Whatcha reading?

Whatcha reading?

Monday, August 27, 2012

Red Flower of China: Zhai Zhenhua

Frightening book about a girl who becomes part of China's cultural revolution. It's terrifying not only that it happened shortly after WWII's atrocities, but that it could easily happen today. Following Zhenhua's childhood was so similar to the Nazi Youth, it wasn't until her party turned on her that she began to think for herself and the people she murdered or abused. Really well written and very honest. (and did I mention frightening?)

Sunday, August 26, 2012

I am Forbidden: Anouk Markovits

Wow- what a heartbreaking story! I cried several times, very artfully written. The story begins pre-World War II Europe and ends in present-ish day New York. It weaves in and out of several lives forming love, distance, redemption, destruction, the whole gamut of emotions in life. The struggles within religion and family are so believable and despairing. I don't even know how to summarize this book, it is one you have to read to do it justice.

The Coral Island: Robert Ballantyne

This book was the inspiration for Golding's Lord of the Flies. It's about 3 shipwrecked boys; Ralph- the narrator who is 15, Peterkin-13 and Jack-18.The story is kind of dull until chapter 19 when Ballantyne stops spending time describing  the island and its wonders and adds some action. Though before wikipedia and TV this book was probably packed full of interesting exotics; penguins, breadfruit trees, sharks, water caves, wild pigs etc. The last half of the book includes visitors to the islands, battles, kidnappings. So at least it ended excitingly!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

America The Vulnerable: Joel Brenner

Rather frightening eye opener. You hear all about conspiracies with china hacking into that hardware that they have made- since all our stuff is now made in china, however this book hits on actual hacking of things you'd never think of. Prison inmate files, The Cloud- where information is scattered about, internet banking, stolen thumbdrives, powerplants and grids being taken over. Wikileaks, possible scenarios for future war, if it can be called war. Seriously scarey stuff. Makes me wish I was born 100 yrs ago! I really loved this quote from the book "Lack of imagination can't be fixed by supplying more information"

Monday, August 13, 2012

Romola: George Eliot

I wasn't sure how to feel at the end. I think it was supposed to be a happy ending, but I was still irritated with Tito and the blood on his hands. It was a wonderful story, I only searched for it because it was mentioned in another book I had read. I like George Eliot and will now make a point to read all of her books, since I didn't realise she had so many.- Ok back to the book, A young woman (Romola) lives with her father who has gone blind. Her brother is "dead" though later in the book we learn he became part of the church and was disinherited for that move, he does die shortly after being introduced. Romola is raised believing she is less important than her brother (takes place in Florence in 1492) and falls in love quickly. At first we believe Tito is a decent fella, but then like the city around them, everything falls apart. Tito finds out his adoptive father has become a slave and chooses not to rescue him. He then "marries" a simple child (Tessa) and has two children with her while married to Romola. He sells the most important thing to Romola, her father's books, after the father dies and acts like he doesn't recognize his own father when he escapes slavery. - Fast forward Tito becomes a traitor and is responsible for the hanging of Romola's god father and the town priest in exchange for saving his own hide. He is killed by his stepfather in the end and Romola ends up taking care of Tessa and the two children. Obviously there is more to the story than that, symbolism and the like. A really good story if you like oldies, but goodies.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The Dead Witness, A Connoisseur's Collection of Victorian Detective Stories: Michael Sims

A collection of 22 detective stories presented in chronological order with a short biography of each author before their work.

The Secret Cell-William E Burton
 Known as the first detective story and supposedly inspired Poe to write The Murders in Rue Morgue. Predictable suspect and not very engaging, but a good reminder on how far mysteries have come. An ill woman leaves her fortune to a young girl (who nursed her through sickness) instead of her heirs. The will stated that the family would only receive the wealth if the benefactor died. Whelp, the benefactor came up missing not too long after. After a series of bumbles and dead ends, the detective finds the girl alive (with the help of a hound with a good nose).

The Murders in Rue Morgue- Edgar Allan Poe
The entire time I was reading this story I thought I can see why they don't have any other friends! "You were thinking this at the precise moment that this happened because 4 minutes ago you passed this person who"...normal conversation please! Though it was amusing. I also liked how different the witness statements to the crime were- it was an Italian, no a Spaniard, no a Frenchmen! So true how people perceive things differently. The murderer ends up being an orangutan.

