Thursday, March 26, 2015

A Giveaway: In Celebration of Books and My Birthday

This is my birthday week. In celebration of the fact that I have more books than I do birthday candles on my cake, I am giving some of them away to you lovely readers.

The books, not the candles.

I don't have specific books in mind, but if you will leave a comment and tell me if you would like a fiction or a non-fiction book, I will put your name in the hat. I may give away more than just one of each.

I love books and I love birthdays - especially the cake!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

The Roman Hat Mystery by Ellery Queen

Image result for roman hat mystery

All of a sudden, twenty-four mysteries by Ellery Queen popped up in my library's ebook collection. There couldn't be too many mystery lovers who have not heard of Ellery Queen. But perhaps many, like me, have not actually read any of the books written under the pseudonym of Ellery Queen by the American cousins, Frederic Dannay and Manfred Lee. 

Ellery Queen helps solve the mysteries alongside his father, police Inspector Richard Queen. The Queens share a fourth-floor apartment in New York City and are tended to by a house boy, Djuna. (I have a certain fondness for stories in which the characters have a manservant, house boy, or valet. Think Wooster's Jeeves or Wimsey's Bunter.)

The Roman Hat Mystery (1929) is the first of the 40 or so mysteries in the series. It is a locked theater mystery. The murder of Monte Field takes place during a production of "Gunplay" in the Roman Theater. After his body is found, it is discovered that his top hat is missing (those being the days when men dressed in evening clothes and top hat for the theater). The mystery hinges on the Queens finding out what happened to his hat which they think will lead them to the identity of the murderer. 

Here is what I didn't like about the book. The authors must have gotten paid by the word and double the price for each adverb. No one just 'said' anything. Everything was said "wryly" or "laughingly" or "enthusiastically". That wears thin in a 400-page book. I almost gave up on it, but due to a bout of insomnia this past week (which I blame on having to change to daylight savings time) I was up in the middle of the night a couple of times and resorted to reading. 

What I did like were the details of the Queens' apartment and offices and the clothing that the characters wore that enlivened the atmosphere of the era. Ellery is always polishing his pince-nez and would rather be in a book shop hunting out first editions. His father is addicted to snuff and never leaves the house without his little box full of the stuff.

The mystery itself was very puzzling. The clues and the solution to the murder were complicated but, in all fairness, the reader knows what the Queens know so there is not a 'rabbit pulled out of the hat' to explain what happened. 

But for me, the denouement just took too long to get to. Maybe I should try out the short stories. Wikipedia lists ten collections and my library shows one volume, The Adventures of Ellery Queen,  in its ebook collection. I have just now put it on hold.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Locust Grove Spring Used Book Sale 2015

I kept telling myself I wasn't going to go shopping at the semi-annual used book sale sponsored by Locust Grove Historic Home last weekend. I haven't even read all the books I bought at the Summer Sale. Well, you can guess how that conversation ended. 

I broke down on Sunday and went (I blame it on cabin fever due to the snow) and it turns out everything was half price which only made the selection more enticing. 

Here are my finds:

Coronation Summer by Angela Thirkell

There were quite a few Thirkell's this time. I don't believe I have seen any on offer at previous sales. I bought this one because I love the cover. The coronation in the title is that of Queen Victoria in 1838 and is the story of a young girl's trip to London to witness the festivities.

The Beside 'Guardian': Number 8

On the last Grand Southern Literary Tour I scored several Beside 'Guardian' books from the 1970s and '80s. This much earlier volume includes articles from 1958-59 and has a forward and selections from Alistair Cooke which meant that I absolutely had to have it.

Hunting Season by Andrea Camilleri

Once again, I was attracted by a colorful cover. This is a mystery story that takes place in Italy. How could I go wrong?
The author writes the popular Inspector Montalbano series (Full Disclosure: none of which I have read). 

Lydia Cassatt Reading the Morning Paper
by Harriet Scott Chessman

This novel paints a portrait of American artist Mary Cassatt from the view of her sister (and model) Lydia. There are five color portraits of Lydia reproduced here. Even if I don't read the book, just think how lovely it will be sitting on my bedside table or at my desk.

The Cat-Nappers by P.G. Wodehouse

Wodehouse! Need I explain?

Thursday, March 5, 2015

The Year of Reading Dangerously by Andy Miller

Image result for the year of reading dangerously

I am reading another book about books. A favorite pastime of mine. This one's clever title is The Year of Reading Dangerously, written by British author Andy Miller. 

The subtitle intrigued me: How Fifty Great Books (And Two Not So Great Ones) Saved My Life. 

Not changed my life, but saved my life. What could this mean?

As his story goes, Mr. Miller, now in his thirties, married and a father, determined that there were books he wanted to read before he was forty and was tired of lying to his friends (and himself) about having read them. So he devised a program, his List of Betterment as he calls it, and set about reading 50 pages a day from books on that list as he commuted to London by train. He began with a lineup of maybe a dozen books and ended up with fifty.

I am enjoying Mr. Miller so far. He provides entertaining details about his daily life and his days as a bookseller. As of today, I am only up to book ten. He begins with The Master and Margarita moves on to Middlemarch, Marx, and is getting ready to read Moby-Dick

I skipped to the back of the book (of course) to take a peek at his complete list and there are many books that I have never heard of. For example: Atomised by Michel Houellebecq, Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky by Patrick Hamilton, and Absolute Beginners by Colin McInnes. But there are the standards here as well: Anna Karenina, Pride and Prejudice, and On the Road.

He also includes a list - oh, we love lists - of one hundred books that he has read that had great influence on him and a list of Books I Still Intend to Read.

It is a snowy day here (again) . We had over a foot of snow last night. Apparently, I am housebound for a day or two until the weekend and promised warmer days arrive, so I figure to make some headway on Mr. Miller's List of Betterment. I may even come up with a list of my own.

Are you snowed in? What are you reading to pass the time?