Books 2021: A Finale

As I write this, I suppose some of you will be toasting the New Year, some may even be seeing the first morning of 2022. I’m wishing for all of us that this coming year will be more encouraging and upbeat than the one we’re leaving behind.

The Ragtag Daily Prompt this morning was FINALE – and last night I finished the last book in my 2021 GoodReads reading challenge. At the beginning of last year I set a goal of reading 80 books in 2021, and I accomplished that. In fact I surpassed it, as the book I just finished was #125. Mind you, some of these were simple children’s books – but every book counts.

The shortest book was 32 pages, a children’s book called MAC & CHEESE, by Sarah Weeks, a tale about two cat friends. “Macaroni and Cheese are best friends, yet they couldn’t be more different! Mac likes to pounce and bounce and jump, but Cheese just sits there like a lump.” But one day Cheese has just the answer Mac needs for his problem.

The longest book is actually a three-volume set, Apple Orchard Mysteries, 639 pages in all. A quick easy read with characters who are ditzy and wise-crackers rather than clever. If you’re looking for a good mystery and MC’s with some sense, forget about these and go for Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple + Hercule Poirot, or Dan Walsh’s When Night Comes (#1 in the Jack Turner Series.) In 2021 I reread almost all Diana Xarissa’s Markham Sisters, very mild cozy mystery series. Funny that I liked these so much and her Isle of Man series featuring “Aunt Bessie” not that much.

Book #125 may have been my last read, but I gave it five stars. DON’T EAT THE PUFFIN: Tales From a Travel Writer’s Life by Jules Brown, is delightfully descriptive, written with humour and respect for the environment, the locals and their customs. He’s even embedded You tube links in a few of his stories so readers can get a glimpse of the sights he saw. In his last chapter he pays a warm tribute to his brave, open-minded father who lived in 47 countries and visited thirty more. I read it one chapter at a time over several weeks, savoring all his adventures – though not all the food he consumes. It was well worth the journey!

Brown, a travel writer by profession has written several travel books and blogs at https://julestoldme.com where he recounts his many adventures abroad. He writes for a travel company, but has his own book publishing company, Trust-Me Travel, his own You Tube channel, and posts on Facebook @ JulesBrownWriter. His next book, likewise sharing some common sense travel advice is NEVER PACK AN ICE PICK.

Now I shall close, wishing you good health, blessings and comforts in the new year.

Book: A Study in Stone

I just finished an interesting book, the first of a series. It’s free on Amazon, so I gave it a try and wasn’t disappointed.

A Study in Stone

“You have all the tact of a gently lobbed hand grenade,” Alan Hargreaves tells his new neighbour, as they go about asking questions re: some strange writing on a stone and what it means. Alan, a writer of adventure stories for children, delivers these unique turns of phrase; all the deadpan humor, neatly woven into the text, gave me many chuckles.

Fresh from the dog-eat-dog world of corporate London, hard-nosed and wary, Dan Corrigan definitely lacks people skills. But the corporate world has chewed him up and spit him out; now he’s going to lick his wounds in a peaceful country setting, his sister’s rental cottage in a remote Devon village. When he arrives a passing neighbour stops to chat. The silence hits him. Settling in, he finds he can only get four channels on the telly – and no internet service! “Peaceful” soon becomes bored stiff so he joins his neighbour Alan at the local pub. All through the book the author has an amusing way of dealing with Dan’s “This isn’t London” frustrations.

In a coffee shop the next day a curious code on a stone attracts their attention and Dan’s tenacious attempts to learn the story behind it take them on this long adventure. I really liked Alan’s character; his level-headed and congenial nature makes a great foil for Dan’s skeptical, abrasive one. The two men form a unique give-and-take friendship and Alan helps Dan make the adjustment to another world, calling him on his “you out here in the sticks” attitudes.

The mystery in this story isn’t a menacing one and easy enough to guess if you’ve read some WWI history. But the story’s compelling and the dialogue enjoyable; once I started I didn’t quit reading until I was done. I enjoyed the excerpt for the next novel the author has included at the end and definitely want to read that one, too.

I debated between four and five stars, but I always hesitate to say I absolutely LOVED it. I really did enjoy it, though. 🙂 Checking the Goodreads reviews, I see that some others didn’t. A few people thought the mystery was too easy, which is true. Some enjoyed the historical details while for others there wasn’t enough suspense. Some readers couldn’t handle Dan’s behaviour, some liked the developing friendship between the two men.
Reviews:
5 stars: 42
4 stars: 32
3 stars: 15
2 stars: 6
1 star: 5

Pondering these various reviews has given me fuel for my next post: The Inky Slope of Book Reviews.

