Crispy Rice and Eggs for Stir

 Lots of reviews going on for this book, Stir - My Broken Brain and the Meals That Brought Me Home, by Jessica Fechtor, and due to it being our current Cook the Books Club selection, I'm joining the crowd, and delighted to do so. It was a book I hadn't thought to really enjoy. As Fechtor herself says:
"When I tell people that I am writing the story of a blocked and broken brain --- and oh, by the way, there will be recipes, too --- I get some strange looks.  Food is not supposed to top the list of things you think about, apparently, when you're recovering from a near-fatal brain explosion."
Surprisingly, to me anyway, it was a terrific read, due to the author's straightforward account, evocative writing, and her ability to keep a sense of perspective, objectivity and (gallows?) humor through a truly horrific time.  All that and the fact that we know she does get better in the end.


Spinach and Mushroom Quiche Served up With Mystery

 I've just finished another of the marvelous Peculiar Crimes Unit novels by Christopher Fowler, The Memory of Blood.  Books like this one are what keep me reading!  Wit, comic relief, craziness, wit, entertaining, outstanding characters, mysteries, wit, you get the idea.  Very well written and yes, witty, original writing.  Plus, the murderer gets caught.  Not too long ago I reviewed another of their adventures, The Water Room.

Arthur Bryant and John May, a partnership of elderly detectives, along with their quirky, team of investigators, form what is known as the Peculiar Crimes Unit, an off-shoot of the Metropolitan Police, of which the affix 'peculiar' originally was meant in the sense of 'particular', in order to handle politically sensitive cases, or those with the possibility of causing panics or general public malaise.

Here, the cast party for a shocking new play ends with an even more shocking murder.  As the daughter of a prominent government official is involved, the case gets referred to the PCU.

The book begins with a prologue of the close-of-play party, (theater folks do enjoy parties) which is completed at the very end, revealing the solve.  And, since food is involved, I'll share with you the opening paragraph:
"Arthur Bryant stood there pretending not to shiver.  He was tightly wrapped in a 1951 Festival of Britain scarf, with a Bloody Mary in one hand and a ketchup-crusted cocktail sausage in the other.  Above his head, a withered yellow corpse hung inside a rusting gibbet iron.
     'Well,' he said, 'this is nice, isn't it?'"


Very Bad Food, Very Funny Book

Stephanie Plum, in this latest novel, Turbo Twenty-Three, by Janet Evanovich, is not eating any better than usual.  She is in fact, the Queen of Fast Foods, an often inept bounty hunter for her cousin Vinnie in Trenton, N.J., and occasional undercover for a security company.  When she does eat good it's her mother's or boyfriend's mother's cooking, or sometimes tasty neighborhood deli take-out, like cannoli and a Jersey hot dog.

Evanovich's Stephanie Plum novels are pretty much all hysterically funny.  The plots, the scrapes she gets into, her goofy sidekick, friends,  family members, co-workers, hot boyfriends, and other assorted characters are so over-the-top, I just laugh my way through the books.  This one is no exception.  Love it, though perhaps you may need a rude, crude and sexy warning.  Keep in mind though that laughter is good medicine. :)

Turbo Twenty-Three involves murder at the local ice cream plant, requiring Stephanie to go undercover on the factory line, on the loading dock and in an ice cream truck.  Among other things.  There is a comment at one point, by her partner: "It's sad to see a broken-down ice cream truck full of bullet holes," Lula said, "What's this country coming to?"  And, on top of all the humor, they actually catch bad guys and help solve mysteries.

One of Stephanie and Lula's favorite stops on the job is their local Cluck-in-a-Bucket, where Plum might get a Hot and Crunchy Clucky Meal and Lula a Supersized Bucket of Cluck with the Works, which includes mashed potatoes and gravy, biscuits, coleslaw, fried okra and an apple turnover.  After ordering, Lula remarked, looking back up at the menu, "I might need some ice cream as a palate cleanser."

Some nights Stephanie's fiance, Joe, will do BBQ.  So, in honor of the grill, I've served up some grilled steak and mash, which I mentioned in an earlier post.  I love that mixed mash and am adding some cassava root to the parsnips, celery root and sweet potato for this batch.  So, despite the post title, this is not bad food.  That is in the book.

You all know how to grill steaks, nothing new here.  I used only a bit of marinade on them, a few tablespoons of shoyu, garlic, a dash of vinegar and a tablespoon of olive oil.

Will share with Beth Fish Reads for her Weekend Cooking event and with the Foodies Read Challenge.


Herb Crusted Rack of Lamb for The Girl in the Glass

The Girl in the Glass, which I've just finished, is the first book by Susan Meissner I've yet read.  But not the last.  I certainly enjoyed her blending of past and present, some history of 16th century Florence and the fabulous art of that city with the lives of her central characters.  Meg has been devastated by the divorce of her parents, and when her beloved grandmother, dies, even more so.  She had been promised a trip to Florence, first by her nonna, whose home city it is, and then by her father. She  kept putting off going by herself, expecting him to take her, always trusting that eventually he would, despite his history of being unreliable.

Meg does finally get there, though not according to plan, to find her dream city all she had expected and more.  Meg is an editor for a publishing house and is able to combine work with the thrill of finally visiting Florence.  She meets a woman, she had corresponded with through the publishing company, who is writing a memoir type travel book, and who hears messages from a long dead Medici princess. Romance is involved as well as some mystery and ultimately, Meg's discovery that what we can imagine is real.

 This blend of fantasy with a character others view as slightly unhinged, is a veer off my usual type of read, so I'm thinking it qualifies as my read for the Monthly Motifs Challenge.  The motif for January being "to read a book with a character (or written by an author) of a race, religion, or sexual orientation other than your own."  As well the slightly quirky character is also Catholic, so different from me in that way.


2017 Library Love Challenge

The goal in this challenge is to support our local libraries and I do love libraries, having used them all my life, most especially our State Library system, here in Hawaii.  Hosted by Bea's Book Nook and Angel's Guilty Pleasures, you can  find out more or sign up, by clicking on either of those host links.  Participants will read a minimum of 12 library (audio or print) books in the year.  Pick your own challenge level.  Library Card on Fire: read 50+ books is my challenge selection.   Though, truth be told, not a tough one.  There should be a category, Book Addicted.  I read way more than 50 in any given year.  Also this will give me an update, in case I've forgotten about one.

 However, not keeping any sort of records, my New Year's resolution was to actually write down all the books read. This is one way of doing it, and I'll be adding to the list here.  I do check out a lot, but don't read them all.  If a book doesn't grab me, there's no need to finish, it goes back in the bag for return.  Which is one of the great things about reading library books.  You only need to read what you enjoy, without feeling guilty about wasting money.

Sometimes I post a recipe inspired by the book, or have a little more in depth review, and will add a link, in that event.  So, without further ado, here are my ongoing reads:

January Reading
1.  Angel Landing, by Alice Hoffman.  Not my favorite of her books, but an enjoyable and absorbing read all the same.  Unique, sympathetic characters, though the motivation of Finn, a major protagonist, was unclear.  I kept wanting someone to ask him, "why did you do it?" We were never told, so just assumed it was a radical reaction to his upbringing.

2.  The Girl in the Glass, by Susan Meissner.  A beautiful story, set partially in 16th century Florence with a Medici princess, but mostly in the present with a young woman who has longed all her life to visit Florence, and how one life impacts the other through another woman she meets there.  I loved the converging stories of  three women,  romance found and the realization that we can be what we imagine.  The importance of imagination balanced by reality.  More posted here.

