Monday, January 16, 2017

So Far in January ....

I've been reading, but I haven't been writing about what I've read.  I've told you before, I'm lazy.  Every minute spent not reading is taking away from my reading time.  It's that simple.  But the whole point of a blog is to communicate.  I want to talk to you about books and I want you to talk to me.  A pet peeve:  bloggers who don't respond to comments.  That's one-way.  I'm not interested in a lecture.  I want a conversation.



I like archeology and I love mysteries.  Even in real life, they often go hand in hand.  I've bought all of the books in Margot Arnold's Dr. Penny Spring and Sir Toby Glendower mystery series.  They're an odd couple, to be sure, but they're great at solving mysteries.  This time, they're in Hawaii.  They're supposed to be there for a vacation and so Penny can mediate an argument between two professionals regarding the existence of Hawaiian 'little people', like leprechauns.  But the bodies start piling up, so Penny and Toby go to work.



Although I like the Miss Silver mysteries, she hardly makes an appearance in this one.  Two sisters inherit.  One is married to a very handsome man, one is single.  The single one, lost in the London fog, overhears someone hiring a man to commit murder for hire.  She also meets a handsome architect in the fog.  All three meet again at her sister's house, the one they're renting and that her husband wants desperately to buy  -  using his wife's in-trust inheritance.  The husband's ward, an obnoxious young girl, falls to her death.  There's something odd going on here and Miss Silver helps point the police in the right direction.


This one was a Christmas gift from my niece Amy.  She knows how much I love the inside story on musicians.  Howard Smith was a journalist who had a radio show, too.  He was the only journalist who broadcast live from Woodstock (I think I have that right).  He made hundreds of tapes of his interviews with people like Ravi Shankar, John and Yoko, Frank Zappa, Jane Fonda, Eric Clapton, Dr. John, Norman Mailer, Jerry Garcia, Dick Cavett, Mick Jagger, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin (just days before she died), and many, many more.  The tapes were made between 1969 and 1972 and lay untouched in an attic for decades, until Smith's son found them.  I told Amy that the book brought back so many memories for me.  Ramparts and Avant-Garde magazines (I've always been ahead of the curve), the news on the radio of the Manson murders and the deaths of Hendrix, Morrison, and Joplin, Vietnam anti-war marches.  It was an exciting and terrifying time to come of age.  Things were far more turbulent then than they are now, IMHO.


I think Australia is too alien for me.  I don't doubt that it's breathtaking and amazing, but I think it's so different from any landscapes I know.  When I got off the plane in Salt Lake City, Utah, I felt like I'd landed on Mars.  I feel the same way about Australia, even though I've never been there.  Napoleon Bonaparte is a police detective, part white, part Aborigine.  He's very good at what he does, so he's sent to the east coast of Australia to find out who killed a former Scotland Yard inspector.  He went out deep sea fishing and disappeared with the two men who owned and ran the boat.  Until his head came up in a trawler's net.  There were some incredibly boring (to me) parts, with pages and pages of descriptions of catching sport fish.  I thought I'd put down Swordfish Reef and accidentally picked up The Old Man and The Sea!  The mystery was fine, but I'll take my time before reading another in this series.


I've had Richard Adams' A Nature Diary for years.  I read Watership Down when it first came out in the 1970s and remember liking it.  In A Nature Diary, Adams identifies and lists the birds, insects, and plants that he sees while taking extensive walks with his dog, Tetter, on the Isle of Man, where he lived.  Adams just died this past December, at the age of 96.  According to Wikipedia, his wife died in 2016, too.  He's left most of the descriptive writing out of his Nature Diary.  It's mostly notes about the weather and what he sees while walking.  I'm envious of (or exhausted by) his walks of four to six miles.  I like the illustrations very much.  I've sent the book on to my friend Jenny who is a veterinarian, vegetarian (as all veterinarians should be), writer, and artist.  I think it'll be the perfect book for her.



Then, for some excitement.  I still haven't read the first Harry Hole book, although I have it on my Kindle.  This one, the second in the series, came up first, so I read it.  Harry is sent to Bangkok to discover who murdered the Norwegian ambassador, found stabbed in the back in a cheap motel, waiting for a prostitute.  But Harry's been sent just to wrap things up without unleashing a diplomatic scandal.  Of course, Harry can't do that.  He's got to get to the bottom of the corruption and evil.  And he does.  It's dark, and Harry may not make it out of the hole (get it? a play on this name? am I not a clever girl?) that he throws himself into after solving the murder(s).

Now I'm on to Old Goriot, as my copy calls Pere Goriot, The African Quest by Lyn Hamilton, and Mrs. Milburn's Diary.  A classic, another archeology mystery, and a WWII diary.

BTW, can anyone recommend a WWII AMERICAN war diary?  I've read several British ones and, undoubtedly, life during the war in Britain was a completely different experience from life in the United States.  But we were affected, too, and I'd be interested in the diary / diaries of ordinary people and their every days lives in that time period.  Anyone?










Thursday, January 12, 2017

Leave Me the Bleep Alone!

I don't know how you feel about it, but I'm sick to death of machines telling me what to do.  Alarms, warnings, alerts.  Enough already!

This is precipitated by our security system warning us of something, we didn't know what, on Sunday afternoon.  Because the system wasn't armed, it was a constant high-pitched noise.  The security panel said Check 16, which is the Glass Break alarm in the kitchen.  We had been in the kitchen and hadn't noticed anyone breaking in.  I called the security company and they directed me to reset the system.  Fine.

