Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Sherlock Holmes (Unabridged) Part 6: His Last Bow

Sherlock Holmes (Unabridged) Part 6: His Last Bow read by Stephen Fry  308 pp.

This section comprised several short stories from Holmes' past and "The Last Bow" which puts Holmes into a spy story involving four years of British intelligence that has been gathered to be taken to Germany. After that episode Holmes retires to take up beekeeping and write a definitive book on investigation. The other stories are the usual whodunits involving Italian criminals, stolen plans, a missing person, poisonings, and one where Holmes is apparently near death but still gets his man. I've enjoyed listening to this set of audiobooks and I hope that eventually Audible will get the rights to the last part that is only available in Great Britain.

Easy Soups from Scratch with Quick Breads to Match

Easy Soups from Scratch with Quick Breads to Match: 70 Recipes to Pair and Share / Ivy Manning, 176 p.

The title here says it all, and in this case, delivers on its promise.  A wide range of soup varieties with reliable instructions are on hand; my favorites were tortellini chicken soup with seasonal vegetables (extremely easy), egg and lemon soup with toasted orzo and kale, creamy wild rice and turkey, and beef barley with lots of veggies.  I really appreciated the quick bread pairings, too. I am not much of a baker and a recipe that calls for yeast is generally a recipe I won't use, but this is book full of quick breads which use baking powder or soda and only occasionally call for yeast.  At my house we liked potato rosemary farls, featherlight herb dumplings, pimento cheese biscuits, and best of all, everything rye muffins.

The Sea Beast Takes a Lover

The Sea Beast Takes a Lover by Michael Andreason, 227 pages

What a quirky mix of fantastical stories Andreason has presented here, in his debut collection! From dropping a crate of old men into the ocean (so they don't burden their families with dying at home) to a bizarre baptism ritual to a porn star's obsession with the never-landing, always-swooping Rocketboy of her home city to the everyday life of headless Jenny and her put-upon brother, these stories are marvelous. I honestly did not know what I would find when I turned the page, though I was never diasppointed.

Andreason manages to capture the true reactions and emotions of each story's participants in situations that most of us onlookers would find horrific. Take, for example, the titular story, which finds a former naval vessel and its crew slowly sinking in the grasp of a many-tentacled sea creature. The crew has been in this situation for months, and their annoyance and boredom and slowly unraveling psyche comes through loud and clear. I absolutely loved this collection, and I can't wait to read more by Andreason.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018


Unbelievable: My front-row seat to the craziest campaign in American history / Katy Tur, 293 pgs.

Katy Tur took the assignment to follow a Republican candidate that everyone thought would wash out quickly.  She debated canceling her upcoming vacation but assumed this would be short lived and might give her some interesting opportunities.  535 days later she was at the victory party, exhausted and sick of using dry shampoo.  Along the way, she was witness to the oddest campaign in American history.  A candidate with no political experience and perhaps no interest in the job had no problem energizing the "base" and holding successful rally after rally.  Subjected to threats that required security towards the end of campaign, one supporter actually spit in her face after finding out she was a member of the media.  The book recounts a wild ride that lasted much longer than anyone expected. A great read for anyone interested in campaigns or journalism.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling, 341 pages

In his second year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Harry Potter is determined to solve the mystery of who (or what) is roaming the school, attacking students at random. Everyone knows it's the Heir of Slytherin controlling a creature that lives in the Chamber of Secrets, and while everyone has their guess about who the Heir might be (some even think it might be Harry himself!), whoever it is has been mighty sneaky. This isn't my favorite of the Harry Potter books (blame the giant spiders for that), but it's fun and adventure-filled and I loved sharing it with my daughter. We particularly enjoyed giggling at the antics of this year's Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, Gilderoy Lockhart.

Friday, March 16, 2018

This is what happened

This is what happened / Mick Herron, 261 pgs.

