Friday, April 01, 2011

March reading

I finished 11 new books in March, plus some re-reads.

I checked out & finished from the library

Third Degree (Murder 101 Mysteries) This is the 5th book in this series with Professor Alison Bergeron as sleuth. It also features her NYPD detective boyfriend. I enjoyed it, not quite as much as the others though. I think I’m having the sustainability issue I often have with modern mysteries. There are really only so many ways a professor at a small college can keep coming into contact with dead bodies.

Even in NYC.

And after the first couple of them I really start to wonder why the cops just don’t arrest her outright at the scene. No way someone stumbles across 5 bodies (one an ex husband) in what appears to be a less than 12 month period, unless they are somehow involved in the deaths.

I think this book seemed a bit of a stretch for me. The reason for seeing the body is clear enough, could happen to anyone, but the motive to investigate seemed forced.

The Queen's Rival: In the Court of Henry VIII
Tudor fiction is a particular favorite of mine. Sadly, when dealing with real people, this means there is no new story out there ever for me. Just retellings of things that I already know how they end & very very few stories involving the Tudors end happily for everyone.

This is not one of them.

This is the story of Bessie Blount who was the king’s mistress before Mary Boleyn. She gave Henry VIII his long awaited but alas illegitimate son, Henry Fitzroy. She was married off & the baby taken from her & raised by ‘more suitable’ people. He would die as a teenager of probably consumption but at the time it was speculated Anne Boleyn poisoned him.


Sad ending.

But a decent story. I think she did a good job on the relationship between Bess & Henry. Bess was a well drawn character & the plot moved along well. It is one of a series of books set at the same time & some of the people from previous books make appearances in this one, but nothing is lost if you haven’t read those books.

On the Kindle I read

Sweet's Sweets: The Second Samantha Sweet Mystery . I  enjoyed the first one of these & since the second was also only $2.99 I bought it as well. Sam Sweet has opened her bakery but she is still cleaning up foreclosed homes. She found a coat covered in blood in one of them. Then the body of an unknown man turns up in the river & Sam thinks they are related. Then a friend commits suicide but Sam thinks it’s murder.

Sam also has a mysterious box that has magical powers that give her energy & sometimes helps her to ‘see’ things or hear things. I think there is just the right level of magic in these stories. I don’t generally read books with supernatural things in them because I think a lot of the time it is used a a crutch to get characters out of situations the author didn’t mean to get them into & can’t think of a logical way to get them out. This is done well though, just enough little enhancements & Sam knows no more about the box & what it can do that we do.

I recommend this one & the first book Sweet Masterpiece

Vacations Can Be Murder: The Second Charlie Parker Mystery
  Same author, different series. The first book Deadly Gamble, was entertaining so I bought the second. Charlie Parker works with her brother in a detective agency. In this book she has taken a vacation to Hawaii. She takes a helicopter tour & they spot a dead body while on it. She & the pilot hit it off. Then he becomes a suspect, as do other people in the hotel where Charlie is staying.

She gets semi hired to look into the death & that is the plot. It was a good read. But I am not so fond of the series I will buy any more anytime soon. However the library has several & I’ll be checking them out in time.

How to Woo a Reluctant Lady (The Hellions of Halstead Hall)
My romance this month. It too is part of a series(what can I say, when I find a thing I like, I stick with it). This is the 3rd of a series, set in Regency England, based on 5 siblings who have to get married within a year or Grandma cuts them out of the will.

The previous two were the oldest sons, this one is the oldest daughter Minerva, who has no interest in marrying & just wants to be left alone to write her gothic novels (featuring a bad guy character based on a family friend). She makes a deal with that family friend to pretend to be engaged & it ends predictably. But that does not take away from the enjoyment of watching the characters get to the ending. I find this series a good deal of fun & look forward to seeing how the remaining siblings get paired up

The Darling Strumpet: A Novel of Nell Gwynn, Who Captured the Heart of England and King Charles II
  This is the rather bawdy tale of Nell Gwynn. She started out as an orange girl & prostitute & was several other men’s mistress before becoming the King’s so you get a good many sexual scenes as part of her story.

I don’t mind that, I read romance novels after all. Smile

I thought it was a very good retelling of Nell’s story & that it stuck close to actual history, which I always prefer even in fiction. Nell is a very likeable character with understandable motives behind her actions. She and the others were very well formed, the setting fully developed, the period language worked well (which so often is not the case) & there were lots of enjoyable details worked throughout. I highly recommend this if you are into the Restoration era

Maids of Misfortune: A Victorian San Francisco Mystery
The Victorian era is one of my favorites for mysteries. The main character is a boarding house keeper & she partners up eventually with a young lawyer. The mystery is well done & complex enough to keep you interested. The characters are fully developed & likeable (the ones you are supposed to like anyway). There were plenty of period details & it gives a great sense of time & place. There was a nice mix of mystery & romance. All in all a highly enjoyable read. It has a ‘first in a series’ feel but it was published in 2009 & apart from a short story there has been nothing else written. yet.

One of Our Thursdays Is Missing: A Novel
This is the latest in Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next series. The previous one jumped us about 14 years in the future, this one is apparently set within a year or so of that one but since almost all of it takes place in the Book World, dates & timelines in the real world don’t really matter. If you have not read the other books, you will be hopelessly lost with this book. If you have read some of the other books you will still be lost. If you have read all of them you are mostly good but probably will still be left going ‘huh?” several times.

