Tuesday, December 30, 2008

the screwtape letters

by CS Lewis

I read this classic about 25 years ago, long enough to forget everything about it except that it deserves its reputation.

Here's an excerpt on the gift of free will:

"Merely to override a human will (as His felt presence in any but the faintest and most mitigated degree would certainly do) would be for Him useless. He cannot ravish. He can only woo. For His ignoble idea is to eat the cake and have it; the creatures are to be one with Him, but yet themselves; merely to cancel them, or assimilate them, will not serve." (from chapter 8)

Friday, November 7, 2008

the death of the heart

by Elizabeth Bowen

Tried and failed to read this. Not my cuppa at all. Too psychological?

the case of the gilded fly

by Edmund Crispin

Well, I finished The Case of the Gilded Fly. If I had been in a better frame of mind, I might have enjoyed it more. I was more or less obsessed with the presidential election while reading it, and I was impatient with the erudite and mannered Oxford characters, and the quirky Gervase Fen. Once again, I was left cold by the characters. This happens to me so often, I'm beginning to wonder if the fault lies in myself.

I do think it would be worthwhile to try more books by this author. I did love the writing, especially the beginning passages I mentioned earlier.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

finished knots and crosses, started the case of the gilded fly

Knots and Crosses was pretty good, especially if you like the deranged-serial-killer-with- past-personal-link-to-detective genre. I'm going to try another one. They're not the refined type of British, or in this case, Scottish (or is it Scotch?) mystery, but more down and dirty. But our policeman, Sgt. Rebus, is different and kinda believable.

Meanwhile, I've started The Case of the Gilded Fly. Very British. Written in 1954, set in 1940 in Oxford. Characters are sophisticated and nasty (some of them, anyway). I loved the beginning - wonderful writing about a train slowly, maddeningly arriving at Oxford station. Also great writing about our sleuth, a professor of English who is an amateur policeman, close pal of a policeman who's an amateur literary critic. I'll try to post a couple of excerpts.

This book has a theater context. That's a negative for me; I find the whole theater thing wearisome, even when it's presented in a critical light. But I'll continue.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

knots and crosses

by Ian Rankin

I'm reading the first book in the John Rebus series. Set in Edinborough. Sgt. Rebus is after a serial killer. Shades of Inspector Morse, mostly in that the protagonist drinks and smokes to excess, and has various other personal problems. Really quite different from Morse, though. Rebus does more police "grunt work" than Morse ever did.

I'm not too far into it, but so far it's quite good. Rankin is a skilled writer, and not prone to the political or cultural correctness so typical of recent mystery writers.

Follow-up post here.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

becoming attached

Finally finished Becoming Attached by Robert Karen. Highly recommended for parents. But long -- 400 pages.

The author makes a potentially heavy, tedious subject more interesting by fleshing out the personalities of the various psychologists and analysts whose stories he is telling. Actually, their personalities are relevant to the the subject, which is the history and nature of attachment theory told within the history of child psychology.

It's a lot better than it sounds -- honest!

If you read it along with Hold On to Your Kids by Neufeld and Mata, you'll be as prepared as anyone can be to become a parent.

Monday, September 15, 2008

charlie resnick books

by John Harvey

Haven't read these, but they might be right up my street. Just put Lonely Hearts, the first book in the series, in my stack.

Review in today's Washington Post:
The police procedural is a genre that, like the sonnet or the haiku, follows certain rules. You have the cop, the crime and the pursuit. You can be pretty sure that the cop will be skillful enough to ask the questions that will unveil the guilty party, that he will have a bit of romance in his off-hours and that he will be a stubbornly honest fellow who has frequent conflicts with inept or corrupt superiors. Ed McBain was one of the 20th-century masters of the form, just as Harvey is today, along with Michael Connelly and Ian Rankin, whose rumpled, stubborn, romantically challenged Harry Bosch and John Rebus were surely influenced by Resnick.

It's a form with limitations: predictability, for one thing. It's hard, within the form's boundaries, to rise to the level of more expansive stories like Dennis Lehane's "Mystic River" or Laura Lippman's "What the Dead Know." But the procedural endures because cops-and-robbers tales are as basic to our popular culture as Westerns once were, and Harvey, who turns 70 this year, writes them as well as anyone alive. If you enjoy police procedurals, this sad, powerful novel will surely give you pleasure.

complete review

Monday, September 8, 2008


How, pray tell, am I supposed to get anything done when husband brings home goodies like this from the library?

