Saturday, June 1, 2013

Middle Sister's May 2013 Books

May was a good month for books, at least with respect to numbers, because I downloaded several audiobooks to listen to while engaging in an excruciatingly mind-numbing task at work that required absolutely no attention at all to accomplish. Hooray for mixed media!

Grey Expectations by Cleo Simon (2012, No. 4 Dulcie Schwartz series) I love cats, I love gray cats especially (oh, how I still miss you, my sweet George), so when I saw a book that advertised one of the main characters was a big, grey cat owned by a graduate student amateur detective, well, naturally, I had to read it. I even overlooked the little fact that this was a big, grey, dead cat that talks to its owner, thinking that here might be a good way for me to sample the large paranormal mystery genre (extremely popular right now, and growing by leaps and bounds and full of vampires and witches and ghosts and every sort of paranormal activity one can imagine), which I had always secretly thought was stupid and a waste of shelf space and paper. Guess what? I was right. Oh my gosh, how insipid a main character Dulcie is--her friend is asked a few questions by the police and the amateur detective jumps to the conclusion that her friend is being accused of murder--even though there's no dead body. She hems and haws, she's not a good researcher  (based on my 9 years of graduate school which resulted in two graduate degrees), she gets mad when her dead cat talks to her boyfriend and not her, she works herself up into such stupid tizzies over nothing that she can't even walk past the police station for fear that she'll be arrested (because she's convinced that the cops are gunning for her, too). It got so bad, there were such inconsistencies, I started writing them down so I wouldn't throw my Nano out into the desert in sheer frustration. Don't worry, I won't recite them here. Just listen to me when I write: avoid this book. (Audiobook)

Whose Body by Dorothy L. Sayers I had to cleanse my brain from the previous book, and what better way to do so than to listen to a digital version of an older audiobook by one of the masters of mystery, Dorothy Sayers? The differences between Sayers and Simon? Writing ability to start with, ability to create and sustain a mystery and its ambiance, style, and despite being 90 years old (yes, that's right, 90--originally published in 1923), Sayers is timeless and reads just as fresh today as then. Check out this classic by a writer from the Golden Age of Mysteries is you've never met her protagonist, Lord Peter Wimsey. Highly recommended. (Audiobook)

And Be A Villain by Rex Stout I toyed with the idea, late last year, of reading all the Nero Wolfe mysteries in order in 2013. I've read a couple, and enjoyed them tremendously, but ultimately decided that access to some of the older titles might be difficult and thus to not undertake what would have been a very fun reading marathon. And Be a Villain is pretty early in the Wolfe canon (number 13, I think), but Stout had Nero, Archie, and the assorted detectives that swirl around Wolfe's brownstone well characterized by this book. Originally published in 1946, this is another classic that stands the test of time--someone murders a man on the air, during a radio talk show. Everyone on the set is keeping the same secret--why? Except for a few phrases and descriptions, this could have been written within the past few years. Highly recommended. (1996 audiobook, digitally remastered)

Trouble Follows Me by Ross Macdonald I remember shelving these titles from my time at the bookstore, and so when the title was set for re-release, I decided it would be good for me to check out this prolific author; maybe I'd find a new author to enjoy. The book, originally published in 1946, opens with a bang in Honolulu during World War II, has some promising gambits, but generally proceeds to stall and become flat by the end of the book. Too many coincidences are used to move the plot forward, although the journey on the train and the night in Tijuana are described very well and are very evocative. The murderer is very obvious, and this always disappoints me as I try deliberately to not figure out whodunnit. Still, the physical descriptions are good, and if you can overlook some distasteful jargon and stereotypical female characterizations of that era, as well as a nasty and brutal fight at the end, this might be a good summer read for you. (Net Galley ARC)

Beyond the Blue Horizon by Brian Fagan (2012) It was time for some nonfiction, and Fagan is adept at taking a theme and covering its many manifestations around the globe, over thousands of years. This time, Fagan ponders the question: what drove humans to explore the vast oceans of the world? How and why did man leave the safety of coastal fishing to venture out into the vast depths, without compasses, maps, or any certainty of landfall? Fagan is an old world archaeologist, so he spends a lot of time on the Lapita of the southern Pacific, Greek and other Mediterranean cultures, but gives very short shrift to the New World cultures (scant pages on the Maya, and barely paragraphs on the Andean cultures). Fun and fast, and I learned a lot of sailing vocabulary. Recommended. (Kindle)

The Last Days of Richard III and the Fare of His DNA by John Ashdown-Hill An updated second edition of the book that inspired Phillipa Langley to get the money and resources to test Ashdown-Hill's theory of where Richard III was buried--successfully relocated last summer. An easy read, with succinct data presented chronologically from contemporary written sources about what the king was doing in the last few months of his reign. Some familiarity with the Plantagenets, the Tudors, and their history helps. This edition includes a discussion of Ashdown-Hill's efforts to successfully trace the mitochondrial DNA of Richard's sister to the present day. Recommended. (Kindle)

Curly Girl, the Handbook (second edition) by Lorraine Massey and Michele Bender Massey single-handedly revolutionized the way curly hair is taken care of and cut with the first edition, published ten years ago. This edition updates and expands the first, with more curl categories, lots more photographs of gorgeous curls, and her trademark product recipes. Massey takes on some of the information that others have spread through the online curly world (baking soda rinses, final clarifying shampoos, etc.), but her message remains simple--love your curls and take care of them. Highly recommended to other curly tops. And I so want the cut on the model on the cover! (Trade paper)

Lace One-Skein Wonders by Judith Durant Possibly my favorite Story knitting publication reviewed to date! Gorgeous lace projects, the usual outstanding layout with lots of crisp, clean, photographs, written and charted patterns, and even a couple of crocheted and Broomstick lace patterns. As usual, a variety of patterns for every skill level. There are at least 20 patterns in this book I want to make. To be published later this year, so if any of you sisters want to buy this for me for Christmas....

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