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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

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind
Yuval Noah Harari Dr
Progress: 5 %
Lady Cop Makes Trouble
Amy Stewart
The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt's New World
Andrea Wulf
Progress: 2 %
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 %
The William Shakespeare Detective Agency: The Dark Lady (The William Shakespeare Detective Agency Book 2)
Colin Falconer
Progress: 15 %
Cosmic Quest Cd (Bbc Audio)
Heather Couper
Firedrake's Eye
Patricia Finney
Progress: 15/249 pages

Cotillion

Cotillion - Georgette Heyer

Cotillion, appropriately enough, is a novel about four couples.  (The Cotillion is a period dance, with four couples, and was one of the ancestors of the American "square dance.")

 

Kitty Charing is in a pickle.  Her adoptive father, generally known as "Uncle Matthew," a penny-pinching miser of an old grouch, has decided that he shall leave his fortune to her - if she marries one of his great-nephews.  (I tell you, there really should have been a square for "Cousin Marriage" in the Romance Bingo.)  Otherwise, she will be left penniless, and he will leave his money to charity.

 

So he invites all five of these nephews down for the weekend, so Kitty can make up her mind. Four men attend: her slow-witted cousin Dolph (he is, however, an earl - but "only" an Irish one, and very much under his domineering mother's thumb), another who is a prim and prissy vicar, the vicar's older (and married) brother, George, and Freddy Stanton - a "Pink of the Ton" (read: fashionista) who neither needs Matthew's money, or wants to get married.  The two not attending are the one in the army, and Jack, Matthew's (and Kitty's) favorite, who is more than a bit of a rascal.

 

Dolph and the vicar promptly propose, and Kitty declines them.  She then proposes to Freddy - a fake engagement, and a very real trip to London.  (She has always dreamed of going to London, and her other plan is to make Jack jealous.  So that he will propose to her, of course.)

 

Down in London, she drags Freddy through almost every tourist trap in town, and leads all of the folks she meets, from Freddy's scatter-witted sister to her only living relative, Camille, on a very merry dance.  Luckily for all involved, Kitty has a good heart, and Freddy a lot of common sense.

 

Since this is one of Heyer's regency romances, there are happy endings all round, of course.

U.S. Kindle Sale: Miscellaneous

Still Life - Louise Penny A Fatal Grace - Louise Penny The Body in the Library - Agatha Christie N or M? - Agatha Christie Bare Bones - Kathy Reichs Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell - Susanna Clarke

Currently $1.99: Grant Takes Command, by Bruce Catton.  Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, by Susanna Clarke. Dirk Gently's Detective Agency & The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul (one volume), by Douglas Adams.  The Body in the Library, by Agatha Christie.  Want to read Christie in French?  They have several French editions of her novels, including Murder on the Orient Express and The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, for sale at $1.99 each.

 

Currently $2.99: Still Life and A Fatal Grace, by Louise Penny (the first two books in her Inspector Gamache series).  N or M? by Agatha Christie.  Bare Bones, by Kathy Reichs.

How to be a Tudor

How To Be A Tudor: A Dawn-to-Dusk Guide to Everyday Life - Ruth Goodman

How to be a Tudor is exactly what it is labeled as - a "dawn to dusk guide" to the Tudor era.  It covers some of the same ground as Ian Mortimer's Time Traveler's Guide to Elizabethan England, but discusses much that book does not, and covers a wider timespan, from 1485 to the start of the 17th century.

 

And it is excellent.  We start with getting up in the morning, at cock's crow, which in summer would be about 4 AM, and a discussion about beds, and why Shakespeare leaving his wife the second best bed wasn't an insult.  (Beds were among the most valuable things people owned, probably second only to land, if they owned any.)

 

We then go through the Tudor day, dealing with everything from prayers to meal times (aristocrats were very sniffy about the lower orders starting to eat breakfast), and what people ate.