33 stories. Among the authors included:
  • Arthur Conan Doyle
  • R. Austin Freeman
  • G K Chesterton
  • Ronald Knox
  • Agatha Christie
  • Dorothy Sayers
  • Ngaio Marsh
  • Margery Allingham
  • Nicholas Blake
  • Julian Symons
  • P D James
  • Edmund Crispin
  • Ruth Rendell
  • Robert Barnard
  • Simon Brett
Edited by Patricia Craig
554 pages

Sunday, September 7, 2008

more baseball books

In addition to Ring Lardner's You Know Me Al and Bernard Malamud's The Natural (in my stack), Jonathan Yardley recommends the following baseball books:

The Man Who Brought Joy to Mudville (By JONATHAN YARDLEY, September 25, 2006, Page C01)
Veeck -- As in Wreck, The autobiography of Bill Veeck

A Deal With The Devil That Still Pays Dividends (By JONATHAN YARDLEY, August 11, 2005, Page C01)
The Year the Yankees Lost the Pennant by Douglass Wallop

Pitcher Jim Brosnan, Throwing a Perfect Game (By Jonathan Yardley, April 7, 2004, Page C01)
The Long Season by Jim Brosnan.

Also see Mark Harris's books.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

second reading

Jonathan Yardley's Second Reading column

An occasional series in which The Post's book critic reconsiders notable and/or neglected books from the past, appears periodically in the Washington Post.

Among books he's looked back at:

Laura Ingalls Wilder's Well-Insulated 'Little House' (By JONATHAN YARDLEY, November 8, 2007, Page C01)

The Extravagant Tale of Mr. Blandings' Dream House (By JONATHAN YARDLEY, July 18, 2007, Page C01)

Stevenson's 'Treasure Island': Still Avast Delight (Post, April 17, 2006, Page C01)

The Little People, Writ Large (By JONATHAN YARDLEY, January 31, 2006, Page C01) [Bleak House]

Hornblower, Still Under Full Sail (By Jonathan Yardley, December 26, 2005, Page C01)

The Writer Who Was Full of Grace (By JONATHAN YARDLEY, July 6, 2005, Page C01) [Flannery O'Connor]

Elizabeth Bowen's 'Heart' Doesn't Miss a Beat (By JONATHAN YARDLEY, August 27, 2005, Page C01)

Joseph Conrad's Dark 'Victory' (By JONATHAN YARDLEY, May 9, 2005, Page C01)

A Deal With The Devil That Still Pays Dividends (By JONATHAN YARDLEY, August 11, 2005, Page C01)

Josephine Tey, Sleuthing Into The Mystery of History (By Jonathan Yardley, March 12, 2003, Page C01)

Pitcher Jim Brosnan, Throwing a Perfect Game (By Jonathan Yardley, April 7, 2004, Page C01)

Du Maurier's 'Rebecca,' A Worthy 'Eyre' Apparent (By JONATHAN YARDLEY, March 16, 2004, Page C01)

A.J. Liebling's Delectable Political Jambalaya (By JONATHAN YARDLEY, January 20, 2004, Page C01)

These are just a few from 3 pages of links. I'm overwhelmed. Maybe I'll weed through later and make a list of the baseball books; there are several. This is obviously a great place to go for ideas on what to read next.

long live the serial comma

Coincidentally, just yesterday I gave an extra copy of this great book to a friend. Definitely worth reading or re-reading. Below are just excerpts, some chosen to vent my pet peeves; click on the title for the whole thing.

A 'Little Book' Bursting With The Write Ideas
By Jonathan Yardley

Saturday, September 6, 2008; C01

An occasional series in which The Post's book critic reconsiders notable and/or neglected books from the past.

"In a series of three or more terms with a single conjunction, use a comma after each term except the last," as in "red, white, and blue," this second comma being "often referred to as the 'serial' comma," except in newspaper offices, where it is often referred to as the "space-eating" comma.

"Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all his sentences short, or that he avoid all detail and treat his subjects only in outline, but that every word tell."

Thus in Strunk's hands "the question as to whether" mercifully becomes simply "whether" and "he is a man who" becomes "he." Then follows the stricture to which almost no one pays attention: "An expression that is especially debilitating is the fact that. It should be revised out of every sentence in which it occurs." Expunge "owing to the fact that" and use "since," ditto for "I was unaware of the fact that," because "I was unaware that" is so much better. I am pleased (and relieved) that a search of The Post's electronic library for "Yardley" and "the fact that" yields, on its first page, no appearance in my own prose of "the fact that" but several in quotations from books under review, including ones by William Styron, Toni Morrison and Joan Didion.

