Friday, January 30, 2015

My Vintage Haul

Over the past month or so, I've scored a nice bunch of vintage books online (and not as I would have preferred, digging around in the back room of an old and musty bookstore), STILL, it's better than not having them at all. 

Shall I set aside what I'm currently reading and dive into my new stash?

How do you handle a new onslaught of books in the mail? It's so hard to stop the hankering to drop everything. 

I mean, look what I have sitting here, simmering and waiting:

THE FOUR FALSE WEAPONS (1937) by John Dickson Carr. 
A Henri Bencolin mystery. This is only my second Bencolin book. The creepy-crawly CASTLE SKULL is still the one and only of this French sleuth's adventures I've ever read so I'm really looking forward to my second sojourn with the suavely eccentric Parisian. For some odd reason I've always thought that CASTLE SKULL was the one and only Bencolin book - link to my review.

DEATH IN THE FOG (1933) by Mignon G. Eberhart
Ooooh, this one sounds all dark and spooky and as we know, Eberhart loves things that go bump in the night. I remember reading this author years ago but for the life of me I can't remember what books of hers I actually read - this was in the time before I kept a reading record. (If I'd known that my memory was going to go bust, I certainly would have begun recording my reads much earlier.) I did read WHILE THE PATIENT SLEPT (that much I do remember) a while back and wrote about it on the blog. Link to my review.

Next: A lethal anthology: LETHAL LADIES featuring three novels, two of which I've NEVER read and one which is long overdue to be re-read: 

THE LADY VANISHES (1936) by Ethel Lina White (the novel upon which my second favorite classic Hitchcock film is based). I've never read any of White's books so this will be a double pleasure I'm sure.

LAURA (1942) by Vera Caspary I've never read any books by this author but of course I love and am very familiar with the Otto Preminger film starring Clifton Webb, Dana Andrews and Gene Tierney. Very eager to read the source material of one of my  favorite films.

REBECCA (1938) by Daphne du Maurier Read this many, MANY years ago, love the film with Olivier and Fontaine and well, it's just time for a re-read. A good book for a cold winter night.

Next: An Alistair Maclean Anthology: 

H.M.S. ULYSSES (1955) 

Am I in heaven or what?

Oh, mustn't forget to mention: HUNTINGTOWER (1922) by John Buchan -  It arrived early, a few weeks ago - my review will be up and running just as soon as I can manage it. Hint: I LOVED THIS BOOK!!

Monday, January 5, 2015

Favorite Books of 2014

2014 was a great reading year. In fact, I read so many wonderful books that it was more difficult than ever to cull my absolute favorites. For this end of year list I've excluded re-reads as it is to be assumed that, generally, if I re-read a book, it's because I loved it the first time and want to repeat the experience. So, without further ado, here are my Top Ten favorite first time reads of 2014 plus five runners-up.

1) LIFE AFTER LIFE by Kate Atkinson - Yvette's Book of the Year. Thinking back over the year and if I had to pick just one book to recommend, this would be it. My review.

2) WHERE'D YOU GO, BERNADETTE? by Maria Semple - Yvette's Runner-up Book of the Year. The second book I'd recommend most from the past year. Another popular choice that, unexpectedly, lived up to the hype. My review.

3) THE LORD OF THE RINGS TRILOGY by J.R.R. Tolkien. An absolutely wonderful reading experience. My favorite of the three - to my surprise - THE TWO TOWERS, the second in the trilogy. (I was beguiled by the walking and talking trees.)

4) THE BONES OF PARIS by Laurie R. King. Paris in the twenties. An eerie tale of dark doings, creepily inclined 'artists' and ex-pats, a missing girl, and a down and out detective. My review.

5) ASSIGNMENT IN BRITTANY by Helen MacInnes. The author's second book - a fabulous WWII spy thriller not to be missed. My review.

