiction, Mystery, Science Fiction | 23 Comments

Current Reading: Appelt, Van Ash, Child

underneathJust past the halfway point in Ten Years Beyond Baker Street, by Cay Van Ash, I decided to take a break to read a book that came in from the library, The Underneath by Kathi Appelt.  I’m at the point these days where I read many blogs and book review sites, and have a difficult time recalling just where I saw which book. Somewhere I read a review of The Underneath, and was intrigued enough to get it from the library.

I’m glad I did, though there are some tough scenes in it, for it’s about a very evil man living alone in the east Texas pine and swamp country with his dog that he mistreats and keeps chained. But the dog befriends a couple of kittens who find their way under the disintegrating cabin. In addition there’s a magical thousand-year-old water moccasin, a hawk that changes into a man, trees that listen and a very old, hundred-foot alligator. The writing and structure are unusual and though I timorously picked it up, I polished it off in a day.

make_me_-_bookcoverFinished with that, I’ve returned to the Fu Manchu – Sherlock Holmes book I’d been reading and expect to wrap that one up before the end of the week.

Barbara had more bad luck with another blind pick from a review, this time The Day She Died by Catriona McPherson, in which very bad people did enough very bad things that she set it aside to return to the library.

Instead, she’s started Make Me by Lee Child, a Reacher novel. It’s certain she’ll enjoy it more that the last two she tried.

So how about you?
What have you been reading?

Posted in Books & Reading, current reading, Mystery | 28 Comments

Forgotten Book: All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren

this is the 252nd in my series of forgotten or seldom read books 

All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren, 1946 , Harcourt, Brace & Company political fiction

 allthekingsmenAll the King’s Men portrays the dramatic political rise and governorship of Willie Stark, a cynical populist in the American South during the 1930s. The novel is narrated by Jack Burden, a political reporter who comes to work as Governor Stark’s right-hand man.

A word on the writing style is in order. The first paragraph goes on to the second page, and the descriptive power of it grabs the reader immediately. By today’s standards, it’s what I might call heavy, and there are words in it, ones in common use in the American south at the time, that some readers of the squeamish variety might find offensive. It’s all part of the setting.

The trajectory of Stark’s career is interwoven with Jack Burden’s life story and philosophical reflections:

“the story of Willie Stark and the story of Jack Burden are, in one sense, one story.”

Though Stark is a gubernatorial candidate, and has a history in politics, there are enough echoes of the book in current events that I couldn’t resist putting it up as this Friday Forgotten Book. Yes, this was published a long time ago, but it’s worth reading now, and I think in many ways it’s held up pretty well.

The character of Willie Stark is a bully, with an over the top ego. He’s cruel, taunts the handicapped, is greedy and seeks ever more power. The newspaper man Jack Burden (a journalist/media reporter, we’d say today) starts out as an observer, but becomes a “right hand man”, caught up in the political circus. Various events pull him away, and the book ends up being his. There are a lot of undercurrents, themes of religious belief, loneliness, the cruelty of power and the helplessness of weakness and poverty, but above all is Stark, riding roughshod over every person and obstacle.

A fine book, winner of the Pulitzer Prize, made into film in 1949 and 2006. Read it.

Posted in Books & Reading, Fiction, Friday Forgotten Books | 18 Comments

Oregon Scientific Wireless Weather Station

oregon-scientific-weather-station

Oregon Scientific Wireless Weather Station – Black – Model Number BAR206A_BK

I don’t know about you, but for us, knowing the temperature outside is important. When we first moved to Portland, we went to the Oregon Scientific store and bought one of these, and we consult it at least a couple of times a day, every day. More often this last week when we needed to know if it was above or below freezing.

It has a unit that attaches outside (ours is under the eve on the NE corner of the house), and the unit shown that we have on our kitchen island. During especially hot or cold weather it’s really good to know the temperature and humidity.

There are options to show in or outdoor humidity, date/time format, forecast or other readings.

We wouldn’t be without one of these!

Posted in At Home in Portland | 12 Comments