The point isn't that I'm a grammatical paragon but that even the best writers can fall into sloppy habits. The price of being a Strunkaholic is eternal vigilance, for it is easy to let participial phrases dangle (my favorite, from Strunk, is, "Being in a dilapidated condition, I was able to buy the house very cheap"), to use "disinterested" when you mean "uninterested," to ignore the difference between "farther" ("distance") and "further" ("time or quantity"), to use "less" when you mean "fewer," to use a plural verb with "none," which "takes the singular verb," to confuse "that" and "which."

It was, of course, an advertisement that nailed the coffin on proper usage -- "Winston tastes good like a cigarette should" -- and, as White says in his essay, "the language of advertising enjoys an enormous circulation," hardly to the betterment of us all. This isn't to argue that the language shouldn't change. To the contrary, many new words that enter common usage from unlikely sources are useful and uniquely describe specific meanings; think, for example, of "geek" and "dis" and "spam," all of which I use with pleasure because they are, quite simply, good words. I shudder to think, though, of what Strunk and White would say about "author" and "reference" used as verbs, of "presently" used as a synonym for "currently" or "now," of "interface," a word with a specific technological meaning, used as a synonym for "meet," as in: "Let's interface in the conference room at noon." Perhaps the day is not far off when it will become a synonym for "kiss," as in: "Interface me, baby!"

Et cetera. The language takes a daily beating, often from people who, as both Strunk and White point out, are more interested in appearing elegant and erudite than in actually being so, people who believe that pompous, inaccurate language is evidence of deep thought and noble purpose. The truth is the opposite. As White writes: "Avoid the elaborate, the pretentious, the coy, and the cute. Do not be tempted by a twenty-dollar word when there is a ten-center handy, ready and able." As both Strunk and White were aware, this is hard advice to follow, for it is much more difficult to be concise than to be verbose. Consider, if you will, the Gettysburg Address on the one hand and the rhetoric of William Jefferson Clinton (or, to be bipartisan, George W. Bush) on the other. It is the difference between eloquence and bloviation, but as Warren Gamaliel Harding well knew, bloviation is a presidential prerogative.

"The Elements of Style" by Strunk and White is available in a hardcover edition with an additional introduction by Roger Angell (Allyn & Bacon, $15.95). Strunk's original version, minus the additions by White and Angell, is available in several paperback editions and is free online at http://www.bartleby.com/141/. There is also an edition with illustrations by Maira Kalman (Penguin paperback, $15).

Jonathan Yardley's e-mail address is yardleyj@washpost.com.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

winspear, winton

I read a modern mystery, and sampled another.

Read Jacqueline Winspear's An Incomplete Revenge. It was okay. I probably won't try any of her others. Good points: not graphic or vulgar, set between the wars, feminism but not the aggressive strain. Bad points: the gypsy vibe didn't do much for me, and once again I wasn't invested in the characters. I should have read the first Maisie Dobbs book first, but it was recalled to the library before I had a chance. Perhaps I'd be more attached to the main character if I had done things properly.

I sampled Dirt Music by Tim Winton. Certainly a skilled writer, but not my cup of tea. Rough and tumble characters in wild Australia.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

book swap

Just found out about this.

Paperback Swap

Post books you no longer want, make a wish list of books you'd like to receive, and swap. Not just paperbacks, but hardcovers, too. No money exchanged. Get credits, good for books, when you send (by mail) a book to another swapper. Over 2 million books are currently listed.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

joan of arc

by Mark Twain

Mark Twain wrote, "I like Joan of Arc best of all my books; and it is the best; I know it perfectly well. And besides, it furnished me seven times the pleasure afforded me by any of the others; twelve years of preparation, and two years of writing. The others needed no preparation, and got none."

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

murder ink: a killer collection

"Murder, let's face it, is as American as cherry pie.

That's the unavoidable conclusion one reaches after reading the Library of America's huge, bloody, fascinating, often depressing yet sometimes grimly funny anthology of 350 years of true-crime writing. . . .

. . . The anthology is almost obscenely entertaining, if one has a strong stomach and a certain mind-set, but it is also a searching look at the dark underside of American reality, at an aspect of the human condition that both horrifies and fascinates us."

Excerpt from Washington Post review of True Crime: An American Anthology edited by Harold Schecter. Haven't read it, and though I'm a crime fan like my mother before me, I'm not sure I want to. 780 pages is a lot of true crime, especially without any tea and scones to wash it down with.

Coincidentally, one of the authors in the anthology is A. J. Liebling, a New Yorker writer whose book The Jollity Building was just recommended to me by a friend last week.

