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More of the same: theatrical murder told largely from the point of view of Nigel Bathgate. Trollerific prologue notwithstanding, I didn't guess the murderer, though wasn't particularly surprised by the revelation. I was rather intrigued by the tension between Inspector Alleyn and Stephanie Vaughan; I don't think I've seen him particularly interested by anyone other than Troy. I think I may need to give Marsh a rest for a few years; they do seem to be increasingly same-y.

http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/9859687
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Young man with plague comes to abbey for medical assistance, gets bashed on head. A medieval murder mystery in the Cadfael tradition, though not nearly so convincing as Peters' work. I never quite felt that Clare had really got into the medieval mindset. There was nothing that I could put my finger on as being factually wrong (though I have serious doubts about monks and nuns living practically together under the rule of an Abbess, but I'm willing to be corrected on that), and it seems excessively nitpicky to criticise the modern use of modern words ('preview'; 'coma', etc) when nobody would be speaking English as we know it anyway, but it just didn't gel.

Another, more personal (by which I mean that other readers may not care at all), issue was the mixing of genres, or, rather, the way that the supernatural is unquestioningly accepted by the omniscient narrator. This was something I always thought Peters did rather well, finding room for faith and doubt to dwell together, without denigrating the one or demolishing the other. While the supernatural plot doesn't have much to do with the mystery, it sat ill with me.

The mystery itself was reasonably interesting, though the reader was never allowed to do any work.

http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/6860565
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Needs a Britpicker, badly. I am not convinced that the author had ever been to England, let alone Oxford; the only way I could suspend my disbelief long enough to finish the book was to pretend that the landlubbing part of the story was set in some USAian theme park called 'Oxford' and abandoned in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean for cruise liners to travel to and from. Apart from the more glaring howlers (car numberplate bearing six figures and no letters; travelling from Oxford to Southampton on the M5; schoolgirls of 21 wearing blazers) the dialogue and internal monologues of the British characters were completely off.

Apart from that, the mystery was reasonably diverting, but this was a real struggle to finish.

http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/10013527/
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'B' in the alphabet roundabout... only four more to go. I didn't really get on with this, which I think is partly due to the very boring style of the translation (can't comment on the original, obviously) and partly to coming in late in a series I'd never read before, and not finding the characters very sympathetic. I did start to get interested towards the end as the plot came together, but were it not for the fact that this is a ring book I'd probably have given up a long time ago. The animal violence scenes, while effective, weren't tied in well to the rest of it, and seemed to have been put in only to shock; similarly, I wasn't convinced by the cult aspect. Not inclined to find the rest of the Wallander series, I have to say.

http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/7728233
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I have heard a lot about this author; she seems to divide opinions. I came away from this book without much of one - I didn't hate this, but it wasn't exactly gripping. The basic concept - a big-city attorney defending an Amish girl accused of infanticide - could have been very interesting, but Picoult never seemed to develop any of the themes as much as they deserved. There was some sloppy writing in there - plot elements introduced a little too early and then presented as a big surprise - and I never quite saw the point in switching between first and third person narratives.

http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/9730440
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A creepy and depressing novel about childhood trauma and gender roles. While it was cleverly done and kept me reading to the end, and while I didn't get the secret of the First Audrina (feel like I should have done, though...) I feel somehow unsatisfied.

Clever, but not going to stay with me.

http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/9697475
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I'm sure I've read one of the alphabet series before, but it was a long time ago. Anyway, I like Kinsey Millhone and the way she does things. This was a clever plot, too, with a genuinely surprising ending. Perhaps I'll look out for A, B, C, D etc.

http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/7469428
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An utterly unmemorable book. I didn't exactly dislike it, but it didn't grab me, and it was a bit of a struggle to plough through to the end. The plot was unconvincing, the characters less so, but difficult to relate to, and OK, I admit it, I'm not a dog person.

The author obviously has a very defined sense of place, but, not knowing the Cotswolds, I was unable to plug into this, and it all rather passed me by. Perhaps if I knew the area I'd have enjoyed this more. As it was, it all felt very flat.

I did pick up the next one in the series to try to work out what I felt about this book, and discovered within a few pages that my prevailing emotion was boredom.

http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/8101473/
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The story of the discovery of a rare book, and the resulting mystery, intrigue and murder in mid-century Spain. An absorbing read, with many threads to follow and many subplots coiled up inside each other. I guessed the identity of Laín Coubert very early on, but it was worth keeping going to the end even so.

I'd have liked to see the female characters do more, though, rather than have the plot simply happen around them. And, as is often the case with books set in a time/place I don't know much about, I was left thinking 'I really must find out more about ...'

http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/10179767/
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Re-read - frustratingly, I remembered whodunnit half way through, which made it less fun. It's interesting the things you pick up on as an adult that you didn't as a child - the coding of Mr Ellsworthy, for example - and how it can make you cringe...

I'll be releasing this at the BookCrossing convention in Dublin.

http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/9857288
stapsreads: 'The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them' (Default)
Letter M in the ABC book roundabout. I think I'm due to get N and then it goes back to A (so I've still got 7 books to come). It's been an interesting experience so far; I've been reading a lot of books I wouldn't normally give the time of day to, and on the whole that experience is to be welcomed.