On Duty With Inspector Field- Charles Dickens
Interesting story in that I have no idea what the problem was. Dickens spent so much time describing the unfortunate town and people that if there was a crime, it was forgotten. I found it interesting how times have changed- this is how profanity was hinted at, but not actually included " I won't, says Bark, have no adjective police and adjective strangers in my adjective premises!" That was about all I gathered from this story, and that Dickens had no respect for the poor?

The Diary of Anne Rodway- Wilkie Collins
Collins seemed to be an interesting character and I like learning about how their lives intertwine with others. (as with Harper Lee and friend Truman Capote, who was supposedly inspiration for Jem in To Kill a Mockingbird) Collins was friends with Dickens and his little brother married Dicken's daughter. Collin's story was fascinating in that the protagonist was a woman (the author a male, but the narrator's voice was believable) and on top of that she became a detective. It was a good solid story.

You Are Not Human, Monsieur d'Artagnan- Alexandre Dumas
I loved this story. One of the first stories I read for pleasure and got me to like reading was the Count of Monte Cristo. Anyway, this story is about a man who was reported to have been dueling and rumor moved through town that he was near dead. The Landlord had banned dueling and sent a man out to look at the site and give his impression. The way he describes the events makes it obvious that he was the other who took part in the duel, but the Landlord just thinks he is skilled in looking for clues. A very cute read.

Arrested on Suspicion- Andrew Forrester Jr.
A mystery where women are viewed as lazy, childish, and dumb. A brother and sister live together in a apartment and get new borders below them. The sister remarks on how similar she and the daughter of the boarder downstairs look and then suddenly the sister is arrested for thief. She was wearing a stolen ring- though the story behind how it was given to her was never told. The brother realizes the borders downstairs are thieves and his sister was arrested because she looked similar. he confirms his suspicions by finding, then decoding a letter sent between mother and daughter and then gets the police to make arrests. Sort of dull, devoted 3 pages to deciphering the letter and several more to finding it.

The Dead Witness-W.W. (Mary Fortune)
Sad life for the author, lost a son and when she wrote under her own name she was rejected. It sounds like she died a street bum. A good short mystery. Different from the others in this collection so far. A detective is sent to the outback to determine if a missing camera man has been murdered. Finds the murderer in one of the last pictures the man takes ( he was hiding in the bushes) then while talking with that man, the camera man's body floats up from a watering hole where it had been tossed. The arrest was made and peace was restored.

The Mysterious Human Leg- James McGovan
Interesting Author- he was a Violinist and wrote under this pen name. All sorts of things were going on in this story, it was like a Seinfeld episode. A leg was found with tacks all through it, which was taken off by a Doctor, who was being blackmailed by a bum about visiting a married woman. We then find out that a man shot someone with tacks because they were breaking into his house and he couldn't find his bullets. We get to see a lovely side of humanity.

The Little Old Man of Batignolles- Emile Gaboriau
Interesting story in that it is told from the perspective of a neighbor who befriends the detective. An old man is found murdered and beside him in blood is the first few letters of his nephew's name, who was in line to inherit his wealth. the neighbor realizes that the wrong finger is bloodied to have written the name and a search ensues. The murderer ends up being the nephew's closest friend, who was coveting his wife. By murdering the uncle he thought it would get his friend out of the way and he could marry the wife, who would then be rich.

The Science of Destruction- Arthur Conan Doyle
A cute story dealing with the introduction of Sherlock Holmes and his oddness. He unravels how he knew his companion was recently in Afghanistan.

The White Chapel Mystery- Anonymous
Creepy... story? I was confused on if this was written about Jack the Ripper's victims or inspired by it, but it was disturbing. Written as it was included in the paper.

The Assassin's Natal Autograph- Mark Twain
I have never been a Mark Twain fan, but this was a good story. It dealt with both race and the new idea (at the time) of fingerprinting to solve a crime. Two babies were switched at birth- which was brought to light during a murder trial, though I am not sure what we are meant to conclude. A white baby was swapped to slavery and the baby born in slavery was swapped to live as a white person. The baby who grew up white ended up being the murderer.

The Murder at Troyte's Hill- C.L. Pirkis
Another murder mystery by a woman author, with a woman detective. She is sent to live in the house  where the murder took place and realizes the owner is a mad man, she narrowly escapes with her life before the police show up as she requested.