Monday, August 25, 2008

becoming attached, incomplete revenge

I'm about a third of the way through Becoming Attached by Robert Karen, Ph. D. An excellent writer, he explains the theory of attachment by telling the story from the beginning, presenting a narrative of the history of child psychology and psychoanalysis. The story, with its fascinating personalities and raging controversies, is compelling. The detailed accounts of emotionally deprived children from the various studies makes for a sometimes painful reading experience.

So, to give myself a break, I'm also reading a mildly engaging mystery, Jacqueline Winspear's An Incomplete Revenge, set in England between the wars.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

the end of ramage

Finished the series the other day. Heaven only knows why I read all 18 books. The characters were under-developed, the writing was often pedestrian, and the action was repetitious. Moral questions were raised and dismissed. Guess I just love the smell of salt air and gunpowder.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

you know me al

by Ring Lardner

Still hilarious. Lardner ever-so-skillfully allows our hero, rookie pitcher Jack Keefe, to unwittingly reveal himself and his acquaintances in his letters home to his pal Al.

This book works on several levels. You can read it for the baseball, or for the humor, or just as a great piece of writing. For the baseball lover it's red meat. Jack Keefe plays against Ty Cobb, Christy Mathewson, Walter Johnson, and other greats of Lardner's time. Charles Comiskey, owner of the Chicago White Sox, is a prominent character. I was happily struck by the many respects in which baseball hasn't changed since 1914.

But one needn't love or even understand baseball to enjoy the book. My old Scribner's paperback includes an introduction by son John Lardner, who quotes Virginia Woolf: "With extraordinary ease and aptitude, with the quickest strokes, the surest touch, the sharpest insight, he lets Jack Keefe the baseball player cut out his own outline, fill in his own depths, until the figure of the foolish, boastful, innocent athlete lives before us."

Can Lardner be viewed as the American counterpart of P G Wodehouse?
Discuss. :-)

Favorite quote, this one from friend AS:
[Speaking of Walter "The Big Train" Johnson, one of the greatest fastball pitchers of all time] . . . he asked me what I thought of Johnson. I says I don't think so much of him. . . . He says What was the matter with Johnson's work? I says He ain't got nothing but a fast ball. Then he says Yes and Rockefeller ain't got nothing but a hundred million bucks. (p. 57)
My favorite:
Babys is great stuff Al and if I was you I would not wait no longer but would hurry up and adopt 1 somewheres. (p. 156)
SPOILER ALERT *** Yes, Keefe has a fastball, but he's immature and ignorant, a rube, and arguably a sociopath, always blaming someone or something else for his failures, and frequently on the verge of busting someone in the jaw. Redemption comes about two thirds into the book, when little Al arrives, and it's love at first sight for Keefe. ***

with fire and sword

Book one of a trilogy of epic novels by Henryk Sienkiewicz. I haven't read this, but our daughter is a fan.

  • The Trilogy (Trylogia), comprising:
  • Book one is 1000 pages. Book two comes in 2 volumes, 900 and 800 pages. Book three is a mere 700 pages.

    Sienkiewicz also wrote the well-known Quo Vadis (haven't read that either):
    Historical novel by Henryk Sienkiewicz, published in Polish under its Latin title in 1896. The title means "where are you going?" and alludes to a New Testament verse (John 13:36). The popular novel was widely translated. Set in ancient Rome during the reign of the emperor Nero, Quo Vadis tells the story of the love that develops between a young Christian woman and a Roman officer who, after meeting her fellow Christians, converts to her religion. Underlying their relationship is the contrast between the worldly opulence of the Roman aristocracy and the poverty, simplicity, and spiritual power of the Christians. The novel has as a subtext the persecution and political subjugation of Poland by Russia.
    The Merriam-Webster Encyclopedia of Literature

    Monday, August 18, 2008

    baseball books

    I recently remembered Ring Lardner's great baseball book You Know Me Al (1914) which I'm re-reading. And that reminded me of another baseball book, Bang the Drum Slowly (1956), by Mark Harris. I loved it 30 years ago; wonder how it's held up.

    I have it somewhere in a volume entitled Henry Wiggen's Books. Wiggens is the main character, a baseball player and author (or arthur) who appears in the three books, Bang the Drum Slowly, The Southpaw, and A Ticket for a Seamstitch. I vaguely remember being disappointed in the other two titles.

    Bang the Drum Slowly is also a movie starring Robert DeNiro and Michael Moriarty, made in 1973.

    Title is from the song Streets of Laredo sung by one of the ball players.

    Wednesday, August 13, 2008

    aubrey and maturin

    Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin are the heroes of Patrick O'Brian's superlative sea books. This series is not just for fans of nautical or historical fiction. PO'B's books transcend those genres (although they are excellent examples of each), and have been compared to the works of Jane Austen. But be warned: after immersing yourself in this 20-book series, you may be reluctant to return to the 21st century. And you will sorely miss some of the characters, who are as fully human and real as any in fiction.

