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SusannaG

SusannaG - Confessions of a Crazy Cat Lady

Just another GR refugee.  Other than that, I had a stroke in 2004, and read almost anything I can get my hands on, though I have a particular weakness for history, mystery, and historical fiction.

Currently reading

The Hanover Square Affair
Ashley Gardner
Progress: 10 %
Medieval Tastes: Food, Cooking, and the Table (Arts and Traditions of the Table: Perspectives on Culinary History)
Beth Archer Brombert, Massimo Montanari
Progress: 10 %
Scars of Independence: America's Violent Birth
Holger Hoock
Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind
Yuval Noah Harari Dr
Progress: 9 %
Elizabeth: The Forgotten Years
John Guy
Progress: 20/512 pages
Lady Cop Makes Trouble
Amy Stewart
The Hundred Years War, Volume 1: Trial by Battle
Jonathan Sumption
Progress: 166/586 pages
King Solomon's Mines
H. Rider Haggard
Progress: 4 %
Queen's Gambit: A Novel
Elizabeth Fremantle
Progress: 22 %
1913: The Eve of War
Paul Ham
Progress: 20 %

Halloween Bingo Update 4: Marked in Flesh

Marked In Flesh - Anne Bishop

Marked in Flesh, like the rest of the books in this series, has plentiful supernatural characters, but several of the most important are werewolves.

 

 

And that's the square I'm using it for.  (Would also qualify for Supernatural, Vampires, or Monsters.)

 

 

 

Called and Read:

 

Werewolves: Marked in Flesh, by Anne Bishop

Locked Room Mystery: The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, by Agatha Christie

Ghost: The Canterville Ghost, by Oscar Wilde

 

Read, but Uncalled:

 

Supernatural: Murder of Crows, by Anne Bishop

 

Called, but Unread:

 

Genre: Horror

Murder Most Foul

In the Dark, Dark Woods

Witches

Cozy Mystery

Halloween Bingo Update 3: Murder of Crows

Murder of Crows - Anne Bishop

I really wanted to read this series, and unfortunately it seems my library has roughly every other book in a format I can use.  So I started with the second book, Murder of Crows, but I don't think I had too much trouble figuring out what was going on.

 

Back in the winter, in Written in Red, Meg Corbyn (alias cs759) fled the compound where she, along with many other girls, was held captive, and the man known as the Controller, who ran it.  Meg fled on a wild course evading her pursuers, and ended up in the city of Lakehaven, and took the only job she could find - Human Liaison at the city's diplomatic Courtyard.  (Humans are not the dominant predators of this universe's Earth; the terra indigenes are.  Our folklore refers to some of them as vampires and werewolves.  Some of them are much scarier.)

 

As it turned out, this was the best thing she could have done.  For Meg was no normal human - she was a cassandra sangue - a blood prophet.  And the terra indigenes were the only ones who might be able to keep her safe.

 

 

I read this for Supernatural, but it would also qualify for Monsters, Vampires, or Werewolves.

 

Called and Read:

 

Locked Room Mystery: The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, by Agatha Christie

Ghost: The Canterville Ghost, by Oscar Wilde

 

Read, but Uncalled:

 

Supernatural: Murder of Crows, by Anne Bishop

 

Called, but Unread:

 

Werewolves

Genre: Horror

Murder Most Foul

In the Dark, Dark Woods

Witches

Cozy Mystery

Halloween Bingo Update 2: The Murder of Roger Ackroyd

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd - Agatha Christie

OK, let me write this a second time, and we'll just hope it doesn't get eaten this time!

 

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd is one of Agatha Christie's best constructed mysteries.  It came out in 1926, and is undoubtedly her best mystery of the 1920s.  This is technically a re-read for me, but it's been at least 35 years, so the read was not exactly "fresh."  I did, however, remember the twist, but that allowed me to admire the skill of the construction.

