Thursday, June 30, 2016

June Books

I didn't start and finish all these books in June.  Like many of us, I read more than one book at a time. Sometimes it takes me weeks or months to finish a book.  Most of them I read in less than a week, though.  So, here's the list:

     London Belongs to Me  -  Norman Collins

     The Dangerous Islands  -  Ann Bridge

     Red Knife  -  William Kent Krueger

     Celia's House  -  D. E. Stevenson

     The Claverton Affair  -  John Rhode

     Memories, Dreams and Reflections  -  Marianne Faithfull

     A Grave Talent  -  Laurie R. King

     The Clue of the Velvet Mask  -  Carolyn Keene

     Furiously Happy  -  Jenny Lawson

     Huntingtower  -  John Buchan

I've already posted about some of these, some I won't post about at all, and I will post about a few more of them.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Nancy Drew and Laurie R. King and Home Depot and Electrolux!

I'm going to apologize for this post right now.  I slept for about two and a half hours last night, so I'm not operating at full steam.  If only I were capable of taking a nap.

I think sleep evaded me because I am angry about the problems we're having with our new washing machine and the response from both the store we bought it from (Home Depot) and the manufacturer (Electrolux).  The Electrolux compact stackable washer and dryer were rated in the top four of their kind, so we chose them.

We bought them on 2/19/16 but the washer was out of stock, so they weren't delivered until 4/12/16.  After the power button was pushed and the cycle particulars were chosen on the touch pad screen, I couldn't get the Start button (also touch screen) to make it start.  We called Electrolux, who sent out a repairman in 5/1/16, who admitted that he had no experience with these machines.  He didn't do anything except keep touching the screen.  He finally got it to start and suggested that I wasn't moving my finger on the screen properly.  Really?  I don't want to have to do magic spells to do laundry.

It seemed to work okay as long as I didn't try to go from one load to the next without turning the washer off.  I wasn't happy, but I was feeling my way along.  But this week, it's gone back to not starting.  I'm waiting for the repairman.  If he can't fix it, it's going back to the store, one way or another.  I think it's a lemon.

We called Home Depot and Electrolux.  Electrolux pawned it off on Home Depot since that's where we bought it.  Home Depot said that there's only a 30-day return window and that it starts with the purchase date.  I pointed out that our paperwork says a 90-day return window and that it's ridiculous for any warranty / return period to start before you have the appliance.

They finally agreed to a return  -  but we have to take it back to them, they won't pick it up, even if we get the replacement washer from them!  Two strong young men delivered the washer and dryer, hefting them up a flight of stairs to the second floor.  So how are my husband (71) and I (63), who don't own a truck, supposed to get this damn thing back to them?  And why should that be our responsibility?  Stay tuned.

Despite all this, I've been managing a lot of reading.  A friend gave me A Grave Talent when I was in Massachusetts a few weeks ago.  I've read all the Mary Russell books, but I haven't read any of the Kate Martinelli books.  I liked this one and plan to read others.

Kate has moved to San Francisco and has a new partner, Al Hawkin.  He's not pleased to have someone he doesn't know, a woman to boot, working with him on a case involving strangled little girls.  But, as a woman, she'll be good to use for the press.  The murders seem to have some connection to a commune type place.  They discover that a famous artist lives there under an assumed name.  They also find out that she was convicted of strangling a little girl she babysat for.

They become convinced that she didn't kill the three little girls who have just been strangled and that she was innocent of the previous murder.  They have a new suspect.  The artist helps with a trap

I liked the characters in the book.  There was enough detail that I felt I got to know them.  That's often missing.

In the summer, I have to read at least one Nancy Drew book.  This is one I bought recently, so I decided to read (re-re-read) it before I put it with my collection.  I collect Nancy Drew books, only the originals, not first editions, but before they rewrote them starting in 1959.  They rewrote them to remove some racist stereotyping and to update the stories.  I prefer the flavor of the originals, warts and all.

Nancy and her friends, George and Bess, and sometimes her boyfriend Ned, try to figure out why parties are being used to burgle the houses where the parties are held.  Does it have anything to do with the party company hired to stage the parties?  Does her friend Linda, who works for the company, have anything to do with it?  Who are the criminals wearing velvet masks?  Read it and find out.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher - Kate Summerscale

I'm not going to post a photo of this book because I'm not going to review it.  I don't think I'm going to finish it.  It's a true life murder mystery, one that takes place in 1860 in England.  It's very dense on testimony and facts, some of them disputed, and I don't feel like reading this type of book now.  Maybe some other time.

But two things struck me.  I read the beginning, then I read the Afterword and the last chapter (I never do that but I wanted to know who had committed the murder without slogging through the whole thing.  I don't think it will make the book any less interesting when and if I do read the whole thing.)

What I discovered was that John Rhode (see my previous post) published a book about this murder in 1928.  Isn't it odd that I just read a book by this currently fairly obscure author and here he is again?!  Also, one of the suspects was a talented artist whose works I've seen and admired.