    Tuesday, August 12, 2008

    stop, thief!

    A collector of vintage girls' series books gave this to my daughter. Love that cover art.

    Monday, August 11, 2008

    favorite mystery writers

    The best mysteries feature poison pen letters, herbaceous borders, a corpse before page 20, and buckets of strong tea.

    Agatha Christie
    , the Original and the Best

    Notable titles:
    Sad Cypress
    The Murder of Roger Ackroyd
    A Pocketful of Rye
    The Moving Finger

    She published from 1920 to the 70's.

    Dorothy Sayers
    The nine Peter Wimseys are must-reads. Written in the 20's and 30's.

    Ngaio Marsh
    Publishing from 1934 until her death in 1982. A pro.

    Josephine Tey
    The Franchise Affair and Brat Farrar , written in the 40's, are especially good.

    P D James
    Writing from the 60's to the present. See post.

    Colin Dexter
    Good old Inspector Morse. Lovable in spite of his various personal problems. The Morse books were written between 1975 and 1999.

    p d james

    She is an undisputed master of her genre. I eagerly devoured most of her novels. My favorite might be A Taste for Death. These police procedurals, enriched with psychologically complex characters, take place in the bubble of a limited group of suspects, a la Agatha Christie. It's a formula, but a very satisfying one.

    But readers may eventually tire of her hero, Adam Dalgliesh. He's been a bad influence on a generation of detectives who have striven to be as brilliant, sophisticated, cultured, and sensitive as he. But how could they possibly compete with a Scotland Yard detective who is also a published poet?!

    The following question (roughly accurate) from one of her later books was the last straw for me. As Dalgliesh considers retiring from the Yard, he wonders, "But would I then still be a poet?"

    Other creators of handsome, brilliant, politically correct sleuths include Elizabeth George (talk about relationship angst) and Deborah Crombie.

    deborah crombie mysteries

    Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James books. The first couple of these were good. After that, the relationships took over, with all the usual angst and rending of garments. I can't remember how many I read, maybe all but the last one.
    • A Share in Death (1993)
    • All Shall be Well (1994)
    • Leave the Grave Green (1995)
    • Mourn Not Your Dead (1996)
    • Dreaming of the Bones (1997)
    • Kissed a Sad Goodbye (1999)
    • A Finer End (2001)
    • And Justice There is None (2002)
    • Now May You Weep (2003)
    • In a Dark House (2005)
    • Water Like a Stone (2007)

    iain pears' "art history mysteries"

    "Art History Mysteries" by Iain Pears:
    The Raphael Affair
    The Titian Committee
    The Bernini Bust
    The Last Judgment
    Giotto's Hand
    Death and Restoration
    The Immaculate Deception

    I liked these. More refined and gentle than most contemporary mysteries. Likeable characters.

    Saturday, August 9, 2008

    little house in colorado

    Little Britches: Father and I were Ranchers by Ralph Moody

    Little Britches is the first in a series of enthralling autobiographical accounts of the author's childhood, as a rancher and cowboy in Colorado, a farmer in Maine, and a young entrepreneur and survivor everywhere. If only half of what little Ralph Moody is supposed to have done as a boy is true, he was as sharp, persistent, and resourceful as any adult. Cowboys, horses, cattle drives, and rodeos fill the first couple of books, set in Colorado. The Moodys demonstrate strong family values and the American pioneering spirit. These may be compared to the Little House books, but take place a bit later in time, and are written from a boy's point of view.

    The series contains eight or nine books. The four listed below are the best, I think. They make great read-alouds for girls as well as boys. (As Ralph gets older, some of the content of a couple of the books may be better suited to the adult or young adult, so you might want to preview them first.)

    the twilight saga

    by Stephenie Meyer

    "Like Mr. Darcy with fangs." (sm)

    No, we haven't read it. And I'm sure this doesn't do Mr. Darcy credit. But you get the idea.

    Friday, August 8, 2008

    books by Steve Hamilton

    A Cold Day in Paradise
    North of Nowhere

    Alex McKnight is a not-quite hard-boiled former MLB pitcher-turned-policeman-turned-detective living in semi-isolation on Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Lots of beer drinking and brawling. I've read a few of these, and they are something different, at least. Not entirely wholesome, unfortunately. Definitely written by a man, for men.

    currently reading

    I finished Maria Chapdelaine. More on that later, maybe. Highly recommended.

