Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Challenges Completed: Christmas Spirit, Goodreads and Challenge Addict


For the Christmas Spirit Challenge, I signed up, as always, for the Mistletoe level (read two to four books.  I have managed that--see below.  I may read a few more Christmas-oriented books in the New Year...I have until January 6...but my commitment is made.



1. The Birds' Christmas Carol by Kate Douglas Wiggin (12/1/13)
2. The Finishing Stroke by Ellery Queen
3. A Christmas Promise by Anne Perry (12/20/13)
4. Maigret's Christmas by Georges Simenon (12/12/13)
5. The Big Eye by Max Ehrlich (12/27/13) [a slightly unconventional Christmas read] 
I have also, with the completion of the Outdo Yourself Challenge, managed to meet my Goodreads challenge (181 books) and have completed all 34 challenges for my Reading Challenge Addict challenge.  A very challenging year, indeed! 

Challenge Complete: Outdo Yourself

Well...I made it.  I committed to reading 16+ books more than last year.  Which meant that I needed to read 181 or more books in 2013.  I finished my last book with an hour to spare and just wrote up my last review.  I'm ready to ring in the New Year and start the challenge madness all over again for 2014.   
 
 HAPPY NEW YEAR to ALL!
 



Books read:
1. A Dark & Stormy Night by Jeanne M. Dams (1/4/13) [183 pages]
2. The Man Who Went Up in Smoke by Maj Sjöwall & Per Wahlöö (1/8/13) [153]
3. The Evil That Men Do by Jeanne M. Dams (1/11/13) [215 pages] 
4. The White Dragon by Anne McCaffrey (1/13/13) [445 pages] 
5. The Corpse of St. James's by Jeanne M. Dams (1/13/13) [212 pages] 
6. The Puzzle of the Silver Persian by Stuart Palmer (1/15/13) [159 pages] 
7. Slippage by Harlan Ellison (1/19/13) [361 pages] 
8. The Web Between the Worlds by Charles Sheffield (1/21/13) [274 pages] 
9. Four Lost Ladies by Stuart Palmer (1/23/13) [174 pages] 
10. The Case of the Negligent Nymph by Erle Stanley Gardner (1/24/13) [182 pages] 
11. Murder at Markham by Patricia Sprinkle (1/26/13) [218 pages] 
12. Veiled Murder by Alice Campbell (1/28/19) [174 pages]
13. India Black & the Shadows of Anarchy by Carol K. Carr (1/29/13) [314 pages] 
14. Zima Blue & Other Stories by Alastair Reynolds (2/3/13) [280 pages]
15. The Cavalier's Cup by Carter Dickson (2/5/13) [302 pages] 
16. Corpses at Indian Stones by Philip Wylie (2/7/13) [142 pages] 
17. Whip Smart: Lola Montez Conquers the Spaniards by Kit Brennan (2/8/13) [251 page
18. Unnatural Habits by Kerry Greenwood (2/11/13) [293 pages]
19. Man in the Empty Suit by Sean Ferrell (2/15/13) [306 pages]
20. Parlor Games by Maryka Biaggio (2/18/13) [338 pages] 
21. The Desert Moon Mystery by Kay Cleaver Strahan (2/19/13) [314 pages] 
22. Aaron's Serpent by Emily Thorn (2/22/13) [221 pages] 
23. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (2/24/13) [374 pages]
24. The World's 100 Best Short Stories, Vol. III: Mystery by Grant Overton, ed (2/24/13) [272 pages] 
25. His Last Bow by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (2/25/13) [191 pages]
26. Three English Comedies by A. B. De Mille, ed (2/27/13) [479 pages]
27. The Other Side of Tomorrow by Roger Elwood, ed (2/28/13) [192 pages] 
28. The Green Plaid Pants by Margaret Scherf (3/3/13) [158 pages] 
29. The Vicar of Wakefield by Oliver Goldsmith (3/6/13) [192 pages]
30. A Cold & Lonely Place by Sara J. Henry (3/9/13) [287 pages]
31. The Lady in the Morgue by Jonathan Latimer (3/10/13) [242 pages}