 

What did people eat?  They ate bread, and they spent far more (proportionally) on food than we do.  Consider what you eat today.  How much of it is made of items not grown in Tudor England (basically anything from the New World, from chocolate to corn)?  Substitute bread.  How much of it is available to you this time of year, in a world without refrigeration?  Substitute bread.

 

That's a lot of bread.

 

As with anything, some of the subjects covered are of more interest to me than others - but a truly comprehensive and fascinating book.  Recommended to anyone interested in the period.

My Reading Habits

1. Do you have a certain place in your home for reading?

 

Yes, mostly I read either in bed, or in my recliner in the den.

 

2. Bookmark or a random piece of paper? 

 

I collect bookmarks, so mostly those.  Though if desperate I will use anything.  (My ereader, of course, doesn't need one.)

 

3. Can you just stop reading, or do you have to stop after a chapter or a certain number of pages?

 

I try to stop at natural breaks, which are often chapter endings, but sometimes not (some chapters are really long, and have text breaks).  And sometimes I fall asleep while still reading, like I did one night last week!  I woke up at 4 AM, with my cheek on the page.

 

4. Do you eat or drink while reading? 

 

Not while reading in bed (no practical place to put anything), but if in the recliner, I usually have a drink at least.  (Diet Coke or iced tea, probably.)

 

5. Do you multitask while reading?

 

No.  I have horrible retention if I try it.

 

6. One book at a time, or several?

 

I am the hippie free love type when it comes to books at a time.  I always have at least two, and it might be a lot more.  I try not to start a new one in the same genre as an old one I have going, though!

 

7.  Where do you read, at home or everywhere?

 

Everywhere.  At home, and in cars, planes, trains, and waiting rooms.

 

8.  Do you read out loud, or silently in your head?

 

Mostly silently in my head, but I find poetry is sometimes very nice read out loud, and some things make more sense that way.  (Some Henry Kissenger I read in college I could only get through by reading it out loud.  In a Henry Kissenger accent.)  My Shakespeare professor recommended reading the plays out loud, and that helps, too.

 

9. Do you read ahead or skip pages?

 

I don't skip pages (unless it's a reread, perhaps), but I sometimes read ahead.  Instead of skip pages, I will probably just skim very lightly.  (Sometimes very lightly indeed.)

 

10. Do you break the spine?

 

Depends on the book.  I treat used secondhand mass market paperbacks a lot more casually than a hardback I got for Christmas.

 

11. Do you write in your books?

 

Not in paper ones.  I occasionally leave notes in ebooks.

Sunday Soup: Chicken Tortilla Soup

— feeling hungry

We make this one in the slow cooker, generally using leftover roast chicken.  But you can also make it in a soup pot on the stove.

 

1 or 2 chicken breasts, or 6-8 oz of chicken, or a leftover chicken carcass with some meat still on it

30 oz., or 2 of the smaller cans, of tomatoes, preferably with chili peppers added - we used our own tomatoes, frozen from this summer (we're having a tomato bonanza this year, and still have several hundred tomatoes on the vine)

 a can of enchilada sauce, or a jar of salsa, or salsa verde

2 cups frozen corn

2 cans of black beans, drained and rinsed

1 onion, chopped

2 cloves of garlic, minced

2 cups chicken broth

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder

1 1/2 teaspoons oregano

3 corn tortillas, roughly torn or chopped into approximate 1-inch pieces

 

garnishes

the juice of a couple of limes

parsley (we hate cilantro - use it if you like it)

sour cream

 

serve with

warmed whole tortillas

 

In the slow cooker, you can either put in everything except the garnishes and cook on high for 4-6 hours, or low for 8-10.  (We usually do high for about 4ish hours.)  At the end you'll want to remove the chicken, shred the chicken with a fork, and put the shreds back in.  Serve with whatever garnishes you like (I'm partial to lime and sour cream), and warm tortillas, to eat like bread, with it. 

 

We made this last night, using the carcass of a chicken we had roasted earlier this week.  Delicious.  We still have plenty of leftovers.

