21 August 2008

Books Read Since July 14

• The Penderwicks on Gardam Street, Jeanne Birdsall
The Penderwick sisters—responsible Rosalind, unpredictable Skye, literary Jane, and little sister Batty, along with their Latin-quoting widower dad—are back at their home on Gardam Street after an eventful summer, but autumn appears to be even more eventful: their aunt has produced a letter from their late mother, requesting their father start dating again. So the resourceful sisters form a club to sabotage the dates. A sweet, funny throwback to those simple novels by Beverly Cleary and Eleanor Estes, with the memorable sisters, especially novel-writing Jane and sister Skye, who are embroiled with a deception in school. Yeah, you can see the ending coming a mile away, but who cares? Wonderful stuff.

• Teenage: The Creation of Youth Culture, Jon Savage
The term "teenager" and teen culture really only date from the late forties, but the rebelliousness of youth has been eternal. Savage returns us to the late 1800s when rebellious Marie Bashkirtseff's published diary astounded the world that a young Victorian lady would have such unladylike thoughts and a "boy murderer" killed several little boys near Boston. As the new century progressed, more of these "twisted" teens emerged: the young ladies who left sedate walking for suffragette marches and then became flappers, the discontented young men who became Apaches in Paris and swing fans in Nazi Germany; how both sexes experimented with sex, tobacco, and freethinking. Savage's readable text chronicles the shifting face of youth in the United States, Great Britain, France, Germany, and other areas of Europe.

• About Time: The Unauthorized Guide to Doctor Who, 1980-1984, Tat Wood and Lawrence Miles
More commentary, trivia, pointed barbs and insights, inserted essays, and everything and anything else you'd want to know about Tom Baker's final Doctor Who season along with the Peter Davison years. Strictly for fans of the good Doctor, sharp, funny, sarcastic.

• The Secret History of the Pink Carnation, Lauren Willig
Graduate student Eloise Kelly has lucked out in her research about the flowery-titled English spies of the post-French Revolution like the Scarlet Pimpernel and his cohort the Purple Gentian: Arabella Selwick-Alderly, descendant of the Purple Gentian, Richard Selwick, over the protestations of her nephew Colin, has allowed Eloise free rein in her private papers, where Eloise hopes to find out the identity of the most mysterious of the spies, the Pink Carnation. Suddenly she is plunged into the story of half-French/half-English Amy Balcourt, who has rushed to France, unfortunately encumbered by her cousin Jane Wooliston and their chaperone Gwen Meadows, to join the league of the Purple Gentian to avenge the death of her father in the Revolution. Make no mistake, first and foremost this book is a romance novel, for when Amy meets Richard, sparks fly...and not all of them are in anger. Much swash buckles in this page-turner, along with some decidedly anachronistic vocabulary, but it's all done in such fun, just play along with it.

• Words Words Words, David Crystal
A small collection of essays by linguist Crystal. Not as enjoyable as Crystal's larger books like Stories of English.

• Only Yesterday, Frederick Lewis Allen
After having this volume recommended by several people as well as several books, I picked up this history of the 1920s written in 1931. It is a remarkably contemporary account for a history book written over seventy years ago, as opposed to the often turgid historical prose from that era. Allen examines all facets of the 1920s, from the average home life of the time to the flappers to politics of the era to finally end with a chronicle of the stock market crash that led to the Great Depression. And finally a comprehensible explanation of the Teapot Dome affair! I enjoyed this so much that I want to find Allen's book about the Great Depression.

• The Masque of the Black Tulip, Lauren Willig
Secondmost, this series of books, if you are in the mood for the amusing romances spun within, are as addictive as peanuts. I bought the first three at bargain book prices and then purchased the fourth in hardback with coupons—and I don't even like Lord Vaughn! In this outing, Sir Richard Selwick's sister Henrietta, who thinks of her brother's best friend as an adopted brother, and his best friend Miles, who has always acted as "Hetty's" protector, discover that there's something more to their relationship when they're embroiled in a search for the deadly "Black Tulip," a French spy who has dispatched more than one of the Purple Gentian's cohorts and who has now set his (or her) sights on the Pink Carnation's operatives. Meanwhile, Eloise Kelly and Colin Selwick clash once more...and you know what that means...