32. Mary Poppins by P. L. Travers (3/11/13) [191 pages]
33. The Perfect Landscape by Ragna Sigurdardottir (3/12/13) [213 pages]
34. The Diplomat & the Gold Piano by Margaret Scherf (3/16/13) [128 pages]
35. The Lady Vanishes (aka The Wheel Spins) by Ethel Lina White (3/17/13) [250 pages]
36. Down the Rabbit Hole by Peter Abrahams (3/19/13) [407 pages] 
37. 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff (3/20/13) [97 pages]
38. A Perfect Red by Amy Butler Greenfield (3/22/13) [338 pages]
39. Unhappy Hooligan by Stuart Palmer (3/24/13) [182 pages]
40. Sally's in the Alley by Norbert Davis (3/25/13) [122 pages]
41. The Mystery of Hunting's End by Mignon G. Eberhart (3/29/13) [341 pages] 
42. Hammett Unwritten by Owen Fitzstephen [Gordon McAlpine] (3/30/13) [176 pages] 
43. A Spoonful of Sugar: A Nanny's Story by Brenda Ashford (4/2/13) [304 pages]
44. Black Widow by Patrick Quentin (4/3/13) [186 pages]
45. The African Queen by C. S. Forester (4/6/13) [246 pages] 
46. In the Shadow of Gotham by Stefanie Pintoff (4/9/13) [385 pages] 
47. The Ivy League Chronicles: 9 Squares by E. K. Prescott (410/13) [296 pages] 
48. The Frozen Shroud by Martin Edwards (4/14/13) [278 pages]
49. The Mountains Have a Secret by Arthur W. Upfield (4/16/13) [192 pages]
50. The Devil's Stronghold by Leslie Ford (4/21/13) [192 pages] 
51. The Silence of Herondale by Joan Aiken (4/21/13) [172 pages] 
52. Holiday Homicide by Rufus King (4/23/13) [238 pages] 
53. The Private History of Awe by Scott Russell Sanders (4/27/13) [322 pages] 
54. Death Has Green Fingers by Lionel Black (4/30/13) [192 pages]
55. Blood Makes Noise by Gregory Widen (4/30/13) [442 pages]
56. Inland Passage by George Harmon Coxe (5/2/13) [246 pages]
57. Choice of Evils by E. X. Ferrars (5/4/13) [175 pages] 
58. The Talking Sparrow Murders by Darwin L. Teilhet (5/6/13) [301 pages] 
59. Murder as a Fine Art by David Morrell (5/8/13) [358 pages] {Review due for virtual tour 5/28/13}
60. Finding Camlann by Sean Pidgeon (5/18/13) [350 pages] 
61. Sleep No More by Margaret Erskine (5/21/13) [190 pages] 
62. Death at Crane's Court by Eilis Dillon (5/23/13) [236 pages]
63. Cocaine Blues by Kerry Greenwood (5/24/13) [175 pages]
64. The Curse of the Bronze Lamp by Carter Dickson (5/27/13) [192 pages]
65. Miss Silver Deals With Death by Patricia Wentworth (finished 5/28/13) [231 pages]
66. The Secret History by Donna Tartt (6/4/13) [592 pages]
67. How Not to Murder Your Grumpy by Carol E. Wyer (6/5/13) [100 pages]
68. The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes (6/7/13) [163 pages]
69. Murder on Safari by Elspeth Huxley (6/8/13) [203 pages]
70. The Girl in the Green Raincoat by Laura Lippman (6/10/13) [176 pages]
71. The Riddle of the Sands by Erskine Childers (6/12/13) [284 pages]
72. Murder Within Murder by Frances & Richard Lockridge (6/14/13) [240 pages]
73. Break Any Woman Down by Dana Johnson (6/17/13) [168 pages]
74. The Chinese Parrot by Earl Derr Biggers (6/18/13) [222 pages]
75. The Father's Day Murder by Lee Harris (6/18/13) [258 pages]
76. Tragedy at Law by Cyril Hare (6/21/13) [250 pages] 
77. Devoured by D. E. Meredith (6/22/13) [291 pages]
78. Heart of a Dog by Mikhail Bulgakov (6/23/13) [123 pages]
79. Death in Zanzibar by M. M. Kaye (6/24/13) [270 pages]
80. Jack on the Gallows Tree by Leo Bruce (6/26/13) [189 pages] 
81. The Listening by Kyle Dargan (6/28/13) [83 pages]
82. Mystery Train by David Wojahn (6/28/13) [85 pages]
