Sunday, February 18, 2018

The Bette Davis Club by Jane Lotter

The Bette Davis Club
Jane Lotter
4/5 stars

When Margo's spoiled niece, Georgia, runs away from her wedding, Margo is sent to retrieve her.  Margo's partner in this is Georgia's jilted groom, Tully.  Together, Margo and Tully take a cross country trip in a red 1955 MG searching for Georgia.  On the way, Margo revisits her past and comes to grips with her present.

Lotter's well-written novel is laugh-out-loud funny in parts, and moving in others.  The characters are easy to sympathize with, as well as fully fleshed and believable.  The plot, no matter how ridiculous, is generally credible and always engaging.  It's a shame that this was Lotter's only novel.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Castle in the Air by Diana Wynne Jones

Castle in the Air
Diana Wynne Jones
4/5 stars

Abdullah, a carpet seller in Zanzib, purchases a flying carpet which transports him to the garden of a lovely girl, Flower-in-the-Night.  They fall in love, but before Abdullah can elope with  her, a djinn kidnaps Flower-in-the-Night.  With the aid of his magic carpet, a genie in a bottle, and an old cat-fancying soldier, Abdullah sets off on an adventure to rescue his beloved.

Jones was a gifted storyteller, and this is a fun adventure.  Her characters become real as the reader gets deeper into the story, and even the most bizarre situations make sense after Jones works her magic tying up the ends.  Humorous and well-written, Castle in the Air is a satisfying read.

Note: This sequel to Howl's Moving Castle seems like a stand-alone novel at the beginning, but as it reaches the final third, the reader must be familiar with the characters from the previous book for the situations to make sense.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

In Farleigh Field by Rhys Bowen

In Farleigh Field
Rhys Bowen
4/5 stars

During WWII, a parachutist is found dead in Farleigh Field in rural England.  An MI5 agent with ties to the area, Ben, is sent to investigate.  Ben is in a love triangle with Pamela, a translator at Bletchley Park, and Jeremy, an RAF pilot.  While Ben investigates, life goes on apace with the threesome and their families.  Eventually, it seems that a Fifth Columnist may be in their midst, and Ben and Pamela must put their wits to the test to prevent an assignation.

This is a surprisingly long novel, but the story flows well and is tied up nicely. The home front details were interesting and the setting was believable.  Bowen's characters continually talk about the superiority of the upper class, which was annoying, but apart from that, this is a fine mystery with at least one surprise for the reader.

January 2018 Wrap Up

Books Read:
The Black Iris by Constance and Gwyneth Little  4/5 stars
In this, their penultimate book, the Little sisters deliver another screwball comedy with missing bodies, gruesome murder, and a little romance on the side.  The witty dialogue and bizarre situations make for a fun read.

Unfinished Portrait by Mary Westmacott  4/5 stars  (my review here)

Audio Books Completed:
On the Loose by Christopher Fowler  4/5 stars
A mix of the esoteric and mundane, this mystery follows the PCU on a search for a decapitating murderer that may, or may not, have a historical connection with King's Cross.  It is one of the better Bryant and May mysteries, with strong writing, a suspenseful plot, and a dramatic conclusion.

It's Always the Husband by Michelle Campbell 5/5 stars  (my review here)

My Man Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse  4/5 stars
The first set of short stories to feature Jeeves and Wooster; Reggie Pepper stories are also included.  It's, as expected, charming and entertaining.  Not as smooth as some of Wodehouse's later collections, but still great fun.

The Heiress of Linn Hagh by Karen Charlton  4/5 stars
A young woman vanishes from a locked room in this mystery.  While searching for the heiress, Inspector Lavender uncovers family secrets that point to a deadly scheme.  The plot was interesting, and the characters well written.  This was my first Inspector Lavender book, but it won't be my last.

Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynn Jones  5/5 stars
This tale of a selfish, vain wizard and a bewitched girl is excellently written, with a smart plot and living characters.  This was a reread, and I enjoyed it even better this third time.