Maggie gets recruited to be an informant for the MI5.  She is in the middle of a mission installing software on a machine at a company controlled by Chinese interests.  She is caught by a security guard and detained.  She pulls the fire alarm and escapes but on the way out kills the guard. Mi5 puts her in a safe house.  But time passes and the world changes.  What is going to happen to Maggie?  The story shifts to her "handler" and we find out things aren't actually what they seem.  The story shifts again.  In the end, it is all revealed but along the way you just have to follow along as best you can.  A lot of questions are raised by a story like this.  A decent thriller.

Magpie Murders

Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz, 477 pages

Editor Susan Ryeland has just been given the latest Atticus Pünd whodunnit by her cash-cow author Alan Conway, and immediately settles in to read the book. But just before the killer is revealed, the manuscript ends. When she tries to find the missing pages, she learns that Conway has died suddenly, thrusting her into a mystery of her own.

In Magpie Murders, Horowitz has created a book-within-a-book, a mystery-within-a-mystery, each as compelling as the other. I feel like I'd just read two books when I closed this one: the Agatha Christie-esque Atticus Pünd, and the more modern "real" mystery of Alan Conway's death and missing chapters. In doing so, Horowitz manages to both poke fun at and pay homage to whodunnits. I had a great time with both of these stories, and I highly recommend it to mystery readers.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Meditation for fidgety skeptics

Meditation for fidgety skeptics a 10% happier how-to book / Dan Harris and Jeff Warren with Carlye Adler, 287 pgs.

A follow up to Harris' book "10% Happier" that recounted his adoption of a meditation practice after he had an on-air panic attack.  This book answers a lot more questions about how to go about making meditation a "thing" in your own life.  Jeff Warren is the master meditation teacher and Dan is still a hard charging news anchor who doesn't want stuff to get too treacly.  Put them together with a team on a rock and roll rental bus and see what happens!  They travel across the country trying to introduce meditation to the masses.  Part bromance, part science project, part travel memoir, this book will really make you feel like you should give meditation a chance.  I enjoyed listening to the audio book that is read by Dan and Jeff.

So much blue

So much blue / Percival Everett, 242 pgs.

Kevin is an artist who has been working on a painting for a long time that he won't let anyone see.  He wants to be sure nobody EVER sees it and tries to arrange a system by which it will be destroyed when he dies.  In this "present day" scenario, Kevin lives with his wife Linda and their two kids in what seems like an overall happy family existence.  Another part of the book follows a 1979 visit by Kevin and his friend to El Salvador in search of the friend's brother.  The country is falling into civil war and the trip is engulfed in fear and tragedy.  They help dig a grave for a little girl who has been killed by the military.  The horror of what they witness affects Kevin and the trip also leaves him with another personal secret that makes him question the very basic of his personality.  In a third time, 10 years prior to the "present day," Kevin is in Paris for an art opening and has a brief affair with a much younger woman.  He admits to himself during this fling that he has never loved his wife Linda but instead was looking for a place to exist when they married.  He believes he loves this young French woman and at the same time, Linda is in the States worrying that Kevin has started drinking again.  I've done a mediocre job here of summarizing the book but I enjoyed it very much.  Everett has a way of making us feel we really understand Kevin's inner workings.  I'm inclined to praise Everett's writing and ability to make us want everything to be all right with Kevin while we satisfy our voyeuristic tendencies while watching him veer towards becoming a train wreck.

Dear Fahrenheit 451

Dear Fahrenheit 451: love and heartbreak in the stacks: a librarian's love letters and breakup notes to the books in her life / Annie Spence, 244 pgs.

A librarian writes to books, books she loves and books she doesn't like so much.  Some are long term favorites, others have come and gone.  I like the way the author gives us a little insight into her thinking and a little view of her life.  I know it is the librarian in me who thinks this is a great book but it really is a great book.  I'm not going keep a list of her favorites and add them to my list because I plan to consult this book regularly in the future.