83. Death & the Gentle Bull by Frances & Richard Lockridge (6/29/13) [224 pages]
84. The Mummy Case Mystery by Dermot Morrah (7/3/13) [292 pages]
85. Dead Man Control by Helen Reilly (7/6/13) [159 pages]
86. Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons (7/8/13) [233 pages]
87. The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger (7/10/13) [540 pages] 
88. The Hollow Chest by Alice Tilton [Phoebe Atwood Taylor] (7/12/13) [284 pages] 
89. Twenty First Century Blues by Richard Cecil (7/13/13) [98 pages] 
90. Photo by Sammy Davis, Jr. [text by Burt Boyar] (7/13/13) [338 pages]
91. The Call of the Wild by Jack London (7/14/13) [210 pages]
92. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (7/16/13) [387 pages]
93. Spotted Hemlock by Gladys Mitchell (7/18/13) [239 pages]
94. Heirs & Spares by J. L. Spohr (7/19/13) [258 pages] 
95. If You Ask Me (And of Course You Won't) by Betty White (7/19/13) [259 pages] 
96. London Particular (aka Fog of Doubt) by Christianna Brand (7/22/13) [198 pages] 
97. Dead Old by Maureen Carter (7/22/13) [289 pages]
98. The Case of the Careless Kitten by Erle Stanley Gardner (7/23/13) [243 pages]
99. Capacity for Murder by Bernadette Pajer (7/24/13) [256 pages] 
100. Mist on the Saltings by Henry Wade (7/26/13) [340 pages] 
101. The Black Stage by Anthony Gilbert (7/27/13) [215 pages] 
102. Winnie-the-Pooh by A. A. Milne (7/28/13) [161 pages]
103. The House at Pooh Corner by A. A. Milne (7/28/13) [192 pages]
104. The World of Christopher Robin by A. A. Milne (7/28/13) [256 pages]
105. The Mind of the Maker by Dorothy L. Sayers (7/31/13) [229 pages]
106. A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (8/1/13) [112 pages]
107. Till Death Do Us Part by John Dickson Carr (8/2/13) [152 pages]
108. The Long Farewell by Michael Innes (8/3/13) [216 pages] 
109. Death in the Air (aka Death in the Clouds) by Agatha Christie (8/5/13) [189 pages] 
110. The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton (8/6/13) [265 pages] 
111. The Scarlet Macaw by S. P. Hozy (8/10/13) [384 pages] 
112. Age of Desire by Jennie Fields (8/14/13) [352 pages] 
113 The Monster of Florence by Magdalen Nabb (8/17/13) [343 pages]
114. Andersen's Fairy Tales by Hans Christian Andersen (8/20/13) [343 pages] 
115. The Door by Mary Roberts Rinehart (8/22/13) [381 pages]
116. Poems & Prose by Christina Rossetti (8/27/13) [488 pages] 
117. Death at the Bar by Ngaio Marsh (8/28/13) [288 pages] 
118. A Bullet in the Ballet by Caryl Brahms & S. J. Simon (8/28/13) [159 pages] 
119. Rules of Murder by Julianna Deering (8/31/13) [331 pages]
120. This New & Poisonous Air by Adam McOmber (9/3/13) [200 pages]
121. Murder & Blueberry Pie by Frances & Richard Lockridge (9/3/13) [192 pages]
122. The Croquet Player by H. G. Wells (9/4/13) [82 pages]
123. Elephants Can Remember by Agatha Christie (9/6/13) [198 pages]
124. Malcolm Sage, Detective by Herbert Jenkins (9/8/13) [315 pages]
125. The Yard by Alex Grecian (9/9/13) [422 pages]
126. The End of the Alphabet by C. S. Richardson (9/10/13) [119 pages]
127. Famous Ghost Stories edited by Bennett Cerf (9/13/13) [361 pages] 
128. The Temple of Death by A. C. & R. H. Benson (9/16/13) [226 pages] 
129. The Secret of the Old Clock by Carolyn Keene (9/17/13) [210 pages] 
130. The Dreadful Hollow by Nicholas Blake (9/19/13) [256 pages]
131. The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson (9/24/13) [246 pages] 