 

Our narrator, one Dr. Sheppard, opens our story by discovering that one of his patients has almost certainly committed suicide by an overdose of sleeping pills.

 

He then attends dinner at the home of the richest man in the village, Roger Ackroyd, and the two have drinks alone after dinner, in Ackroyd's study.  Here he learns that she did indeed commit suicide - she was driven to it by the increasing demands of a blackmailer.

 

After Dr. Sheppard returns home that evening, he receives a strange phone call, and hurries back to Ackroyd's house, where they find Ackroyd has been murdered.  But everyone at the house has an alibi!  The police are baffled, and Dr. Sheppard's new neighbor is called in to consult.

 

Who is his neighbor?  Hercule Poirot. 

 

 

I read this to fill in "Locked Room Mystery" (which it most certainly is), but it would also work for Murder Most Foul, Terrifying Women, or Country House Murder.  (ETA: Also Terror in a Small Town or Amateur Sleuth.)

 

 

Called and Read:

 

Locked Room Mystery: The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, by Agatha Christie.

Ghost: The Canterville Ghost, by Oscar Wilde.

The Sun and the Moon

The Sun and the Moon: The Remarkable True Account of Hoaxers, Showmen, Dueling Journalists, and Lunar Man-Bats in Nineteenth-Century New York - Matthew Goodman

One morning in the late summer of 1835, New Yorkers woke up to read in the newspaper that the eminent British astronomer Sir John Herschel was in Capetown, in southern Africa, where he had invented a new type of telescope.  He had turned it to look at the moon, and made great discoveries; the moon possessed lakes and volcanoes, bipedal beavers, and man-bats worshiping at temples, among other wonders.

 

This was, of course, a hoax, but almost everyone in New York, and then a great many people in the United States generally, and many in Europe, believed it.  (Hershel complained in a letter to his Aunt Caroline that he had to answer letters in four languages asking about his great discoveries on the moon - he was quite apparently very fed up.)

 

The great hoax was the brain child of the New York Sun, the first "penny newspaper," which started publication in 1834.  Prior to that time, all of New York's papers cost six pennies a copy, and were aimed at the wealthier members of society, focusing their news on shipping reports and the stock market.  None of them had anything so ungenteel as a crime beat or police court reporters.  And none of them had a huge circulation.

 

And then there came The Sun.  It cost only a penny, which the vast majority of the city's population could afford to buy.  It was flacked by newsboys at every corner (something no established paper did).  And it already had a large circulation by the middle of 1835, buoyed by its innovation of crime reporting, and its coverage of the spectacular murder trial of a local religious guru, "Father Matthias."  It almost immediately started acquiring competitors, most notably James Gordon Bennett's New York Herald.

 

Bennett was one of the few in the city who immediately smelled a hoax.  The others seemed to be Edgar Allan Poe, who thought the Sun had ripped off one of his stories (and he was most indignant about it), and P.T. Barnum, who knew a good con when he saw one.  But few others smelled a rat, and The Sun soared in popularity to become the most read newspaper - certainly in the US, and probably on the planet.

 

The ironic thing is that Herschel was indeed at Capetown at the time - though he had not invented a new type of telescope, and was looking at pretty much everything except the moon!

Halloween Bingo Update 1: The Canterville Ghost

The Canterville Ghost - Oscar Wilde, Inga Moore

The Canterville Ghost is a charming novella by Oscar Wilde, dating, I believe, to about 1887.  The American Minister to the Court of St. James rents the country house of the Canterville family, despite being informed that it's haunted by a dire ghost, because he doesn't believe in ghosts.  Also he figures his incorrigible twin boys (known generally as "Stars and Stripes") will be more than a match for it, if it even exists. 

 

There is indeed a ghost - Sir Simon de Canterville, who has been a successful haunt since 1585.  This time, however, his haunting fails, and the only one who is apparently moved is the Americans' daughter, fifteen-year-old Virginia.

