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Archive for January, 2015

Mystery Monday – The Sailcloth Shroud

Monday, January 19th, 2015

The Sailcloth Shroud by Charles Williams

 

Review by Matt B. (BuffaloSavage)

 

Charles Williams (1909 – 1975) is known for writing taut suspense stories, a few such as Dead Calm and Aground with a nautical theme. On the water is out of my comfort zone. Though I grew up in a Great Lakes state, I’m no sailor. So, I read passages like, “There’s a formula for calculating the absolute maximum speed of a displacement hull, regardless of the type or amount of power applied. It’s a function of the trochoidal wave system set up by the boat and is 1.34 times the square root of the waterline length.” And I think, “Okay, I’ll trust you on that.”

But like Patrick O’Brian in the Aubrey-Maturin stories, Williams makes the techno-babble go down easy with his concise, readable style and imaginative story-telling. Despite his Texas origins, he can make his tall tales stay on the plausible side of incredible. In this one, a sailboat captain hires two strangers in Panama to help him pilot a 40-foot ketch back to the US where he can sell it. One of the men dies of a heart attack and must be buried at sea. And just a few days after they land in Texas, the other hire is beaten to death.

Suddenly the captain is subject to unwelcome attention by the cops and FBI and to brutal questioning by hardened criminals. Three flashbacks provide narrative interest. Williams fires off jokes just when the gettin’ can’t get much worse for our hero. He has an excellent touch with down-home metaphors and similes. Like this when our hero manages to run away after “enhanced interrogation techniques”: “My torso felt as if had been emptied and then stuffed with broken glass or eggshells. Every breath was agony, and I ran awkwardly, with a feeling that I had been cut in two and the upper half of my body was merely riding, none too well balanced, on the lower.”

Fine as cream gravy, now that’s talkin’ Texan. I can’t say this one reaches the outstanding standard set by the hard as nails A Touch of Death, because it lacks a femme fatale like the devilish Madelon. Also, the vision of the Spanish moss settings of the Deep South are suggestive but not quite as evocative in this outing. But anybody who likes a rockin’ crime novel or stories of average guys suddenly thrust into hellish circumstances will enjoy this one.

 

Fiction Review – Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart

Thursday, January 15th, 2015

Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart by Beth Pattillo

 

Review by Mirah W. (mwelday)

 

I decided to take a different approach with this review.  A lot of books now have readers’ group guides included but most of the time I’m not reading with a book group.  So for this blog post I decided to answer some questions in the readers’ guide.  If you’ve read Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart and have a different opinion on how to answer these, please share your thoughts! I’d love to have a dialogue with you about this novel or Jane Austen’s original novels.

1-      Claire Prescott realizes that she has put her sister first in everything because she has been afraid to live her own life.  At what point does sacrifice for the people we love become more hurtful than helpful? How do we know when we have crossed that line? How can we restore those relationships to a healthier balance?

This is a tough one for me.  Sometimes in my life I think because I love someone it might not really be a sacrifice to give up something for him/her.  But I suppose once someone becomes aware he/she is not living a happy, true, fulfilling life and it is because of sacrificing for someone else, then things have crossed a line.  The glitch is how someone could actually realize and accept that this has happened.  People often don’t want to listen when things are difficult to hear.  It can take a big event happening to be willing to listen to another person’s opinion.  It’s hard to say ‘no’ but sometimes that is what it really takes to regain control and restore a healthy balance to a relationship.

2-      The plot of the novel revolves around the keeping of secrets. How do you know when to keep a secret and when to share it? What are the risks of keeping secrets?  What are the benefits?

I think it’s ok to keep secrets if no one is going to be hurt because of the secret.  It can be a lot of pressure on a relationship to keep some secrets but in being able to do so a relationship can be strengthened.

3-      When she arrives in Oxford, Claire decides to recreate herself. To do so, she must deceive the people she meets.  Do you think it’s understandable that she would fall prey to this temptation? What price does she pay for her duplicity?

Yes, it’s understandable that Claire wants a chance to be someone new.  She has come to the realization she is not living her life the way she truly wants.  She sees an opportunity to not hurt others in her deception because she doesn’t plan on developing any long-term relationships with the people she encounters in Oxford.  However, this plan backfires when new relationships are forged.

4-      In the end, do you think Claire gave Harriet the right advice about what to do with the manuscript? Why or why not? If you had been in Harriet’s place, what decision would you have made?

I don’t think I would have made the same decision as Claire.  But I don’t want to say what my decision would have been because I don’t want to give away the ending for those who haven’t read the book yet!