3.  Mrs. Jeffries & the Silent Knight, by Emily Brightwell.  I do enjoy her Victorian mystery series, of which this is #21. Lightweight, English cozies, but usually with a good plots and enjoyable characters.  The Inspector's housekeeper and staff conspire to help solve his cases, without his being aware of their sleuthing.

 4. Turbo Twenty-Three, by Janet Evanovich.  Another of her hysterically funny Stephanie Plum novels.  Plum is an often inept bounty hunter for her cousin Vinnie in Trenton, N.J.  The whole plot, the scrapes she gets into, her sidekicks, family, co-workers, boyfriends, and assorted other characters are so over-the-top, I just laugh my way through the books, and this is no exception.  Love it, though perhaps it needs a rude, crude and sexy warning.  Further review and food here.

5. The Dark Enquiry, by Deanna Raybourn is in her Lady Julia Grey series.  I keep hoping for Lady Julia to be a bit more pro-active and less dependent upon others for rescue.  After all she knows how to shoot, and has now had boxing lessons.  Let's have a little more initiative if you want to be an investigator with your husband.

6.  The Dark Vineyard, by Martin Walker in his Chief of Police Bruno series.  Another terrific mystery with so much added goodness in terms of the food Bruno prepares, and the wines sampled and described.   Complex characters, with a helping of romance.  I especially like that the hero, Bruno, is one I can admire, with his gardening, hunting, cooking, truffle raising and wine appreciation.

7. Not My Blood, by Barbara Cleverly in her mystery series starring Joe Sandilands, a Scotland Yard detective .  These novels are set in the 1930s, sometimes in England, India or France.  In this book Sandilands must get to the bottom of a number of disappearances in an English boys' boarding school.  Eugenics and euthanasia are issues involved here.

8.  The Thirty-Nine Steps, by John Buchan, is a classic mystery of the old English adventurous spy school, taking place just before the outbreak of WWI..  Our hero, unasked and unprepared, finds himself at the heart of international intrigue, trying to stave off a grave threat to Britain and France, whilst fleeing pursuit from London and through the wilds of the Scottish highlands.

The Memory of Blood, by Christopher Fowler, one of my very favorite authors.  Yes I do have favorites.  He is the author of a series of wacky mysteries, featuring The Peculiar Crimes Unit, an off-shoot of MI5, or something like it, in London.  Starring an eccentric lead duo, entertaining cast of characters, and as with this one, a confounding, seemingly impossible case, they need to be read for full appreciation.  Further review with food here.

10.  Stir, My Broken Brain and the Meals That Brought Me Home, by Jessica Fechtor.  This was a truly excellent book.  Good, evocative writing, humor and so many recipes that I'm looking forward to trying.  My complete review is here.

11.  Jane and the Man of the Cloth, by Stephanie Barron, the second in her Jane Austen Mystery series.  It seemed to drag on a bit, bogged down I think by the language and customs of the time, not brought sufficiently to life.  Not really a very satisfying conclusion either.  Why build up a romance with Jane, when the author knows, and we know it won't go anywhere?

12.  Love Story, with Murders, by Harry Bingham was all right as far as murder mysteries go, and I liked that the heroine was able to hold her own and take down criminals using some martial arts skills (would like to see more like her) though a lot of her life was fairly problematic, due to psychological issues, and smoking weed all the time would certainly not help in the real world with overcoming mental problems. Other characters were well done however.

13.  A Fall of Marigolds, by Susan Meissner - I enjoyed this blend of times and the events surrounding two NYC catastrophes, a devastating factory fire in September of 1911 and the World Trade Center attacks in September of 2011, with connections between two women and a beautiful scarf, passed down through them.  Good characterizations and a well-crafted story-line.

February Reading

1.  The Seven Sisters, by Lucinda Riley - a favorite author of mine, debuts here the first of a new series.  This opening novel is the story of six adopted girls, with the main focus in this book on the eldest, Maia.  All six are named after the stars of the Pleiades, though the seventh is missing, to be revealed eventually we hope.  I enjoyed the settings, in Switzerland and then in Brazil, as Maia discovers her background before adoption, the individual characters and plot were very well done.

2.  City of Jasmine, by Deanna Raybourn - another by a favorite author.  I do enjoy her Lady Julia Grey series.  This one is an enjoyable stand alone about a 1920s aviatrix, who after losing her husband on the Lusitania, takes up flying.  A grand travel adventure, set in various colonial outposts, with treasure hunting, romance and a bit of  thrill thrown in.  What more could you ask for?  Well, maybe deep thoughts.

3.  Strangers in Company, by Jane Aiken Hodge - a new author to me, but one who's been around for quite awhile apparently.  It was okay, though I didn't identify much with the heroine.  She seemed to spend most of her time being tired.  Which is tiring to read about.  The plot was a bit implausible as well.

4.  Persuasion, by Jane Austen - which if I had ever read previously, did not remember.  It takes a bit of concentration, getting past the dated language, cultural expectations and expressions, such as "under-hung" :)
But once in the swing of it all, I enjoyed the story, and characters.

5. The Kitchen Counter Cooking School, by Kathleen Flinn - A seriously enjoyable book, not an oxymoron, as it is serious, funny and enjoyable reading.  I like this one much better than the previous book of hers we read for Cook the Books, Burt Toast Makes You Sing Good.  Lots of excellent cooking and healthy food purchasing advice, as well as inspiration and recipes.  More review here.

6.  Mrs. Jeffries Appeals the Verdict, by Emily Brightwell - one of my favorite "cozy mystery" series, set in Victorian London, with a great cast of characters, and this one better than some with a tricky plot and good resolve.

7.  Jane Steele, by Lyndsay Faye - Just about the best novel I've read in quite awhile.  A "re-imagining of Jane Eyre as a gutsy, heroic serial killer", slightly tongue-in-cheek.  As the dust-jacket  reads.  She considers herself irredeemable, and a horrid person, however we readers will look on it quite differently.  Each killing being quite justifiable in an exceedingly wicked world, by a stalwart orphan, often fighting for her very life or that of those dear to her.

8.  Tricky Twenty-Two, by Janet Evanovich - another novel from her hysterically funny Stephanie Plum series.  What can I say, other than that they are terrific, with utterly singular characters, outlandish plots, and wild resolutions, with of course great humor.  More on my review post.

9.  Villa America, by Liza Klaussmann - the fabled story of Sara and Gerald Murphy, their famous friends, Picasso, Hemingway, etc and the beautiful life they created at Villa America in Antibes.  All very decadent, and lovely with bits added, some of which I would object to, were I Gerald Murphy, or his survivors, being there is no verifiable evidence, though admittedly very politically and correctly expedient for an author.  If "he struggled with his sexuality" and overcame, keeping his family intact, that is more to the point.

March Reading

1. The  Invisible Code, by Christopher Fowler, another in his brilliant Impossible Crime series, featuring Bryant and May, the clever, elderly off the wall detectives.  At least Bryant is off the wall, balanced somewhat by his partner, John May.  Fowler is an amazingly creative writer.

2.  A Long Time Gone, by Karen White.  This is a very draw-you-in sort of book.  Hard to put down, with characters that make you want to simultaneously wring their necks and give them a hug.  Terrifically enjoyable reading, and a further review here.

3.  The Moth Catcher, by Ann Cleeves - a Vera Stanhope Mystery.  A clever English countryside who-done-it, with good plotting and characterizations.  However, Vera is not exactly an appealing central figure.  A good read.

4.  Peaches and Scream, by Susan Furlong - an okay sort of "cozy mystery".  I was not particularly taken by the backstory of the leading lady.  Overly fraught. 