 

I may have read The Canterville Ghost many years ago - but then again I may just have seen the movies.  There's a version from 1944, which my mother grew up with, with Robert Young, Margaret O'Brien, and Charles Laughton as the Ghost, but that's not the one I first saw.  That version was one for TV made in the mid-1970s, with David Niven as the Ghost, and it may be the adaptation I've seen that's closest to the novella.  (There are also more modern adaptations, but the only one of those that I have seen is the one from the mid-80s, with Alyssa Milano and John Gielgud as the Ghost.)  There is apparently yet another version "in preparation" now.  With Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie attached.

 

At any rate, this was a charming start to the bingo, and it fulfills the first call: "Ghost."

 

 

Called and Read:

 

Ghost - The Canterville Ghost, by Oscar Wilde. 

 

Coming Soon?

The Big Sleep - Raymond Chandler Glass Houses - Louise Penny The Snake, the Crocodile & the Dog - Elizabeth Peters Heartless - Gail Carriger The Peach Keeper - Sarah Addison Allen Darkly Dreaming Dexter - Jeff Lindsay A Study In Scarlet Women: The Lady Sherlock Series - Sherry Thomas The Murder of Roger Ackroyd - Agatha Christie Copper Beach - Jayne Ann Krentz The Ghost and the Graveyard - Genevieve Jack

Just some possibilities I have in mind.

Off to the Beach

 

So y'all have a great time while I'm gone!  I plan to read (and am packing) a good number of books - we'll see how many I get through.

How to be a Victorian

How to Be a Victorian: A Dawn-to-Dusk Guide to Victorian Life - Ruth Goodman

How to be a Victorian, like Ruth Goodman's How to be a Tudor, which I read in January, is a fine study of a foreign country - in this case the Britain of roughly 150 years ago.

 

It is filled with strange, often horrifying or amusing details. For example, that genteel ladies might want to take exercise, but were deathly afraid of being caught at it.  (Their solution was to either take long walks, with a package under their arm, to suggest *really* being out on a charitable - and thus socially acceptable - errand, or to perform calisthenics, which would not disturb their movable wombs, in fashionable suits in the privacy of their own bedrooms.)  That doctors were not against corsets, but only "tight lacing," which some particularly fashion-obsessed ladies used to reduce their waists to as little as 13 inches.  That a large proportion of the population, most or some of the time, were hungry, and their nutrition was actually made worse by the rise of the Temperance movement.  (The lure of the cities, even of their slums, was that you might eat better than poor in the countryside.  Even if that "better" wasn't very good.)

 

It is also an excellent study of why regulations are a necessary part of society, for the protection of all of us.  We want laws saying we can't be forced by our employers to work 12 or more hours a day.  We want laws mandating safety equipment in factories.  We want laws saying the makers of food and drugs can't lie in advertisements about what's in their products, and sell us watered chalk as milk, and opium as a safe and gentle herbal baby care treatment.  We want laws preventing industrialists from hiring six-year-olds as coal miners.  Because the Victorians had to fight for each and every one of those protections.

 

Let's not forget them, or their achievements.

The Game is (Nearly) Afoot

And I am playing.  And I have a card!

 

 

Some should be no problem, some I have something in mind already (Raymond Chandler, here I come), and some I may never get to (Genre: Horror).  But I plan on having a ton of fun.

NetGalley Find: Rules of Magic

The Rules of Magic - Alice Hoffman

The Rules of Magic is the prequel to Practical Magic.  And it's available for request on NetGalley (US preferred).  I've tossed my hat in the ring; we'll see if I get lucky or not.

The Invention of Nature

The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt's New World - Andrea Wulf

The Invention of Nature is not flawless (for me the weakest chapter was on Humboldt and Thoreau - but I've always thought Thoreau was over-rated), but it is a fascinating read.