6) THE STORIED LIFE OF A.J. FIKRY by Gabrielle Zevin.  Absorbing and engaging. A moving novel about spiritual loneliness, the love of books, the workings of a bookstore and the often confounding unexpectedness of life. A.J. Fikry is an emotionally detached, woebegone (and rather cranky) widower who owns a bookstore in a place called Alice Island in which he is fortunate enough to be the only game in town - book-wise. When I read that a book is about 'redemption and reformation' I usually run the other way. Those two words mean 'book club book' to me and that's not my gig. But occasionally one will slip in under my guard. This one did and boy am I glad.

 7) FROM LONDON FAR by Michael Innes. A wildly energetic and very odd thriller /farce combo from the erudite Mr. Innes. An Alice in Wonderland story with a middle-aged philologist named Richard Meredith in place of Alice and a tobacconist's shop cellar in place of the hole in the ground. Very strange, but I loved it.

8) SUDDENLY AT HIS RESIDENCE by Christianna Brand. An English country house mystery is always a good thing. An English country house mystery set during the Blitz (WWII) is even better, especially since this impacts the story very satisfactorily in the end. Who killed grandfather as he was about to change his will yet again? The eccentrically inclined Inspector Cockrill is called upon to find a very clever killer. My review.

9) THE SILKWORM by Robert Galbraith aka J.K. Rowling (The first book, THE CUCKOO'S CALLING was also excellent, but I think I liked THE SILKWORM just a tad more.) In the second book in the Cormoran Strike series, Rowling takes on the dark asides of the publishing industry with gusto. Owen Quine, a pretentious, pompous, untalented and unloved writer with a taste for Jacobean dramatics, goes missing and his hapless wife asks Strike to find him primarily because she's run out of money. One grisly murder discovery later and said wife quickly falls under suspicion.

I am very eagerly looking forward to the next Cormoran Strike mystery.

10) FLETCHER'S END by D.E. Stevenson. I fell in love with the house first, then the characters. Fletcher's End is an old and decrepit house on the outskirts of a country village. The current owner, a young naval officer away on sea duty is looking for a quick sale. But with only an old caretaker 'in situ' and no real attempt to keep up the property - the garden is a jungle - the years pass and the house continues to sit empty and forlorn.

Enter Bel and Ellis Brownlee, happy newlyweds who are looking to settle in the country. They, with the convenient help of an architect friend, will discover that Fletcher's End has fine bones, beautiful structure and, with a few adjustments, is just the perfect place for them to begin their new life together. I adored this book and plan on re-reading it. In fact, I also mean to get the audio version. My review


I loved these books too. Really, in my view, you can juggle all of these fifteen, pick one or two and not come up with a loser in the bunch. (In fact, I loved most of the books I read this year. That's a problem when compiling this sort of list.)

11) SARAH MORRIS REMEMBERS by D.E. Stevenson. My review

12) QUEEN LUCIA, MAPP AND LUCIA, LUCIA IN LONDON by E.F. Benson. My review (Yes, I know I've listed three books, but it's all of a piece.)

13) THE DOG WHO CAME IN FROM THE COLD by Alexander McCall Smith. My review

14) MISS PETTIGREW LIVES FOR A DAY by Winifred Watson. 
My review

15) THE VERGE PRACTICE by Barry Maitland. My review

A listing of all the books I read in 2014 (or for that matter all the books I've read in the past five years in which this blog has been 'in business') can be accessed at any time from the link on the left hand side of my blog under 'Pages'. But here's the link again, just in case you missed it. 

Since I rarely finish a book I don't like, most of the books on this list are eminently readable and quite a few of them I've reviewed. But this year there is an exception and that would be a rather unpleasant Margery Allingham book, THE FASHION IN SHROUDS which was finished by me only because someone had recommended Allingham highly and I'd heard of her Albert Campion series, of course, through the years. Horrible book. I won't make that mistake again.

One of these days I may decide to 'star' the titles on my list. But not just yet.