Edward III: the Perfect King

Edward III: The Perfect King - Ian Mortimer

Ian Mortimer believes, not that Edward III was actually a "perfect king," but that he was striving towards it - that it was one of his goals in life to live up to the great prophecies made at his birth in 1312. 

 

Edward III was the grandson of Edward I, "Hammer of the Scots," and the son of Edward II, a weak king, and Isabella of France, daughter of Philip IV "the Fair."  (The latter epithet relates to Philip's hair color, not his personality; he was a tough king, and sometimes a very cruel one.)  Isabella would be the only one of Philip's four children (he also had three sons) to produce male children who would live to adulthood, which would result in great tragedy for France for the next hundred years.

 

Few English kings can have come to the throne in a more perilous situation - he was a boy of fourteen, and the puppet of his mother and particularly of her lover, the ambitious Roger Mortimer, Earl of March.  For diplomatic reasons he was almost immediately married to the twelve-year-old Phillipa of Hainault (a principality in what is now Belgium).  He had few friends, and little time not monitored by either Isabella or Mortimer.  He was told, and spread the news far and wide, that his father, Edward II, died of grief in September of that year, while in confinement at Berkeley Castle.

 

At seventeen, in 1330, already a father, and aware of how precarious his situation was, he took an enormous chance, and personally overthrew Mortimer in the middle of the night, while they were staying at Nottingham Castle. He would rule alone for the rest of his life, which would be long (he died only in 1376).

 

However, Mortimer argues, Edward III already knew that he had been lied to in 1327, and that his father still lived.  It's a really interesting argument, and I think he has pretty good evidence.  (Mortimer has a fairly long article on his webpage laying out the general lines of his argument: http://www.ianmortimer.com/EdwardII/death.htm .)

 

Edward III's future prowess as a warrior king is legendary - he would lead the English to victories over the Scots, at Halidon Hill, and the French, at Crecy, Poitiers, and Sluys (the great naval battle of the Hundred Years' War).  What may be less famous is his attention to, and building up of, the English Parliament, his great building projects (he had hot and cold running water in his bathroom!), or his fascination with the new inventions and machinery, such as clocks.  (There's also an interesting bit about Edward III as a model for Arthur in medieval romances.)

 

It may have taken me a year to finish, but I kept getting distracted.  I blame you lot, as I keep thinking "well, that book looks interesting..."

Hunting Shadows

Hunting Shadows - Charles Todd

Hunting Shadows is one of Charles Todd's Ian Rutledge mysteries - Rutledge returned from the Western Front to his pre-war job at Scotland Yard in 1919 with a secret - he suffers not only from shell shock and claustrophobia (from being buried alive), but also has a dead Scot named "Hamish" living in his head.

 

By this point in the series it is the summer of 1920, and there have been two murders in the fen country of Cambridgeshire which mystify the local authorities, and they have called in Scotland Yard.  First a guest at a society wedding in the medieval cathedral town of Ely was killed by a rifle shot, and then a solicitor standing for office was murdered, in the same fashion, while making a campaign speech in his rural constituency.  There was a witness to the second crime, but after the local constable and her neighbors mocked her account of seeing a "monster," she has clammed up completely.

 

Scotland Yard sends in Inspector Rutledge, who finds he must discover the facts of past events to find the truth of those in the present.  And it's like finding a needle in a haystack, or "hunting shadows" in a fen country fog.

 

I found this mystery well constructed, and the setting, reminiscent of Dorothy Sellers' Nine Taylors, well done.  However, the cover, though getting the suggestion of fog right, suggests a "pea-souper" in London, rather than the actual rural and small-town setting that makes up the majority of the book.

Well, I've Voted

I am just back from voting.  The line was incredible - my mother, who has voted every election since 1960, says it was the longest voting line she's ever been in.  (A food truck could have made a fortune.  Where were you, Henry's Hog Crawler, with the barbecue?)  We were in line over an hour (I figure we were in line about an hour and ten or fifteen minutes) - the lady in front of us said she came out with her husband to (try to) vote when the polls opened at 7 AM, and they were at least that long then.