    I'm reading Unconditional Parenting by Alfie Kohn (recommended, especially the chapter on time-outs) as well as the penultimate Ramage book. Will the author be tempted to kill off a significant character? A big difference between this series and the infinitely better PO'B series is the immunity from real harm possessed by the main characters. No one was safe in the Hornblower books, either. Ramage is just a way for a nautical fiction addict to keep from going into withdrawal.

    Thursday, July 31, 2008

    maria chapdelaine

    by Louis Hemon

    I'm in the middle of this beautiful little book, set in sparsely populated Quebec, land of Catholic pioneers, loggers, trappers, farmers, and long, long winters. Hemon visited this remote country, living and working with its people, and wrote the book in 1913.

    Here are a couple of passages:

    "Young Telesphore's depravities supplied this household with its only domestic tragedy. To satisfy her own mind and give him a proper conviction of besetting sin his mother had fashioned for herself a most involved kind of polytheism, had peopled the world with evil spirits and good who influenced him alternately to err or repent. The boy had come to regard himself as a mere battleground where devils who were very sly, and angels of excellent purpose but little experience, waged endless unequal warfare." (p. 28)

    "Edwige Legare had worked for the Chapdelaines these eleven summers. That is to say, for wages of twenty dollars a month he was in harness each day from four in the morning till nine at night at any and every job that called for doing, bringing to it a sort of frenzied and inexhaustible enthusiasm; for he was one of those men incapable by his nature of working save at a full pitch of strength and energy, in a series of berserk rages. Short and broad, his eyes were the brightest blue--a thing rare in Quebec--at once piercing and guileless, set in a visage the colour of clay that always showed cruel traces of the razor, topped by hair of nearly the same shade. " (p. 46-47)

    The depictions of the brutally cold climate and the courage and back-breaking physical labor necessary to survive in it are compelling. But the simplicity of the Chapdelaines and their friends, their relationships, and their faith in God, are what gives this book its beauty. Their acceptance of their way of life ennobles them.

    Wednesday, July 30, 2008

    out of the blackout

    by Robert Barnard

    Another Felony & Mayhem selection. A small boy who is evacuated from London during WWII is never reclaimed by his parents. Interesting but forgettable.

    Wednesday, July 16, 2008

    books by patricia carlon

    I recently read 3 pretty good books by Patricia Carlon: The Price of an Orphan, Crime of Silence, and Hush, It's a Game. She was Australian and wrote under many pseudonyms. The titles I read were written between 1965-1970. They were compelling and not offensive in the usual way many contemporary books are. But the 4th book, Death by Demonstration, was so dull I didn't finish it. It was concerned with student uprisings and filled with the students' political "thought." Blurbs on the back of the Carlon books indicate I might also enjoy Barbara Vine (Ruth Rendell) and Patricia Highsmith, mentioned above.

    till we have faces

    by CS Lewis

    Set in primitive pagan times, the book is a retelling of the myth of Psyche.

    About love, how love of self and love of others can be confused for one another. A compelling and unsettling book.

    Thursday, June 26, 2008

    mutiny on the bounty

    by Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall

    Very good. Gripping. An unusual combination of truth and fiction. The authors researched extensively, but told the tale from the point of view of a fictional character, based on one of the participants.

    The brutality of British Navy is shown in a flogging episode near the beginning of the book. I'd advise younger and more sensitive readers to avoid it.

    a very private enterprise

    by Elizabeth Ironside

    I read this a couple of weeks ago and was surprised to find that I drew a complete blank when I tried to remember what it was about. So I guess I'd have to call it forgettable. I went to Amazon to refresh my memory. It was well-written, as were her other books, but somehow not as engaging. The main character, a middle-aged man, was a rather detached personality. The setting was India, which didn't add or detract anything for me. Eh.

    books I've read in the past month

    The Prisoner of Zenda by Anthony Hope
    Rupert of Henzau (sequel to above)

    Mutiny on the Bounty by Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall

    Raising Your Child, Not by Force but by Love by Sidney Craig

    A Very Private Enterprise by Elizabeth Ironside

    Ramage books, 10-14, by Dudley Pope

    St. Monica by F. A. Forbes

    Winning Souls for Christ by Raoul Plus, S. J.