5-      In recent years, Mr. Darcy has truly become an iconic romantic hero. Do you think he is a true hero? Why or why not? If you had been Claire, would you have chosen James or Neil? In your estimation, what makes a man a hero?

In my opinion, Mr. Darcy is a hero.  He can admit his own mistakes and wants to be a protector.  I think true heroes have flaws and find ways to get past them.  And in Pride and Prejudice he did sweep Elizabeth off her feet in the end and that’s the quintessential romantic hero move.  I hope I would not have chosen either James or Neil and recognized I needed time to grow in my own way.

These are my thoughts on the book. Now that you know where I stand, I hope you’ll share your opinions.  I enjoyed the book, even though some aspects seemed a little underdeveloped or delivered too quickly. I would recommend it to my fellow Jane-ites out there. If you have read a book related to Jane Austen’s memorable characters and novels that you would recommend, please share in the comments below!

 

 

Mystery Monday – The Case of the Nervous Accomplice

Monday, January 5th, 2015

The Case of the Nervous Accomplice by Erle Stanley Gardner

 

Review by Matt B. (BuffaloSavage)

 
Mrs. Sybil Harlan asks Perry Mason to help her spoil a real estate deal and thus win back her wandering husband Enright a.k.a Enny. Her vision has Perry buying stock in a real-estate investment company and making a nuisance of himself at a director’s meeting.

This disruption of a big deal will bring out the worst in her hubby’s GF, the tempting redhead Roxy Claffin. Once Enny sees Roxy in her acquisitive glory, he will fly back to the loving arms of his wife to celebrate their upcoming fifth anniversary. On the adulterous liaison, her advice, I think would make a daring date question: “Agree or disagree ‘A woman should never forgive a man for infidelities. She should remain in complete ignorance.’”

Unfortunately a bad guy gets wind of her hiring Mason. A murder takes place. The killing of crabby millionaire George C. “Daddy” Lutts in a deserted house on company land overshadows the domestic drama and lands Sybil in the dock accused of murder.

The time to read a whodunit is whenever a reader wants to escape drudgery but still wants the comfort of familiar elements. Perry’s client lies to him in order to motivate him to work harder. Perry makes a witness look silly on the stand. Perry courts disbarment proceedings. Perry’s antagonist DA Burger gets a come-uppance. Della personifies devotion, Paul a Doubting Thomas.

Different yet the same: fine, if that’s what’s we need on a rainy Saturday afternoon….

 

 

 

Hello, 2015!

Thursday, January 1st, 2015

Hello, 2015!

By Mirah W. (mwelday)

Every year it seems more and more things get in my way as I try to get through my ‘to be read’ shelves.  At present count I have 6 shelves (about 80 books) on my living room bookcases of books I want to read.  I can’t stop myself from getting more books, even though I already have plenty.  And based on some of the fellow PBSers I know, I don’t think I’m alone in this affliction.  I have several books that have moved to the top of my ‘to read’ list.  Here are my top 5 I hope to get to this year:

1)   All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr – This novel is a National Book Award finalist and I enjoy books about World War II so this book quickly made the list.  A young French girl and a German boy become connected while trying to survive the atrocities of the war.  I’ve heard from others that the novel is beautifully written and reviews indicate it is well-researched.

 

 

2)   Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult – Picoult has written another best seller and in her typical style, she has the readers guessing and doubting what they would do when faced with questions of conscious.  A mother disappears and a daughter lives her life constantly wondering about her mother and questioning if she was abandoned by choice.

 

 

3)   The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion – The sequel to the funny and insightful The Rosie Project. The first book was a great reminder that love can be a reality for everyone. I really enjoyed getting to know the characters and can’t wait to see what happens to them in the next stage of their relationship.

 

 

4)   Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin – I am totally behind the times.  It seems everyone has read the books or watched the TV show except me!  Several friends and my husband have all recommended the series and I’ve yet to read book one.  Time to catch up, I think.

 

 

 

5)   Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell – Every year I try to read at least one classic and I’ve been meaning to read this one for a while.  I am a huge fan of the BBC mini-series and love the characters created by Gaskell.  The plot is full of misunderstood characters, unrequited love, and a questioning of the standard roles of men and women.

 

 

 

Hopefully I’ll be able to get to all of these (and many more) this year.  Fingers crossed!  I’d love to know what books you have on your ‘to read’ list for the coming year; please share your top picks in the comments, I may want to add some of your choices to my list!  Happy reading in 2015!