 

I can't even imagine what the line will look like in the evening rush, about 6 o'clock this evening!

 

And we were lucky - I've already heard tales of people waiting more than 2 hours to vote in Charlotte, NC.

 

I shall be interested to see what the local, state, and national turnout levels are this time.

On Basilisk Station

On Basilisk Station - David Weber

On Basilisk Station is the first Honor Harrington novel (which is a very long-running series at this point, I believe), and is an example of that species of science fiction generally known as "space opera."

 

It's also clearly modeled on the Horatio Hornblower stories (the author's note thanks C.S. Forester, so I doubt I'm imaging things).  Only instead of the tale of the rise of a plucky cabin boy during the Napoleonic wars, our heroine is a female starship captain from "the Star Kingdom of Manticore," not yet at war with another realm, "The People's Republic of Haven," who are clearly up to no good.  Honor's gotten her ship's armament butchered by a theorist at the Royal Navy, and despite being a tactical genius, her failure to make the new system work in war games has resulted in her getting a punishment stationing in the Basilisk system.  There she finds natives like praying mantises, drug addiction, a massive amount of smuggling, and possible espionage by Haven.

 

There is a slight tendency to infodump (possibly due to being a "first in series").  Honor reminds me of some romance heroines in that she doesn't think she's pretty, but everyone else seems to.  (Not that there is any romance in this novel.)

 

On the whole I prefer Horatio Hornblower, but it was an easy read, it kept me reasonably entertained, and it was free.  (As is the second volume, The Honor of the Queen, which I'm reading currently.   Both were free for kindle in the US, found while I was roaming the free section at Amazon.)

The India Fan

The India Fan - Victoria Holt

The India Fan, one of Victoria Holt's novels, is certainly the "gothic" she's famous for - it is the tale of Drusilla Dantry, the rector's daughter, and how her life, from the age of two, has been entwined with that of the local gentry family, the Fannings.  The son of the family, Fabian, "kidnaps" her when he is seven and she is two, while his younger sister, Lucilla, is her childhood playmate. 

 

Fabian, when he is home, lords it over them all, and as a result, Drusilla comes into contact with certain features of "The House," such as it's east wing, haunted by a nun, it's west wing, the home of a mad Fanning relative, and a fine peacock fan, unfortunately cursed, owned by the latter.

 

Their lives intertwine for at least twenty years, from the 1840s onward - Lucilla is a great beauty, while Drusilla, we are told, is plain but sensible, but they are sent to school together, and as a result face scandal, blackmail, and other menaces together.

 

Things come to a head in the homeland of that cursed peacock fan - India.  In the late 1850s.  Rebellion is thick in the air, and they are all caught up by what we today would call the Great Indian Mutiny.

 

This was an enjoyable enough read.  Though I find it curious that Drusilla, whom we are repeatedly told is plain (perhaps as many times as we are told Fabian "kidnapped" her), seems to attract plenty of male attention, some of it more savory than others of it.

Halloween Book Bingo Update - 12 Read AND FINALLY A BINGO

I have just read The India Fan, by Victoria Holt, which I am using for the Gothic square.  And that is a bingo, straight across the middle row!

 

 

So my spaces/books read are (Bingo marked with an asterisk):

 

Read by Candlelight/Flashlight: Survivor in Death, by J.D. Robb - another in Robb's long-running mystery romance series set in c.2060 New York City.  I think this is #20.  It's only about halfway through the series now, I believe.

Witches: Wyrd Sisters, by Terry Pratchett - second book in the "Witches" subseries of Discworld.  Hamlet and MacBeth had a baby, and it's a comedy.

Scary Women (Authors): A Great Reckoning, by Louise Penny - 12th in the Armand Gamache mystery novels, which are set in Canada (mostly in the area of Three Pines, Quebec).

Reads with BookLikes Friends: Hound of the Baskervilles, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle - which would also qualify for "genre: mystery" or "fall into a good book."

*Grave or Graveyard: Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman - the charming tale of a boy raised by the residents of a cemetery.