132. Death Knocks Three Times by Anthony Gilbert (9/27/13) [155 pages] 
133. The Mystery Lovers' Book of Quotations by Jane Horning (9/27/13) [231 pages]
134. The Yellow Violet by Frances Crane (9/30/13) [159 pages]
135. The Prayer of Jabez by Bruce Wilkinson (10/1/13) [93 pages]
136. Foundation by Isaac Asimov (10/4/13) [236 pages] 
137. The Measure of a Man by Sidney Poitier (10/6/13) [255 pages] 
138. The Haunted Dolls' House by M. R. James (10/9/13) [203 pages]
139. Unthinkable by Richard Cibrano (10/12/13) [400 pages] 
140. Murder at Cambridge by Q. Patrick (10/15/13) [188 pages]
141. Cold Earth by Sarah Moss (10/18/13) [280 pages] 
142. Dead of a Counterplot by Simon Nash (10/20/13) [223 pages] 
143. Laddie: A True Blue Story by Gene Stratton-Porter (10/22/13) [401 pages] 
144. The Water Room by Christopher Fowler (10/25/13) [356 pages] 
145. Gently Go Man by Alan Hunter (10/27/13) [209 pages] 
146. Once Upon a Crime by M. D. Lake (10/28/13) [275 pages] 
147. Through a Glass, Darkly by Helen McCloy (10/29/13) [192 pages] 
148. Mystery & Crime: NYPL Book of Answers by Jay Pearsall (10/30/13) [176 pages] 
149. By a Woman's Hand by Jean Swanson & Dean James (11/2/13) [254 pages] 
150. Maid to Murder by Roy Vickers (11/3/13) [173 pages]
151. Shell Game by Richard Powell (11/4/13) [154 pages] 
152. Kemp's Last Case by M. R. D. Meek (11/4/13) [186 pages]
153. Good-Bye to All That by Robert Graves (11/7/13) [347 pages]
154. The Murder Stone by Charles Todd (11/8/13) [377 pages]
155. Death Is in the Air by Kate Kingsbury (11/10/13) [199 pages]
156. Evidence of Things Seen by Elizabeth Daly (11/12/13) [167 pages]
157. Check-Out Time by Kate Kingsbury (11/13/13) [217 pages] 
158. The Small Hours of the Morning by Margaret Yorke (11/15/13) [221 pages] 
159. The Dorothy Parker Murder Case by George Baxt (11/19/13) [284 pages] 
160. The Patient in Room 18 by Mignon G. Eberhart (11/20/13) [302 pages] 
161. The Tragedy of X by Barnaby Ross [Ellery Queen] (11/25/13) [216 pages]
162. Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne (11/27/13) [248 pages]
163. The Tragedy of Y by Barnaby Ross [Ellery Queen] (11/30/13) [200 pages] 
164. The Birds' Christmas Carol by Kate Douglas Wiggin (12/1/13) [69 pages] 
165. The Tragedy of Z by Barnaby Ross [Ellery Queen] (12/3/13) [154 pages] 
166. Murder Your Darlings by J. J. Murphy (12/4/13) [324 pages] 
167. The Quiet Road to Death by Sheila Radley (12/8/13) [190 pages]
168. Maigret's Christmas by Georges Simenon (12/12/13) [326 pages] 
169. A Habit for Death by Chuck Zito (12/17/13) [279 pages] 
170. Commodore by Simon Sobo (12/18/13) [348 pages] 
171. A Christmas Promise by Anne Perry (12/20/13) [193 pages]
172. Wycliffe & the Guilt Edged Alibi by W. J. Burley (12/21/13) [222 pages]
173. Ransom Game by John Buxton Hilton (12/23/13) [184 pages] 
174. Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence: The First Encounter by James L. Christian (12/26/13) [303 pages] 
175. The Big Eye by Max Ehrlich (12/26/13) [221 pages]
176. The Wit & Humor of Oscar Wilde by Alvin Redman, ed (12/29/13) [258 pages] 
177. The Armchair Detective Book of Lists by Kate Stine, ed (12/29/13) [267 pages]
178. Crime & Mystery: The 100 Best Books by H. R. F. Keating (12/31/13) [219 pages]
179. Braid by Roger Mitchell (12/31/13) [59 pages]
180. Tales of the Supernatural by Maura Stanton (12/31/13) [83 pages]
181. The Bamboo Blonde by Dorothy B. Hughes (12/31/13) [251 pages]

