Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Juggling - Barbara Trapido

I am so grateful for being steered to Barbara Trapido by the blogger here.  I started with Brother of the More Famous Jack, which the blogger had posted about, and then went on to Temples of Delight.  I loved them both.  I got Juggling from the library and, as I started to read it, I realized it was a sequel to Temples of Delight.

Alice and Joe Angeletti have been married for over ten years.  Pam, the daughter of Alice's dead friend, Jem, is studious, pretty in a voluptuous Madonna and Child way, and perfect.  Christina is bright and pretty in an elfin way, but more frivolous and outspoken, always up for stirring up trouble.  They've been raised in American, but then are sent to boarding school in England, the one where Roland Dent, a previous boyfriend of Alice's, teaches.

While there, they meet two boys, Jago and Peter.  Peter is delicate and Jago is charismatic, bright, and handsome.  He has a posse of boys (and girls) who just want to be enveloped in his aura.  Christine falls for Jago, but until a traumatic event in the woods, he doesn't pay any attention to her.

There are so many interesting and odd characters in this book that it's hard to even start to tell you about them all.  I especially like Dulcie, tall, beautiful, edgy, foulmouthed, poor, in love with books of all kinds.  I think the 'juggling' of the title ultimately refers to the interchanging relationships of the characters.

This book, even more than Temples of Delight, is sort of like Alice in Wonderland meets real life.  It's magical without being fantastical, magical in the sense that I read on in awe as more and more secrets were uncovered and unreal things happened.

According to Wikipedia, Barbara Trapido lives in Oxford.  I wish I could tell her how much I admire her writing.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

A Climate of Fear - Fred Vargas

Occasionally, I can't wait for a new book by a loved author to be published.  In this case, I ordered A Climate of Fear from The Book Depository so I could have it before it was released in the United States.

Suicides aren't always suicides.  At least Commissaire Adamsberg doesn't think so.  An elderly woman is found dead in her bathtub, her wrists slit.  But she's fully clothed and there's an odd sign written next to the tub.  She had recently mailed a letter to a young man and met with him to tell him about a trip she'd been on to Iceland ten years ago.  The group got fogged in for weeks and barely survived.  Two were murdered by a mad man in the group.  One was the young man's mother.

The police's investigation leads them to a horse farm in a small village and to a group of people who are totally immersed in the French Revolution, dressing up and re-enacting the speeches of the assembly.  Robespierre is unsettlingly authentic.  

Eventually, Adamsberg and two of his detectives go to the island in Iceland where the murders took place.  And they find something unsettling.

Some of his department think he's barking up the wrong tree, wasting time on murders for which the statute of limitations has run out.  They think they should be concentrating on the murders of members of the French Revolution group.  They should know better than to doubt Adamsberg, an odd man who free-thinks and dreams and comes to the correct conclusion.

Apart from the regular unusual characters in the series, I fell in love with Marc, who appears in chapter IX. 

Monday, August 1, 2016

The Drowning - Camilla Lackberg

A responsible family man disappears one morning before work.  The police haven't been able to find him.  Foul play?  Or did he intentionally disappear?  His body, frozen in the ice, is found by a dog.  The man has been stabbed several times.  Why?

Patrick Hedstrom is the police detective in charge and he and his team have come up with nothing.  His wife, Erica Falck, very pregnant with twins, has been working with a local author who's written a best seller.  She discovers that he's been receiving anonymous threatening letters.  He doesn't want to go to the police, but he was a friend of the murdered man and Erica feels there's a link.

Erica digs into the author's past and finds some horrifying information.  She has to hand it over to her husband to help him in his investigation.  They find that others have received letters, too.  All of them are friends.  They all swear that they have no idea who is sending them or why.  But that's not true.

The solution caught me by surprise, although I had started to suspect.  However, I had forgotten that Lackberg ends her books in this series with cliffhangers - and what a doozy this one is!  I want to leap to the next book in the series, but I'm in the middle of some other books and I also realized that I skipped book number 5.  This is a series that is best read in order.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

There's a Porcupine in My Outhouse - Michael J. Tougias

"In 1978, when I was twenty-two, I spent $ 8,500 on a tiny A-frame cabin and six acres of land overlooking a pond in northern Vermont."  Michael Tougias wanted to get away from his office job. He was going to be a mountain man, one of those men he idolized.  But over the next twenty-three years, he learned a lot about the woods and wildlife.  He became someone who didn't want to interfere in nature, but to preserve and protect it.

At first, he was terrified of the noises and creatures he shared his land and cabin with.  The mice drove him crazy, although he wasn't afraid of them.  But all the glowing eyes in the dark, and the rustlings in the bushes, and the screams in the night (he says porcupines mating, but I believe I've heard raccoons screaming while similarly occupied, or fighting).

Along the way, he and his friends Cogs and Boomer had many adventures.  Or should I say, misadventures.  A few times Tougias almost became a statistic.  Even though he knew better in many cases, he did stupid things that could have been tragic.  Wisely not taking a chainsaw up in a pine to cut off the top, but then realizing that he was forty feet up with no safe way down.  You know how it is, you never think it'll happen to you.