The Haverstock Hill Murder-George R Sims
An original story with a male author and female detective told through the eyes of the detective's helper. A woman is murdered and her husband is taken into custody. We find out that her first husband was an embezzler and supposedly died. In the end the detective finds out the previous husband is the murder and had fakes his death. The bank notes he was using were traced and lead to his guilt.

The Stolen Cigar-Case- Bret Harte
This was SUCH a copy of a Sherlock Holmes story, but still cute. A friend of a Holmes-like character listens to him as he complains of losing his cigar case. a few days go by, then the Holmes-ish guy invites him to his house where he accuses him of stealing his cigar case. He then explains how he thinks the theft went down. They end up finding the case still in the drawer and their friendship ends. However the story of theft was so convincing that the narrator starts wondering if he did in fact steal it.

The Absent-Minded Coterie- Robert Barr
A cute mystery in which the crime is found out, but then the wrong doers are freed to continue cheating people. A detective sneaks into a house and finds evidence of the owner selling items to people in payments and then never closing the tab so that the person ends up paying several years after the item had actually been paid off. Since the detective wasn't working for the local police and did not have jurisdiction, the guilty party pointed out the detective broke in. He quickly burned the incriminating evidence and walked out. There was nothing the police or detective could do since they did not have any unburned evidence and had been in the wrong.

The Hammer of God- G.K.Chesterton
Odd story, though unpredictable. An adulterer is murdered and the murder weapon, a small hammer is near the body. The first person suspected was the black smith because it was his hammer, then they realize he was out with two others all day and he is so strong- why would he use a small hammer? They then suspect the murdered man's wife, but the priest thinks only a mad man would do such a thing. in the end they find out the murder was committed by the "hand of god". The priest had killed his brother for sinning.

The Angel of the Lord-Melville Davisson Post
Weird little bitty. An uncle and dad sent the boy off to deliver money to "someone". In the end we find out this was a trap to find the man who murdered a man who was "missing". The uncle bursts into the Inn right before the murderer gets the little boy and tells how he thinks the deed was done. He then lets the guy off with a promise to kill him if he ever returns.

The Crime at Big Tree Portage- Hesketh Prichard
Oddly enough this story leaves you feeling peaceful. A man is murdered and a tracker is sent to find out what happened. By determining the person was wearing new moose moccasins and was a religious man because he cut a branch for a candle and what would one read at night, but the bible they catch their man. But they let him go unless the police can figure out who did it. The man killed his son in law because he was beating up his daughter.

The Tragedy at Brookbend Cottage-Ernest Bramah
Tragic indeed. A man suspects his brother in law is trying to kill his sister and hires a detective. The detective does some ground work and finds that the man did indeed plan to kill her and make it look like accidental electricity from a storm. They end up telling her what was happening and put her in another room where she ended up drinking poison and dying anyway.

The Case of Padages Palmer-Harvey O'Higgins
Cute story about a kid detective who used to do telegraphs and with his nosiness landed a job as a detective assistant.He follow the detective around and acts like he's his uncle so they can be undercover believably. they then entrap the thief at a hotel dining room.

An Intangible Clue- Anna Katherine Green
I had to keep reminding myself how different life was when this was written. There are all these excuses and set ups to create reasons for a woman to be investigating a crime scene. I found it sort of lame, but maybe it was an amazing work then. A woman is murdered and the detective has to be escorted to the scene by her brother since it isn't "fit" for her to be there. She then looks out the window at an empty home and says- gee if someone were only there to see what happened. Low and behold, someone was.

Friday, August 3, 2012

The Keeper of Lost Causes: Jussi Adler-Olsen

For some reason this author reminded me of J A Konrath, who is one of my favorite authors (the other being Crichton). Loved the book, loved the characters, loved the humor. I was surprised at the end after so much characterization of Merete Lyngaard that it would end with "in spite of the sad outcome". Fast paced and fascinating until the last word. An investigator comes back to work after healing from a shoot out which leaves one of his team dead, the other in the hospital paralyzed. His coworkers become fed up with him and give him a "raise" dealing with old unsolved cases. Investigating the one his new helper picks to work on first, they discover the person is still alive...  I am in he process of looking for more of his stories, in English of course.