At about 3:30AM Monday, system armed for the night, the alarm went off.  The real one, the one that wakes the neighbors because we're under siege.  But we weren't.  I flew downstairs to the security panel and reset the system.  The security company called us that time to make sure we weren't being held captive in our home.   They said they'd send a technician out on Tuesday.  Nerves jangled, I tried, unsuccessfully, to go back to sleep.  What a fun way to start a Monday.

When they came on Tuesday, they said the sensor in the kitchen just needed batteries.  Well, why hadn't the panel said so?  We might have been able to manage that on our own.

I'm very sensitive to noise.  All noise.  There was one upside to 9/11:  there were no planes for a week.  I noticed that and I loved it.  Humming, buzzing, clanging, backup alarms, smoke detectors with their intermittent and random beeping when their batteries need to be changed.  Our car beeps when you lock it, although it often doesn't recognize me as someone authorized to unlock it with our keyless system.  I stand beside it like a supplicant, waiting for it to allow me in.

I've turned off the End of Cycle alert on my dryer, but I can't find where to do it on my washer.  My dryer beeps while I remove the clothes.  Door Open it says, yes, I know;  I opened the door and I'm standing right here.  Thanks for nothing.  My refrigerator beeps if the door's left ajar or if either the refrigerator or the freezer drops below a certain temperature.

To me, trying desperately to read or relax (I'm pretty much retired, I've put in my time and deserve it), this all sounds like someone snapping their fingers and yelling 'Hey, you, get out here and fold the clothes (change the batteries, close the door, etc.).  Who died and made you the boss?!

Do we really need all these cautions?  Aren't we grownups who can look after ourselves?  Do we need all this help to function today?  I'm ready to throw out anything that requires electricity or thinks it knows better than I do.  If I need a burglar alarm, I'll get a dog!  Just leave me the bleep alone!

Monday, January 2, 2017

2016 Books / December Books Read

It's that time of year when many readers tally up the books they read during the year.  I don't keep detailed tallies: sex or nationality of author, fiction or non-fiction, etc.  You're welcome to keep spread sheets, I'd rather read.  I read 110 books last year, more than the two previous years.  Because I've been posting the books I've read each month, that's what you get in this post.

Death Under Sail  -  C. P. Snow

Airs Above the Ground  -  Mary Stewart

The Crime at the Noah's Ark  -  Molly Thynne

Tamarack County  -  William Kent Krueger

Maigret and the Headless Corpse  -  Georges Simenon

Murder in Academia  -  Christine Poulson

Windigo Island  -  William Kent Krueger

Turbo Twenty-three  -  Janet Evanovich

The New Adventures of Ellery Queen  -  Ellery Queen

You can see that I needed comfort reads, all mysteries of one sort or another.  I'm hoping 2017 will be a year of peace and quiet and good health so I can enjoy some books that require more attention.  I have to admit, though, that mysteries are my first love.  When I was a child, I wanted to learn to read so I could read Nancy Drew by myself.

I wish you all a happy reading year, with many interesting books and the time to read them.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Airs Above the Ground - Mary Stewart


This book has been reprinted so many times.  There are tons of covers for it and this isn't the best one, but it's the one I read.

Not too long ago, I started re-exploring Mary Stewart's books, which I enjoyed when I was a teenager. I read The Ivy Tree and had to force myself to finish it.  Not so with Airs Above the Ground.

I thought I'd like it partly because I love the Lipizzan horses.  I've been to the Spanish Riding School in Vienna and I've seen the horses perform more than once.  They were trained as fearsome war horses.  The horses aren't the focus of the story, but they're an important part of it.  

Vanessa March and her husband have a fight before he leaves on a business trip.  He's in Stockholm, at least he said that's where he was going.  But a friend of hers sees him in a news clip at the movies in a story about a circus fire near Vienna.  That friend uses the information to coerce Vanessa into escorting her teenage son, Timothy, to Vienna to visit his estranged father.

Tim's father isn't interested in having a teenage son, so Tim and Vanessa go off to find her husband.  They find the circus and make friends with the performers.  Vanessa is a veterinarian and helps an old horse with an abscess.

They find her husband, who is there under a different name.  A man from his company was killed in the fire and he's trying to find out what happened to him.  He's been keeping a secret fromVanessa, a big secret.

There are car chases up a steep mountain, a near accident with a cog train, drug smuggling, and an equine surprise.

The action was so intense that I could barely put the book down.  It rekindled my interest in Mary Stewart. 

If you want to see the Lipizzaners in action, go here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=84Ii_Xdk6jI

If you want to watch an amazing equine athlete with an amazing sense of rhythm, here's the late, great Blue Hors Matine:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zKQgTiqhPbw

Friday, December 2, 2016

November Books

I did better this month than last, despite feeling restless much of the time.  I started a few large books that have since been idling on a table.  But here's what I did finish:

The Lost Boy  -  Camilla Lackberg

Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew'd  -  Alan Bradley

The City Baker's Guide to Country Living  -  Louise Miller

Fifty Days of Solitude  -  Doris Grumbach

Bodies in a Bookshop  -  R. T. Campbell

Bear  -  Marian Engel

Turn Right at Machu Picchu  -  Mark Adams

The Princess Bride  -  William Goldman

The Skeleton Road  -  Val McDermid

Hiss and Hers  -  M. C. Beaton

You can see a trend here toward mindless reading, comfort books, things that don't require too much attention.  I started and discarded a couple of books.  Life's too short.  I can't imagine December's list will have much more depth.  We'll see.