Jo's Boys by Louisa May Alcott  4/5 stars
In this highly didactic sequel to Little Men, we follow the late teen/early adult years of the students of Plumfield.  The stories are interesting, though dated, and Alcott infuses the novel with life and laughter.

Did Not Finish:
Alice by Christina Henry
Good grief, you guys. .. this book!  I love Carroll's Alice and am always eager to read retellings.  This one is about sex slaves and sadism, though, and it is the most grim book I've ever attempted to read.  I listened to the audio book, and with just TWO HOURS left to go, couldn't stand another minute of it.  It's well written, the allusions are clever, but. . . just darn, y'all.

They Found Him Dead by Georgette Heyer
I'm a devoted fan of Heyer's Regency fiction, but some how had never read her mysteries.  This one was stilted and dull; I made it seven chapters and just couldn't go on.  I don't know if it's just this one in particular, or if all her mysteries are this way, and I doubt I'll try another to see.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

It's Always the Husband by Michelle Campbell

It's Always the Husband 
Michelle Campbell
5/5 stars

Jenny, Audrey, and Kate were college roommates, and have stayed in touch through the years.  A 20 year old secret binds them together, and any one of them would be damaged if the truth were known.  When one of the three is found dead, the potential reasons are legion.

Campbell seamlessly switches between college years and the present.  Her characters are living and real.  The story is easily believed, well plotted, and gives a great surprise.  Her prose is engaging and, despite the lack of real suspense, riveting.  Overall, this was an exceptionally good novel and I universally recommend it.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Unfinished Portrait by Mary Westmacott

Unfinished Portrait
Agatha Christie writing as Mary Westmacott
4/5 stars

This semi-autobiographical novel follows the life of Celia, a lovely, shy woman, who finds herself with a broken soul in the midst of a life crisis.  These vignettes of Celia's life cover nursery days to coming out in Egypt, first suitors to a whirlwind courtship, and happy marriage to devastation.  It gives a round picture of  late Edwardian living and life during the years between the World Wars.

Those that have previously read Christie's Autobiography will recognize many of the stories, but the interest value of these tales is such that Unfinished Portrait doesn't suffer as a result of fore-knowledge.  Christie writes well enough that the reader is both entertained by Celia's life, as well as tense, waiting for the blow to fall.  Christie understands human nature, even if it is only her own she is writing about, and as a result, this novel presents as real and believable.  It's a good read, for many reasons, and I recommend it.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

December 2017 Wrap Up

Books Read:
I cross stitched four and a half ornaments this month, and so I only read half a book.  Overall this year, I read 57 books and listened to 63 audio books.

Check out my year in books on Goodreads:

Audio Books Completed:
The Silver Chair by C. S. Lewis
Can't rate this series, due to emotional attachment.

The Case of the Deadly Butter Chicken by Tarquin Hall 4/5 stars (my review here)

The Last Battle by C. S. Lewis
see above

Thirteen Problems by Agatha Christie  4/5 stars
A set of thirteen short stories featuring Miss Marple.  As is typical of Christie, most are clever and intriguing.

Dead in the Water by Carola Dunn   3/5 stars
Daisy and her fiance witness a rower collapse and die, and together they search for the reason and culprit.  It's an okay book; more of a time-pass than a serious read.

People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks   4/5 stars
This well-written novel follows the life of a book, the Hagada, through the stories of various people.   Brooks did a great job of writing distinctive voices for her characters, and I'm not sure why I'm not rating it 5 stars--I didn't fully emotionally connect to it, so I suppose that's why.  I do highly recommend it, though, for readers who love books about books.

Everything You Told Me by Lucy Dawson   4/5 stars
Sally wakes up in a taxi 300 miles from home with no idea how she got there.  The reader then follows her as she tries to determine if she's crazy or if someone planned to make her look that way.  I knew from very early on who and why, but the book was still quite good.