    Tuesday, May 20, 2008

    donna leon's guido brunetti books

    Donna Leon: mysteries set in Venice, featuring Commissario Guido Brunetti. I read 4 or 5 of these. They were okay. Pretty good summer reading. The Venetian setting was the best feature.
    1. Death at La Fenice (1992)
    2. Death in a Strange Country (1993)
    3. The Anonymous Venetian (1994) aka Dressed for Death
    4. A Venetian Reckoning (1995) aka Death and Judgment
    5. Acqua Alta (1996) aka Death in High Water
    6. The Death of Faith (1997) aka Quietly in Their Sleep
    7. A Noble Radiance (1997)
    8. Fatal Remedies (1999)
    9. Friends in High Places (2000)
    10. A Sea of Troubles (2001)
    11. Wilful Behaviour (2002)
    12. Uniform Justice (2003)
    13. Doctored Evidence (2004)
    14. Blood from a Stone (2005)
    15. Through a Glass Darkly (2006)
    16. Suffer the Little Children (2007)
    17. The Girl of His Dreams (2008)
    18. About Face (2009)

    Monday, April 14, 2008

    parenting from the inside out

    How a deeper self-understanding can help you raise children who thrive

    by Daniel J. Siegel and Mary Hartzell

    Lots of neurobiology that I didn't understand. But some of what I did understand is pretty interesting, especially the parts about the types of attachment we had with our parents, and how this will affect our attachment with our children. Also found interesting the discussion about "ruptures" with our children and how to heal them.

    Sunday, April 13, 2008

    lore of running

    by Tim Noakes, MD

    This is a huge (900 page) volume on running. It contains some detailed information about healing achilles tendinosis (not tendinitis, which in itself is helpful to know). Lots of technical information and scientific-looking graphs, as well as everything you need to know about beginning running, marathon training, shoes, etc.

    the new rules of lifting for women

    by Lou Schuler

    Subtitle: Lift Like a Man, Look Like a Goddess

    Okay, go ahead and laugh. But while I'm not running (achilles tendon problem) I'm going to look into this.

    middlemarch revisited

    I did in fact finish this, if you don't count the chunks I skipped over. The novel was a different animal in those days, more inclusive, you might say. I'm opposed to abridgments on principle, but I might reconsider for Middlemarch.

    Somewhere around page 200 or 250 I began to care more about these people. Dorothea seems like a flake when she's introduced, but she, along with the other main characters, has depth, complexity, and even likeability. The author provides insight into long-term relationships and what makes them work, or not work. Eliot delves into the nuts and bolts of romantic love, marriage, and family relationships. I especially like the way she treats even her less admirable characters with a little empathy.

    Wednesday, March 26, 2008

    some catholic authors

    Myles Connolly: Mr. Blue

    Rumer Godden: In This House of Brede

    Graham Greene: The Power and the Glory, Our Man in Havana, many others

    Louis Hemon: Maria Chapdelaine

    Bruce Marshall: The World, the Flesh, and Father Smith

    Edwin O'Connor: The Edge of Sadness

    Flannery O'Connor: various titles

    Walker Percy: various titles

    Sigrid Undset: Kristin Lavransdatter trilogy, Master of Hestviken series

    Evelyn Waugh: Brideshead Revisited, The Sword of Honour Trilogy


    by George Eliot

    This is very slow going. I've slogged my way to p. 118. Only 500+ to go. Jane Austen it ain't.

    hold on to your kids

    Why Parents Need to Matter More than Peers

    by Gordon Neufeld and Gabor Mate

    A must-read for all parents.

    Neufeld explains how and why our culture no longer supports the strong connection between parents and children, and why we must maintain a strong attachment to our children until they grow up. Without an attachment to us (think of it is a figurative umbilical cord between us), our children will not be able to receive the love and guidance they need from us.

    Much discussion about peer orientation, which our culture sees as normal, but which is unnatural and a fairly recent phenomenon, historically. How peer-obsessed children will not get the parenting they need from each other, or from their parents. How to avoid this and communicate our unconditional love to our children, which we may take for granted, but many children will not.

    curly girl

    by Lorraine Massey

    Find your inner curl!

    This is a great how-to book for anyone with wavy, frizzy, or curly hair. Learn how to enhance your waves and curls instead of fighting with them.

    more on ramage

    Have read 4 Ramage books. The fourth was the worst, contained a treasure hunt worthy of Frank and Joe Hardy. (Not that there's anything wrong with The Hardy Boys.) I won't bother with any more of these for the time being, though I will probably read the rest of the series eventually. The series is a couple of notches below Hornblower, its obvious influence.

    Wednesday, March 5, 2008


    by Dudley Pope

    Hard to avoid comparison to the Hornblower books. "That Hornblower fellow" is even mentioned twice as an acquaintance of Ramage.

