Friday, March 09, 2018

Book Beginnings: Holmes Entangled

Holmes Entangled, by Gordon McAlpine (Seventh Street Books, March 2018). These are the first lines from the book's Prologue:
Buenos Aires, Argentina, 1943
Sr. J.L. Borges, 44, has completed his shift at the ill-organized Miguel Cané Municipal Library near the city center, where he works as first assistant.
About the Book:
Sherlock Holmes, now in his seventies, retired from investigations and peaceably disguised as a professor at Cambridge, is shaken when a modestly successful author in his late-sixties named Arthur Conan Doyle calls upon him at the university. This Conan Doyle, notable for historical adventure stories, science fiction, and a three-volume history of the Boer War (but no detective tales), somehow knows of the false professor’s true identity and pleads for investigative assistance. Someone is trying to kill Conan Doyle. Who? Why? Good questions, but what intrigues Holmes most is how the “middling scribbler” ascertained Holmes’s identity in the first place, despite the detective’s perfect disguise. Holmes takes the case. 
There is danger every step of the way. Great powers want the investigation quashed. But with the assistance of Dr. Watson’s widow, Holmes persists, exploring séances, the esoterica of Edgar Allan Poe, the revolutionary new science of quantum mechanics, and his own long-denied sense of loss and solitude. 
Ultimately, even Sherlock Holmes is unprepared for what the evidence suggests.
Initial Thoughts:

Well, I have to admit that's not the most thrilling of openings. But a book about Sherlock Holmes, libraries, séances, Edgar Allan Poe, and Jorge Luis Borges definitely gets my interest up. Looking forward to getting started on this one.

Rose City Reader hosts Book Beginnings on Friday.  As she says, the idea is to post the first sentence (or so) of the book you're currently reading, along with any first impressions or thoughts you have about the book, the author, etc.  It's a wonderful way of adding new books to your must-read list, and a chance to connect with other readers and bloggers.

Friday, March 02, 2018

Book Beginnings: Coffin, Scarcely Used

Coffin, Scarcely Used, by Colin Watson (first published 1958). First book in Watson's series of Flaxborough mysteries. This is the first paragraph of Chapter One:
Considering that Mr Harold Carobleat had been in his time a town councillor of Flaxborough, a justice of the peace, a committeeman of the Unionist Club, and, reputedly, the owner of the town's first television aerial, his funeral was an uninspiring affair.
About the Book:
In the respectable seaside town of Flaxborough, the equally respectable councillor Harold Carobleat is laid to rest. Cause of death: pneumonia.  
But he is scarcely cold in his coffin before Detective Inspector Purbright, affable and annoyingly polite, must turn out again to examine the death of Carobleat’s neighbour, Marcus Gwill, former prop. of the local rag, the Citizen. This time it looks like foul play, unless a surfeit of marshmallows had led the late and rather unlamented Mr Gwill to commit suicide by electrocution. (‘Power without responsibility’, murmurs Purbright.)  
How were the dead men connected, both to each other and to a small but select band of other town worthies? Purbright becomes intrigued by a stream of advertisements Gwill was putting in the Citizen, for some very oddly named antique items… (--NetGalley)
Initial Thoughts:

Well, I think a funeral (even an uninspiring one) is a fine way to start a mystery novel, so I'm immediately intrigued. This is my introduction to Watson's series of Flaxborough novels featuring Inspector Purbright. It's sort of unusual for me to start at the beginning -- I usually jump in about midway through a series. I'm halfway through this first book, and I think I'm hooked. Purbright is a wonderful creation.

So, what do you think? Does this sound like something you'd keep reading? Or maybe you've already discovered Flaxborough and Purbright and all those quirky characters?