The Bamboo Blonde: Mini-Review

...he was never afraid, not even when he should be.  That was why he got involved in things; not scrapes that you could laugh at later, but serious trouble where death whispered, and which you tried never to remember after. (p. 17)

If I hadn't been determined that Dorothy B. Hughes's The Bamboo Blonde was going to be my last read of 2013 (and the last book needed for my final challenge of 2013), I would have given up on it. It is a fairly unsatisfying, semi-hard-boiled mystery involving fifth columnists and self-centered murderers.  The whole story is told from the viewpoint of Griselda Satterlee who has just remarried her beloved Con.  She's been promised a proper second honeymoon--joyous and romantic.  What she gets is a visit to the Navy town of Long Beach and the fist thing Con does is pick up a drunken blonde at the Bamboo bar (thus the title).  The blonde winds up dead.  Con winds up suspect number one.  There are several more deaths, a mysterious major, ties to the navy, secrets about radio transmissions, and a great deal of rather boring descriptions to go along with it.   And I don't care for the way Con treats his wife.  Yes, the book was written in the '40s.  But we've got Dare Crandall portrayed as an intelligent, strong woman...why in the world does Griselda have to be portrayed as such a ditzy blonde with thoughts like "Con would die never knowing that her love for him was great enough to permit without question ever again  his vagaries. He would never know that Dare's doorkey wasn't important if she herself might only have a small share of him." Please. Spare me.  And the mystery behind all this isn't enough to make up for Con's ditzy wife who just wants "a small share of him."  It didn't take long at all to spot the murderer.  

The best I can say of the book is...it allowed me to Outdo Myself and...more importantly it allowed me to finish the last category for my Vintage Mystery Challenge--Blondes in Danger.  Yep.  I finished all 37.  Now to get ready for Vintage Mystery Bingo in 2014!  Two stars.


Tales of the Supernatural: Mini-Review

Tales of the Supernatural by Maura Stanton truly does contain stories about the thin division between the real and the unreal...stories told in poetic form.  These poetic parables offer up a feast for the imagination and Stanton easily slips into various personae as she gives voice to a husband seeking the the spirit of his dead wife; an adult pulled into often all-too-real childish fantasies; a child acting in a play who quite literally becomes the character she portrays; among others.  Reality skitters and moves as Stanton tries to show us how appearances are so often deceiving and there is more going on under the surface than we can imagine.  Lovely imagery in visionary tales.  Four stars.


Braid: Mini-Review

A poem that thinks its way toward itself, a poem 
     beginning with
the letter "a," poem assuming the worst, as
     well as the best that the purpose is lost
         but can be found, that it does not know itself
sufficiently,
     but can, that when it arrives there, trembling.
~from "Braid"

Braid is my second voyage into Roger Mitchell's poetry.  Unfortunately, this collection doesn't resonate with me quite like that first book (The Word for Everything).  Each of the three long poems in this collection start out quite strong (see opening of "Braid" above), but each of them devolve into odd, stream-of-consciousness writing where it seems that anything and everything can pop up into the poem no matter how unrelated to the apparent theme or even the previous image.  Even "For the Moment"--which holds its theme of the transient life of the Morning Warbler better than than the other two manages to bring in odd images of ping pong and tenement rooftops among the moments in nature.

There are some spectacular descriptions and images here, but not enough rhythm and cohesion within the poems to keep me interested.  I found my attention wandering quite often within each of the three poems.  Two stars.

Challenge Goal Complete: A Non-Fiction Adventure

  A Non-Fiction
Adventure

August 10, 2013 - August 10, 2018

hosted by Michelle of The True Book addict
at A Non-Fiction Adventure's blog
Sign- up here
 
Back in August I signed up for the Non-Fiction Adventure.  Since this is a perpetual challenge lasting five years, I set myself the goal of reading at least 10 non-fiction books each year (my years will be the calendar years--not August to August).  It's been quite a push to meet that first goal in 2013, but here I am at near the eleventh hour to post success for 2013!  Here are the books read from August through December:

1. The Mystery Lover's Book of Quotations by Jan Horning (ed) [9/27/13]
2. The Prayer of Jabez by Bruce Wilkerson (10/1/13) 3. The Measure of a Man by Sidney Poitier (10/6/13) 4. Mystery & Crime: NYPL Book of Answers by Jay Pearsall (10/30/13)  5. By a Woman's Hand by Jean Swanson & Dean James (11/2/13)  6. Good-Bye to All That by Robert Graves (11/7/13)
7. Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence: The First Encounter by James L. Christian (ed) [12/26/13]
8. The Wit & Humor of Oscar Wilde by Alvin Redman (ed) [12/29/13
9. The Armchair Detective Book of Lists by Kate Stine (ed) [12/29/13] 
10. Crime & Mystery: The 100 Best Books by H. R. F. Keating (12/31/13)
 
 
Now I just need to cram three books into the rest of the day to complete the Out-do Yourself Challenge and I'll be finished with all the challenges for 2013!
 