• The Deception of the Emerald Ring, Lauren Willig
Eloise Kelly's research leads her to a further surprise as she descends back into her research into the workings of the Pink Carnation: Richard Selwick's cohort Lord Geoffrey Pinchingdale-Snipe, who has spent years writing love poetry to aristocratic Mary Alsworthy, actually married Mary's red-headed sister Letty. In a slight homage to The Scarlet Pimpernel, Geoffrey treats Letty with scorn, thinking she has tricked him into marrying her by compromising them together, when she was only trying to prevent her sister's elopement. When Geoffrey leaves for Ireland directly following their honeymoon, Letty stubbornly follows him, unwittingly becoming embroiled in his spying mission. More swash, more buckles, and of course the inevitable romance. More fun from Willig.

• Accomodating Brocolli in the Cemetary, Vivian Cook
A tidbit of a gift book about the English language concerning spelling mistakes, spelling reform, and even grammatical wrangles. Nothing special, but okay for a bargain book.

• Jewels, Victoria Finlay
In the tradition of her previous Color, Finlay takes us on a journey around the world, from mines in Australia, England, the far East and the American West, and most places in between to trace the history and use of amber, jet, pearl, opal, peridot, emerald, sapphire, ruby, and diamond, profiled in order by their order of the Mohs hardness scale. Finlay visits places that are still exotic and/or isolated today, some which appear to be very dangerous, whether from the terrain or from the population. It is amazing to think that some of these places still exist in today's electronic world. "Fascinating" is the only word.

• Re-read: A-Going to the Westward, Lois Lenski
Lois Lenski has always been most well-known for her regional children's novels, such as Strawberry Girl, but she also wrote several historically-based novels, starting with her first books A Little Girl of 1900 and Skipping Village, based on her own childhood. Westward is the story of twelve-year-old Betsy Bartlett, who, with her parents, younger brother, and an aunt, sets across country via wagon in the year 1811 for the first westward movement, to the Ohio country. Accompanied by an irritating neighbor family, the Bartletts endure bad roads, bad weather, frightening river fords, thieves, and other dangers as they begin a new life. Since most books about pioneers emphasize the later migration across the Plains and the Rocky Mountains, A'Going to the Westward remains a unique, absorbing narrative of the first western movement. Although written for children, Lenski's vocabulary is never restrictive.

• No Dogs in Heaven?, Robert T. Sharp DVM
Don't expect the poetical prose of James Herriot, but if you love anecdotes about days in the life of a veterinarian, this book may just be your cup of tea. Dr. Sharp talks about the most memorable patients in his career of taking care of pets and farm animals in Ohio. Perfect for a bedside read, with short chapters.

• Hounded to Death, Laurien Berenson
Melanie Travis (Driver) is back for a new outing, but this time she is sans new husband and young son, as well as her beloved poodles, to accompany her aunt Peg and sister-in-law Bertie to a weekend symposium where she hopes to relax. Of course, this being a Melanie Travis mystery, you know that can't happen; after making an astonishing keynote opening speech, a well-known and respected dog judge turns up murdered in the conference center's hot tub, and Melanie, Peg, and Bertie are involved up to their eyebrows since they discovered the body. Worse, Melanie's reputation has preceded her and all sorts of people are demanding she ferret out the killer. No better or worse than any of the other books in the series, although an event at the end is rather terrifying considering Melanie's pregnancy. Recommended as always for dog lovers and fans of cozies.

"People Who Watch TV Don't Read A Lot of Books!"

Apparently this is supposed to be a truism from educators and psychiatrists, and it does seem via reports that children—and adults!—spend large amounts of time lolling in front of the television and don't care to read books.

On the other hand, I've found that television and movies have "turned me on" to books. When I was seven years old, my parents bought me a World Book encyclopedia. If we watched television and I asked about something, whether it was on a reality series like Wild Kingdom or a fact presented on Lassie, my mother would always suggest, "Why don't you look it up in the encyclopedia?" I therefore grew up knowing that books could provide a wide horizon beyond television and always loved what they offered.

I have been trying to make a list of literature, novels, and short stories I have read due to having seen programs on television about the individual or subject. I'm sure this is incomplete, but this is what I have finally come up with:

• My Friend Flicka, Thunderhead, Green Grass of Wyoming, Wyoming Summer and Flicka's Friend by Mary O'Hara (via the Flicka TV series; I didn't see the movies until I was an adult)
• Lord Peter Wimsey stories/novels by Dorothy L. Sayers (via the Ian Carmichael versions which were on Masterpiece Theatre)
• National Velvet by Enid Bagnold (via the television series, not the movie, which I didn't see until I was in my twenties)
• James Michener's books (via Centennial)
• Spencer's Mountain/The Homecoming/You Can't Get There From Here by Earl Hamner (via The Homecoming and subsequently The Waltons)
• Thomasina and The Poseidon Adventure by Paul Gallico (via both films, also Gallico's The Abandoned)
• Airport, Hotel and other Arthur Hailey books (via Airport--yes, Hailey wrote potboilers; they're still books <g>--also Hailey's bio by his wife Sheila)
• Christy by Catherine Marshall (via the TV movie)
• Margaret by Janette Sebring Lowrey (via the original MMC serial "Annette," somewhat different from the serial)
• By the Great Horn Spoon by Sid Fleischman (via Bullwhip Griffin)
• The Moon Spinners and other Mary Stewart thrillers like My Brother Michael, Airs Above the Ground, and Nine Coaches Waiting (via the Disney film)
• Ivanhoe (via Anthony Andrews/Sam Neill version)
• The Anne Shirley books by L.M. Montgomery (I didn't read them as a kid, but post-Kevin Sullivan's Anne of Green Gables)--also all the "Emily" books, the "Golden Road" books, Magic for Marigold, the Pat books and Jane of Lantern Hill after I saw the film
• The Railway Children by E. Nesbit (via the Jenny Agutter film)
• Cross Creek (via The Yearling, both film and book, and before the film)
• The Fox and the Hound by Daniel P. Mannix (via Disney, and, as you can imagine, much more serious than the film)
• The Taran books by Lloyd Alexander (via The Black Cauldron)
• The Narnia books by C.S. Lewis (via the BBC production of The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe)
• Big Red and other Jim Kjelgaard books (Irish Red, Outlaw Red, etc., via the Disney film)
• Mother Carey's Chickens by Kate Douglas Wiggin (via Summer Magic; I'd already loved Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm from childhood)
• Sherlock Holmes (via The Seven-Per-Cent Solution with Nicol Williamson)
• Captain Grant's Children, Journey to the Center of the Earth, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne (via In Search of the Castaways and the other two films)
• The Little House books of Laura Ingalls Wilder (via the television series; we had only Little House in the Big Woods in our elementary school library, but I never withdrew it)
• The Flambards series by KM Peyton (via the TV series, though most times I'm sorry I even read Flambards Divided )
• Mister Roberts by Thomas Heggin (via the movie)
• James Thurber (via My World and Welcome to It)

Plus multiple books about:
• Queen Victoria and her family (via Edward the King)
• Old Time Radio (partially via parents' old radio stories and some radio tapes, but also Remember WENN, The Night That Panicked America, 1940s set movies and TV series)
• World War II (partially via parents' stories, but also Remember WENN, Goodtime Girls, Remember When [WWII-set TV movie with Jack Warden], PBS documentaries, etc.)
• History of television and old-time radio (somewhat due to being a TV watcher, but also via documentaries like Television, films like The Night That Panicked America, and Remember WENN)
• Space program (via televised launches; my first were Appointment on the Moon by Richard Lewis and We Reach the Moon by John Noble Wilford, both purchased when I was twelve years old)
• Sidney Reilly and spies (via Reilly: Ace of Spies)

Of course, there were also books I was into long before they appeared in the media: anthropology/archaeology long before Indiana Jones, the Harry Dresden books many years before The Dresden Files, and Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials/Sally Lockhart novels long before The Golden Compass and Billie Piper in The Ruby in the Smoke.

I would be interested in hearing from anyone else who read certain books or became interested in certain subjects due to their being presented as a television series/movie/documentary or a film/documentary. Please note that I am not talking about "TV tie-in novels" like those based on Monk, CSI or Doctor Who! Did you start reading Elizabeth George because you caught an Inspector Lynley episode? Did you become interested in "debunking" literature by watching Mythbusters or James Randi on the Tonight Show? Did catching The Maltese Falcon and The Thin Man on TCM start you reading Dashiell Hammett novels?