5.  The Storm Sister, by Lucinda Riley - the second novel in her The Seven Sisters series, and it completely drew me in.  What a great storyteller, growing in competence with each book.  I am totally looking forward to her next, recently released, which unfortunately, our library does not yet have.

6.  The Crowded Grave, by Martin Walker is another in his charming Mysteries of the French Countryside series.  So sensual with descriptions of nature, animals and especially food.  Not to mention a good mystery, criminals to catch.  I wish the Renaissance man hero would settle with one girl though.

7.  A Spider in the Cup, by Barbara Cleverly, in her excellent Joe Sandilands Investigation series, a tricky political plot in the time of King George and President Roosevelt, with fear rampant that Germany would once again plunge the world into war, Joe is charged with guarding an American senator during a World Economic Conference in London.

8.  Don't Look Back, by Karin Fossum, Norway's "Queen of Crime" and my first opportunity of reading one of her mysteries.  Very well done.

9.  Mrs. Jeffries & the Best Laid Plans, by Emily Brightwell, another in her Victorian Mystery series.  A good "Cozy" as are the rest. Characters and plot well done.

10. Dragonwell Dead, by Laura Childs in her A Tea Shop Mystery series.  Delightful plotting, good culinary inspiration, with sides of an exotic poison garden, rare orchids and a greedy murderer.  Also included are some recipes I want to try.

11.  One for the Money, by Janet Evanovich, of the infamous  Stephanie Plum series.  The girl bounty hunter starts off her career in this novel.  I actually enjoyed how she's learning to shoot, etc. and getting a bit of competence, in contrast to her exploits in the following books, where she seems to get worse and worse at the job, which just my opinion, was not needed for the humor.  Does she really have to be so totally inept? I hate to kibitz since they're all so funny, and  I'd read them all, which is why we're starting over here.

12. The Color of Light, by Karen White, who is fast becoming a favorite author of mine.  This novel takes place in the low country of South Carolina, on Pawleys Island.  A good story of love, restoration and growth.  Great characterizations, plotting, a cold case mystery and local color.

13.  Bryant & May and the Bleeding Heart, by Christopher Fowler, another winner in his creatively wacky detective series.  The Peculiar Crimes Unit of the London police, is indeed peculiar, especially their Senior Detective, Arthur Bryant.  I always enjoy his books and will be sad indeed if and when they come to an end.

April Reading

1.  An Equal Music, by Vikram Seth is an involved, often rather technical look into the world of classical chamber musicians, as well as coming close to being classical romantic tragedy.  Sad, but an engaging and well written read.

2.  A Perilous Undertaking, by Deanna Raybourn, in her new series, the Veronica Speedwell Mysteries about a Victorian era lady lepidopterist, who also solves crime.  A rather implausible character, with loose morals and accompanied by a strong, manly sidekick who despite being the "bad seed" of his family, seems to have some gentlemanly principles.  I more enjoy the Lady Julia Grey series

3.  Through Waters Deep, by Sarah Sundin, a stand alone, unfortunately at our library.  This was such a contrast to the novel I'd just read.  She is a much more admirable character, bravely solving the mystery of WWII shipyard sabotage. Good plotting and characters who have some depth, and show growth over the course of events in the story.

4. Gourmet Rhapsody, by Muriel Barbery is a novelette about a food critic, supposedly satiric, but not all that witty or entertaining.  Lots of good food descriptions though.  My review post on it.

5.  Swimming Lessons, by Claire Fuller, a stand-alone novel about another dysfunctional family, this one mentioned on the dust jacket that "what Flora doesn't realize is that the answers to her questions are hidden in the books that surround her."  I kept waiting for the hidden letters to be discovered, to no avail.  The whole place is burned down in the end, home, books and the letters.  Rather disappointing, though the book was engrossing and well-written.

6.  Enter Pale Death, by Barbara Cleverly in her Joe Sandilands series.  He finally seems to have gotten over his phase of robbing the cradle with Dorcas, thank goodness.  Good story with a cold case and more recent one linked to an aristocratic family in trouble.

7.  The Butterfly and the Violin, by Kristy Cambron, in a stunning debut novel, which alternates between a present day NY art dealer and the young violinist caught up in the Holocaust of 1940's Austria and Auschwitz.  A mysterious painting of the violinist is tracked down finally.  I especially appreciated her spiritual understanding.

8.  The Silence of the Sea, by Yrsa Sigurdardottir, which is one of her series about Reykjavik lawyer, Thora Godmundsdottir, who gets involved in solving mysteries.  This one left some teasers, that led nowhere (the child glimpsed under the bed? the father who is involved, but no clue til the end?) And other mysteries - Bella, the secretary from hell that no one fires?  Other than that, not too bad.  Hopefully the next I read will be better.

9.  Mrs. Jeffries & the Feast of St. Stephen, by Emily Brightwell in her fun cozy detective series, A Victorian Mystery.  Enjoyable, light reading.  Betsy is giving her beau Smythe a hard time after his return from 6 months in Australia, while everyone works to help the Inspector solve a death by poisoned port.

10.  Pieces of the Heart, by Karen White is a wonderful novel of reconciliation, individual growth through facing fears, and families reunited with love and new beginnings.  Good characterizations and story line.

11.  Bryant & May and the Burning Man by Christopher Fowler, in the continuing series featuring two elderly detectives.  I think Arthur Bryant is my favorite of all extant fictional detectives.  He is so wonderfully quirky, and clever that we can only hope he never quits.

12.  Two for the Dough, by Janet Evanovich in the hysterically funny Stephanie Plum series.  This was supposed to be #2 on my re-read of the list,  but must have skipped it on the first go round.  She is unfailingly entertaining.  These are not meant for deep meanings and complicated thoughts.  Just fun.  If I were to make a critical comment it would be to wish Ms. Plum might be just a tad more effective in her martial arts/combat skills.

13.  The Devil's Cave, by Martin Walker in his Mystery of the French Countryside series, featuring Bruno, Chief of Police in the small village of St. Denis.  These are such sensory experiences, combined with good mystery and detection.  An interesting array of characters, including an elderly heroine of the French Resistance.

14.  Life from Scratch, by Sasha Martin, a memoir of food, family and forgiveness.  I thought there was a bit of over dramatization, especially at the beginning, and I found it hard to believe that a feisty,  independent woman, such as her mother was portrayed, would give up and hand over her precious children.  Why not pack them into the car and head West?  Something was missing there.

15. Crowned and Dangerous, by Rhys Bowen in her Royal Spyness Mystery series.  Another great book, by Bowen, one you just don't want to end.  At least I don't.  Wonderful, charming characters all wrapped up with a bit of romance and mystery.

16.  Wednesday's Child, by Peter Robinson the the thrilling, well-written Inspector Banks Mystery series.  I'm close to being in a mystery series rut.  But, hey you like what you like.  A little girl's disappearance and a grisly murder tie in.  Good psychological depth and understanding of criminal minds.

17.  Secrets of a Charmed Life, by Susan Meissner, which I think is my favorite of hers so far.  A look from the inside at the London Blitz, and the relocation of many children to the countryside.  Present and past are interconnected in this missing person mystery.  Excellent writing.

18.  Bury Your Dead, by Louise Penny in the Chief Inspector Gamache series, which I do think is her best yet.  It's a charming little village she describes, Three Pines, it's just that people keep getting murdered there.  But good character and place descriptions.  Now I'm wanting a vacation to Quebec City where a good part of this novel takes place.