Crime & Mystery: The 100 Best Books: Mini-Review

H. R. F. Keating's Crime & Mystery: The One Hunderd Best Books (1987) gives mystery readers his highly authoritative list of the best in crime and mystery fiction to that date.  Is it a subjective list--of course.  Any list of the best of anything is going to be subjective.  But Keating is a well-respected mystery author in his own right as well as a critic for The Times and has a pretty fair knowledge of the genre.  We may quibble over the lack of one of our favorites or the submission of a novel of which we just can't quite see the value, but over-all mystery fans should be pleased with Keating's offerings.  The most useful part of this collection goes beyond the list itself.  Keating gives each selection a two-page synopsis--making the case for its place on the list as well as whetting the appetites of those who have not yet read these books.  I was pleased to see how many of these novels I have already read and how many I would probably include on my own "Best of" list.  A reference book that every mystery lover should want on their shelves.  Four stars.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Armchair Detective Book of Lists: Mini-Review

The Armchair Detective Book of Lists edited by Kate Stine is an incredibly useful and interesting book.  It gives crime fiction readers a place to find the winners of awards given by the Mystery Writers of America, Crime Writers' Association of Great Britain, Crime Writers of Canada, Private Eye Writers of American, International Association  of Crime Writers, Independent Mystery Booksellers Association, Mystery Conventions, and Fan Organizations.  It gives lists of favorite authors and books--chosen by popular mystery authors and experts in the field.  And even though this particular edition is dated (running only through the mid-1990s), it was still fun to see how my favorites stacked up and how many of the award winners I have read (or have waiting in the wings on the TBR stacks).  A good resource--especially for anyone just starting to dip their toes into the mystery waters.  Four stars.

The Wit & Wisdom of Oscar Wilde: Mini-Review

I miss no one so much as I miss Oscar Wilde....I would rather have him back now than almost anyone I have ever met. I have known more heroic souls and some deeper souls; souls more keenly alive to the ideals of duty and generosity; but I have known no more charming, no more quickening, no more delightful spirit.... 
~Frank Harris, Wilde biographer

I love quotes and I love Oscar Wilde.  So what could be better than The Wit & Humor of Oscar Wilde collected and edited by Alan Redman?  Not much.  The book is full to the brim with over 1000 epigrams on everything from "civilized" society to politics and from love to friendship.  The collection presents Wilde's wit and sense of humor at its finest.  Redman has done his research--combing Wilde's plays, poems, fairy tales, and correspondence to produce an exhaustive, completely authenticated work.  There have been many quotes attributed to Wilde that you will not find here for the simple reason that Redman could find no authentic source confirming that Wilde first said them.  A funny and interesting book--just right for the quote-lovers and fans of Wilde alike.  Four stars.


Friday, December 27, 2013

Bout of Books: January Read-a-Thon

It's been a while since I participated in a read-a-thon.  The next edition of Bout of Books is coming in January and I am posting to let our wonderful hosts (and all of you) my intention to join. I'm hoping to use it to jump start my reading in the New Year. Haven't heard of Bout of Books? Looking for a read-a-thon to get your reading year off to a good start? Check out the info from the Bout of Books gals...


The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, January 6th and runs through Sunday, January 12th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure, and the only reading competition is between you and your usual number of books read in a week. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 9.0 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. - From the Bout of Books team
I will put together a more detailed goal post (and list of books) when Bout of Books begins.

Starting Line Post
 

Challenge Complete: Monthly Mix-Up Mania

I was beginning to worry that I wasn't going to finish the Monthly Mix-up Mania Challenge this year as planned.  Not that I had to, mind you.  I mean it was set up to run from 2013-15.  But the last time I participated I managed to finish it off in a year and I was determined to do it again.  Just barely...four days to spare.

Here's a brief run-down of the basic rules I had to follow.

What: To read a book for each letter in the year. That's right, a title for the J in January and the A in January, etc.... 74 books total!

Official Start date: April 1, 2013, because we're fools to try this but any book read since 1-1-11 that you didn't already use for the 2011-2013 edition counts ;)

End date: March 31, 2015, yes, two years, because well, we have other challenges to do ;)

And here's a list of the books read:


J: Jack on the Gallows Tree by Leo Bruce (6/26/13)
A: Aaron's Serpent by Emily Thorn (2/22/13)
N: A Dark & Stormy Night by Jeanne M. Dams (1/4/13)
U: Unhappy Hooligan by Stuart Palmer (3/24/13)
A: The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton (8/6/13)
R: The Riddle of the Sands by Erskine Childers (6/12/13)
Y: TheYellow Violet by Frances Crane (9/30/13)