I'm always amazed by how interrelated things are.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

The Claverton Affair - John Rhode

I'm pretty sure I first read about John Rhode at In Search of the Classic Mystery.  This blog reviews tons of mysteries, old and new, but mostly old.  I found The Claverton Affair, a Perennial paperback for $2.50 at one of my local used book stores.  It always feels good when you discover an elusive  book at such a low price.

Dr. Priestly hasn't seen his old friend John Claverton for almost a year, so he gladly visits him at Claverton's request.  Claverton has been ill, but he seems to be recovering nicely.  He wants to tell Priestly something but never gets around to it because his doctor, another old friend, arrives.  Claverton dies suddenly only a few days later.

Because of an earlier gastric attack, Priestly is concerned that Claverton has been murdered with arsenic.  But testing reveals no arsenic, or any other poisons.  His will surprises his heirs.  He leaves the bulk of his estate to a woman and her daughter.  No one has ever heard of them.  He further stipulates that one of his other heirs will inherit more money if he marries the mysterious daughter.

Claverton had asked his niece, a nurse, and her mother, from whom Claverton has been estranged, to come nurse him through his illness.  They move in, although Claverton refuses to see his sister.  They both inherit something, but not what they had hoped for.  Dr. Priestly suspects them of, if not murdering Claverton, speeding along his death.

It takes a while, but Dr. Priestly figures out who murdered Claverton and how.  I had begun to suspect 'how' fairly early in the book, not all the details, but the general gist of it.  I wasn't sure, though, who had done it.  

I enjoyed the book and will gladly read others by Rhode if I happen on them.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Celia's House - D. E. Stevenson

Why do I find love stories that take place in an earlier time more acceptable than those that take place today?  I don't know.  They seem gentler, more romantic somehow.  D. E. Stevenson's do anyway.    Celia's House is many love stories.  It's about the Dunnes and their lives and their house in the Scottish Border Country.

Celia Dunne never married.  As the book opens, she's an old woman.  She loves the house and the property where she's lived all her life.  Celia makes a will leaving her house, Dunnian, not to her nephew Humphrey, as would be expected, but to his as yet unconceived daughter, to be named Celia when she arrives.  As it happens, shortly after Humphrey and his wife and children move to Dunnian, a little girl is born and she is named Celia.

Then there is Becky the housekeeper and keeper of the family.  And Nanny, who takes care of the children.  And Johnson, the gardener.  The children adore living in the country.  Humphrey is in the navy and is gone for months at a time.  At one point, his wife tells someone that out of the twenty-four years they've been married, they've probably only spent about four years together.  Each time he comes home, his children have grown.

Another relative, a shy little girl named Deb, comes to live with them after her mother remarries and goes with her husband to some exotic place.  Although only seven when she comes to Dunnian, Deb has always taken care of her mother.  Her mother wasn't one to spare her child the worries of her life. At Dunnian, Deb is lost in the crowd at first.  Then she blossoms.

There are a lot of misadventures in love.  Deb loves Mark but Mark loves Tessa but Tessa just wants a rich man and Mark is not rich.  Edith also wants a rich man and social status, but she finds that the price is a boring husband.  Things come right for most of them.  Even for Celia, the heiress of  Dunnian, love comes at last.  Or so we're led to imagine in the last page or two.

This was just the quiet, gentle book I needed at the moment.  I got lost in the Dunne family's trials and happiness and in the beauty of the Scottish countryside.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign / Save Our Wild Horses

Every now and then I'm going to subject you to a brief Public Service Announcement, or what I consider to be one.  I'm fed up with politics, politicians and their dishonesty, excuses, and how adept they are at passing the buck.  This may be the first presidential election I don't vote in.  I just can't bring myself to help any of them get into office.  I've always said that if you don't vote, you have no right to bitch.  I may be keeping my mouth shut for the next four years.

Anyway, just because politicians are idiots doesn't mean they have to inflict harm on animals.  That's the sign of truly sick people.  In 1971, Congress unanimously passed a bill to protect America's wild horses and burros on public lands.  UNANIMOUSLY!  When does that ever happen?!  It was meant to honor the animals without which America could not have grown (no matter how you feel about whether we should have or not, or whether we should even be here at all, but we won't get into that).

Apparently, politicians are an ungrateful lot or are uneducated when it comes to history.  The Bureau of Land Management has been quietly rounding up horses and burros and stockpiling them, at tax payer expense, to reduce the herds to an ungenetically safe small numbers.  They say the horses overgraze the range.  Meanwhile, they've been increasing the essentially free grazing for privately owned cattle and sheep on public lands.

Now they want to start experimentally surgically sterilizing mares and stallions, a traumatic and dangerous operation for the animals.  Some more humane organizations have been keeping herd sizes small through chemical contraception.  It's cheaper and effective and more humane.