*Genre: Mystery: Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew'd, by Alan Bradley - a Flavia de Luce historical mystery set in the early 1950s, featuring better detection through chemistry.

*Free Space: First Lord's Fury, by Jim Butcher - lots and lots of vord (giant spiders).

*Gothic: The India Fan, by Victoria Holt - featuring the rector's daughter, the son of the local gentry, blackmail, murder, the Indian Mutiny, and a cursed peacock fan.

*Creepy Crawlies: Princeps' Fury, by Jim Butcher - still more vord.

Fall into a Good Book: Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death, by James Runcie - Connected short stories, at least a third of which are set in the autumn.

Full Moon: The Girl Who Chased the Moon, by Sarah Addison Allen - charming tale of second chances in small-town North Carolina.  Would also fit "magical realism."

Vampires vs. Werewolves: The Immortal Who Loved Me, by Lyndsay Sands - cheesy (very cheesy!) paranormal romance about telepathic vampire life mates from Atlantis.

 

I actually got a bingo!

Reading progress update: I've read 15% of Paper and Fire

Paper and Fire: The Great Library - Rachel Caine

So far, Paper and Fire is not as good as the first volume in the series (as often happens to a sequel under such conditions, where the world being built is not as fresh to the reader), but it's still holding my attention.

 

 Reading it was a nice way to spend the afternoon after getting my flu shot, and doing battle with Javascript.  Because after that I continued to feel very frustrated, because I still can't get access to my doctor's office records, because it won't let me log on, because "you don't have Javascript enabled."  (But I do have it installed and up to date!  Both my browser AND Javascript say so, even!  ::grinds teeth::)

 

However, we had takeout from the Pita House (lamb kebabs for the win), and I read some of this, and I no longer wish to impale poor, innocent inanimate objects. 

Halloween Book Bingo Update - 11 Read

I have just finished the historical mystery Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew'd, which I'm using for Genre: Mystery.  I have something on hold at the library for Gothic and a bingo - if only it would come in.

 

 

So my spaces/books read are:

 

Read by Candlelight/Flashlight: Survivor in Death, by J.D. Robb - another in Robb's long-running mystery romance series set in c.2060 New York City.  I think this is #20.  It's only about halfway through the series now, I believe.

Witches: Wyrd Sisters, by Terry Pratchett - second book in the "Witches" subseries of Discworld.  Hamlet and MacBeth had a baby, and it's a comedy.

Scary Women (Authors): A Great Reckoning, by Louise Penny - 12th in the Armand Gamache mystery novels, which are set in Canada (mostly in the area of Three Pines, Quebec).

Reads with BookLikes Friends: Hound of the Baskervilles, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle - which would also qualify for "genre: mystery" or "fall into a good book."

Grave or Graveyard: Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman - the charming tale of a boy raised by the residents of a cemetery.

Genre: Mystery: Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew'd, by Alan Bradley - a Flavia de Luce historical mystery set in the early 1950s, featuring better detection through chemistry.

Free Space: First Lord's Fury, by Jim Butcher - lots and lots of vord (giant spiders).

Creepy Crawlies: Princeps' Fury, by Jim Butcher - still more vord.

Fall into a Good Book: Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death, by James Runcie - Connected short stories, at least a third of which are set in the autumn.

Full Moon: The Girl Who Chased the Moon, by Sarah Addison Allen - charming tale of second chances in small-town North Carolina.  Would also fit "magical realism."

Vampires vs. Werewolves: The Immortal Who Loved Me, by Lyndsay Sands - cheesy (very cheesy!) paranormal romance about telepathic vampire life mates from Atlantis.

Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew'd

Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew'd - Alan Bradley

My ARC courtesy of Random House/Net Galley - much thanks!  My opinions are my own.

 

Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew'd is the eighth Flavia de Luce historical mystery.  In this one, it is near Christmas 1951, and she has returned home to England from her "banishment" in boarding school at Miss Bodycote's in Canada, where instead of her whole family greeting her at Southampton, as she expected, she finds only the old butler/general factotum, Dogger.  Her father is in the hospital with pneumonia; her older sisters, Ophelia and Daphne, and even her annoying younger cousin, Undine, are visiting him.