I liked his encounters with animals best.  He met a few bears, deer, the porcupine of the title,  a huge raccoon that moved into his loft (I think he could have handled this guest more humanely), coyotes, owls, bats, fishing spiders, foxes, a moose.  He comes to respect them.  It's a learning curve, if you're lucky.

This book was recommended by my friend Kay in Massachusetts.  She gave a copy to our mutual friend Jenny, who just bought a house with a porcupine in the barn.  Very appropriate!

July Books

I've had an extraordinary reading month.  Maybe because it's been too hot and humid to go outside.  This weather makes me physically sick.  I feel faint if I'm out very long.  It's so frustrating.  I'm going cabin crazy!

But I've read a lot of books this month and they span several genres, not just my usual list of mysteries.  I'm happy I've read so many books, but I'd gladly read fewer if only I could have some cooler weather!

V is for Vengeance  -  Sue Grafton
Temples of Delight  -  Barbara Trapido
Extra Virgin  -  Annie Hawes
The Blue Castle  -  L. M. Montgomery
Dreamthorpe  -  Chet Williamson
A Cathedral Courtship  -  Kate Douglas Wiggin
Cimarron  -  Edna Ferber
The Suspect  -  L. R. Wright
Walking Home  -  Simon Armitage
Death of an Old Goat  -  Robert Barnard
The Drowning  -  Camilla Lackberg
There's a Porcupine in My Outhouse  -  Michael J. Tougias

Sunday, July 24, 2016

The Suspect - L. R. Wright

Yet another book I read after my friend Katrina posted about it.  Thank you, Katrina!

This book won't keep you in suspense wondering who the killer is, but I think it will keep you reading.  On the first page, George Wilcox, 80, kills his neighbor Carlyle Burke, 85.  No mystery there.  But why?  The characters involved drew me in and I wanted to know more about them.

George is a reader and gardener and ex-teacher.  He's friends with Cassandra, the town librarian, and often takes her flowers from his garden.  Cassandra and Karl Alberg, a Royal Canadian Mounted Police inspector in the British Columbia community where the murder took place, met through an on-line dating site.  But when Karl suspects George of the crime, Cassandra is not happy.

No one seems to have liked Carlyle, not even his sister.  Why?  To all appearances, he seemed a genial man, playing piano at old age homes.

Where is the man who sold Carlyle the salmon?  And what about the parrot?  And the will?

I liked this book.  It was different from most of the mysteries I read.  I hope to read more of the nine Karl Alberg mysteries in this series.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Cimarron - Edna Ferber

This is the story of Oklahoma.  It's told through the lives of Yancey Cravat, a dashing, charismatic lawyer, and his wife Sabra, a Wichita socialite.  They have a little boy they name Cimarron, Cim for short.  Yancey wants to go west.  He wants to go in the land run of 1889 and claim 160 acres for himself and his family.  Sabra's not so sure, but they pack up and go.  Yancey is outsmarted by a young woman during the land run and doesn't get the land he had his eye on.

So he and Sabra, Cim, and their little black servant boy, Isaiah, keep going.  They end up in Osage, a dirty, muddy, gun-slinging tent town.  There are Indians!  Sabra is horrified and wants to go home.  But Yancey is determined to stay and open a newspaper.  So they stay.

Sabra does her best and after a while, she becomes more comfortable with their life there.  But she still hates Indians.  She works at the newspaper, she organizes social clubs.  Yancey defends the underdog with fiery oration.  He wants to go another land run, but Sabra refuses.  He leaves her and their two children, Cim and Donna, and doesn't return for five years.

When he comes back, dramatically, as expected of him, he finds that Sabra is running the newspaper and doing pretty well with it.  But then he's off again to fight with the Rough Riders.  Then back in a few years, older and less charismatic each time.  As he fades, Sabra grows stronger.  Oil is discovered, there's a new oil run on the land, and lots of dirt farmers become millionaires overnight, but not Sabra.  She ends up as a politically savvy Congresswoman from Oklahoma, owner of a newspaper empire.

There are so many stories within this story that I won't begin to tell you about all of them.  On the way west, Cim was briefly lost.  When he marries the daughter of an Osage chief, Sabra wishes he hadn't been found that time.  The book is full of the racial hatred of the time, social snobbery, and ethnic stereotypes.  It's also the story of how strong some women are.  Ferber makes the point that the west couldn't have been settled  by sombreros alone, that bonnets were necessary, too.

The copy of the book I read, not the one in the photo, was a multi-novel volume.  I also read Show Boat and So Big.  All three told of women who realized they had to be strong to survive in a time when women were not expected to be strong like men.  The men in the three books leave their women, either by abandonment or death, and the women must take charge of their lives for their sake and the sake of their children. 

'... those four-footed kings without which life in this remote place could not have been sustained  -  horses of every size and type and color and degree.'

'Here a horse was more valuable than a human life.  A horse thief, caught, was summarily hanged to the nearest tree;  the killer of a man often went free.'

We are an ungrateful country with a short memory.