I believe we made a promise to these wild horses and burros and we should keep it.  It's unacceptable to renege on a promise.  It's unacceptable to inflict harm on animals we've promised to care for.  The BLM is hoping to overturn the law and give the care of the horses to states.  Because most of the states that have protected wild horses also have cattle, they'll do their best to get rid of the horses for their rancher friends.  The horses will go to slaughter in Mexico or Canada, to horrible deaths.  (And if you're saying, why are horses better than cattle or chickens or pigs, who go to slaughter every day?  Well, I think that's wrong, too.)

Below is a link to the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign.  Mostly I ask people to sign their petitions, but if you can spare a bit of money, it all adds up.  The money is used to fight for the horses, to pay lawyers and lobbyists, the only things our 'representatives' seem to respond to.  There surely can't be as many ranchers signing petitions to get rid of our horses as there are horse and animal lovers signing petitions to protect the horses and burros and treat them humanely.

On behalf of AWHPC, if you can help a little, thank you very much.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

London Belongs to Me - Norman Collins

This was a big book, about 734 pages, but I didn't really want it to end.  Except that then I could start another book or two.  It took me over a month to read it and I enjoyed it from beginning to end.  I read about it on someone else's blog, but I don't remember whose.  Thank you, though!

London Belongs to Me starts just before World War II, in 1938.  The setting is 10 Dulcimer Street, Kennington, London, 'what was then a mildly respectable inner London suburb', to quote from the Introduction.  It is a rooming house broken up into apartments.  Mrs. Vizzard, a widow, is the landlady and lives in the basement.

Mr. and Mrs. Josser and their daughter, Doris, are long time tenants.  Their son, Ted, is married and lives elsewhere with his wife and baby, referred to as 'Baby'.  Mrs. Josser can never forgive Ted's wife for being a former usherette.  The book opens with Mr. Josser's retirement.  The Jossers have been talking about buying a cottage in the country, where Mr. Josser's weak chest should be healed by the sunshine and fresh air.

Mrs. Boon and her son Percy live upstairs.  She lives for her son, but he's a bit on the slow side mentally, in my opinion.  He also has trouble distinguishing between his fantasies and reality.  He's  young and often imagines he's in relationships with women, usually blondes, although he's barely spoken to them.  He does, however, get into serious trouble when he starts stealing cars and kills a woman he used to date.  Mrs. Boon refuses to believe he's guilty and spends all her hard-earned  money for his defense.  Mr. Josser also provides funds for a barrister (or attorney or whatever the English equivalent is, I can never keep them straight).

Then there's Connie, the aging actress, party girl, life of the party.  Except she doesn't see that she's aged out of the role.  Now she's an attendant in the ladies room at a nightclub, where she steals all the little things she can, lipsticks, perfume, compacts.  She no longer has the same effect when she flirts and laughs and jokes.  She has only her bird, Duke, to keep her company.  Connie keeps popping up throughout the book, often as comic relief, but she's a sad figure in my eyes.

Mr. Puddy's story is brief but heroic in an unintentional way.  He apparently has problems with his adenoids, or a perpetual cold, because of the way he speaks.

Mrs. Vizzard, who prides herself on running a respectable establishment and being ladylike, makes a fool of herself over a handsome spiritualist who comes to rent the basement apartment beside hers.  She really should have known better.  Mr. Squales is not a gentleman.

The stories of these people are interwoven.  People come and go, jobs are changed, things happen.  The war is coming and by the end of the book, it has come.  I can't even begin to tell you about all the story lines, there are so many.  I was happy to get wrapped up in the everydayness of the lives of the tenants.  I found myself eager to get back to their lives, to find out what was going to happen to them.

(I also learned that England interned Italians during WWII, like the US did the Japanese.  I didn't  know that.  This affected one of the characters in the book, two characters, really.  Somehow, my formal history education ended around the US Civil War, so anything I know about history after that I either read about or lived through.  Or maybe I just wasn't paying attention, although I passed with high marks.)

May Books

There were a lot of distractions this month.  My husband had cataract surgery, once on his right eye and, two weeks later, on his left.  You'd think sitting in a waiting room would be a great time to read.  Not for me.  Reading while waiting for a loved one to come out of surgery is not my preferred style.  Cataract surgery seems pretty routine and the sedation is mild.  I wasn't too worried, but you never feel better until you know everything's fine.

I was also reading a very long but enjoyable book, which I'll post about after this one.  I read other books while I was reading that one (oh, we readers can be so fickle!) and here they are:

     The Girl in the Spider's Web  -  David Lagercrantz

     W is for Wasted  -  Sue Grafton

     The Woman in Blue  -  Elly Griffiths

     Copper River  -  William Kent Krueger

     Boar Island  -  Nevada Barr

     Tail Gait  -  Rite Mae Brown

I didn't review a few of these book because I was disappointed in them.  I don't really like to give bad reviews, so I just ignore them.

That's it folks!