Thursday, December 1, 2011

Middle Sister Reads in November

Hmm, seems I read more in November than I thought. The monthly summaries, plus a new feature--a monthly Best Book Quote.
  • The South Beach Diet Wake Up Call by Arthur Agatston The latest South Beach book. Really, these aren't diet books but lifestyle books. In the first, Dr. Agatston presented his diet-for-life plan. In the second, he added exercise as diet alone won't cut it for most people. And now, he's come to understand the importance of sleep to our health and well-being. Sleep and health have been hot topics in health magazines for the last 18 months, and this book provides a plan to incorporate both more movement and more sleep into our 21st century, constantly-on-call lives. I used the second book and the accompanying cookbook to lose 14 lbs two years ago, and have kept them off ever since, so I admit to being prejudiced to like this book before I ever read it. Another plus--he specifically addresses parental concerns in this books, with columns in each chapter covering topics specific to children. A high recommendation if you think your New Year's 2012 goal will be to get healthy.
  • A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle My online 19th century novels book group selected this classic mystery, the first which introduces Sherlock Holmes, for our November/December book. I hadn't read it in years, and had forgotten the premise (man tracks down killer of his sweetheart's father and the indirect killer of his sweetheart, over decades) and the plot device (presented in two halves, with the first centered on the present-day murder of the murderer, and the second presenting the back story). Not the best Holmes in my opinion, but enjoyable nonetheless.
  • Waiter, There's A Clue in My Soup! by Camille LaGuire Anthology of five short stories. I enjoyed this far more than I really expected to, given the historical Western setting of three of the stories. The two Mick and Casey mysteries were pleasant, and I liked the characters enough that I may search out more books featuring them. The Alibi was a classic murder plot--twisted. The Promise was a more predictable premise, but well written (and provides this month's Best Book Quote; see below). Waiter...is the weakest of the five in my opinion, as I had to read sections twice to make sense of the unraveling of the murder. However, that could have been my inattention at fault. I plan on looking for more novels by Ms. LaGuire.
  • The Haunted Pajamas by Francis Perry Elliott Ancient Chinese pajamas that mysteriously can affect the behavior of the wearer? Mistaken identities? Mischief and prison? Sounded like a great cheesy novel, but unfortunately, it was marred by the overeager use of some terminology designed to make the reader think the main character was a Bertie Wooster type. Sadly, he lacks Bertie's style and substance, and this writer was no Wodehouse. Some situations dragged on way too long and lost their edge and their supposed hilarity. Nor did I get a good sense of the era (it was published in 1911). And remember, I love reading old, old mysteries, so it takes a lot to disappoint me. In doing some archival research to determine how this book was received when first published, I learned there was a movie made in 1917--and now I am eager to track that down. Hopefully, it's better than the book.
  • June Bug by Jess Lourey Weak entry in a weak series. A long-lost diamond necklace is the prize object hunted by divers in Whiskey Lake, with a modern paste replica offered as a stunt by a not-so-local newspaper. The mystery is weak (and ick on the mental images of the dead body found in the denouement), the mean guy so appalling I cannot wonder why no one called the police on this creep (he trashes her house and defecates in her bath tub, and Mira doesn't call the sheriff, just cleans it up? I'd never liked her in the previous book in the serious I'd read, but at this little incident, she lost all sympathy she might have garnered from me.), and Mira's repeated lustful comments after the gardener got tedious very quickly (and if I were him, I'd think she was a loser, too). Skip this series. it's not funny, not quirky, not entertaining, and the mystery stinks. 
  • Village Life in America 1952-1872 by Carline Cowles Richards Some of you may know I am entranced following the Disunion series in the New York Times, which has been tracing the beginnings of the Civil War and now, the actual war, through fantastic essays written by a number of historians. The photographs, reproduced contemporary editorial pieces, and modern critiques and assessments have been fascinating. While there are a number of Southern diaries and memoirs that have been published, there are far fewer Northern examples of the same to show how the Civil War was perceived there. This twenty-year diary follows a young lady in upstate New York. Some pluses: fascinating local reaction to McLelland's firing by Lincoln; local reactions and impressions of the war; the window into a middle-class home of the time. Some minuses: not deeply stirring or well written. Students of history may enjoy the different perspective.
  • Miss Mapp by E. F. Benson I found an online group who adore Benson as much as I do, and this was my first group read with them. The Chintz Wars! Miss Mapp's Food Hoard! The Kingfisher Blue Gown Tragedy! I love this book. I always love visiting Tilling. With my stressful November, it was the perfect book to take my mind off my troubles for a little while.
Okay, and now, for the Best Book Quote of the Month:

"A woman's soul can stretch. Can endure and suffer any stain and any pain. But a man's soul is hard. It breaks." Ma to Lola, in The Promise by Camille LaGuire (2006; nominated for the Short Story Mystery Fiction Society's Derringer Award in 2007).

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