F: The Monster of Florence by Magdalen Nabb (8/17/13)
E: The Evil That Men Do by Jeanne M. Dams (1/11/13)
B: Sherlock Holmes: His Last Bow by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (2/25/13)
R: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (2/24/13)
U: Hammett Unwritten by Owen Fitzstephen (Gordon McAlpine) [3/30/13]
A: Andersen's Fairy Tales by Hans Christian Andersen (8/20/13)
R: A Perfect Red by Amy Greenfield Butler (3/22/13)
Y: If You Ask Me (And of Course You Won't) by Betty White (7/19/13)

M: The Mummy Case Mystery by Dermot Morrah (7/3/12)
A: Death in the Air  (aka Death in the Clouds) by Agatha Christie (8/5/13)
R: The Quiet Road to Death by Sheila Radley (12/8/13)
C: 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff (3/20/13)
H: Holiday Homicide by Rufus King (4/23/13)

A: A Private History of Awe by Scott Sanders (4/27/13)
P: The Chinese Parrot by Earl Derr Biggers (6/18/13)
R: The Patient in Room 18 by Mignon G. Eberhart (11/20/13)
I: Inland Passage by George Harmon Coxe (5/2/13)
L: Four Lost Ladies by Stuart Palmer (1/23/13)

M: The Mystery of Hunting's End by Mignon Eberhart (3/29/13)
A: Age of Desire by Jennie Fields (8/14/13)
Y: Murder Your Darlings by J.J. Murphy (12/4/13)

J: The Prayer of Jabez by Bruce Wilkinson
U: The Man Who Went Up in Smoke by Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö (1/8/13)
N: The Case of the Negligent Nymph by Erle Stanley Gardner (1/24/13)
E: Choice of Evils by E. X. Ferrars (5/4/13)

J: The Corpse of St. James's by Jeanne M. Dams (1/13/12)
U: Unthinkable by Richard Cibrano (10/12/13)
L: The Long Farewell by Michael Innes (8/4/13)
Y: Thank You, Jeeves by P. G. Wodehouse

A: Sally's in the Alley by Norbert Davis (3/25/13)
U: Unnatural Habits by Kerry Greenwood (2/11/13)
G: Death Has Green Fingers by Lionel Black (4/30/13)
U: Once Upon a Crime by M. D. Lake (10/28/13)
S: The Silence of Herondale by Joan Aiken (4/21/13)
T: Mystery Train by David Wojahn (6/28/13)

S: Slippage by Harlan Ellison (1/19/13)
E: The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes (6/7/13)
P: London Particular by Christianna Brand (7/22/13)
T: Tragedy at Law by Cyril Hare (6/21/13)
E: Evidence of Things Seen by Elizabeth Daly (11/12/13)
M: Murder on Safari by Elspeth Huxley (6/8/13)
B: Break Any Woman Down by Dana Johnson (6/17/13)
E: Man in the Empty Suit by Sean Ferrell (2/15/13)
R:  Rules of Murder by Julianna Deering (8/31/13)

O: Dead Old by Maureen Carter (7/22/13)
C: The Cavalier's Cup by Carter Dickson (Carr) [2/5/13]
T: The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey N. Niffenger (7/10/13)
O: The World's Best One Hundred (100) Short Stories III: Mystery by Grant Overton (ed) [2/24/13]
B: A Bullet at the Ballet by Caryl Brahms & S. J. Simon (8/28/13)
E: Wycliffe & the Guilt Edged Alibi by W. J. Burley (12/21/13)
R: The Water Room by Christopher Fowler (10/25/13)

N: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (7/16/13)
O: Zuma Blue & Other Stories by Alastair Reynolds (2/3/13)
V: The Vicar of Wakefield by Oliver Goldsmith (3/6/13)
E: Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence: The First Encounter by James L. Christian (12/26/13)
M: Malcolm Sage: Detective by Herbert Jenkins (9/8/13)
B: Death & the Gentle Bull by Frances & Richard Lockridge (6/29/13)
E: The End of the Alphabet by C. S. Richardson (9/10/13)
R: Ransom Game by John Buxton Hilton (12/23/13)

D: The White Dragon by Anne McCaffrey (1/13/12)
E: Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne (11/27/13)
C: The Curse of the Bronze Lamp by Carter Dickson (Carr) [5/27/13]
E: Cold Earth by Sarah Moss (10/18/13)
M: The Lady in the Morgue by Jonathan Latimer (3/10/13)
B: Murder & Blueberry Pie by Frances & Richard Lockridge (9/3/13)
E: The Big Eye by Max Ehrlich (12/27/13)
R: Elephants Can Remember by Agatha Christie (9/6/13)