May Reading

1.  If Fried Chicken Could Fly, by Paige Shelton, a new series debut for her - A Country Cooking School Mystery.  Fun little light reading, with clever plot and good, albeit weird characters (a ghost joins in the line-up).

2.  The Circle, by Dave Eggers, a book I had read a review of and had higher expectations for than materialized.  The story idea, plot line had so much potential, which unfortunately he was not able to bring out, and thus remained undeveloped.  It was well written, and entertaining, but the characters lacked dimension and failed to elicit much sympathy.

3. Envious Casca, by Georgette Heyer, is the first of her detective novels I've read, and is a well plotted country house mystery.  Lots of interesting, suspicious characters and witty dialogue.

4.  In Farleigh Field, by Rhys Bowen, a stand alone novel by one of the absolute best writers ever.  She is the penultimate story teller, just wizard.  Great characters, suspense, mystery and romance, blended perfectly.

5.  Crooked Heart, by Lissa Evans is the charming and touching story of a mismatched pair of characters living during the time of the London Blitz; a young orphan boy and an eccentric widow, trying to make ends meet in various unscrupulous ways.  She takes him in as his evacuee sponsor with hopes of earning a bit off the situation.  I loved the way they intersect, grow and turn into a little unit against the storms of life.

6.  Diana's Altar, by Barbara Cleverly in her Joe Sandilands Investigation series is another with double, possibly triple murders, intersecting plots and spies galore.  Joe doesn't seem able to sustain a love interest however, and here, just when we thought he'd found the perfect companion, she is lost to Diana's "Altar" (career).  The next one, who shows possibility by the books' end may be it. One can only hope.  Still, a very good read.

7.  Three for the Money, by Janet Evanovich from the Stephanie Plum series.  In this bad old world, with all the horror, wars, starvation and general nastiness that goes on, I think it's a relief to laugh occasionally, and no one writes humor better than Ms. Evanovich.  No One. She is in a class by herself here, and can make ordinary, everyday activities, whether taking a shower, feeding her hamster or thinking about her day hysterically funny, then mixes it up with some mystery, chasing bad guys, sexy romantic encounters, nutty characters and general mayhem.

8.  The Children Return, by Martin Walker, another of his terrific and thrilling novels - A Mystery of the French Countryside series.  This one has Police Chief Bruno bringing down jihadists who are  terrorizing his little town of St. Denis.  He also has a new romantic interest, seemingly a new one each book.  But so well done we can put up with that.

9.  After the Rain, by Karen White is another of her outstanding stand alone novels.  She is a terrific author, who manages to draw you into her stories.  Great characterizations and plotting with well-drawn landscapes as well as emotional detail.

10.  Mrs. Jeffries Holds the Trump, by Emily Brightwell in her Victorian cozy mystery series, starring the indomitable housekeeper, Mrs. Jeffries, helping her boss, the Chief Inspector, bring crooks to heel, unbeknownst to him, and with the assistance of the rest of his household servants.  Clever plot and a good bunch of unique characters.

11. Bryant & May: Strange Tide, by Christopher Fowler in his Peculiar Crimes Unit Mystery series, and another mind-bending, wonderful who-done-it, starring the elderly detectives, Arthur Bryant and John May.  My further review here.

12.  Ashes to Dust, by Yrsa Sigurdardottir, is the third in her series with lawyer heroine, Thora.  A very complex mystery, involving combined cold case bodies and a recent death.  It did go on a bit longer than necessary, dragging the solve out.  At least the obnoxious secretary was more helpful in this one.  The last outing had me yelling, just fire her!!  However, as it seems that was a more recent novel, inadvertently read first, I guess Bella's (the Secretary) actually getting worse.  I do enjoy the slice of Icelandic life in her books.

13.  Final Account, by Peter Robinson, an Inspector Banks Mystery.  Good, rather complicated plotting, though I really kept wanting to tell Banks to just spend some time with his wife, do it man!  And stop with all the smoking.

14.  A Trick of the Light, by Louise Penny, from her Inspector Gamache series, another one where you just have to suspend disbelief, with all the murders that mysteriously take place in that sweet little hidden village.  Of course, there is always the intimation that something hidden, supernatural and evil is lurking above them on a hillside, in a dark old house, etc.  But a good, intriguing mystery all the same with her delightful cast of characters, with all their flaws and eccentricities.

15.  Death in the Stocks, by Georgette Heyer, one of her mysteries.  A perfectly delightful book, full of unexpected humor and wicked funny characters, plus a good crime solve.  I must read all of her mysteries now.

16.  Belshazzar's Daughter, by Barbara Nadel, a debut novel set in Istanbul.  Full of local color and improbable events.  I could not identify with any of the characters.  What a lot of horrid, immoral, addicted individuals, excepting only the Inspector's Sargent Suleyman  perhaps.  The Inspector would be okay if he went about his work without carrying a brandy bottle and chain smoking all day.  Really didn't want to spend any more time in that world, I only decided to finish the book to see if there was any redeeming value at the end, but no.  And I wanted to put in my 2 cents worth.

17.  The Shadow Sister, by Lucinda Riley in her engrossing Seven Sisters series.  What a contrast to the previous novel where you just want to leave the premises.  This is one to enjoy spending time and wanting to stay.  The 100 years earlier connection with Star's distant relation, and that woman, Flora's friendship with Beatrix Potter, Alice Keppel and the King were delicious fun.  Looking forward to her next, to be released here soon.

June Reading

1.  Falling in Love, by Donna Leon in her Commissario Guido Brunetti Mystery series.  Not up to her usual high standards.  I felt the story cut short in the end.  Not enough resolve, and ambiguity with the last minute save.

2.  Glittering Images, by Susan Howatch, a stand-alone novel that was so well done, and so unusual in its depth and subject - an honest, clear-headed understanding of the spirit of religious life.  There is mystery, a possible scandal and the love stories.  Thoroughly involving and psychologically penetrating.  Quite refreshing to encounter a book with some substance and spiritual reality.

3. Amberwell, by D.E. Stevenson was well written, but cut short with not enough denouement at the end.  Was she expecting to do a sequel?  Though her characters and plotting were well done.   I was a bit disappointed in this one.

4.  The Patriarch, by Martin Walker in his French countryside series, featuring Bruno, Chief of Police.  One of his best, with lots of good food, fine wines, truffles and pates,  An inspiring hero who needs to find the right woman.  Please, and soon.

5. Four to Score, by Janet Evanovich, in the highly amusing Stephanie Plum series of lightweight, but worth it novels.  A Bounty Hunter with scruples.  Some at least. Lots of the usual: getting her cars firebombed, apartment torched, felons brought in and family dysfunction, in a humorous light.

6.  The Wangs vs. the World, by Jade Chang, a contemporary novel, set in the U.S., with a cross country road trip.  I loved the title and, though the book didn't quite live up to my expectations, it was an interesting slice of life in the real world.  The family did grow as individuals and as a functioning family, which was a plus.

7.  The Bertie Project, by Alexander McCall Smith in his 44 Scotland Street series.   I love his rambling, thoughtful style, and a cast of well thought out, unique individuals.  No real plot, just people carrying on with their lives, based on their character and circumstances.

8.  A Place of Execution, by Val McDermid, a suspenseful crime novel with an unexpected ending (if you didn't sneak a peek at the back of the book).  I thought the plot was well done and the characters as well, except for the lead detective's unaccountable guilt.  Spare us all, please. The punishment totally fit the crimes committed by a truly despicable villain, regardless of the law might have proscribed.

