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.

Resolved Reads 2021

This morning I got an e-mail from Goodreads. Titled Christine’s Year in Books, it’s a summary of my reading in 2020 — that they know about. Kobo and library books I’ve listed as READ, as well as books on my Kindle reader which show up automatically when I’ve finished, since the two companies are connected. According to their count, I’ve read 102 books this year. Probably 110 would be closer, as I’ve re-read half a dozen or so without registering that fact on Goodreads.

My average book length was 206 pages; the longest was a collection of Penny Powers stories — 1760 pages in all. Right now I’m reading and almost done Jake and the Kid, a book by W.O.Mitchell set on the prairies. Then I have a couple more e-books started that I hope to finish shortly. Are you one to start more than one book at a time? Or are you one of these self-disciplined sorts who always finishes one thing before you start another? 😉

I enjoy a variety of genres and authors, but when I get into a series I’ll usually read the whole works — and if I really enjoy the characters, I’ll read the books more than once. Like Diana Xarrisa’s mild mystery series featuring the Markham sisters and their bed and breakfast in “Doveby Dale.” These novellas come in alphabetical order and I’ve just bought the last one, The Zachary Case, but I’ve re-read most of the others.

I’ve read most of the Miss Marple stories by Agatha Christie. Another series I’ve followed is Elizabeth Lemarchand’s mysteries solved by Inspectors Pollard & Toye of Scotland Yard. These are police procedurals as are Emily Brightwell’s Victorian mysteries featuring Scotland Yard Inspector Witherspoon and his housekeeper, Mrs Jeffries. When a murder is committed among the toffs in London, Witherspoon is sent to find the guilty party. Acting as a team, his staff and friends quietly get involved in turning up and sharing pertinent information. Finally Mrs Jeffries sorts it all out in her mind and figures out whodunit and why, then tips off the inspector so he can arrest the perpetrator. I just read the newest, Mrs Jeffries and the Alms of the Angel, #38 in the series.

A much milder series I follow is Nicholas Rhea’s Constable series, which rarely involve serious crimes, just day-to-day policing among the farms and small villages in rural England circa 1950. The Miss Read stories about Fairacre and Thrush Green are likewise sent in the 40s in rural England.

But now I’m pondering my next year’s reading plan and making a New Year’s Resolution. I’m considering all the books I’ve bought waiting patiently in the “To Read Soon” pile. I’ve read that other folks load their e-readers with books that don’t get read — and I am definitely guilty! But there are always intriguing new ones! As a friend quoted lately: “So many books; so little time.”

I rarely ever make definite New Year’s Resolutions because I know they are so hard to keep when temptation sings its siren song, but I’m resolved that in 2021 I WILL NOT BUY or BORROW ANY MORE BOOKS until I’ve gone through those 280 books on my Kindle and read the ones I haven’t yet. (If possible.) Plus write reviews for the ones I have read — if I haven’t already. Any new ones that pop up during the year and specially appeal to me can go on my Goodreads “Want to Read” list — along with the 190 already listed there. 😉

Can I keep this resolution? Or is this an impossible dream? What do you think?

Yesterday

Today’s Word of the Day prompt is YESTERDAY. I can hardly miss this one, as I have lots to say about yesterday.

We were off to the city shortly after 9am yesterday; I had a doctor’s appointment in the morning and we had a writers’ group get-together in the afternoon. Once a month some of us Christian writers in this area get together to catch up and keep in touch. It’s always an encouraging sharing session. One of our group, Darlene Polachic, has written several Christian romances. Here’s Amazon link for the first book in her Ever Green series, of which there are five so far.

Yesterday I finally finished a jigsaw puzzle I started Sunday. It was a toughie, a 1000- piece artwork picture, the artist’s depiction of some southern (Tuscan?) village with background vineyards and trees, which means the whole puzzle is mostly shades of green-grey-aqua. I was convinced quite a few pieces were missing until the very end, when it turned out only one was. Smack in the middle of the sky! Do you throw out jigsaw puzzles with one piece missing?

Yesterday while I was waiting for my husband I downloaded and started to read a cozy mystery, one of the Aunt Bessie series by Diana Xarissa. I finished it this afternoon, between excursions outdoors to clean up the flower beds and pots. We’ve had some serious frost that’s left my annuals looking pretty limp. Time to get the pots cleaned up and put away.

Overall the series feels mild and homey. Aunt Bessie lives in her little cottage by the sea, on the Isle of Man, and gets together often with her friends for meals and discussions about whodunit. She seems to have a knack for being on the scene when a crime’s discovered and it helps that her good friends are Inspector John Rockwell, Bessie’s friend Doona, who works at the Police Dept., and Hugh Waterson, a local bobby who loves his food. Lately they’re often joined by Hugh’s new girlfriend, Grace. (They marry later in the series.)