Rose City Reader hosts Book Beginnings on Friday.  As she says, the idea is to post the first sentence (or so) of the book you're currently reading, along with any first impressions or thoughts you have about the book, the author, etc.  It's a wonderful way of adding new books to your must-read list, and a chance to connect with other readers and bloggers.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Book Beginnings: Anne of Green Gables

Anne of Green Gables, by Lucy M. Montgomery. First published 1908. These are the first lines of Chapter One:
Mrs. Rachel Lynde lived just where the Avonlea main road dipped down into a little hollow, fringed with alders and ladies’ eardrops and traversed by a brook that had its source away back in the woods of the old Cuthbert place; it was reputed to be an intricate, headlong brook in its earlier course through those woods, with dark secrets of pool and cascade; but by the time it reached Lynde’s Hollow it was a quiet, well-conducted little stream, for not even a brook could run past Mrs. Rachel Lynde’s door without due regard for decency and decorum; it probably was conscious that Mrs. Rachel was sitting at her window, keeping a sharp eye on everything that passed, from brooks and children up, and that if she noticed anything odd or out of place she would never rest until she had ferreted out the whys and wherefores thereof.
About the Book:
"Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert had decided to adopt an orphan. They wanted a nice sturdy boy to help Matthew with the farm chores. The orphanage sent a girl instead - a mischievous, talkative redhead who the Cuthberts thought would be no use at all. But as soon as Anne arrived at the snug, white farmhouse called Green Gables, she knew she wanted to stay forever. And the longer Anne stayed, the harder it was for anyone to imagine Green Gables without her."
Initial Thoughts:

Well, my first thought is that this is a book I've had on my "must read" pile/list for several decades. This would be a really good time to go ahead and read it. "Anne" would qualify for a couple of the reading challenges I'm doing this year. And it's one of those classic pieces of children's lit everyone should read.

Since its appearance in 1908, Lucy Montgomery's tale has gone through countless editions, and now it's actually in public domain and available free at Project Gutenberg. My old paperback edition is from the 1970s, but I'll probably read the version I've got on my Kindle -- which has what I think is a really charming "cover":

The problem is... I've started this book several times in the past and haven't been able to stick with it. Will this time be any different? I wonder. That opening passage is all one sentence, isn't it? Hmmm.

What about you? Does this sound like a book you'd carry on with? Have you read it? Did you love it?

Rose City Reader hosts Book Beginnings on Friday.  As she says, the idea is to post the first sentence (or so) of the book you're currently reading, along with any first impressions or thoughts you have about the book, the author, etc.  It's a wonderful way of adding new books to your must-read list, and a chance to connect with other readers and bloggers.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

My Sister's Bones, by Nuala Ellwood

William Morrow
July 2017, 400 pages

Publisher's Description:
Kate has spent fifteen years bringing global injustice home: as a decorated war reporter, she's always in a place of conflict, writing about ordinary people in unimaginable situations. When her mother dies, Kate returns from Syria for the funeral. But an incident with a young Syrian boy haunts her dreams, and when Kate sees a boy in the garden of the house next door — a house inhabited by an Iraqi refugee who claims her husband is away and she has no children — Kate becomes convinced that something is very wrong. 
As she struggles to separate her memories of Syria from the quiet town in which she grew up — and also to reconcile her memories of a traumatic childhood with her sister's insistence that all was not as Kate remembers — she begins to wonder what is actually true...and what is just in her mind.

My Thoughts:

It's difficult to say much about Nuala Ellwood's twisty psychological thriller without giving away more than I want to. But I can say it didn't develop the way I expected, and kept surprising me all the way through.

The plot emerges gradually, as each sister relates her story and reveals her memories to us. They shared the early trauma of a frightening home life, with an abusive father and a mother who seemed powerless (or unwilling) to defend herself or her children from his rages. However, their recollections of that life don't really match up, and both have their own personal demons to deal with. And a mysterious estrangement keeps them from being of any comfort to each other.

Can't say I found the sisters — Kate and Sally — particularly sympathetic, but the relationship was intriguing and their story haunting and compelling. There are several mysteries at the heart of the book, and even a bit of supernatural atmosphere. And for a relatively long book, it was actually a pretty quick read. All in all, a good suspenseful tale.