9.  Wilde Lake, by Laura Lippman, a novel wherein the nosy investigator discovers she would have been better off not knowing all that happened.  Sometimes the past is not worth regurgitating.  I didn't like the continual back references that seemed to go nowhere, and when they ended up going somewhere, wished they hadn't.  Not the most entertaining or even thrilling read.

10.  Dying for Chocolate, by Diane Mott Davidson, the second in her series starring Goldy Bear, of Goldilocks' Catering, another of those pesky, nosy sleuths who are solving crimes while carrying on some other business altogether.  She is meant to be catering delicious meals, and a murder interrupts, so of course she must help with the mystery.  Good light entertainment, with some tempting recipes thrown in.

11.  Trade Wind, by M.M.Kaye, a fabulous novel with romance, history, exotic setting (Zanzibar), suspense and thrilling action.  She is such a marvelous story teller, and what wonderful characters.  Wish there were more of her books still to read.  Further review here.

12.  The Revolving door of Life, by Alexander McCall Smith, in his 44 Scotland St. series.  He's another one for story telling and characters, besides thoughtful diversions into philosophy and social issues.

July  Reading

1.  A Great Reckoning, by Louise Penny, one of her charming (settings), though grisly series set in the mysterious village of Three Pines in Quebec.  I love the characters, especially the cranky old poet and her duck.  An interesting thriller, with intriguing side plots.

2.  My Soul to Take, by Yrsa Sigurdardottir, featuring her lawyer sleuth, Thora.  I enjoy the series to a certain extent, mostly for the insights into the culture, history and landscape of Iceland.  A nicely twisted plot, though the main character is a bit annoying with her poor choices, as well as the law firm's irritating secretary and Thora's dysfunctional family members.

3.  The Unfinished Clue, by Georgette Heyer, another of her very satisfying mysteries, which I am thoroughly enjoying working my way through.  Terrifically unique characters, a nasty victim and sympathetic criminal, in a country house mystery.  Well done plotting, though a bit convoluted with all the understandable suspects.

4. In This Grave Hour, by Jacqueline Winspear, in her Maisie Dobbs series.  I totally enjoy the combination of Psychologist/Investigator as practiced by Ms. Dobbs.  The main characters are all back in this one, with a new puzzle to solve.  Very well done.

5.  The Waters of Eternal Youth, by Donna Leon from the Commissario Guido Brunetti mystery series.  A great addition to her list.  Good inspiring food mentions, an intriguing cold case solve, mixed in with the local concerns of present day Venice.  Especially loved the rather touchingly sweet ending.

6.  The Watchmaker of Filigree Street, a debut novel by Natasha Puley, historical fantasy merged with actual history, and  part steampunk pseudo "science".  The characters were interesting, though not altogether believable or even likeable (excepting Mori, Thaniel, and possibly the octopus).  In spite of almost universal rave reviews, I was not that thrilled, even given its enjoyable imaginary cruise, until near the end when things began to drag.

Isn't it interesting that we can imagine a "clock-maker" genius who can create wonderful robotic creatures and even gold fruits that reproduce, and no one would suggest that they were able to make themselves, oh no. But just let anyone dare say that the even more complex living world was created by God, and we are assured that it all made itself, over eons of time.

7.  Listening Valley, by the ageless author, D. E. Stevenson.  I do love her writing, which is so evocative of the Scottish countryside, and her engaging, carefully drawn characters, caught in the crisis of WWII London as well.  Great story here.

 8.  The Marseille Caper, by Peter Mayle was a delightful, fun little romp with lots of good food, lovely settings, romance, suspense and a bit of mystery.  He's sort of an uneven writer as I didn't enjoy the only other book of his I read (French Lessons).

9.  Leaving Home, by Anita Brookner, another of her novels about overly introspective, passive, always yearning for love, women of a certain age.  Makes me want to give them a good shake and lecture.  She writes well at least.

10.  All the Stars in the Heavens, by Adriana Trigiani, a novel about the Hollywood stars of the 30's and 40's, particularly the life of Loretta Young, which I was especially interested in as the actress bought my grandparents' house in Hollywood, way back then, after they retired.  Interesting view into the lives of the big stars of that time.

11.  Ruth Reichl, My Kitchen Year, by Ruth Reichl.  Another of her mostly outstanding memoirs, all of which I've enjoyed over the years.  This one covers the aftermath of Gourmet Magazine's shutdown and her dealing with the job loss and depression.  Great recipes to comfort anyone. My review is linked.

12.  The Widow, by Fiona Barton, a debut novel which is the mystery of someone who stays with a murdering pedophile.  A real mystery that. Though it must be said that she didn't know for most of the time, and then when she had her suspicions, refuses to believe it's true. Lots of rationalizing and "supportiveness" and a policeman who just won't let go until he has the solution.  Still an engrossing read.

13.  Why Shoot a Butler?, by Georgette Heyer, another of her delightful mysteries, country house cozy style.  Well varied and developed characters in an English Post WWI setting.

14.  They Came to Baghdad, by Agatha Christie, with one of her many, well done, stand-alone  mysteries.  Fun, exciting and in an exotic locale.  I forget sometimes that I haven't by any means read all of her work.

15.  The Bookshop on the Corner, a novel by Jenny Colgan, and such a relief after attempting another of Yrsa Sigurdardottir's rather depressing, bleak and grisly books.  I'd read a few, mostly for the Icelandic background, but enough is enough.  Put it aside unfinished, and had this lovely story on my stack to give a bit of cheer.  I think the book is misnamed however, as it's not about a bookshop or on a corner, but a roving book van.   And, I would rather have seen a picture of that on the cover, as it sounded so sweet from descriptions in the novel.  Colgan is a wonderful story teller and I am going to read more of her work.

16.  The Call in the Night, a stand alone novel by Susan Howatch,  though not one of her best.  A bit of a convoluted plot, and slightly unreal characters.

17. Conclave, by Robert Harris, a truly excellent novel by an author I don't believe I'd ever read before this.  Will correct that.  Well done plot, and thoroughly researched background and believable characters.  Further review here.

18.  Free Food for Millionaires, by Min Jin Lee, a long and free-wheeling novel about a Korean girl, her family, her dysfunctional life and those connected to her.  A lot, not all, was enjoyable reading, and interesting to get the perspective of another mind-set.  Some was uncomfortable with bad choices being made, but I guess that's life.  Choices come out of character.

19.  Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking, a Memoir by Anya Von Bremzen.  Very perceptive historical account, mixed in with her own family and their lives pre and post emigration, with the food of Russia.  Further review here.

20.  Making Things Better, by Anita Brookner, another of her long list of novels describing the lives of rather hopeless, depressing, passive individuals.  One keeps hoping the lead character will develop a spine and take charge of moving their life forward, but no it never happens.  This one of the few of her books I've actually stuck through to the end.

August Reading

1.  Amanda's Wedding, by Jenny Colgan, a novel of somewhat adolescent humor, sometimes hysterically funny, sometimes pathetic, with a clueless heroine, a cliche bad, bad, bad Amanda, the not-so-good-friend, and a cliche bad boyfriend.  Amusing.

2. The Corsican Caper, by Peter Mayle, another of his fun, fictional, European adventures with fabulous food and wine mentions, a dashing hero, and with the wicked bad guys trumped.  Pretty lightweight, but enjoyable.  The caper characters  help their good friend to keep his villa from being hijacked by an evil Russian tycoon.  Further review here.

3.  Sacrifice, by J.J. Bolton, her debut novel of suspense, and a winner it is.  Very well done, with engaging characters, and unusual plot and fascinating location in the Shetland Islands.  Will be reading more by this author.