 

Flavia, aged 12 and still obsessed with chemistry and detection, cheers up quite a bit when, in attempting to deliver a note for the vicar's wife, she finds a corpse instead.  And sees a twitching curtain across the road at the local witch's house.

 

This is a charming series, and I found this a stronger installment than the last - it was good to be back at Buckshaw and Bishop's Lacey.  The mystery was nicely done, too.

 

I'm using this one for the "Genre: Mystery" square.  (It would not qualify for Black Cat, as the cat, and there is one, is not black, alas.)

Halloween Book Bingo Update - 10 Read

I've finished A Great Reckoning, by Louise Penny, which I'm using for Scary Women (Authors).

 

 

So my spaces/books read are:

 

Read by Candlelight/Flashlight: Survivor in Death, by J.D. Robb - another in Robb's long-running mystery romance series set in c.2060 New York City.  I think this is #20.  It's only about halfway through the series now, I believe.

Witches: Wyrd Sisters, by Terry Pratchett - second book in the "Witches" subseries of Discworld.  Hamlet and MacBeth had a baby, and it's a comedy.

Scary Women (Authors): A Great Reckoning, by Louise Penny - 12th in the Armand Gamache mystery novels, which are set in Canada (mostly in the area of Three Pines, Quebec).

Reads with BookLikes Friends: Hound of the Baskervilles, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle - which would also qualify for "genre: mystery" or "fall into a good book."

Grave or Graveyard: Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman - the charming tale of a boy raised by the residents of a cemetery.

Free Space: First Lord's Fury, by Jim Butcher - lots and lots of vord (giant spiders).

Creepy Crawlies: Princeps' Fury, by Jim Butcher - still more vord.

Fall into a Good Book: Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death, by James Runcie - Connected short stories, at least a third of which are set in the autumn.

Full Moon: The Girl Who Chased the Moon, by Sarah Addison Allen - charming tale of second chances in small-town North Carolina.  Would also fit "magical realism."

Vampires vs. Werewolves: The Immortal Who Loved Me, by Lyndsay Sands - cheesy (very cheesy!) paranormal romance about telepathic vampire life mates from Atlantis.

A Great Reckoning

A Great Reckoning - Louise Penny

A Great Reckoning is, I believe the twelfth of Louise Penny's Armand Gamache mystery novels, set in the province of Quebec.  (Crimes often occur in the environs of the strange village of Three Pines, but also in other places, such as the city of Quebec, or Montreal, for example.)

 

In this installment, Armand Gamache has taken a new job as Commandant of the Surete Academy of Quebec, which has become a nest of vipers and corruption.  He's fired quite a lot of the former staff, but has retained the former second-in-command, Serge Leduc, for "special treatment" - as Gamache is sure he's the source of most of the problems - if only he could prove it.  He's brought in, as his own second-in-command, his old number-two, Jean-Guy Beauvoir. Gamache has also hired an old frienemy, Michel Brebeuf, on the theory of "fighting one fire with another."  He's aware this is a highly dangerous strategy, but he keeps his fingers crossed, and his eyes open.

 

At the same time, a strange map has shown up in Three Pines, found in the walls of the bistro when they were renovating it.  Gamache has several cadets research it, to hone their investigative skills.  (One of them has the misfortune to be put up by Ruth Zardo, the drunken poet, and her pet duck, Rosa.)

 

And then a professor is murdered, and everyone at the Academy, but particularly the cadets and Gamache, come under suspicion.

 

I found A Great Reckoning one of the stronger titles in the series.  It also addresses why I think of a song line from the musical of Peter Pan ("It's not on any chart, you can find it in your heart") when I think of Three Pines.  Which, if not for it's murder rate, would be a delightful place to visit.

 

Unfortunately, that is not a moon on the cover (it's a "best-selling author" tag).  At any rate, I've done that square.  I'm using this one for "Scary Women (Authors)."