Rating: ★★★½

Cloak and Dagger Reading Challenge .


Miss Zukas and the Library Murders, by Jo Dereske

First published 1994
Avon Paperback edition, 218 pages

(I actually read the Kindle edition, 227 pages.)

First published in 1994, this is the first entry in Dereske's very popular and long-running cozy mystery series featuring librarian Helma (short for Wilhelmina) Zukas. When an unidentified dead body turns up in the fiction stacks of the public library, everyone is amazed and horrified. Murder just doesn't happen in lovely Bellehaven, Washington — and certainly not in the "MO-NE" aisle of the public library! Even after a thorough investigation, the police (led by the charming Chief Gallant) can't seem to turn up any information about the dead man or why the murder took place where it did. Enter Miss Helma Zukas, reference librarian extraordinaire, who just can't let a good question go unanswered. With her talent for tracking down information and her Miss-Marple-like "noticing" abilities, she's definitely on the case.

I had read one of the later Miss Zukas mysteries several years ago and enjoyed it enough to add this first work to my TBR-someday list. Glad I decided to make this year that "someday" — Miss Zukas No. 1 was a cute, fast read. Must admit, I had pretty much figured out "who dunnit" long before the big reveal, but that didn't spoil the fun. And even though Helma is a little prickly, decidedly opinionated, and not always easy to be around (hey, that sounds just like me!), I'll definitely continue with this series.

Rating: ★★★★

Cloak and Dagger Reading Challenge .
Monthly Key Word Reading Challenge  (February word: "and").
Reading the '90s Personal Reading Challenge .
USA Fiction Reading Challenge (ongoing) (Washington State).


How to Be Human, by Paula Cocozza

Metropolitan Books
May 2017, 288 pages

In Paula Cocozza's debut novel How to Be Human, Mary is on leave from her university job and upset by the sudden reappearance of her former fiancé. She's also become increasingly intrigued by a magnificent fox she's seen several times in her back garden. First she's certain she sees him wink at her, then he starts bringing gifts and leaving them for her to find (possibly including the neighbors' new baby!), and finally she invites him into her house and her life. Not really such a good idea. Mary is obviously having some very scary problems. 

For some reason, I had a really hard time getting going with this book. Kept starting over and over for a couple of months – picking it up, reading a few pages, putting it down again. We just didn't click, the book and me. But it was an Early Reviewer book from Library Thing and I felt obligated to finish it. So I gave it one more go, and then just read it straight through in only a couple of sittings. And really enjoyed it. 

This was certainly an unusual story. Yes, disturbing – as many have said. Have to admit, I was originally attracted to the novel because one of the main characters is a fox – I've always loved the critters and we have them around our yard and neighborhood. There's one particularly handsome specimen who naps in our patio area during the summer. I can see myself getting obsessed with one, although I hope not to the extent that Mary does in the book. 

Anyway, what a mesmerizing debut. So glad I didn't pass this one up.

Rating: ★★★★

European Reading Challenge (Country: England) 


Sunday, February 04, 2018

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

I only finished one book last week -- not one of the books I had intended to read, but a good one nonetheless.

If Morning Ever Comes, by Anne Tyler

Also posted a few short reading reports:

Intruder in the Dark (Inspector Littlejohn #43), by George Bellairs
A Murder Is Announced (Miss Marple #5), by Agatha Christie
Vintage Murder (Inspector Alleyn #5), by Ngaio Marsh

... and did a post about the USA Fiction Challenge that I've lately rediscovered.

This week, I'll be reading some nonfiction --

Just Kids, a memoir by Patti Smith

... and also hoping to get back to the books I thought I might read last week. Just too many books out there calling my name. But that's a good problem to have, right?

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is now hosted by Kathryn at Book Date. If you want to let the world know what you're going to be reading this week, head on over to her blog and leave your link. It's also a great way to discover new books and new blogs.