The Big Eye: Review

We scientists have been responsible for many of the world's ills for a longtime. We've failed to understand that science moves fast, it is revolutionary, while the human mind is slow, evolutionary. As a result, we have a gap of thousands of years between scientific achievement and the human capacity to use it wisely. ~Dr. Dawson (p. 144)

The Big Eye was written by Max Ehrlich in 1949 about the future...the near-future of 1960.  In Ehrlich's vision, mankind has learned very little from the two world wars of its recent past--even less than we who have survived the '60s (and '70s and '80s and...).  The Cold War has resulted in everyone having a piece of the atomic action and Russia and the United States are playing a nervous game to see who will drop the bomb first.  It isn't a matter of "if," but "when."  

Dr. David Hughes is a young astronomer sent by his boss Dr. Dawson to meet with the top US officials in an effort to determine if it is in the nation's best interest to be the first to launch the attack.  At the last minute, Hughes is called to return to the Palomar Observatory where Dawson has made a discovery that will change everything.  The days of the Earth are numbered.  A rogue planet, "Planet Y" is speeding through the galaxy on a collision course with Earth.  A collision that will take place in exactly two years on Christmas day 1963.  Dawson has gathered the world's astronomer's to verify his calculations and they make the terrifying announcement to the people of Earth.

In the wake of the horrible news, David finds some happiness with the woman he loves; and, ironically, the world is able to settle its differences creating a world at peace with the problems of war, hunger, and even cancer solved in the shadow of doomsday.  When Christmas 1963 comes, David and Carol go out into the open (along with most of the citizens of Earth) to face The Big Eye (as Planet Y has been named) and meet their doom.  What happens next is not a miracle, but a very believable twist that brings the story to a very satisfying conclusion.

This was a decent look at what a writer who has just been through World War II saw as the near-future of the 1960s.  The basic story line was interesting and believable--although the viewpoint is old-fashioned and somewhat preachy (particularly as viewed from the 21st Century).  I like the idea that mankind when faced with a common threat might actually pull itself together and look beyond our petty fears and disagreements--it would be nice if we could that act together without a catastrophic event looming over us..... Three and a half stars.

*Since the story begins and ends on Christmas, I'm totally counting this for the Christmas Spirit Challenge as well as others.  
 


Thursday, December 26, 2013

Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence: The First Encounter--Review

Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence: The First Encounter is a collection of articles and essays edited by James L. Christian and published in 1976.  The articles were drafted in the shadow of the lunar landings and while the preparations for the Viking mission to Mars were well under way.  People had long looked up at the sky at night and wondered what was out there--but now astronauts were making the first steps into space to find out.  So, of course, speculation on what kind of life might exist on other worlds began to grow...particularly speculation about the possibility of intelligent life.  These articles from eminent scientists and science fiction writers (and some, like Isaac Asimov, who were both) consider what the discover of intelligent interstellar life might mean to the human race--in philosophy and in practice; to our thoughts on religion and science.  We even have a word from one of science fiction's favorite aliens--Mr. Spock of Vulcan.

Some of these essays are quite good and interesting--those by Asimov, Ray Bradbury, James L Christian, Kendrick Frazier, and Michael Tooley are all thought-provoking and written in terms that a layperson can understand.  The "conversation" between Leonard Nimoy and his alter-ego Mr. Spock is charming and allows questions about interaction with aliens to be addressed in an entertaining way.  The rest of the book goes quite over my head--lots of detailed scientific discussion about the probability of life-supporting planets and how many of those might generate intelligent life and the odds of that life trying to contact us (or sitting out there listening to our efforts to contact them)...it all makes my head spin.  And, of course, this bit of non-fiction from 1976 is sadly out of date and out of touch.  Unfortunately, our space program hasn't really progressed in the ways predicted by the scientists and science fiction writers of the '70s.  We're not colonizing space; we're not making great efforts to explore much further than our backyard in the solar system.   And if there are intelligent civilizations out there...I wouldn't be surprised if they have marked our planet as the insane asylum of the galaxy.  We seem rather intent on doing ourselves in--if not through wars, then through pollution or disastrous climate or environmental effects.  Why would they want to get in touch with those crazy Terrans?

An interesting read--if only for Asimov, Bradbury, and Nimoy--but not quite the stuff that three star books are made of.  Two and a half stars.