Friday, April 30, 2010

Middle Sister's April Reads

The Mill Mystery by Anna Katherine Green Early twentieth century mystery novel. The mystery itself is not very sophisticated, but the Gothic overtones and eerie setting are enjoyable. Although the ending is not satisfying to a modern reader, it may interesting to fans of the genre who are interested in the history of the development of the mystery, early American mysteries, or early female authors.

The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin by Benjamin Franklin An entertaining autobiography by one of America's founding fathers, this incomplete work provides a winsome view of Colonial times, including descriptions of Philadelphia that will make anyone familiar with the city chuckle. Franklin's famous philosphies can be read here as told by the man himself. Who knew Franklin was a vegetarian for several years?

The Tale of Briar Bank by Susan Wittig Albert This cosy mystery series has Beatrix Potter as the main character and amateur detective. Albert has studied Potter's life, and accurately portrays her conflicts with her mother, her love of her farm, and other incidents that have been discussed in Potter biographies. The mysteries are simple, but the charm of village life in early twentieth century England is depicted well. This entry in the series relies too heavily on very frequent asides to the reader, which were used to greater effect (and with much less frequency) in earlier titles in the series. Hopefully, Albert will drop this in future titles. If you loved Beatrix Potter stories as a child and thought animals really should live in dens with libraries and tea pots, you'll enjoy this series.

Grave Mistake by Ngaio Marsh A reread by one my favorite authors. Roderick Alleyn is the perfect fictional detective--human enough to be real, distinguished enough to not be the run-of-the-mill Scotland Yard detective, and he's surrounded by interesting secondary characters, including Mr. (Brer) Fox and Agatha Troy, his artist wife. These mysteries rely on cunning and knowledge of human behavior, not the fancy tricks of modern technology, and so remain very enjoyable and not at all dated despite the lack of cell phones or computers for investigative tricks.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Dogs in the life of Big Sister...

We're petless at this time. We thought about buying a dog almost 6 years ago, when I was home and unemployed, but we thought about it AFTER I got my job! (Yea, timing isn't really my thing!)

But we LOVE dogs! And dogs (and small children!) LOVE us!

I can prove it! If you'll take my word for it!

Last Sunday I attended a scrapping crop in Mount Arlington. We rent out the meeting room at a community for 55 and older people. There is one woman who lives there and rents it for us in her name, even though she's not a scrapper herself, 'cause she is friends with the girl who runs that little group.

Anyway, last Sunday she mentioned her dog. I won't swear to it, but for some reason I think the dog's name is Sophie. She's a rescue. And she's beautiful! She sort of looks like she's part Irish Setter, with that beautiful red fur, but she's smaller in stature and less fine-boned. In the afternoon light, her fur has undertones of deep purple, if you pet her against the way her fur lies on her back. ABSOLUTELY gorgeous!

At the end of the day, her owner brought her over to see us. She stood very quietly, allowing two of the girls to pet her. You could tell she was very timid, but she wasn't really fearful; she didn't cower or pull away, but she wasn't smiling!

And then I walked over. And I stopped, probably about 2 feet from her, bent over, put out my hand, palm down, and said, "Hi, puppy! Aren't you beautiful?!??"

And Sophie looked up at me, wagged her tail, and pulled toward me, pulled to the end of the short leash her owner had her on, pulled her owner a bit off balance, in fact!

And her owner commented on how friendly she was toward me, "You must have a way with dogs, Krys!"

Yea, dogs and small children... Babies seem to love me, too! The other day I went over to SL's house up the street, and she was feeding the baby and talking on the phone. She asked if I wanted to hold H, and of course I said yes! She handed me the baby and walked out of the living room. I stood there, talking with the baby, rocking the baby, smelling the baby (LOVE baby smell!), for oh, I don't know, what? 15 minutes? I finally noticed that I didn't hear SL on the phone anymore. I wandered through the dining room and found her in the kitchen, doing dishes.