Book: A Promise Kept

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A Promise Kept
by David Bishop

Story grabs you from the get-go with its sympathetic main character. This may be a cozy mystery, but I see a few shades of Phillip Marlowe in Rick Carnes’ personality. Just a touch, less hard-boiled. An ex-army Captain who’s worked in govt investigations, Carnes doesn’t take any flak or swallow any lies. The story’s fairly clean over all, but one of the suspects has a foul mouth.

This is definitely a more cosy story than Chandlers’ works, no senseless murders, but almost as mystifying. I like it that Carnes works together with the law. Plus, he has Marlowe beat with all the modern technical resources. The “whodunit” was a complete surprise. I liked the Epilogue; it rounded out the story quite nicely. Kudos, Mr Bishop, on a very well written story!

I’m not sure why, but my name seems to have been listed in Amazon’s “BAD ONES” book recently, as the last three reviews I’ve done were rejected almost immediately — even the brief review for an adult coloring book. So I’ll post my reviews here.

Scars

Our Ragtag Daily Prompt for today is SUSPENSE — which gives me the chance to tell you about a couple of books I’ve read lately.

Scars by [Kevin Dautremont]

SCARS
By Canadian writer Dr. Kevin Dautremont

One of the best Christian mystery books I’ve read, comparable to Dan Walsh’s mysteries. I enjoyed the writing style, somewhat like that of James Patterson, where the events are told in quick, intense spurts. I had no trouble following as the writer took readers from one character to another, revealing their feelings and motives, neatly weaving in the back-story for the various main characters and showing their interactions, good or bad.

Doctor Derek Kessler has moved to Montana to try and put behind him the accident that took the lives of his wife and young daughter. “Where was God that day? Why did He allow them to die?” Like gray clouds, the questions still hover, challenging his faith. Rebecca Andrychuk is a tough lawyer with issues from her troubled past, a broken relationship with her father and her mother’s suicide. The Sheriff has his own wounds; however, behind his pugnacious front and personal biases he wants to know the truth.

I found the story well plotted, not a thriller but a moderate level of suspense, moving along at a steady pace toward the surprising ending twist. The story is complete as is, but I was sorry to reach the end. Having gotten to know these main characters, I’d like to read more about each of them and would welcome a sequel.

THE AMAZON.COM LINK for SCARS

A Case of Blackmail in Belgravia (Freddy Pilkington-Soames Adventures #1)

The first book in the Freddy Pilkington-Soames series. Very well written! No high suspense, but the story grabs you from the first page and keeps you reading. The victim, Ticky Maltravers, is supposedly adored by everyone—but the fact is, no one really likes the self-centred fellow. After a dinner party with some of his supposed admirers he dies on the way home. Worse, he shares a cab with Freddy’s mother and collapses almost on her doorstep, making her look guilty of some mischief. She enlists Freddy — horrified and very annoyed — to take his body home somehow so no one will accuse her.

Realistic attitudes for that era, yet the dialogue is more of a parody on the thinking of the upper crust snobs before the Great War. “Police are a nuisance asking questions and they have no right to bother us this way. It should be obvious that none of us could possibly be guilty. We just don’t do that sort of thing.” And Freddie, nosing around asking questions, makes himself the biggest nuisance of all. He may be a humble reporter at the daily paper, but he has an air of Lord Peter Wimsey about him.

I’ve also enjoyed a couple of the Angela Marchmont Mysteries by this same British author; A Question of Hats is a good one. These and the Freddy Pilkington-Soames Adventures are traditional English whodunits set in the 1920s and 30s.

THE AMAZON.COM LINK for BLACKMAIL IN BELGRAVIA

Books, Mystery + History

I see that Sue at JibberJabber has posted this writing prompt for today: BOOKS

Oh, yes. Ask me about books! 🙂

And this afternoon some author sent an e-mail notice that there’s going to be a SALE of MYSTERY BOOKS this weekend Here’s the scoop.

Just lately I read an article about the “rules” for writing mystery books. I wish I could remember them all, but a few were:
— The victim was someone not well liked. (Which definitely makes sense. There has to be some motive.)
— The one who solves the crime, or sleuth, must be an amateur, not a regular law officer assigned to the case. (Otherwise the story falls into the category of police procedural.)
— There may be animals, but they never get hurt. And you almost never see children in a mystery story.
It doesn’t say there should be a handsome single detective handling the case, or a grouchy middle-aged not–interested-in-silly-details type, but those seem to be the police options you find in mysteries.