 

Because before Carl Sagan's Cosmos, there was Alexander von Humboldt's Kosmos.  (I don't think this is accidental, somehow.)  Humboldt's was even more popular in the 19th century than Sagan's was in the 20th.  Humboldt, in fact, was probably the most famous scientist of his own time - the Einstein of the 19th century.  There was mass mourning when he died at 87, and mass celebrations, across the planet, on the centenary of his birth (September 14, 1869).

 

And today he is mostly forgotten, except in South America.  Though people may wonder why there's a Humboldt Park in Chicago, a Humboldt County in California, and a Humboldt Current in the Pacific, and why many species are Humboldtii.  Who was this Humboldt person, anyway?

 

He was the Energizer Bunny of naturalists.  He never shut up, and most people didn't try to stop the font of knowledge (to quote his great friend, Goethe).  Should they try, if they succeeded for more than a sentence or two, it was a miracle.  He also refused to be stopped by piranhas, crocodiles, erupting volcanoes, great heights (though the very top of Chimborazo finally beat him), outbreaks of anthrax, or anything else. 

 

He made two great expeditions - to South America, in his early thirties, and to Siberia, when he was sixty.  (He longed for the Himalayas, but the British East India Company refused him permission to go.)  He spent all his inherited money on science, and was forced to become a royal chamberlain at the Prussian court, waiting attendance on his king, while he longed for the Himalayas, or, at the very least, Paris.  At night he wrote book after book, for some fifty years.  And he found many readers.

 

A handful of chapters are about not Humboldt himself, but some of the men he inspired.  Simon "Iron Ass" Bolivar.  Charles Darwin.  Henry David Thoreau.  George Perkins Marsh.  Ernst Haeckel.  John Muir.  These chapters are of varying quality, but they show that we have to thank Humboldt, at least in part, for everything from the theory of evolution to Art Nouveau to the Sierra Club.

Some Science Ideas from my Library

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry - Neil deGrasse Tyson Storm in a Teacup: The Physics of Everyday Life - Helen Czerski American Eclipse: A Nation's Epic Race to Catch the Shadow of the Moon and Win the Glory of the World - David Baron Other Minds: The Octopus, the Sea, and the Deep Origins of Consciousness - Peter Godfrey-Smith Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal - Mary Roach The Botany of Desire: A Plant's-Eye View of the World - Michael Pollan Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs: The Astounding Interconnectedness of the Universe - Lisa Randall The Beak of the Finch: A Story of Evolution in Our Time - Jonathan Weiner Darwin's Ghosts: The Secret History of Evolution - Rebecca Stott The Age of Wonder: The Romantic Generation and the Discovery of the Beauty and Terror of Science - Richard Holmes

I know that there's been a suggestion that we read more science together; these are just some books my own library has that I think look interesting.

A Rustle of Silk

Rustle of Silk, A: A new forensic mystery series set in Stuart England (A Gabriel Taverner Mystery) - Alys Clare

A Rustle of Silk is ... OK, I guess.

 

It's 1603, Elizabeth I is dead and England awaits the arrival of their new king, James VI of Scotland, who will be James I of England.  Meanwhile, Gabriel Taverner, a former sailor in the Royal Navy, and now a doctor (he claims to be a physician, but knows more about surgery), is trying to set up a practice in his old home town.  Someone's leaving him vile little "presents" of dead animals on his doorstep, and they don't suspect a cat.

 

And then a man is found dead.  It turns out to be his brother-in-law, a silk merchant.  Was it suicide, or murder?

 

The prose style and characterization were good. 

 

On the other hand, the mystery didn't make much sense at a certain level, and we had a villain with talking disease.  (No cat in his lap this time, though!)  Taverner seemingly can't decide if he's a physician or a surgeon, which were two very different jobs in the period, performed by different people of different experiences and social ranks.  (A physician learned his craft at a university, and observed clients and made prescriptions.  He might inspect their urine, but physical interaction with patients' bodies was usually limited to bleeding them due to an "inbalance in the humors."  A surgeon, on the other hand, was of a lower class in society, did not need to go to a university, and had the practical experience of removing limbs, with more or less success.  Physicians were far more respected than surgeons, who often did double duty as barbers.)