4. Fatal Pursuit, by Martin Walker in his wonderful series featuring Bruno, the Renaissance man, small town police chief, in the French Dordogne countryside.  This one is a mystery with a classic car race, and enthusiasts attempting to locate the famous missing Bugatti Type 57C.  Some will murder for it.

5.  Mourning Ruby, by Helen Dunmore a novel split between present time and the past, as subject of another book, being written by the lead character's friend.  A relationship that never seemed quite real, but as she didn't know who her mother was, he could have, by a remote stretch, been her brother.  Not sure that it worked completely, but the book was engrossing and though sad, satisfying finally.

6.  Glamorous Powers, by Susan Howatch, second in her series about the Church of England in the twentieth century.  This one was slow going for the first third or so, until her protagonist leaves his position as abbot.  Very well written and perceptive of human nature.

7.  The Cooking School Murders, by Virginia Rich.  I've read a few of her later books, prior to this which is the first in her mystery series with Eugenia Potter.  She does improve.  There were too many red herrings in this one.

8.  The Templars' Last Secret, by Martin Walker in his French countryside series with Chief of Police, Bruno.  Another good one, this time involving a mystery with archeologists and militant terrorists.  Bruno,  happy to be unpromoted, unambitious, and loving his small town life.

9.  The Alice Network, by Kate Quinn, a novel spanning two World Wars, about the women espionage agents who served, with little notice or acclaim, bravely leaving more comfortable lives behind, often to face death, imprisonment or torture.  Very well researched and written, sometimes truly gruesome, but perfectly balanced with some laughter and love.

10.  The Body in the Library, by Agatha Christie, the inimitable mystery author.  Always a delight to discover one I hadn't previously read.  There is a dead blond in the library.  How did she get there and who did it?  Obviously it won't be the obvious, and Miss Marple will discover all.

11.  Late Nights on Air, by Elizabeth Hay, an amazing experience of a novel, being immersed in a place so far from my own tropical milieu, the frozen barrens of the North West Territories of Canada.  A tale of endurance,  love and  loss.  The employees of a radio station set out on a great adventure and return changed.

12.  Wait for What Will Come, by Barbara Michaels, another of her stand-alone romantic mysteries, this one not quite as satisfying as her others.  We find ourselves wondering why the room in the attic was boarded up and locked, what was used to create the hallucinations our heroine saw, etc.  A number of unresolved threads here. Though the plot was good, it remained a bit undeveloped.

13.  The Vintage Caper, by Peter Mayle in his adventure series featuring the sleuth and fixer, Sam Levitt.  In this one he must find the crooks who have made off with $3 Million worth of fabulous wines.  Good fun, and things get well resolved.

14.  The Chalk Pit, by Elly Griffiths, in her ongoing series featuring Ruth Galloway, a forensic archeologist.  This one a very unusually plotted mystery involving underground chambers and tunnels below the city, with homeless people living below the surface, in more ways than one.  She is such a gifted story-teller.

15.  Everything We Keep, by Kerry Lonsdale, a stunning debut novel, and I can't wait to see what she'll come up with next.  Great characters, and a plot involving lost love and amnesia, dysfunctional family and new beginnings.

16.  Katherine Wentworth, by D.E. Stevenson, another of her lovely novels set in Scotland, partly in the Highlands, so evocative of place and with an engrossing story comprised of believable characters. A true reading pleasure.

17.  The Cafe by the Sea, by Jenny Colgan, a romantic cozy set in the far North Scottish Island of Mure.  Some of it a bit predictably, politically correct, and stretching believablity, but an enjoyable read all the same.  I especially liked the lead with her selkie mysteriousness and the very evocative place descriptions.

18.  The Mirror Crack'd, by Agatha Christie, in her Miss Marple series.  I am enjoyably wending my way through those of the Christie novels I hadn't previously read.  This one was excellent about a tragically sad, and sensitive, world famous actress, compared  in this novel to the Lady of Shalott.

19.  High Five, by Janet Evanovich in her incomparably funny Stephanie Plum series, which I'm reading through a second time.  Up to her usual hi-jinks in this one, getting fancy cars blown up, chasing crooks, and trying to locate her missing uncle Fred.

September Reading

1.  Awakening, by S.J. Bolton, a novel of mystery and suspense, with everything you did or would rather not know about snakes, concerning a veterinary surgeon,who is finally coming to terms with an emotionally crippling scar in her own life, while trying to discover who is setting snakes loose in homes. Good characterizations here and a tricky plot.

2.  After You'd Gone, by Maggie O'Farrell, a powerful debut novel, in the voices of a daughter, and the  different members of her family, in past as well as recent snatches of time, with their differing points of view, some of it around her hospital bed while she lies in a coma.   Very well done.

3.  The Secret Adversary, by Agatha Christie, one of her Tommy and Tuppence novels, though not one of my favorites of that or her several series, and this one stretches credibility.  We are not able to figure out a solution, due to lack of information until the very end.

4.  Black Rabbit Hall, by Eve Chase, her debut novel, and a terrific one it is, though heartbreakingly sad at times.  She does such a good job of individualizing each of the children, making us care about them and their mother, the lovely setting as well as the mood evoking manor house.

5.  Generous Death, by Nancy Pickard in her Jenny Cain mystery series about a Museum Director who also helps to solve crimes.  Which co-occupation I think should cause Jenny to be a bit more pro-active, combatively speaking, say martial arts, kung fu, just a handy kick occasionally?? Not waiting too long with it either.  Suspenseful though, with an interesting plot.

6.  The Dead Wives Society, by Sharon Duncan in a fine debut novel for a mystery series featuring PI Scotia MacKinnen, who lives on a boat docked on San Juan Island in the Pacific Northwest.  I especially enjoyed the international aspect of the story, and the involvement of Britain's MI6.

7.  Waxwork, by Peter Lovesey, an original stand-alone by the author of the Peter Diamond mysteries.  With a quite inscrutable antagonist, a strange plot that draws us in and clever characterizations, this makes me very interested in reading his other books.

8.  The Year of Fog, by Michelle Richmond, a stand-alone novel about the disappearance of a child.  I had started this some time ago, but never finished.  This time I determined to read it through, and though it is hard going, really drags the second third of the book, very repetitious and you have to wonder why they are spending all their energy searching the same places, over and over again, when most likely if she is still alive, they have gone to another location.  To me, the ending was less than satisfactory, though what is the probability, statistically speaking, in those circumstances.

9.  The Thin Man, by Dashiell Hammett, the legendary detective mystery writer, who judging from this first I've read of his, is way over-rated.  A youngish couple spend most of their time drinking and partying with  rather unsympathetic other characters and somehow manage to solve a pair of undistinguished homicides, with too much involved "wrapping up" explanation at the end.

10.  Farmer Boy, by Laura Ingalls Wilder, first time reading for me, as it was our current Cook the Books Club selection.  Pleasant, nostalgic, slightly bucolic look at ideal American farm life from a child's perspective.  Great food descriptions and characterizations, as well as lovely illustrations by Garth Williams. Further review here.

11.  The Keeper of Lost Things, by Ruth Hogan, a totally charming, romantic, though at times sad debut novel.  Very satisfying reading, with wonderful characters and a terrific story.

12.  The Coincidence of Coconut Cake, a fun and scrumptious debut novel by Amy E. Reichert.  Fine character development and plotting.  Lots of good food as well.

13.  Season of Storms, by Susanna Kearsley, a totally engrossing novel with a mystery at its heart, set mostly in Italy at the restored villa of a famous poet, part romance and part ghost story.  Great cast of characters and intriguing plot.

