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31 May 2015

M. R. C. Kasasian's The Mangle Street Murders

Oh, how I loved The Mangle Street Murders! It's the beginning of the story of March Middleton and her guardian, personal detective Sidney Grice.  She's intelligent and thoughtful and spunky. He's intelligent and thoughtless and shrewd (or so he would have you believe ... although he has his moments where he's almost kind and caring). More than once I let out a snort or a hoot or even a sniffle. Audible reactions while reading are almost always good signs of an excellent read.

The story takes place in 1882 London. March has just arrived to live with Grice after the death of her father, a war doctor with whom she worked closely. Shortly after her arrival a woman arrives asking Grice to take on the case of proving her son-in-law, William Ashby, innocent of murdering his wife/her daughter. March becomes involved with the case -- offering to pay Grice's fees on the woman's behalf as she has no funds to do so. Grice is soon certain that Ashby is guilty but March isn't convinced and the two often butt heads over it (and other things -- his vegetarianism, her smoking and drinking, to name but a few). Grice and his colleagues at the police station and morgue are not used to having a strong-willed female around ... and March is not used to being seen as anything but.

She holds her own on several instances although privately there's something that eats away at her. A hint to what that may be occurs early on ... although even at the end of the book I hadn't pieced it all together.

This on-going side mystery for the reader was at the same time one of the highlights AND one of the most frustrating aspects of the book. JUST TELL ME WHAT HAPPENED, ALREADY!!!  Maybe the next in the series will elaborate. Other things I wish for for the series? Grice to get an eye that actually fits. Harriet Fitzpatrick to appear often. Inspector Pound to make a move.

Of course, I have to get through my 20 Books of Summer before I can find out if any of these wishes come true ...

28 May 2015

Abandonment Issues (aka 20 Books of Summer 2015)

I first heard of 746 Books' 20 Books of Summer thanks to Dagny over at Vauquer Boarding House. She has on her list the first in a series -- a book that I had previously read and enjoyed and reviewed ... and then got so distracted by other books and shiny things, I abandoned the series. I've done that a LOT. So for me the 20 books of summer (June 1-September 4) will all be abandoned (or close to) series books.

A few disclaimers and such:

* This ALMOST included 3 series that had been abandoned before even beginning. Things I kept swearing I would get to next .... and then kept pushing aside. But then I thought of other series that actually HAD been abandoned (some for a number of years) and the guilt got to me.

* One of the titles below GoodReads swears I've read before but I don't believe them. That's pretty severe abandonment. If I start it and suddenly remember, I'll just adjust and move on to the next in that same series.

* I count Agatha Christie's novels as one big series since I'm reading them in order so even though The Man in the Brown Suit is the first Race novel, I still count it as part of the abandoned Christie novel series read-fest.

(alphabetical by author's last name, not necessarily in the order they will be read)
  1.  Heather Blake - A Witch Before Dying (Wishcraft #2)
  2. Stephanie Bond - 7 Brides for 7 Bodies (Body Movers #7) DONE
  3. Rhys Bowen - A Royal Pain (Royal Spyness #2) DONE
  4. Gail Carriger - Curtsies & Conspiracies (Finishing School #2) DONE
  5. Deanna Chase - Engaged Off Bourbon Street (Jade Calhoun #3.5) & Angels of Bourbon Street (Jade Calhoun #4) DONE
  6. Agatha Christie - The Man in the Brown Suit (Christie #4/Race #1)
  7. John Connolly - The Infernals (Samuel Johnson #2) DONE
  8. Caroline Dunford - A Death in the Highlands (Euphemia Martin #2)
  9. Carola Dunn - The Winter Garden Mystery (Daisy Dalrymple #2)
  10. Robert Evert - Betrayal in the Highlands (The Riddle in Stone #2) DONE
  11. Jasper Fforde - Lost in a Good Book (Thursday Next #2)
  12. Heather Graham - Sacred Evil (Krewe of Hunters #3)
  13. Charlaine Harris - Shakespeare's Trollop (Lily Bard #4) DONE
  14. Carolyn Hart - Mint Julep Murder (Death on Demand #9) DONE
  15. Carolyn Hart - Ghost In Trouble (Bailey Ruth #3)
  16. Alice Kimberly - The Ghost and the Dead Deb (Haunted Bookshop #2)
  17. Lisa Lutz - Trail of the Spellmans (Spellmans #5)
  18. Charlotte MacLeod - Wrack and Rune (Peter Shandy #3) DONE
  19. Sharyn McCrumb - The Songcatcher (Ballad #6)
  20. Jenn McKinlay - Due Or Die (Library Lover's Mystery #2)

26 May 2015

Teaser Tuesday # 13 - The Mangle Street Murders

I had used this book for this past Friday 56 ... and now that I'm finally getting to read it I get to use it for Teaser Tuesday, too!