 

Also, the occasional word choice struck me as non-period ("opportunist" would not be in use for some 200 or 250 years after this is set), and in the understandable desire to avoid info dumping, Clare has Taverner unaware of some things he really should have known, despite having been 15 years at sea.  (In particular, that suicides could not receive a decent Christian burial in a churchyard.)

 

I might read another in the series, but I doubt I'd go out looking for one in particular.

Calamity in Kent

Calamity in Kent - John  Rowland

Calamity in Kent, though published in 1950, has the feel of a novel published in 1930.  (Therefore the offhand mentions of the Black Market and rationing felt a little strange.  But they're very accurate for 1950 Britain.)

 

I just couldn't like this one very much.  I think in part because I never really took a liking to our narrator, a journalist.  And in part because this novel's plot is very much "Scotland Yard Inspector decides his journalist friend, Jimmy, is the best choice to investigate weird locked-room murder, and lets him go to it."  Which is the epitome of "not believable."

 

This one has not aged well.

U.S. Kindle Sale: Miscellaneous

The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club - Dorothy L. Sayers The Golden Compass - Philip Pullman All Creatures Great and Small, All Things Bright and Beautiful, and All Things Wise and Wonderful: Three James Herriot Classics - James Herriot Jack of Shadows - Roger Zelazny And the Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic - Randy Shilts, William Greider Silent Spring - Rachel Carson, Linda Lear, Edward O. Wilson Cheaper by the Dozen - Frank B. Gilbreth Jr., Ernestine Gilbreth Carey

Currently $1.99: The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club, by Dorothy L. Sayers.  The Golden Compass (aka Northern Lights), The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass, by Phillip Pullman.  Jack of Shadows, by Roger Zelazny.  Cheaper by the Dozen, by Frank Gilbreth and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey.

 

Currently $2.99: Three James Herriot Classics (All Creatures Great and Small, All Things Bright and Beautiful, and All Things Wise and Wonderful), by James Herriot.  Brideshead Revisited, by Evelyn Waugh.

 

Currently $3.99: And the Band Played On, by Randy Shilts.  Silent Spring, by Rachel Carson.

The Summer Before the War

The Summer Before the War: A Novel - Helen Simonson

It is the summer of 1914, and Beatrice Nash, 23, finds herself in Rye, in Sussex, attempting desperately to get a job as a teacher at the local grammar school.  (As Latin mistress, of all things - very shocking for a female!)  She has fled her late father's family, wealthy but highly controlling, to try to make her own, independent life, and is not finding it easy.  For one thing, she's neither as old or as plain as they were expecting.

 

Down in Rye, she becomes involved in the lives of her sponsor there, Agatha Grange, Agatha's husband, John ("something at the Foreign Office"), and their two nephews, close as sons, Hugh Grange and Daniel Goodham.  Hugh is studying medicine, and Daniel has aspirations as a poet. 

 

When the war does break out, life becomes ever more complicated.  Young men start to join up.  There are panicked runs on food and other goods in the stores.  The mayor's wife is even more impossible than usual.  Young ladies of good breeding but little brain start handing out white feathers to young men not in uniform.  Poor harmless dachshunds are attacked.  And the town does its bit by taking in Belgian refugees.

 

There are four narrators - mostly Beatrice or Hugh, but occasionally also Agatha or "Snout," a boy in the village.  Simonson writes well, so it's not really an issue; it's always easy to tell them apart.

 

This novel is every bit as good as Simonson's first novel, Major Pettigrew's Last Stand, and a good historical novel.  (I don't recall seeing any historical detail that struck me as improbable or just wrong.)  A thoroughly enjoyable read - I dithered between 4 and 4 1/2 stars.