Thursday, January 22, 2015

Bookish Thoughts: Death of a Dishonorable Gentleman by Tessa Arlen

On the morning of Lord and Lady Montforts' annual summer ball, their housekeeper, Edith Jackson, was up, washed, and almost dressed by six o' clock. ~ Opening of Death of a Dishonorable Gentleman

Death of a Dishonorable Gentleman (Lady Montfort Mystery #1) by Tessa Arlen
Minotaur Books; 2015
Crime Fiction (Historical); 320 pgs

Right from the start of Tessa Arlen's Death of a Dishonorable Gentleman, I was pulled into the past and across the ocean to England pre-World War I. Lady Montfort knows she must pull off the perfect summer costume ball, one that tops the ones before it. With Edith Jackson, her housekeeper, by her side, she's sure she will succeed. What she did not anticipate, however, was the murder of her nephew directly following the ball. There are plenty of people who could want him dead. He was not the most favored among her family and guests, and for good reason. When two women turn up missing from the house as well, it only adds fuel to the fire. One of the young women is a rebellious society girl while the other a fairly new servant in the house.

Mrs. Jackson knows the importance of sticking to her station and making sure those under her do as well.  She takes pride in her work and is loyal to the family she serves. When approached by her employer, Lady Montfort, to help investigate the murder, Mrs. Jackson isn't too comfortable with the idea. The countess is worried, however, about the direction the police inquiry may go and is determined to find out who the killer is on her own. Together the two women make a good team, Mrs. Jackson prying into the affairs of the servants in the house and Lady Monfort digging into the secrets of her upper class family and friends. 

The author does an excellent job of encapsulating the class differences between the servants and those of Lady Manfort, her family and the guests of the house through her characters. Everyone has their distinct roles and place in society. Even Mrs. Jackson and Lady Monfort, as they grow closer through their sleuthing, are ever aware of the differences in their stations. It leads to an awkward friendship--but a friendship nonetheless.

I enjoyed the flow of the novel. I could have raced through it to get to the end, but it felt more like the type of novel a reader wants to take his or her time reading, to take in the full experience of life in the English countryside. The historical references added a nice touch to the novel and really set up the sense of place and time. With women protesting for the right to vote, something both Mrs. Jackson and Lady Monfort aren't so sure about, the type of car Lady Monfort's son drives and a country on the cusp of war, it was easy to feel as if I was right there too.

The mystery itself was intriguing, with a few twists here and there, some predictable and others more surprising.  When I first began the novel, I would not have expected the author to take it where she did, but the more I read, the more confidence I had that the author would, in fact, allow some of the harsh realities of life back then to come to the forefront. 

I thoroughly enjoyed Death of a Dishonorable Gentleman by Tessa Arlen, and would recommend it to those who enjoy historical mysteries. I definitely will be keeping my eye out for future books in the series.

Rating:  * (Very Good)

For more information please visit Tessa Arlen’s website. Read Tessa Arlen’s blog at Redoubtable Edwardians. You can also connect with her on FacebookTwitter, and Goodreads.

I hope you will check out what others had to say about Death of a Dishonorable Gentleman on the Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours route!

Many thanks to the Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours for the opportunity to be a part of this book tour. E-Copy of the book provided by the publisher.

© 2015, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved. If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Where Is Your Bookmark? (01/20/2015)

I was on Twitter last night and came across a conversation between several authors about ratings. One commented that she didn't understand why people continued reading a particular genre of books when they constantly give them 3.5 ratings.  She could have been talking about me. The majority of my ratings tend to fall in that range.  For me, a 3 is "good". A 3.5 is better than "good", but not quite to the point of being "very good" (which would be a 4). Some might say that makes me hard on books. While others probably think I'm too easy.  Talk like that always makes me pause and wonder if I should bother rating the books I read at all. I gave up rating for awhile, at least publicly. I find rating a book helpful for personal reasons, when my thoughts on a book aren't as clear as I would like them to be or if I'm on the fence. I eventually came to the conclusion though that if I was going to rate books for my own purposes anyway, I might as well share the ratings with you.  

Ratings can be very confusing. Scales vary with each user, each point on the scale representing a different value.  A 3 to me may mean "good" but to my friend Denise, a 3 is just average.  It's extremely subjective, even when someone is trying to be as objective as possible. 

So, maybe I give most books in a particular genre a 3.5 rating. It doesn't mean I do not enjoy those books.  And I have rated books higher within that genre when I felt it was warranted.  And sorry, authors, my 5 spot is highly coveted.  I may love your book for many reasons, but it isn't a rating I give out often. For me at least, it would take away the significance of that top spot.

I did not offer my opinion into the Twitter conversation, and obviously the authors weren't talking specifically about me. I will continue to rate the books I read, and probably disappoint an author or two when I give their books 3 or 3.5 rating instead of the big 5. 

To rate or not to rate has been an ongoing discussion for longer than I have been blogging, I know. It does not bother me when someone chooses not to rate the books he or she reads, nor if he or she does rate them. Readers have to do what works best for them.

How do you feel about rating what you read?

