Monday, May 29, 2017

Middle Sister's Spring Reads

Yikes, I have gotten so lazy about updating monthly. Perhaps because my reading has slowed down a little. But here are my reviews of what I've read this spring:

Victoria by Julia Baird A new biography of Queen Victoria, meticulously footnoted and referenced. I actually read the NetGalley ARC, which didn't have illustrations, so I hope the final print has a few photos and drawings of places and people. Victoria as a child and an elderly lady was very well conceptualized, but the largest part of her life, after the death of her husband, less so. However, Ms. Baird included some new (to me, at least) information about the death and burial of Queen Victoria that made the last chapter especially poignant and allowed me to feel some pity for a woman for whom, frankly, I hadn't felt that much sympathy for, other than normal sympathy at the loss of her family members. Recommended (NetGalley)

The Copenhagen Collection by Barbara Michaels One of my favorite authors, and the only one I wish I had met. This is an older title which I read many years ago, but an audio version was new to my library, so what better to listen to while gardening and cleaning and cooking? Like all good books, it didn't sound dated at all, despite the lack of cell phones, the internet, and other technologies that modern authors rely on to get their characters out of fixes that their writing has gotten them into but can't get them out. And how prescient--one of the main characters, Margaret, is an older woman who dyed her hair green, and later, purple. Very 2017!

Die, Die, Birdie by J. R. Ripley  I wanted to like this book, I really did. I'm the world's worst birder, but I like birds. I worked retail for years, and love it, and totally sympathize with the small business owner. And I empathize with a self-deprecating character. But one repeated refrain that main character, Amy, said over and over, was my opinion of the book--"so high school." The characters acted immaturely, the situations were immature (I don't think you can buy a house without an inspection, legally, can you?), and how the heck did she get the rolling pin to defend herself at the end of the book? She leaves her bedroom to explore the attic and never is it mentioned that she sped to the kitchen to get herself a weapon. And what murderer hauls a body to the attic to hide it rather than in the basement for easier disposal, especially in a building that has two inhabitants and a store on the first floor, so  lots of potential witnesses, which would make body hauling loud and difficult? Not an awful way to spend a spring afternoon, but not really worth the effort. (NetGalley)

The Empty House and Other Ghost Stories by Algernon Blackwood I've actually had time to read two of my book club's selections--yea, they won't kick me out. This was a fantastic selection of short stories that were spine-tingling and riveting. Except for some anti-Semitism in one short story, and it was difficult to tell if that was the character's failing or a failing espoused by the author, I heartily recommend this to anyone looking for a good, old-fashioned, creepy, late night read. A great book for Halloween.

Maria Edgworth by Helen Zimmern Last year I suggested my book club read Helen by Edgworth--and then I myself never read it because it was our November/December book, and I was just starting my new job, and life was hectic, and I felt guilty. Se when we decided that 2017 would start with a biography of the reader's choice, I read this biography, along with several other book group members. Surprisingly critical (one thinks all biographers from one hundred years ago were all completely noncritical of their subjects), but Helen was written very late in Edgworth's life and so was mentioned only in passing. I still have Helen on my Kindle and will read it one day. Really.

The Book Club Murders by Leslie Nagel Fairly good mystery that revolves around a book club and utilizes actual titles. Moves at a pretty good pace, and most of the character were likable. I'd give this a solid B. (NetGalley)

A Right to Die by Rex Stout It's Nero Wolfe, so there's not much to object to. In this outing, an interracial couple is at the heart of the mystery. I really would like to read all the Rex Stouts in chronological order, but hopscotching through the series is just fine. And I recently started growing y first orchid.

Death of a Chimney Sweep by M. C. Beaton Not, in my opinion, the best Hamish MacBeth story in the series, but it's always fun to visit the Scottish highlands for a little while. Too many coincidences, but I loved how every single one of the evil perpetrators got their comeuppance in this book. A much-needed reminder that those who play dirty will pay dearly for it.

And one Avoid:
Cat Got Your Diamonds: A Kitty Couture Mystery by Julie Chase I expected silly; I was in the mood for silly. And another small business retail setting, so I thought I'd enjoy it. Reader--beware! Bad! Stay away! I barely made it into Chapter 3 and already had at least 12 notes objecting to various passages on my Kindle: word choices were poor or didn't make sense in the context of the sentences, situations were just too outlandish, and they seemed to live way beyond a vet's salary. The last straw was Imogene, who had been the nanny and surrogate mother, missing out on a family dinner to--clean dishes? What? Veiled racism is how I read this. And you know, gentle readers, how much I hate when the amateur detective disparages the police officer and acts superior. But I tried, until the third chapter, when someone asked what kind of party needs a pet caterer, and she responded " 'All kinds, really. Birthdays, weddings, holidays, Bar Mitzvahs. Any event where your pet is the star or where your loved ones will have their pets with them.' He shook his head. 'That's crazy.' " And I agreed and left.