Friday, January 30, 2009

And Justice There Is None, by Deborah Crombie

Pretty fantastic police procedural English mystery. Policewoman Gemma James gets involved in what initially looks like unrelated slayings in the Portobello Road antiques area but soon uncovers a web of connections going back to the swinging sixties.

Well written, reminded me of Elizabeth George and even of Ruth Rendell's kind of realistic writing.

I liked this very much.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Deep and Dark and Dangerous, by Mary Downing Hahn


Ali goes to Maine with her Aunt Dulcie and Dulcie's daughter Emma, against her mother's objections, to spend the summer at the family's long neglected summer cottage. Aunt Dulcie, an artist, will paint, and 13 year old Ali will help watch over 5 year old Emma in exchange for a summer at the lake.

Moody Sissy begins spending time around them, and drives a wedge between them all, while Aunt Dulcie acts stranger and stranger.

Could there have been a reason that Ali's mom didn't want her to go to the lake? Could it have to do with the ripped photographs and crossed out names on boardgames that Ali finds everywhere? Could Sissy be...?

I think that really only the dimmest of children would be surprised by the denouement, but I guess they're out there and need something to read too.

The Case of the Missing Books, by Ian Sansom

This feels almost ridiculously meta, but here it is.

I'm a librarian who likes to read mysteries, writing about a book about a librarian who likes to read mysteries whose work as a librarian is interrupted by the disappearance of an entire library's collection of books.

As wildly geeky as it sounds, this was fun, funny, and really different a mystery.

Israel Armstrong made such a nice change in protagonists, (geeky out-of-shape career-challenged male), and it's rare (for me at least) to read a laugh-out-loud book set in Northern Ireland, and England the minister was a dream of a character, with his brothers Scotland and Wales.

Great fun.

Pushing Up Daisies, by Rosemary Harris


I enjoyed this very much. Paula Holliday has left her job in television to live out in the "wilds" of suburban Southeastern Connecticut to start a landscaping business. After placing a ridiculously lowball bid for the work to restore the historical society's newest aquisition's gardens, she digs up more than was expected, and mystery ensues.

Great characterizations, unexpected twists (love Felix!), and, so satisfying- fantastic and horticulturally realistic gardening added up to a read I was sorry to finish.

I've already requested The Big Dirt Nap -the next in what I hope will be a long series.

Frankly My Dear, I'm Dead, by Livia Washburn


This is supposed to be the first of a series - Delilah Dickinson has opened an agency offering literary tours, and naturally, the first is based on Gone With The Wind, and the group (after some capery problems that I enjoyed, and that seemed to point to the kind of Andrews/Hess comic mystery I enjoy) headed to a plantation filled with actors playing the characters, and then the murder happens, and unfortunately, it kind of went downhill for me from there.

I am also a little stumped as to where else the series will go- I suppose there are more Southern authors for Delilah to herd tourists about to their homes and hometowns, but....

Distracted: The Erosion of Attention and the Coming Dark Age, by Maggie Jackson

This was a great look at our collective, well, distraction. The lack of focus, the emphasis on multitasking, the constant clamor for our attention from a million noisy sources, and what that all might mean for our society.

Interesting bits about brain development and children- some scary stuff- and some even creepier bits about video monitoring and Bentham's panopticon. Eeep.

Good book, but somehow didn't grip me and keep me reading straight through, but I have a nasty cold or something and feel lobotomized, so that probably didn't help.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Legend in Green Velvet, by Elizabeth Peters

Fun, clever and kind of romantic mystery.

Another Scottish caper based on the search for the Stone of Scone - I kind of want to see that movie Stone of Destiny now.

This was a nice read- no Agatha Christie, mind you, but an entirely enjoyable alternative, and luckily, she has a lot of books out there so I'll have a good time with them.

Barefoot Contessa Back To Basics, by Ina Garten

Lovely food of course but nothing that made me run out for ingredients.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell Out of a Tree, by Lauren Tarshis

Logical minded Emma-Jean has never minded not fitting in with her classmates in 7th grade, but when Colleen Pomerantz is crying in the bathroom one day at school, she finds that getting involved with other people's lives is even messier and more complicated than she had thought.

This was pretty good, but the contrast between Emma, Colleen, and villainess Laura was too much for me. Maybe kids do want things to be black and white, but it seems like pandering, a bit. Also, Colleen's focus on the importance of 'niceness' above all else frustrated me and made me a bit angry- girls have been told to 'be nice' for so long that to see a 2007 kid's book reinforcing this damaging idea was upsetting.

