31 October 2021

Books Completed Since October 1

This review page will spur a question:. "You only read four books this month?"

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.

book icon  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.

book icon  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.

book icon  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.

book icon  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.

In the meantime, with the village women rallying around the war effort, overbearing busybody Miss Verity Husselbee is being more of a martinet than usual. While everyone is annoyed by her, they're also shocked when she turns up murdered next to the Bright pigeon loft, found by Jonathon, the Brights' young evacuee. Is her death tied to the secret movements of Jameson Aldridge and his partner Danny Tierney, the officers who wish to use Olive's pigeons? And, if not, who in the village would want Miss Husselbee dead?

I really, really liked the fact that even to the end of the book there was no effort made to pair up Olive with Jameson Aldridge as Poppy had been paired with the American officer. They are contentious with each other through the end. There's a Welsh corgi in this story as well, and it's called a corgi, not "a Welsh herding dog." I thought the pigeon angle of the tale was a fresh one, something not involving spy training, American bases, or anything else that has been used in historical mysteries before, and enjoyed the fact that the birds are all named after book characters, and Olive herself is a devotee of Agatha Christie mysteries and still is a bit of an innocent at heart. There's also a subplot about Olive's late mother that turned out to be not what it seemed, and I liked that Olive had a good relationship with her stepmother, who is gamely battling multiple sclerosis. Upon rereading in paper form, I picked up on even more detail, especially the small dramas built around the village women. Also, Olive's father reminds me of Siegfried Farnon from All Creatures Great and Small.

Graves already has a sequel out which I've read on NetGalley, and it's even better than the original. Olive Bright forever!

08 October 2021

At Last, The Book Sale

It's been two whole years, but finally there I was, back in line at the Cobb County Civic Center. (Unfortunately, in the sun.) It seemed like forever, but finally all of us (for there was a long, long line) were inside, doing what we do best, looking for "The Book" (what "The Book" is depends on the reader; it could be Western history or Jodi Picault or sewing books), that one that will just make your day. These were my finds:

book icon  Ella of All of a Kind Family, Sidney Taylor (the last in Taylor's series about a Jewish family circa World War I in NYC)

book icon  Weetamoo, Heart of the Pocassets and Victoria, May Blossom of Brittania, two of the "Dear America" "Royal Diaries" series

book icon  The Journal of Jedediah Barstow: An Emigrant on the Oregon Trail and The Journal of Brian Doyle: A Greenhorn on an Alaskan Whaling Ship, two of the male journal versions of the "Dear America" books

book icon  The Road to Somewhere, James Dodson (a man and his son tour Europe)

book icon  The Thing With Feathers, Noah Strycker (from my Amazon wishlist, about birds)

book icon  There and Back Again, Sean Astin's book

book icon  An Irish Hostage, the latest in Charles Todd's Bess Crawford mysteries

book icon  Atlas Obscura (Yay! Finally got one!)

book icon  Drawn from New England, Bethany Tudor (Tasha Tudor's picture-and-word portrait of her mom)

and two Christmas books:

book icon  Moravian Christmas in the South and Season's Greetings from the White House, the latter a history of the annual White House Christmas card