Another important rule I could mention is: DO THE RESEARCH!

I know, this is one of my favorite beefs. But I just read two mysteries set in England, written by American authors. Do you know where I’m going with this?

Reading the reviews on Amazon for the one book gave hubby and me a chuckle, especially the reviewer who said, “We do not put cream in our tea and a Scotsman does not have an Irish accent!” This was from a review of the first book in the Helen Lightholder  mystery series. Setting your book in 1942 rural England means a lot of research. Please don’t skimp on this.

During the war years, a young, seemingly able-bodied man in England (who could hop over a fence easily) would never have said, “Especially with this war going on, I haven’t been able to find work.” He supposedly had a heart defect that kept him out of the army, but there was employment for all. And he’d have been questioned constantly about why he wasn’t in uniform. The writer just hasn’t gotten the atmosphere in England during those years.

I got a kick out of how the detective shows Helen her aunt’s obit, then says, “I’ll get you a copy.” And he comes back a few minutes later with the copy. Ha! These young squirts who write books nowadays! (This led Hubby and me into a discussion of mimeograph machines and Gestetner copiers. Remember those?)

Another reviewer, this time of the first book in the Lacey Doyle series: “The author’s knowledge of the world and how it works is abysmal. Her knowledge of England and the English is even worse.” I have to agree.

These writers are both good at their craft, but must have thought they could wing it re: situation. Sadly, most reviewers said they weren’t going to read the next book in the series, mainly for this reason.

One story I read, set in the late 1800s was loaded with anachronisms both in behavior and in language. In one place a male character asks our single heroine, “So what do you do for work?” (What’s the chances, in that era? Women’s employment options were very limited.) And she answers, “I’m into relationships.” In 1890? Groan!

Any genre, any era. If you don’t want one- and two-star reviews, writers, please do the research. Understand the era. Or have someone read over your manuscript who does know that history or place and/or setting.

Books Galore!

WRITE-CLICK

I’ve decided on a new style, with a new heading, introducing my BOOKS-and-AUTHORS commentary. I’ve ready many books, and more are being offered to me every day. there are various sites offering free or super-cheap e-books on the basis of, “Here’s a low-cost book. The author REALLY wishes you’d read it and leave a review.”

In WRITE-CLICK I’m planning to share something about the books I’ve seen and/or read, and authors I think are really good.

Today one of the free books Reading Deals is offering sounds really interesting:
Jessie’s Song by Jeremy Williamson. I can’t vouch for it yet, but will put it on my Wish list.
“A powerful story of a childhood devastated by secrets and abuse. After years of wrestling with her true identity and running from her past, Jessie Jenkins runs headlong into her answer—a mysterious stranger who knows every detail of her life and offers the only thing she ever wanted—a love that can be trusted to heal and not harm.”
Click here for Amazon link.

Yesterday BookBub listed the freebie book Two Minutes to Noon by former Times correspondent Noel F Bush. (Amazon Link here.) Being interested in history and also natural disasters, this one caught my attention.
The Tokyo earthquake of 1923, with the huge fires and tidal waves that followed it, destroyed two of the largest cities in the world. Tokyo and Yokohama experienced a devastation that almost dwarfs the atomic damage at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Another site I’ve gotten a book from is Books2Read. Here’s my write-up about that book, to which I gave a five-star rating:

Loveday Brooke: Lady Detective
by Catherine Pirkis
© 2018 by Midwest Classics Press

Miss Brooke grew up in an upper class family in London, but hard times left her penniless. To support herself she went to work for Ebenezer Dyer, head of a detective agency on Fleet Street. Over time Mr Dyer developed a high regard for Loveday’s crime solving abilities and sends her off on various short assignments. This book is a collection of her adventures.
Her cases are not so much the murder and mayhem kind, rather something or someone has gone missing or was stolen. Ever prim and proper, plainly dressed and nondescript in appearance, she blends in with all classes and ferrets out the details of the crime. The deductive reasoning that brings her to a quick solution is much like that of fellow detective Sherlock Holmes.

British author Catherine Louisa Pirkis, 1841-1910, wrote numerous short stories and fourteen novels during the years 1887 to 1894. She’s best known for her lady detective, Loveday Brooke. Midwest Classics Press has republished Pirkis’ novel. See their website here.