14.  The Blue Sapphire, another of D.E. Stevenson's wonderful, romantic stories with family conflict, set first in London and then in a lovely little Scottish town with some engaging characters.  She doesn't completely wrap things up at the end, leaving you to imagine the best, or ?

15.  Quartet in Autumn, by Barbara Pym, who manages to make some totally boring, innocuous characters into a mildly amusing novel.  Four people in late middle-age, plodding along toward imminent retirement from the office in which they all work.

16.  The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox, by Maggie O'Farrell  is a not so cozy, though fascinating, horror story, including a bit of sad truth about the ease with which troublesome members of families were committed to institutions for the insane, sane or not.  I would have preferred more resolve, especially at the final scene, where we are not told what actually happened in the room, or what ensued.  If you're going to tell a story (and a novel is the telling of a story) let's tell it please.

17.  The Diamond Caper, by Peter Mayle, another of his charming and fun South of France mysteries with lots of good food and wine mentions.  Light "summer" reading which is actually enjoyable any time of the year.

18. Hot Six, by Janet Evanovich, in her hysterically funny Stephanie Plum series.  The inept, yet mysteriously successful bounty hunter, who bumbles her way to captures, somewhat in the manner of Inspector Clouseau, as played by Peter Sellers.  Working my way through on a second read of these novels.

19.  A Death in Vienna, by Frank Tallis, an excellent debut for a possible new series, featuring a psychologist who helps the local police inspector, in turn of the century Vienna, the time of Freud, Klimt and Mahler.  We see the undercurrent of antisemitism,  the suppression of women and a burgeoning new artistic climate.  Fascinating for history, art, music and of course the mystery.  Further review here.

20.  The Thirteen Problems, by Agatha Christie, a short story collection, with a central organizing theme: The Tuesday Club Murders.  Their group meets and the members take turns telling the story of an unexplainable mystery.  Everyone tries to come up with the solution.  Fun reading.

21.  The Essex Serpent, by Sarah Perry - a novel set in Essex mostly after 1893 has certainly gotten rave reviews.  The book was interesting, somewhat diverting, but I found it dragged a bit and the ending was less than satisfactory.  The protagonist's husband, recently deceased was described in the publisher's blurb as "brilliant" but we were never given much background or information to support that.   The widow was so much at loose ends, but I suppose that was due to her having been emotionally abused.  The writing was lovely, often poetic in the place descriptions.  As, "Skeins of geese unravel over the estuary, and cobwebs dress the gorse in silk."

22.  Search the Shadows, by Barbara Michaels, an author I usually love.  This one was good, but not my favorite of her novels.  She brings in her knowledge of archeology and Egypt here.  Her beginning was good, summing up the year 1965, though another read with a less than satisfactory ending.

October Reading 

1.  The Lavender Butterfly Murders, by Sharon Duncan, the second of hers I've read and likely the last as our library  has no more available.  Not too enjoyable a read, with all the bad things happening to our intrepid heroine, but a very satisfactory ending, unlike my last two reads.

2.  A Desperate Fortune, by Susanna Kearsley, a stand-alone novel by a quite talented author, another tale with the now almost ubiquitous present day story and protagonist, alternating with one in the past.  Still, well done, and with characters who draw one in and a romantic, intriguing narrative.  Interesting information on Asperger's syndrome which the main character has and cipher solving or code breaking, which she is gifted at.

3.  The Wilding Sisters, by Eve Chase, her most recent novel, after Black Rabbit Hall, which I enjoyed.  This one was also well done, though I did frequently want to smack the bratty teen.  Her step-mother comes off as an absolute saint under pressure.  And aside from the ludicrous filling in of the lovely swimming pool, shades of the nanny state.

4.  Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin, a witty, funny little novel, though I had a hard time sympathizing with the star of it, and thought the press reviews of her "affair" weren't so far off.  She did behave rather slutty.  Her daughter, Ruby was the real jewel.

5.  No One You Know, by Michelle Richmond, and excellent novel of love, loss and a mystery solved, my favorite of hers so far.  A young mathematician, a genius really in her field is killed and her beloved sister is left to figure things out.  Great characters come alive in an unusual plot.

6.  Say No to Murder, by Nancy Pickard, one of her enjoyable little mysteries.  Good light-weight reading from her Port Frederick venue.

7.  The Daughters of Cain, by Colin Dexter, one of his Inspector Morse novels, and the first (and last) for me.  I was truly disappointed, as he seems to spend inordinate amounts of time drinking and smoking usually simultaneously, even after getting out of hospital for the effects of said habits.  Annoying to read about, and as a part of his character, not too edifying.  The plot was okay, though the outcome less than satisfying.

8.  Believing the Lie, by Elizabeth George in her ongoing series featuring Inspector Lynley.  This one with way too many strange and unbelievable, convoluted and contrived sub-plots, angst and drama to make an enjoyable reading experience, with the exception of Barbara Havers and her contributions to humor.  I don't believe the murder? accident? was ever actually definitively solved.  Turned out to be a non-starter.  Anyway, I've never forgiven Ms. George for killing off Helen, who was one of the better fiction characters out there in novel land, such a delight, so much so that the author continues, in subsequent novels, to bring in her likely comments on situations, if only in Lynley's thoughts.  Maybe she could be resurrected?

9.  A Paris Apartment, debut novel by Michelle Gable.  A terrific story, involving the find of, not only an apartment impressively filled with valuables, but the fascinating journals of their collector.  Alternating between the lives of a present day Sotheby's appraiser and a renowned Belle Epoque courtesan.  A well done and enjoyable read.

10.  The Flight of the Maidens by Jane Gardam, a novel of the coming of age and jump-off into life, of three young women, who have each just gotten scholarships to college, during the immediate post WWII years in England.  Good characterizations and inter-linked plot lines for the three friends.

11.  A Town Like Alice, by Nevil Shute, a wonderful novel, the first of his work I've read, but definitely not the last.  The very absorbing story is unique, with a very different view (though I suppose every person's is unique to them) of WWII and the people caught up in it, this one in Malaya with Japanese prisoners of war, and then after the war, what happened to a young woman and an Australian "Ringer" who had met then.

12.  Bel Lamington, by D.E. Stevenson, another by this prolific and always entertaining author.  A young woman, orphaned and on her own in the big city, London, after growing up in the country.  Stevenson draws us into her plot and we find ourselves worrying about the heroine, fretting about the horrid people where she works, and totally involved with her well-drawn characters.  Perhaps the one "villain" was a bit over the top?  Still a great story.

13.  Mariana, by Susanna Kearsley, another of her time travel - or is it reincarnaton?- novels.  Interesting, and mildly enjoyable, though the main character was complex and enough to stand on her own, without the whole other icky life business.

14.  Vienna Blood, by Frank Tallis, in his series featuring the young psychologist, Max Liebermann, in 1902 Vienna, who assists his good friend Detective Oskar Rheinhardt in solving a string of brutal murders.  The city is rife with secret societies and the racial hatreds that fostered Hitler.  Well done, though the author falls into the same trap of blindly accepting whatever "scientific truths" are currently prevalent.

15.  Black Orchids, and The Silent Speaker, by Rex Stout - a Nero Wolfe mystery.  This is a wonderful new series for me to embark upon.  I just love his wit, and larger than life characters and cannot wait to read the next one.  More review here.

November Reading

1.  The False Inspector Dew, by Peter Lovesey, another first for me, with this author, but not the last.  Very clever plot and fun characters, with a twist at the end.