The Meme

The Tease

The Book
The Mangle Street Murders by M. R. C. Kasasian

Alex Erickson's Death By Coffee

Books? Coffee? Crazy cats? Murder?

I'm in!

There's a new cozy mystery series in my life and it's Alex Erickson's Bookstore Cafe Mysteries! The first in the series, Death by Coffee, is being released today (here in the US, anyway) and I just finished reading it thanks to receiving an advanced copy from NetGalley. As always, getting the book for free had no influence on my opinion.
Krissy Hancock, daughter of mystery author James Hancock, moves to small town USA where everyone knows everyone to open a bookstore cafe with her best friend. It has pretty much everything you would expect from a fast-reading cozy: the dead guy who probably had it coming and few would miss, the almost instant romantic connection with the local law enforcement, the over-exuberant customer (who happens to be pretty much obsessed with Krissy's father), the love triangles, the gossips, the secrets ... and an amateur sleuth who can't seem to help but stick her nose into the investigation when it's originally thought to be an accidental death. Krissy's always had this problem of wanting to live like a character in one of her father's books -- often getting herself into trouble in the process. This time is no different even in spite of that romantic connection with the local law enforcement.

As I said, it was a fast read. I probably could have finished it in a day or two if I hadn't gotten distracted by that little thing called life over the weekend! It wasn't the most complicated mystery and I found that I was patting myself on the back over figuring a few things out before Krissy had (which, from time to time, is nice). All in all, though, I was extremely pleased and look forward to revisiting Krissy and her new home of Pine Hills when the second book (Death by Tea) is released in November!

22 May 2015

The Friday 56 - The Mangle Street Murders

The past several weeks I've found myself reading ARCs when Friday has rolled around ... and I hate quoting from ARCs since you can never be sure it that's how it'll actually end up once the final edits and such are done. I'm actually reading an ARC now but I've missed Friday 56 so I picked out my next book on my phone (M.R.C Kasasian's The Mangle Street Murders) and went searching for the 56% mark for you!

Oh yeah. The rules for The Friday 56:
* Grab a book, any book. 
* Turn to page 56 or 56% in your eReader (if you have to improvise, that’s okay) 
* Find any sentence, (or few, just don’t spoil it) that grab you. 
* Post it on your blog 
* Share your post over at Freda’s Voice 
* Visit and comment on the other book blogger participants blogs 
* Make sure to post the url to your post, not your blog url; it’s that simple.

And my 56% mark blurb:

I don't even know who she IS yet and I already love her!!!

20 May 2015

Alan Bradley's The Weed That Strings The Hangman's Bag

Back in January I fell in love with Alan Bradley's eleven-year-old character Flavia de Luce. I've put off returning to the series because, well, I don't marathon book series. Bad things happen when I read series books back-to-back ... like I end up reading them all and then I'm left to whimper.

So, I've put it off.

I've had it sitting patiently in my cloud since before I even finished the first and finally decided it was time. I even checked it out of the library because they feel like books that need to be held and read more intimately than an ebook.

From the get-go, The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag was just as I had hoped it would be -- like revisiting an old friend.

Of course, the "I" was Flavia and she wasn't quite dead. She's still incorrigible and imaginative and obsessed with chemistry (especially poisons) and, according to her father, unreliable.

Once again, Flavia ends up helping to solve a murder mystery (well ... two) as only she can. Being eleven and "invisible" does have its advantages, after all, even though her previous exploits have already earned her quite the reputation.

Through it all, we learn more about Flavia and her family and neighbors and meet some new ones along the way. And, of course, she tells us a lot about chemistry. A LOT. It's gotten to the point where I just skim it like I do the steamy scenes in romance novels. Still, even with the skimming I love the tale and the fact that I didn't have it all figured out right away. As much as it sometimes exasperates me to need things figured out for me, the pay-out of reading how Bradley-via-Flavia gets the job done is worth a little exasperation.

Maybe I won't wait four months before reading the third.

19 May 2015

Teaser Tuesday #12

The Meme

The Tease
(Chapter 23 - Page 285)

The Book
The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag by Alan Bradley

(The full review ramble should be posted within the next 24 hours.
I just couldn't resist using it for TT first!)

14 May 2015

Desert Island Books Tag

My dear twitter friend Gill blogs over at The Book Magpie and recently posted Desert Island Books Tag. It sounded like fun so I decided to take a whirl at it!!! (I have every intention of trying to get John to do his own list, as well!)

The rules are easy. You get to pick 8 books, 1 luxury item and 1 record that you would take with you on a desert island to aide in your survival/sanity.

My luxury item was the easiest: John. No way I could survive without my boy!

My album? Not so easy but I'm going with Caedmon's Calls' Chronicles.

And now the hard part. 8 books.
So, I cheat. Kind of.