10 August 2008

100 Favorite Mysteries of the 20th Century

Copied from Dani Torres' blog: It is "The 100 Favorite Mysteries of the 20th Century, as selected by the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association's online members (compiled in 2000)." I've also bolded the ones I've read. Some of them, however, I really wouldn't read. Allingham, Margery. The Tiger in the Smoke (no, but I've read Pullman's Tiger in the Well, which is a great thriller) Ambler, Eric. A Coffin for Dimitrios Armstrong, Charlotte. A Dram of Poison Atherton, Nancy. Aunt Dimity's Death Ball, John. In the Heat of the Night Barnard, Robert. Death by Sheer Torture Barr, Nevada. Track of the Cat Blake, Nicholas. The Beast Must Die Block, Lawrence. When the Sacred Ginmill Closes Brand, Christianna. Green for Danger Brown, Frederic. The Fabulous Clipjoint Buchan, John. The 39 Steps Burke, James Lee. Black Cherry Blues Cain, James M.. The Postman Always Rings Twice Cannell, Dorothy. The Thin Woman (sigh...I've tried Cannell twice--I really don't like her) Carr, John Dickson. The Three Coffins Caudwell, Sarah. Thus Was Adonis Murdered Chandler, Raymond. The Big Sleep Christie, Agatha. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (other Christie, but not this one) Connelly, Michael. The Concrete Blonde Constantine, K.C.. The Man Who Liked Slow Tomatoes Crais, Robert. The Monkey's Raincoat Crispin, Edmund. The Moving Toyshop Crombie, Deborah. Dreaming of the Bones Crumley, James. The Last Good Kiss Dickinson, Peter. The Yellow Room Conspiracy Doyle, Arthur Conan. The Hound of the Baskervilles DuMaurier, Daphne. Rebecca Dunning, John. Booked to Die (I like his Two O'Clock Eastern Wartime) Elkins, Aaron. Old Bones Evanovich, Janet. One for the Money Finney, Jack. Time and Again (and the sequel, too!) Ford, G.M.. Who in Hell Is Wanda Fuca? Francis, Dick. Whip Hand Fremlin, Celia. The Hours Before Dawn George, Elizabeth. A Great Deliverance Gilbert, Michael. Smallbone Deceased Grafton, Sue. "A" is for Alibi Graham, Caroline. The Killings at Badger's Drift Grimes, Martha. The Man With the Load of Mischief Hammett, Dashiell. The Maltese Falcon Hare, Cyril. An English Murder Harris, Thomas. The Silence of the Lambs (never, never, ever--too creepy) Hiaasen, Carl. Tourist Season Highsmith, Patricia. The Talented Mr. Ripley Hill, Reginald. On Beulah Height Hillerman, Tony. A Thief of Time (I saw the Mystery presentation—does that count?) Himes, Chester. Cotton Comes to Harlem Innes, Michael. Hamlet, Revenge James, P.D.. An Unsuitable Job for a Woman Kellerman, Faye. The Ritual Bath Kellerman, Jonathan. When the Bough Breaks King, Laurie. The Beekeeper's Apprentice Langton, Jane. Dark Nantucket Noon le Carre, John. The Spy Who Came in From the Cold Lee, Harper. To Kill a Mockingbird (wonderful book!) Lehane, Dennie. Darkness, Take My Hand Leonard, Elmore. Get Shorty Lochte, Dick. Sleeping Dog Lovesey, Peter. Rough Cider MacDonald, John D.. The Deep Blue Good-by MacDonald, Philip. The List of Adrian Messenger Macdonald, Ross. The Chill Maron, Margaret. Bootlegger's Daughter Marsh, Ngaio. Death of a Peer McBain, Ed. Sadie When She Died McClure, James. The Sunday Hangman McCrumb, Sharyn. If Ever I Return, Pretty Peggy-O Millar, Margaret. Stranger in My Grave Mosley, Walter. Devil in a Blue Dress Muller, Marcia. Edwin of the Iron Shoes Neel, Janet. Death's Bright Angel O'Connell, Carol. Mallory's Oracle Padgett, Abigail. Child of Silence Paretsky, Sara. Deadlock Parker, Robert. Looking for Rachel Wallace Perez-Reverte, Arturo. The Club Dumas Perry, Thomas. Vanishing Act Peters, Elizabeth. Crocodile on the Sandbank (all of the Amelia Peabody books, thanks) Peters, Ellis. One Corpse Too Many Pronzini, Bill. Blue Lonesome Queen, Ellery. Cat of Many Tails Rendell, Ruth. No More Dying Then Rice, Craig. The Wrong Murder Rinehart, Mary Roberts. The Circular Staircase (I think I may have read this; it could be The Bat) Robinson, Peter. Blood at the Root Rosen, Richard. Strike Three You're Dead Ross, Kate. A Broken Vessel Rozan, S.J.. Concourse (I've read the Lydia Chin books, but not the Bill Smith ones) Sayers, Dorothy. Murder Must Advertise (all of Lord Peter Wimsey books, thanks!) Sjowall & Wahloo. The Laughing Policeman Stout, Rex. Some Buried Caesar Tey, Josephine. Brat Farrar (I have Daughter of Time to read, though) Thomas, Ross. Chinaman's Chance Todd, Charles. A Test of Wills Turow, Scott. Presumed Innocent Upfield, Arthur. The Sands of Windee Walters, Minette. The Ice House White, Randy Wayne. Sanibel Flats Woolrich, Cornell. I Married a Dead Man