This story starts out well but the middle slows considerably as they go in a lengthy circle of who committed the crime and get nowhere. Plus it’s Christmas and they get lost in a rather long discussion and sampling of seasonal goodies. I feel a mystery should move fairly fast and this one definitely could speed up some. If readers are really interested in the various kinds of cookies made in the US and how they differ from the English biscuits, they may not mind this detour from the investigation, but 3/4 of the way through I was ready to skip ahead and find out who the guilty party was.

Still, for a cozy mystery series this one is quite good. I really don’t like the ones where an aggressive amateur sleuth gets in people’s faces, demanding answers. I read and enjoy the Markham Sisters Bed & Breakfast series, by the same author. It also moves sedately for the most part and the mysteries are minor ones, like what their guests might be up to, or who might be spreading counterfeit bills in the little village of Doveby Dale.

This series reminds me of the Miss Read books I used to read long ago, “Life in a small English village” type of stories. And one thing I can say about both these series is that the writing is improving and the characters are developing more, and more sensibly, as the series progresses. Nice to see the writer learning and improving her craft.

I wonder how many of you recalled that old Beatles tune, “Yesterday,” when you saw today’s word prompt? If you’re under forty you maybe never gave it a thought, but that was a big hit when I was a young teen. Dates me, right? 😉

And I think that’s enough said about yesterday.

The Reading Mother

Strickland Gillilan, 1869-1954, was an American poet and humorist, and this is the verse he’s most famous for:

The Reading Mother

I had a Mother who read to me
sagas of pirates who scoured the sea,
cutlasses clenched in their yellow teeth,
“blackbirds” stowed in the hold beneath.

I had a Mother who read me lays
of ancient and gallant and golden days;
stories of Marmion and Ivanhoe,
which every boy has a eight to know.

I had a Mother who read me tales
of Gêlert the hound of the hills of Wales,
true to his trust till his tragic death,
faithfulness blent with his final breath.

I had a Mother who read me the things
that wholesome life to the boy heart brings —
stories that stir with an upward touch.
Oh, that each mother of boys were such!

You may have tangible wealth untold;
caskets of jewels and coffers of gold.
Richer than I you can never be —
I had a Mother who read to me.

My contribution today to National Poetry Month is taken from The Best Loved Poems of the American People. © 1936 by Doubleday & Company, New York.

I found this book at a second-hand book sale this afternoon. Almost 650 pages for $1 — quite a bargain!

Circling Round Insomnia

Hello Everyone! I see we have another hoar-frosty morning in this part of the province. A bit of wind on Saturday dusted most of last week’s collection off the trees and shrubs, but a fog rolled in last night and touched them all up again. Very unusual for November.

I’m glad for another Monday morning, a new week ahead. I’ve some specific goals to meet and posts I’d like to write. And it’s December already! 🙂

Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day is CIRCUMVENT

There are a lot of things one might try to get around, usually rules or taboos, but this morning I’m thinking of circumventing (getting around) insomnia. If such a use is permissible.

Sometimes I imagine counting things, or working on an assembly line. Usually I read. Not just a boring, soporific book, but something that draws relaxing images in my mind; my favourite choices are poetry and haiku. Ron Evans, a good on-line acquaintance once sent me four slim books by Peter Pauper Press, the Japanese Haiku Series, with poems by various haiku teachers and poets of past centuries — the “old masters.” I usually have one of these by my bedside, along with an old Friendship Book of Francis Gay.

Trouble is, as I’m reading I get inspired and soon have to get up, find pen and paper, and record what comes to me. Oh, well. Here are several haiku that came to me Saturday night:

her reflection on the pond
rippled by a water bug
hurrying somewhere

footprints in the snow
I gaze down the sidewalk
wondering who

the bird notes soar
and I try – but my tune
has no wings

From the Heart Award

Blogger Kristian Fogarty bestowed this award on me. apparently there are NO requirements, but I’d like to pass it on, so will take this opportunity to mention some other bloggers I find interesting and you might, too.

WHAT IS IT?

This award goes to bloggers who primarily focus on personal writing. These posts are often from the writer to the world at large, or from the writer to the writer themselves and they just allow us access to their mind.

RULES:

There are no rules, no questions, no participation requirements for this award. It is given from bloggers to other bloggers. It was designed by the Haunted Wordsmith and is given to other bloggers as a gesture of thanks and appreciation for their work.

I won’t do this all in one session — I know quite a few bloggers who write really interesting posts — but will start with a few.

Alistair at dralimanonlife, tells us a bit more about himself every weekend, doing Cee’s Share Your World Writing challenge. He also likes doing Flash Fiction with a neat little twist at the end. Here’s one of his stories.

Keith at keithsramblings.net is another devotee of flash fiction with a bit of humor woven in, like this tale of a poor Cassidy missing his leg.

Rochelle Wisoff-Fields at rochellewisoff.com is the lady who hosts Friday Fictioneers and sends out the photos for writers to concoct stories about. she herself is a history buff. She likes presenting neat biographical background info about well-known people.

By now this post is full of links and my coffee’s getting cold, so I’d better quit. Wishing you all a great weekend.