This, for example, has transformed my position on the Mrs Pargeter series from 'whuh?' to 'might pick up another if found in charity shop' - which is, after all, how I get most of my books. I liked Mrs Pargeter - she is what you might get if you gave Miss Silver Lord Peter Wimsey's money and circle of friends (I'm thinking particularly of Bert. Bill? The ex-burglar.) The plot was take-it-or-leave-it - I wasn't convinced by the final twist - but it was a fun read.

http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/10205854/
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A detective story set in Stalin's Russia, centred on the fate of the Romanovs. I have to admit that this didn't do much for me - it was OK, but I found the actual history in the back far more interesting than the story. The general air of Tsariolatry, while in character for the main character, felt rather dismissive of the valid concerns of the Russian people, and put me off. I also found the extensive flashback sections in italic type difficult to read - physically, I mean, not emotionally.

http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/10482021/
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A rather pedestrian mystery, notable more for the confidence with which it deals with persons of exalted office than for any particular inspiration when it came to plot. First published 1980, and so I'm probably missing some context, not being very well up in any sort of politics of that era that doesn't involve trade unions. (They do feature in this, admittedly, but only very briefly.)

This rather fell into the trap of misdirecting so hard that none of the really interesting mystery stuff (When you know How, you know Who) got a look-in. The setting and characters seemed plausible, though.

http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/988847
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Grabbed at random from the To Be Read pile because it looked like a quick and frivolous read, and so it was. M. C. Beaton is the author of the Agatha Raisin and Hamish Macbeth series (pl.), neither of which I have tried thus far. This book involves neither Agatha Raisin nor Hamish Macbeth, but two one-off characters (I assume, at least) called Fellworth and Maggie who set out to clear Fellworth's family name, get various people into bed (occasionally each other...) behave illogically (seriously, why not tell the lawyer about the money?), and generally get in the way of the police.

I think the illogical behaviour was my main gripe with this. It wasn't just Fell and Maggie; it was Fell's parents, the aristocratic lady, her son, everybody... not much of it made sense, and the characterisation generally felt off. The plot was rather implausible. Fun read, though.

http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/10086137/
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A three-in-one edition comprising Venus in Copper, The Iron Hand of Mars, and Poseidon's Gold. After this I think Davis ran out of elements. Never mind. These are possibly the only Falco books I have read in the correct order; fortunately this doesn't make too much difference, as Davis is good enough at characterisation (and not relying on the reader having read all the other books in order) for me to keep a reasonably good grasp of who was who and what was what.

I've not really much new to say about these. Venus in Copper is a potential grooms-in-the-bath case; The Iron Hand of Mars deals with Germany - the Roman Empire and beyond; Poseidon's Gold has Falco in more trouble than usual, and involves his disreputable and amusing family. (I love reading about other people's disreputable families.) All told with the usual wit and good humour, not to mention the sense that, though the past is a foreign country, they speak the same language there. I enjoyed these.

http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/10063696/
stapsreads: 'The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them' (Default)
I've deliberately cut back on reading modern crime in recent weeks, having felt a little overwhelmed by it in the autumn. I think this strategy, combined with the genuine merits of this novel, paid off; Flight of the Stone Angel held my attention in a way that many modern mysteries have failed to do.

It's hard to put my finger on what makes this one so good: partly it's the lush descriptions of the Mississippi landscape, I think (I started out finding them rather pretentious, but they grew on me). Probably nearer the mark, though, is the element of surprise. So many thrillers are so tediously formulaic, and in this one I honestly didn't know what was going to happen next. Wonderfully ambiguous characters, too, with plenty left unsaid about all of them.

And it ended with that satisfying/frustrating revelation: that the entire mystery was laid out before the reader all the way through, and you really ought to have guessed it.

http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/7891852
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Another instalment in the Falco series, which I am reading wildly out of order, but it doesn't really seem to matter much. I am reading less for the mystery and more for the local colour, which is effective and hilarious, and while I dare say it's an idealised picture of ancient Rome (or, in this case, Spain), it's an engaging one.

http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/10125893/
stapsreads: 'The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them' (Default)
This is a surprise book in the BookCrossing ABC roundabout (I started off the G round with 'Gods Behaving Badly' and we're working up the alphabet). I could have done without another modern crime thriller, having overdosed spectacularly over the past few weeks, but that says more about me than it does about the book, so let's leave that aside.

This is set in a New Orleans radio station, where the star turn, a psychologist who hosts a late-night phone-in show, is receiving phone calls from a mystery man. I felt that the setting was evocatively described, and the mystery was reasonably interesting; however, some of the gender politics made me roll my eyes a bit (a girl ends up dead because she is 'too ambitious', hmm, hmm) and what with that and them glazing over in the sex scenes they got rather over-exercised.

http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/10203084
stapsreads: 'The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them' (Default)
Ngaio Marsh leaves her usual habitat of the professional stage in this one, and descends to the level of amateur theatricals in the village hall. Perhaps fortunately, we never get to see any of them (and I say this as a once-eager participant myself) as the murder happens before the curtain rises on the opening night.

I am getting better at picking up clues that aren't remarked on, and I got the identity of the murderer from one of these. I still can't be bothered to follow through and work out the boring opportunity bits, though. When you know how, you know who, etc, and who cares about when?

Aside from all that, the general setting left a rather nasty taste in my mouth. It was a dotty English village in spades, with not one but two cassock-clingers, and a scheming widow. Misogyny, much? Also Comic Dorset Accents, which made me cringe rather. Generally, an reasonably interesting mystery, but, like pretty much all of Marsh's, nothing that really elevates it to the level of greatness.

http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/10065739
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My first foray into Heyer's crime fiction. I had previously read a couple of her Regency romances, but that's about it. This was a fairly mediocre sample of the Golden Age of dectective fiction; it felt more like an Agatha Christie TV adaptation than an Agatha Christie, if you see what I mean; everything was that bit less colourful and evocative.

This is probably not helped by the fact that I found all the characters irritating in the extreme, and am much more likely to pick up on the snobbery (of which there is plenty) these days than I was when I first picked up Hallowe'en Party. The mystery itself was mildly interesting, but I really didn't care...

http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/10121519/

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