It was ok. The focus was the wishy washy Thursday from the ‘book’ the real Thursday preferred, not the uber sexy, uber violent one of the other ‘books’. I was not thrilled with either fictional Thursday but at least the violent one was less wishy washy. But it was an engrossing enough plot I dealt with wishy  washy fine. I do wish there had been more time spent in the Real World & that things there were given more backstory but the problem with first person narrative (as fictional Thursday herself points out) is you only know what the narrator knows & fictional Thursday doesn’t know much about the Real World. 

There were all the usual enjoyable elements - puns, plenty of references to actual novels & characters, plus mention of the current changes in book publishing, like self-publishing & ebook readers and lots and lots of info on the day to day business of being a character in a book.

I’m not sure what to think of it. It starts slow & the ending wasn’t that final, if you know what I mean. I get a ‘second in a trilogy’ feeling from it, even though it’s the 6th in the series. Possibly it’s 3rd in a series finale? I hope the next one picks up where this left off, only from real Thursday’s point of view

Legacy: The Acclaimed Novel of Elizabeth, England's Most Passionate Queen -- and the Three Men Who Loved Her
  Yet another novel of Elizabeth I. I’ve read so very many of them over the years. This one was very well done. It was very accurate historically with enough fictional twists & explanations for things to keep it interesting.

It’s sort of a psychological study of Elizabeth & her relationships with Robert Dudley, William Cecil and Robert, Earl of Essex, what binds them together, what tears them apart & how they all interact with the various dramatic events of Elizabeth’s reign.

It’s very well done, lots of period details, well developed settings & personalities. Sometimes I had to remind myself this was fiction & not non-fiction & that is always a good thing to me. There was a soap opera feel to the story but really, England from the Wars of the Roses to the Restoration reads like one long soap opera IMO so I’m fine with that

The Last Continent
I love Discworld. Not the witches, but pretty much all the rest of it. Especially Night Watch & the wizards. This book is about the wizard Rincewind who ends up magically on a far away continent (Australia) and his adventures in the water-less land down other. It’s also about the faculty of Unseen University who magically end up nearby but thousands of years in the past. 

It was funny & had endless references to Aussie life, probably including some that went right by me. I get that fairly often in satiric British writing. I find stuff funny but I am sure it would be funnier if I understood the real context better, assuming I catch the reference at all. This never stops me enjoying the books though.

and in the dead tree books category we have

The Tudor Secret (The Elizabeth I Spymaster Chronicles) I enjoyed this a great deal. It is the story of a foundling, Brendan, who was taken in by the Dudley family & raised as a family retainer. He’s sent to court with Robert Dudley around the time King Edward is dying. Brendan ends up working as a spy for William Cecil in the service of Lady Elizabeth during the upheaval following Edward’s death.

The Dudleys are a bit overdone as the bad guys in general, but Robert himself is well drawn & believable. Brendan is likeable & manages to come across as intelligent but not yet wise (like many young men) . There is lots of action, the plot is fast paced with intrigue & espionage. The setting is well developed but doesn’t overwhelm the plot or characters.

I highly recommend this one if you like spy stories or historic thrillers.

And now a word from our sponsors…

The Tudor Secret was given to me by the publisher with the understanding I would publish a review of it on Library Thing. What I said & where else I said it were up to me.

Also, those links include my Amazon associate ID so if you click on them & buy one I get some pennies.

What have you read this past month?


Swistle said...

Oh, that is SO TRUE about historical fiction! It doesn't matter how many books I read on a topic, Anne always gets beheaded, Henry the 8th always goes from "lovable if a bit spoiled" to "horrible and sad," etc. The funny thing is how often I HOPE it will go differently this time!

Andrea @ The Creative Junkie said...

how is it that you've managed to read 11 books and I've managed to get 1/2 through one? I love to read and usually, whenever I get my hands on a good book, I have to read the entire thing before I can even move from the couch but lately? Maybe I'm coming down with something.

humel said...

11+ books in a month is pretty good going :-) Yesterday evening I picked up 'Uncle Petros and Goldbach's Conjecture', and stayed up till midnight to finish it! I enjoyed the story but there was a fair bit of actual maths in it so I'd only recommend it to a fellow mathematician bookworm I think...

Lorraine said...

wow! I think that is prety amazing that you have read so many books. How do you find reading on the kindle? Lorraine BFS

Mari Sterling Wilbur said...

I love historical fiction both written and done as Masterpiece Theater movies. Thank you for this list. It will keep me busy until it's time to start my outdoor planting.

Regards, Mari

Amy said...

I'm a fan of Tudor fiction as well, these sound good - despite knowing the outcome!

LosingBrownies said...

I love King Henry and Tudor historical fiction!! I don't think I've read any of those books! I have something to search for at the library now!

Rinda1961 said...

11 books!!! I downloaded one to my ipad and received one in the mail. Does that cont?

Comfy Mom said...

Yeah, I keeping hoping Anne Boleyn won't miscarry that baby boy that she loses & seals her fate. Or that Kat Howard would get a clue & not sleep around.

Comfy Mom said...

I've scrapped nothing & I have crocheted nothing. Those two things & books compete for my free time. Plus I have sat in lots of doctor & dentist offices in March.

Comfy Mom said...

I love my Kindle. I have a nice case for it & it feels just like a book to me. I even catch myself reaching for the top right corner of it so I can turn the page.

Carole said...

The Jasper Fforde did start off slow, didn't it. I was a bit worried until I got into it but enjoyed it once it got going.
I MUST add The Last Continent to my library wish list. It sounds excellent!