In no particular order:
1. Poirot : The Perfect Murders by Agatha Christie -- a 4-in-1 collection featuring The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, Murder on the Orient Express, Murder in the Mews & Hercule Poirot's Christmas

2. The Complete Father Brown Mysteries by G. K. Chesterton -- because Father Brown makes me happy. Granted, this is one of the few instances where I prefer the tv version over the written ... but only slightly.

3. How To Survive on a Deserted Island by Tim O'Shei -- because, well, survival. You know?

4. The Rosewood Casket by Sharyn McCrumb -- It's the 4th in the series, but it will always be my favorite because it features my multi-great-grandmother, Nancy Ward.

5. The Annotated Peter Pan (Centennial Edition) by J.M. Barrie -- My mom was absolutely enthralled with all things Pan. I would have definitely purchased this for her had she lived long enough ... but instead I will end up getting it for myself (and John) and would take it with me because it would be almost like taking her. Okay, so not even close ... but in crow-filled spirit, anyway.

6. Leaving Home by Garrison Keillor -- any of the Lake Wobegon collections, actually. I just eeny-meeny-minie-moed and came up with this one.

7. Going Home by Thich Nhat Hanh -- first read in his Living Buddha, Living Christ in college. Loved it & haven't had a chance to read this one yet. I'm thinking being stranded I'd find time!

8. Island of the Sequined Love Nun by Christopher Moore -- because I can't imagine being stranded without some laughs and who better than Moore and which better Moore than one on an island?

11 May 2015

Uprooted by Naomi Novik

Set to be released on May 19th, I had the privilege of getting to read Naomi Novik's Uprooted early thanks to NetGalley. Of course, getting it for free has had no influence on how I feel about this book.
Every ten years the Dragon takes a 17 year old girl from the kingdom bordering the Wood and keeps them for ten years. Now, he isn't an actual dragon but a wizard who works for the king protecting the lands from the Wood. Everyone figures that this year he'll choose to take Kasia because she's beautiful and talented and brave -- all of the things that he typically seems to seek. Instead he chooses her best friend, Agnieszka, who is awkward and clumsy and has, as he puts it, "an unequaled gift for disaster."

Of course, not expecting to be chosen has thrown Agnieszka for a loop and it doesn't help at all that the Dragon is hyper-critical and not very nice about it. He works on teaching her little bits of magic (how to repair a cooking disaster, organize books, magically turn a ruined dress into an uncomfortable gown), calls her useless on a regular basis, and she avoids him as much as possible. Her one solace in the beginning is the fact that a previous girl has left notes hidden here and there with words of encouragement and wisdom.

As it turns out (as if often the case in fairytales), Agnieszka was the chosen one for a very specific reason -- one that exasperates both of them.

There's so much that I probably could say about this book, but won't.

I couldn't possibly do it justice.

It's been an incredible read with strong females and twists and turns and such vivid imagery and gorgeous use of language that one forgets that the setting and spells are all make-believe. It reminded me in some ways of a more grown-up Howl's Moving Castle ... and, of course, I LOVED that. It's still classified "Young Adult" -- though, "Young Adult" with a sex scene ... so if you don't want to deal with that, skip most of Chapter 27.

I'm hoping that this is the first in a series (not that I need another series to lose track of) because it was that delightful.

05 May 2015

The Astrologer's Daughter by Rebecca Lim

Thanks to NetGalley I had the chance to read The Astrologer's Daughter by Rebecca Lim ahead of its US release date of June 9 and I am SO very glad that I did! I started it on the bus in to work Sunday night and finished it shortly after getting off the bus FROM work Monday morning. You know it's really good when I fly through something so quickly!
18 year old Avicenna Crowe is the star of the tale ... which, coincidentally, has a lot to do with stars. She come from a long line of astrologers, you see, who plot charts for people to tell them about their pasts and futures -- even down to when and how they will die. Avicenna has always shunned the family "gift" until her mother disappears and she's left to finish some cases her mom was working on while trying to cope with being without the one person she always counted on. To make matters worse, she's a bit of a social outcast at school thanks to always having her guard up from moving so much (her mother attracted stalkers through her work) and having facial disfigurements due to a house fire when she was young -- the fire that claimed the life of her father. Throughout the book she learns about herself, life, her family, and her gift for astrology. It's part mystery, part coming-of-age, part love story (mostly towards herself), and all wonderful.

03 May 2015

Return to Augie Hobble - Lane Smith

I just finished Return to Augie Hobble Thanks to NetGalley and it was a  spectacular read! I laughed. I cried. I was shocked and amazed. Pretty good for a middle grade book to be able to do that to me!  Most places I've seen puts it at the 8-12 year old audience but I'm not so sure MY super-sensitive almost 9 year old would be able to handle it. Without giving away too much, there's a food allergy-related death and he has too many friends with allergies. Not sure he'd be able to keep reading. Some day,  though,  I'll introduce him to Augie and I'm sure his review will be a lot more stellar!