Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Middle Sister's April Books

Plus the holdover from March.

The Innocents Abroad by Mark Twain I first read this about 25 years ago, when I was traveling abroad, so I suggested it for my 19th century novels book group. Since it was my idea, I felt I had to finish it, even though it dragged and dragged. I don't remember it dragging when I first read it, and I don't remember how racist and mean some of Twain's comments were, but his biting descriptions of some of his travelers were vintage Twain. As I told my book group, it's not a bad thing to find out that there an author you thought you knew was more nuanced or had a different side to them. But it took 2 months to read! (Kindle)

Read and Buried by Erika Chase Great cover, murder associated with a mystery book group--sounds great. Well, maybe not as great as I'd hoped. Small peeves, like phrases being offered as sentences. I know we talk like that in real life, but writing should be grammatically correct. The main character calls every woman who has children 'mama.' The mamas at the school holiday presentation, her mama, any mama--okay, it takes place in the south, I get it. I hadn't read the first int he series, so I was a bit befuddled by every character's worry over another character dressing outlandishly, differently from how she normally did, but I don't remember ever being told how she used to dress, and every outfit seemed reasonable (not the costume, but that's a different story). Providing the backstory in a brief sentence or phrase for people starting in the middle of a series is always a useful thing. I did approve of how the Internet surfing undertaken by two characters to find out more about the murder victim was a bust; it seemed very realistic. The problems with Lizzie's romance were handled well, although the epolice seemed somewhat incompetent to handle the investigation. Most unbelievable statement: Stephanie, a waitress, is getting 6 months maternity leave. My professional office job gives us 1 week (we have less than 50 employees). I'd wait tables for a benefits package like that! (paperback)

Monument to the Dead by Sheila Connolly I felt like a slug after rad and Buried, since Lizzie drinks a protein shake and runs just about every day, so when Nell alludes to herself as being more mature than her coworkers, I was please. Until I realized that instead of trying to get into the mind of a 25-year-old, I was trying to get into the mind of a 35-year-old. This, of course, made me feel more than mature; try ancient and crone-like. One of my objections to the storyline is that Nell spends a lot of time berating her FBI boyfriend that the probable killer (the murders are disguised so that it's unclear they actually were murders for quite a bot of the book) is going to get away with the murders, but there isn't even enough evidence to convince the FBI or the police any actually were murders. Something her boyfriend repeatedly tells her is frustrating him as he tries to find evidence that murders were committed. Is she not listening? I found her tone sometimes accusatory ("Why do you know this?" when James describes his relative's home to her; I could still describe my aunt's home to you and she died in 1979.), and her interaction with James sometimes weird. The two are at dinner, and she's repeating and summaring what he just told her, and he responds with "You make very good point." What points? She didn't say anything, she repeated what you said, knucklehead! While the revelation of the murderer was handled well (realistically, someone got hurt), but I found Nell's sudden conversion to never having liked the murderer frustrating. All she said about him earlier was that he wasn't very social, but very good at his job. And now that she knows he's a murderer, she's thinking "I should have gone with my gut--there was always something odd about him." I might give the Ashton Corners Book Group series by Chase another try, but I'm not so sure I'll give Connelly's Museum Mystery series another try (and I have read her apple orchard series, which I liked better than this). (paperback)

The Last Adventure of Dr. Yngve Hogalum by D. L. Mackenzie I felt like I was getting stale in my reading a few months ago. I read an article in the New York Times about a steam punk cruose and my curiousity was piqued. I've never been interested in goth steampunk, or paranormal steampunk, but historical steampunk? That's another story. So I selected this short story, which had positive reviews on LibraryThing and GoodReads, to get my feet wet. And I enjoyed it. (Read on my smartphone as I try to determine if that is possible, even in a pinch)

Hilda Hopkins, Murder, She Knit by Vivienne Fagan  Cute, tongue-in-cheek short story that every knitter and crocheter will enjoy. It's very easy to guess every step and there are no cliffhangers, but it's a funny skewering of the genre and parody of Arsenic and Old Lace, with a poke at obsessive knitters. (Another read on the smartphone)

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