    I liked this. It's more like Hornblower than POB. I've only read the first book. So far, lots of action, the hero is not as flawed as HH, but perhaps a little bland. The romance is handled a bit awkwardly. But there are 17 more books - maybe they improve? They might be just right for summer, when I like to read a series, or lots of books by one author.

    anna's book

    by Ruth Rendell as Barbara Vine

    I guess it's just a coincidence that this, like the Elizabeth Ironside books mentioned earlier, is a mystery that jumps back and forth between the past and the present. The modern characters learn of, and solve, a mystery that originated in the past. This was fairly compelling reading, but for some reason felt like a longer book than it was - not a plus. Maybe the tedium arose from the diary format that part of the book is written in. Again, I felt less than totally involved with the characters, but still it wasn't bad.

    Tuesday, February 26, 2008

    minette walters

    I read the first 2 pages of The Ice House last night and am sure it's not for me. I have another Walters title in my stack which I might sample, but will be surprised if it's my cuppa tea. Two references, one merely vulgar and the other definitely over the line, lead me to believe I won't enjoy this author's perspective or warm up to her characters.

    Monday, February 25, 2008

    titles from felony & mayhem press

    Unfortunately this site is under construction. But here's what's written in the front of The Accomplice:
    The icon above says you're holding a copy of a book in the Felony & Mayhem "British" category. These books are set in and around the UK, and feature the highly literate, often witty prose that fans of British mystery demand. If you enjoy this book, you may well like other "British" titles from Felony & Mayhem Press, including:

    The Killings at Badger's Drift
    by Caroline Graham
    Death of a Hollow Man by
    Caroline Graham
    Death on the High C's by Robert Barnard
    Out of the Blackout by Robert Barnard
    Death in the Garden by Elizabeth Ironside
    Dupe by Liza Cody
    King and Joker by Peter Dickinson
    Death in the Morning by Sheila Radley
    Among the other categories listed on the website is
    "Vintage": Originally published prior to about 1965, these promise the kind of twisty, ingenious puzzles beloved by fans of Agatha Christie and the Golden Age of Detective Fiction. Example: The Case of the Gilded Fly, by Edmund Crispin
    This sounds pretty juicy. But my library does not own a single title by this author. I've just asked them to purchase this one. We'll see what happens.

    Customers on Amazon who bought this also bought books by Elizabeth Daly. This rings a bell.

    the accomplice

    by Elizabeth Ironside

    Just finished this. It's as good as, maybe better?, than Death in the Garden. As in the first book, the characters and the mystery have roots in the distant past. This is a "Felony and Mayhem" book. Haven't yet visited felonyandmayhem.com but intend to soon.

    Tuesday, February 19, 2008

    thrones, dominations

    by Jill Paton Walsh and Dorothy Sayes

    Guess I've outgrown Peter Wimsey. Though this is not an official book in the series, but rather an unfinished Sayers novel completed by another author (Walsh), the very mannered Wimsey and his now-wife Harriet, run true to form. Still agonizing over their relationship and spouting bits of English poetry and Latin at one another. I once loved this series. Time to move on. Sigh.

    death in the garden by elizabeth ironside

    This was the best mystery I've read in a year or so. Good writing, complicated plot, shuttling between the 1920's and the 1990's. Plenty of tea-drinking and even a mention of an herbaceous border. The characters were not the usual cliches one finds in contemporary mysteries, and though the requisite relationship-angst was present, it didn't overwhelm as it so often does. I would rate this as very good. If I could have felt more invested in the characters, even one, I would have liked the book more. But I'll look for more of this author's books.

    Saturday, February 16, 2008

    mystery recommendations

    Mystery recommendations from the librarian:

    Death in the Garden by Elizabeth Ironside
    This was the most highly recommended title he gave me. I'm reading it now and it is very good. The bookcover tells me I might also enjoy
    Minette Walters.

    Death Comes as Epiphany by Sharan Newman
    Patricia Highsmith (Strangers on a Train, etc. Have seen the HItchcock movie, probably too creepy for me.)
    Thrones, Dominations, a finishing-up of Dorothy Sayers novel
    Caroline Graham
    Maisie Dodd books by Jacqueline Winspear

    I recently read 3 pretty good books by Patricia Carlon: The Price of an Orphan, Crime of Silence, and Hush, It's a Game. She was Australian and wrote under many pseudonyms. The titles I read were written between 1965-1970. They were compelling and not offensive in the usual way many contemporary books are. But the 4th book, Death by Demonstration, was so dull I didn't finish it. It was concerned with student uprisings and filled with the students' political "thought." Blurbs on the back of the Carlon books indicate I might also enjoy Barbara Vine (Ruth Rendell) and Patricia Highsmith, mentioned above.

    Marty the librarian also recommended Josephine Tey, which I've read and liked very much. He based his other recommendations on this.

    Monday, February 11, 2008

    favorite authors, off the top of my head

    Jane Austen
    PG Wodehouse
    Patrick O'Brian