2.  Arabella, by Georgette Heyer, one of her Regency romances, and the very best of that genre.  A perfectly delightful, humorous and most enjoyable read.  A Cinderella story with the twists of a French farce.

3.  No Body, by Nancy Pickard, one of her Jenny Cain mysteries.  And I will use this opportunity? to give vent to one of my mystery fiction pet peeves:  Authors, pay attention, if one of your women heroines, amateur or not detectives, are going to stick their noses into solving crime, they would be well advised to spend a bit of time learning some martial arts skills, and practice on a firing range  For the sake of your readers at least.  It is frustrating to read about otherwise.  Idiots running into combat with murderers. At least Stephanie Plum tries, and she's so funny it's not quite as bad.  But the rest of you, get with the program!  Other than that, not a bad little murder.

4.  Dead Water, by Ann Cleeves in her Shetland series, featuring Inspector Jimmy Perez.  Here note my comments on  Believing the Lie, by Elizabeth George, with regard to killing off interesting characters.  And all the lead's angst ever after.  Boo huu.  An interesting, almost believable tale.

5.  The Man in the Wooden Hat, by Jane Gardam, a novel involving some of her earlier characters: Old Filth and his wife Betty,  this one from her perspective.  Gardam  is such a fascinating writer, her novels are witty, always interesting and so well written.  This is my favorite I think.

6.  Instructions for a Heatwave, by Maggie O'Farrell, an engrossing and suspenseful novel of family life.  The children are grown now, though their pasts reverberate, and all leading various dysfunctional lives, when the father's disappearance brings everyone together and seems to help with sorting them all out.  I enjoyed how things went to seemingly hopeless to positive resolutions for the characters.

7.  Blood at the Root, by Peter Robinson, the 9th in his Inspector Banks mystery series.  I don't like to admit it really, but the male perspective is sometimes obnoxious and I often find women authors more simpatico. It would be obvious to most why his marriage is failing.  The real mystery is the length of time his wife put up with it.  But his problems, marital, and job related tend to get in the way of the murder solve,  and there is a lack of real resolution at the end.  We're supposed to read the next book apparently.  Further review here.

8.  Seven Up, by Janet Evanovich in her terrific Stephanie Plum series.  I do believe I've raved enough in the past on her writing, with the laughs that don't quit, and this one is no exception.  Her characters are unique, the plots ridiculous and the dialogue always  hilarious.

9.  Shattered Silk, by Barbara Michaels, always an author I can count on for solid writing, great plots and interesting characters.  This one centered on vintage clothing was up to her usual high standards.  Some romance, a mystery and murder, as well as narrow escapes.

10.  The Late Scholar, by Jill Paton Walsh in her series of Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane Investigate, based on the characters of Dorothy L. Sayers.  I love these period pieces with the Duke of Denver and his charming author wife.  Good mysteries and well composed personalities.

11.  Detective Inspector Huss, by Helene Tursten - her first in English of a new crime procedural set in Sweden.  I like the fact that the protagonist is a judo champion, and able to hold her own against the bad guys.  The downside is an overwhelmingly seamy and violent underworld, often composed of those in the supposed upper world.  Well developed characters and an intricate plot.

12.  Requiem for a Wren, by Nevil Shute, the second of his novel I've read, and do appreciate his sensitive, engaging writing, both books set  in Australia.  Though I was there, these give a unique picture of the country I didn't see. The wren in this one being a service designation from WW II.  Sad, but endearing and touching.

13.  Blackground, by Joan Aiken, a writer with depth and an ability to connect the dots of background and upbringing with present character.  How is a murderer brought up?  Or is it all a matter of individual choices?  Good plotting and character development.

14.  Curtains for Three, by Rex Stout, featuring Nero Wolfe in a trio of mystery novelettes.  Fun with the usual cast of characters plus the suspects.  Enjoyable light reading from a mystery master.

15.  Bath Tangle, by Georgette Heyer, a moderately enjoyable Victorian romantic muddle.  I couldn't really believe in the characters' various motivations.  A sort of farcical melodrama.  Not her best.

December Reading

1.  Magpie Murders, by Anthony Horowitz - a novel within a novel, with two protagonists, the author of one and his detective hero in the other.  A bit of a convoluted, drawn out business, with a  less than satisfactory ending.  In this day and age, or probably any other, there would have been a lawsuit, or a good settlement for the author's editor, after what she went through on his (or his estate's) behalf.

2.  This Must Be the Place, a novel by Maggie O'Farrell, is very well written, with a fascinating story or three, though at times confusing.  I had to flip back and forth continually to figure out what was going on and at what time in the various characters' lives.  Still she keeps us interested.  More review here.

3.  Still Glides the Stream, by D.E. Stevenson, another of her lovely novels of the Scottish Borders.  She spins an engaging yarn with believable characters in a setting that draws in and holds her readers.

4.  Murder in the Round, by Dorothy Dunnett, perhaps one of her earliest novels, and not quite up to her later.  Lots of sixties London slang,, which left me wondering.  But, an interesting peek at life with some high-roller expatriates in  Spain, and a mystery which is solved.

5.  Amazing Gracie, by Sherryl Woods, a light and fluffy romance, actually over the top in that direction.  The plot didn't really hold up either.  If she was such a super executive in the hotel business, why didn't she do any research on this individual holding up her new investment direction?  Even though it was mentioned several times in passing.

6.  Dead Crazy, by Nancy Pickard, one of her Jenny Cain Mysteries.  A sleuth married to a cop, and one with a sense of humor, though tending to be a bit co-dependent in her reactions. Luckily her best friend is a psychiatrist.  A unique plot and good characters.

7.  In a Dry Season, by Peter Robinson.  I know, I know, said I'd had enough of his depressing life style, but at least in this one he's cut down on the drinking and smoking and the pity party (for the most part).  Also, the plot was good, as well as the characterizations.

8.  Fatal Lies, by Frank Tallis, another in his excellent Vienna mystery series, featuring young psychiatrist, Max Liebermann, who assists his good friend, Detective Inspector Oskar Rheinhardt, this time a murder a
 and bullying in a military academy.  Added in are political intrigue, romance and music, and always good food.

9.  A Presumption of Death, another of Jill Paton Walsh's Peter Wimsey/Harriet Vane mysteries in the manner of Dorothy L. Sayers.  Terrific characters, with a unique plot line. Set in that difficult time of WWII England.  I hope she does more with this dynamic duo.

10.  Appleby & Honeybath, by Michael Innes an English house party murder is solved in spite of a cluster of eccentric characters and an explosive host.  Always lovely to encounter a new (to me) author who is both witty and erudite.  I am looking forward to more of his novels.

11.  Dissolution, by C. J. Sansom, first in his series about a hunchbacked lawyer in Tudor England, working to help Cromwell with the dissolution of the Catholic monasteries.  He is summoned to solve a murder at one of them which becomes a can of worms.  Well written and fascinating plot, history and characterizations.

12.  The Torso, by Helene Tursten the second in her Detective Inspector Huus series.  This one even more grisly, way more, and disgustingly gross, morbid and seamy.  She writes well, her main character is sympathetic and holds her own, but the background is not a pleasant read.  And I won't be going back for more of it.  Sweden prides itself on "open mindedness" and consider Americans "prudes", this in spite of our "political correctness", but in this novel we see where exactly it all leads.

13.  Black Plumes, by Margery Allingham, definitely one of the Queens of crime writing.  Very well written, this is an absorbing tale of family misalliances, deceit and greed, with a fine romance worked in.