A Single Shard, by Linda Sue Park

Odd but good book.
Orphan Tree-Ear lives under a bridge with crippled Crane-Man in 12th century Korea.
After an accident caused by curiosity, he begins to work for a local potter- a master craftsman.
Lots of pottery talk, and then a voyage.
I think this was a strange choice for the Newbery (2001)- it was so very pottery-focused, and the culture is so very foreign, and the names- well, not my favorite kind of thing, but it was a good book- I just don't know who would voluntarily read it.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Ten Cents A Dance, by Christine Fletcher

This was absolutely fantastic. One of the best books I've read in ages, adult or YA.

Ruby's world, the seedy backside of Chicago in the 40's was so real I could swear I've been there, and the descriptions of the music and dancing made me wish I knew the Lindy.

Really really wonderful.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Mystery Mile, by Margery Allingham

Nowhere near as good as Death of A Ghost. Campion really annoyed me in this.
I miss Agatha Christie.

Far to Go, by Noel Streatfeild

The further travels of Margaret Thursday, from Thursday's Child. I love Streatfeild like I love breathing, but I do prefer the Shoes books.

Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins

Well, it's YA.

So does that mean I shouldn't expect it to be very good? Maybe. I'm in a bit of a muddle about that actually.

It was (to me, at least) predictable, the violence seemed gratuitous, and the plot a mish-mash between Survivor, Running Man, The Lottery, and Reality TV 2083, with all the freshness implied thereby- but if I was a teen, and had no store of cultural expectations for what might happen in such a scenario, would I be excited by this book?

I doubt it. But for what it was, it was well done.

Dark of the Moon, by John Dickson Carr

Very middling 1967 mystery. Very middling indeed. Southern wierdo family stuff, and wildly improbable jabs at "yankees" and "damn yankees" all the way through. Really?

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Angel, by Cliff McNish

This was, hands down, one of the worst books I have ever read and finished.

It was utter crap.

Freya, recently released from a mental hospital after becoming obssessed with angels after thinking she saw one, has now become part of a bitchy popular clique. (right.) A new girl, Stephanie, starts at her school, and is ostracized because she too is obsessed with angels. Then 'real' angels get involved, and well, it isn't worth the words to say what disgusting crap this was.

I think handing this to a teen would be abusive.

Death of a Ghost, by Margery Allingham

Pretty fantastic - from the golden age of British mysteries.

Campion gets involved with an artistic community- the widow,models, family and assorted hangers-on of the late painter John Lafcadio, whose eccentric will left 12 paintings to be exhibited, one a year, after his death, to keep his name in the press and to annoy a rival.

At one of these annual showings, something goes terribly wrong.

Such a good read, and wonderful details about the mixing of the paints, the furnishings, the models, and the painting itself.

I'm trying to fill the yawning void that opened up when I realized that I think I've read all of Agatha Christie and have no more to look forward too- although, I am reading her plays and finding the little changes from book to stage interesting and (sometimes) satisfying- Vera and Lombard at the end of 10 Little Indians!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Best of 2008- the big list.

Death of a Cosy Writer, by G.M. Maillet
Songs for the Missing, by Stewart O’Nan
Last Night at the Lobster, by Stewart O’Nan
The We Came to the End, by Joshua Ferris

Real World, by Natsuo Kirino
The Man in the Brown Suit, by Agatha Christie
Things My Girlfriend and I Have Argued About, by Mil Millington

Freakonomics, by Stephen Dubner and Steven Levitt
Flower Confidential, by Amy Stewart
Lost on Planet China, by J. Maartin Troost
The Dumbest Generation, by Mark Bauerlein
The Shock Doctrine, by Naomi Klein
Bottlemania, by Elizabeth Royte
Parenting, Inc. , by Pamela Paul
Rock On, by Dan Kennedy
The Men Who Stare At Goats, by Jon Ronson
Six Degrees, by Mark Lynas

Devil in the Details, by Jennifer Traig
House Lust, by Daniel McGinn

The Adoration of Jenna Fox, by Mary Pearson
The Earth My Butt and Other Big Round Things, by Carolyn Mackler

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, by E. Lockhart
The Mother Daughter Book Club, by Heather Fredericks Vogel
The Gospel According to Larry, by Janet Tashjian
Enthusiasm, by Polly Shulman

So Yesterday, by Scott Westerfeld
Exodus, by Julie Bertagna
Kitty Kitty, by Michelle Jaffe
Rash, by Pete Hauptman

Ballet Shoes, by Noel Streatfeild
Millions, by Frank Cottrell
Catherine Called Birdy, by Karen Cushman
The King of Mulberry Street, by Donna Jo Napoli
The Railway Children, by E. Nesbit

Misty of Chincoteague, by Marguerite Henry
The Saturdays, by Elizabeth Enright

High Society
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Across the Universe
Children of Men
The Bourne Ultimatum
The Spy Who Came in from the Cold
Paradise Now

Rivers and Tides
No End in Sight
A Crude Awakening
Maxed Out
Why We Fight
The Corporation
Winged Migration