Two reasons: I spent the first half of October pretty much reading Goren and Eames fanfiction (ooops, sorry...on this mad Law & Order: Criminal Intent jag this month) and writing, plus I've been so tired at bedtime I have not been doing my fifteen minutes of reading.
The Ghost and the Haunted Portrait, Cleo Coyle
After Coyle's awful Ghost and the Bogus Bestseller, I wasn't even sure I wanted to read the next book in the Haunted Bookshop series, but this one seems to be back on track, dealing with pulp magazines and their cover illustrators. Penelope Thornton McClure is hosting an event with rare pulp magazine covers at her Aunt Sadie's Quindicott, Rhode Island, bookstore. A collector of rare covers contacts her, and the next thing she knows, she and her hometown friends Seymour Tarnish, the local mailman, and Brainert Parker, college professor, are driving to the man's home to see his collection. Seymour falls in love with and buys a rare painting by Harriet McClure (an ancestor of Penelope's husband). Soon afterwards the collector is found dead. Well, it turns out Jack Shepard, the ghost of an NYC private eye who, due to the circumstances of his death, is tied to the bookstore, has a connection to this case, and as they track down the culprit (and try to keep Seymour safe), Jack is able to take Penelope back into the past to solve part of the mystery.
The characters seem to be back to normal in this outing, even though Coyle's ersatz "Yankee" characters give me hives, and Jack back to his charming self after being a positive SOB in the last volume. The big fascination here is the look into the pulp magazine industry in the 1930s-1940s and how the cover artists became famous but never got their due because of rapacious publishers. The flashbacks to Jack's world in 1947 are a delight as well.
Drawn From New England, Bethany Tudor
This is Bethany Tudor's portrait of her mother, Tasha Tudor, whose career as an illustrator spanned decades, known for her beautiful watercolor usually illustrating 19th century and early 20th century lifestyles. Tudor was born Starling Burgess, but her father called her Natasha, shortened to Tasha, and she was introduced so often as "Rosamund Tudor's daughter Tasha" that she eventually changed her last name to her mother's maiden one (her mother was a noted artist, and her great-grandfather was Frederick Tudor, the man who became wealthy from selling ice cut from New England ponds before the age of refrigeration). It is Bethany's story of Tasha's life and how she and her sister and brothers grew up in Tasha's eccentric household: Tasha always thought she was born in the wrong century, wore long skirts and sunbonnets, wove her own linen, and lived a generally old-fashioned lifestyle.
Unfortunately the book is rather soured if you know that when Tudor died, she had essentially disinherited all her children except for the eldest, Seth, and her kids are apparently still fighting over her estate.
Very prettily illustrated with photographs and Tasha's artwork, this was released in 1979.
There and Back Again, Sean Astin
I wanted to like this book more.
Sean Astin has a nice, easygoing writing style, and I enjoyed all the behind-the-scenes stuff from the Lord of the Rings films. I also liked him talking about his growth as an actor—he's very honest about times he screwed up or was thinking only of himself—and about his family life, both with wife and daughter, and being the son of Patty Duke and John Astin (his biological father was not Astin, but he considers Astin his "dad" and I loved the way he talked about him). But there's a lot of repetition to it, too.
Still worth reading if you're a fan of Sean Astin or a Lord of the Rings film series buff.
Re-read: Olive Bright, Pigeoneer, Stephanie Graves
I enjoyed this so much I had to get this book in print. Originally I got this book from Netgalley not long after I read Poppy Redfern and the Midnight Murders, and the two of them have a little of the same vibe: young woman in her twenties living in a small English village as World War II rages—Poppy has trained as an air-raid warden, Olive is the 22-year-old daughter of a veterinarian and pigeon fancier. I liked Poppy Redfern, I love Olive Bright more. The story opens as Olive's best friend George is just leaving the small village of Pipley to join the RAF, and she too wishes to do something for the war effort. Her father has volunteered their homing pigeons to the Army's National Pigeon Service's for courier duty; unfortunately the recruiters know of Dr. Bright's mercurial tempers and are avoiding the Bright loft. Instead, two other, secretive Army officers approach Olive, saying they would like to use the Bright pigeons, but for super-secret war matters they can't tell her about. Eager to get the pigeons in action and without asking her father, Olive challenges the two men to put the Bright birds to the test.
Graves already has a sequel out which I've read on NetGalley, and it's even better than the original. Olive Bright forever!