I guess I was the babysitter d'jour! (NO idea if that's really the way you spell it!) I chatted with her in the kitchen for, oh, another 10 minutes, and finally I had to say, "Well, here you go, you can take her now! I have to run and make dinner for J - we just got home a few minutes ago..."

I had to say it twice.

Yes, dogs and small children...

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Dog Quote of the Day

The greatest love is a mother's; then a dog's; then a sweetheart's. ~Polish Proverb

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Middle Sister's March Reads

Snake in the Glass, by Sarah Atwell Read it because it takes place during the real life Gem and Mineral Show here in my adopted hometown. It sounds as if the author has actually visited the Old Pueblo, but must not have gone anywhere else, as her ideas of driving distances are way off. Mediocre mystery, none-too-memorable characters. Made me crave nachos, since that's all her characters seemed to eat.

Cheerful by Request by Edna Ferber Short story collection by the acerbic Miss Ferber, not all end cheerfully as the title implies, but all are very well written, as one would expect. Loved finding her OOP titles online.

Miss Mapp by E. F. Benson One of my all-time favorite books, it had to be the first book I read to inaugurate my new Kindle (named Fred after Mr. Benson). I reread this every year (along with the other 4 in the Mapp and Lucia series--too bitingly funny).

St. Patrick's Day Murder by Leslie Meier Thought I'd love the Maine setting, but there's little atmosphere in this novel. I wish I liked this better, but the brain balls were the last straw in a weak story.

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett My favorite book when I was little; read for my book group's March/April selection. Happily, just as magical when read as an adult, and probably the unconscious inspiration for my desire to live in a beautiful garden and my love of nature.

Ladies of Liberty by Cokie Roberts Fascinating look at the first 4 First Ladies of the US, with a focus on Abigail and Louisa Adams and Dolley Madison. Extensive quotes from their own letters make this absolutely fascinating reading for history lovers.

The Case for Books by Robert Dalton Reprinted essays re: the Google Books project and the future of print books originally published in the New York Review of Books. I agree with some of the bibliophile's arguments, but take exception to his cavalier dismissal of the high cost of keeping books in a safe, air conditioned environment. With first hand knowledge of the cost of curation fees and the curation emergency we are having out here (no space, no money), the reality is that as nice as it would be to save every book, it will not realistically happen. Interesting information on the history of books and the science of the study of books.

The Shack by Wm. Paul Young (Sorry, Big Sister--don't take offense at the following.) The first third was better than I'd expected; the second two-thirds were worse than I'd expected. No surprise here how he chose to depict God, although I suppose some must have been shocked. Theologians have been studying and arguing and contemplating the essence of God for two thousand years, yet Young doesn't seem to have any background in any of that. I know it's a novel, it's fiction, but he has no idea of the concept of the Trinity, which is at the heart of Christianity (reference here his questioning God re: the hierarchy between the Trinity). Less than mediocre theology, it read like Religion Lite (although perhaps that's what some want). Unsatisfying ending.

The Albert Gate Mystery by Louis Tracy OOP 1904 mystery downloaded onto Fred from, this Sherlock Holmesian barrister/detective story was so enjoyable I downloaded all Tracy's other books. Surprisingly strong secondary female character who is written sympathetically, and gets to be the one who takes a bullet intended for someone else (in fact, the only bullet in the story). Locked room murder mystery with stolen diamonds, and trips to Paris and Palermo--perfect for lovers of the Golden Age of Mystery.

Lady Susan by Jane Austen I had no idea there were other Austen publications beyond the Big Six. Novella written in the form of letters, Lady Susan is not your typical Austen heroine, but the Austen humor is already well honed in this early effort.

The Camp Fire Girls at Camp Keewaydin by Hildegard G. Frey I've loved children's series since a child (blame Nancy Drew and the Dana Girls), and the plethora of them available now online for downloading is making me one happy camper (pun intended). Typical early 20th century girls story with moral at the end, but definitely above par for this genre when it comes to descriptions of nature.