I somehow managed to finish A Man Called Ove by Fredrick Backman yesterday in between Mouse's and my games of mermaid princesses, being chased by paper snakes and bad men, ring toss, bowling and chasing each other around the house. Probably the only time I am grateful for Caillou these days. It was a fun girl's day--and we didn't even have to leave the house. Mouse even helped me with the laundry.

Now I am reading another mystery, this one the first in a series by Rich Zahradnik called Last Words. It is set in 1975, and is about a journalist stuck writing obits after having been demoted from working the police beat.  He's determined to change his fate and solving a murder case may just be the ticket he needs.  

What are you reading at the moment? Would you recommend it?

Every Tuesday Diane from Bibliophile By the Sea hosts 
First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros, where  
participants share the first paragraph (or a few) of a 
book they are reading or thinking about reading soon.

Here is a sampling of the beginning of Last Words by Rich Zahradnik:
The dead sitting on his desk could wait.
Instead of going back to the office, Coleridge Taylor stopped at the newstand on 23rd Street and looked at the front page of the Daily News. MAYHEM IN QUEENS spelled out in two-inch type. Another story that should have been his. The Times led with a dull speech by President Ford. It made him miss Nixon. Nothing like a crook in the White House to sell papers. He spent a nickel on a pack of Teaberry gum, folded a stick into his mouth, pulled his filed jacket tight against the wind, and turned east toward Bellevue. 
Would you continue reading?

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by the lovely ladies at Broke and Bookish.

This weeks' Top Ten Tuesday theme was left up to the participant, and I decided to make a list of  Books I'll (Probably) Never Read.  There are some obvious titles on this list, and others that may not seem so. A few of these come highly recommended. It isn't meant to be, however. With so many books out there I do want to read, these did not, and likely will never, make the cut.

Ulyssess by James Joyce ~ There are several classic novels I have loved over the years and many more I still want to read. This is not one of them.

Moby-Dick by Herman Melville - This is yet another classic that has never appealed to me. 

Marley and Me: Life and Love With the World's Worst Dog by John Grogan ~ I love animals, especially cats and dogs. If the animal is going to die at some point in the memoir, I will pass on it no matter how many people say I must read the book.

The Orvis Guide to Prospecting For Trout by Tom Rosenbauer ~ I am sure this is a wonderful book if you are interested in fishing and trout.

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert ~ I actually owned a copy of this one when it first came out. I lost interest in reading it before I even got to it. I won't be reading Wild by Cheryl Strayed either.

Othello by Shakespeare ~ I am not a fan of Shakespeare's plays. I have read several, but only because I had to. (I do like this poetry, however.)

Justin Bieber: First Step 2 Forever (100% Official) by Justin Bieber ~ I enjoyed Tina Fey's Bossypants quite a bit, but for the most part, I stay away from celebrity memoirs or autobiographies, especially one about Justin Bieber.

The Shack by Wm. Paul Young ~ When this book first came out, it caused quite a stir. People seemed to either love or hate it, and few opinions fell in between. Enough of the reviews, both positive and negative, made it clear this wasn't a book for me.

The Outlander Series by Diana Gabaldon ~ I enjoy historical fiction and time travel. In many ways, this would seem like a series I would have already devoured and maybe even loved. It does not appeal to me, however, and I have no interest in reading it no matter how many people say I should.

Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell ~ A favorite of many, both the book and the movie. I saw the movie years ago and did not care for it. It took care of any interest I might have had in reading the book. Despite the efforts of those who insist I should read it, I haven't heard of an argument to convince me to give it a try.

What are the books you will never read?

© 2015, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved. If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

From the Archives: J.P. Beaumont Series by J.A. Jance

I began keeping a reading journal several years before I began blogging. I find it interesting to sift through my thoughts of books that I read back then. My reviews were often brief and contained little substance, but I thought it'd be fun to document them here on my blog as well as share them with you. The first half of 2006 seemed to be my time for series reading. I read quite a few books by J.A. Jance during that time. Here are some of my reviews from 2006:

Lying in Wait (J.P. Beaumont, #12) by J.A. Jance
Avon Books, 1994
Crime Fiction; 386 pgs

Homicide Detective J.P. Beaumont's current investigation is much more complicated than at first it appears: old friends, Nazi hunters, neo-Nazis, missing gold, and two dead bodies. It was a pleasure spending a couple of days with my old friend Beaumont. This round, he is partnered with Sue Danielson, the newest detective on Seattle's Homicide detail, and I definitely hope to read more about her in future books. J.A. Jance writes an enjoyable mystery full of suspense and intrigue. 

Name Withheld (J.P. Beaumont, #13) by J.A. Jance
Avon Books, 1996
Crime Fiction; 392 pgs

J.P. Beaumont is called in when a dead body is found floating near Pier Seventy. The dead body belongs to a man whose life is filled with secrets. He appears to have more enemies than friends. On a more personal front, Beaumont learns that his ex-wife is dying, and he finds himself being accused of possible child abuse. It gets to be too much for J.P. Beaumont, and he seriously considers drowning his woes in alcohol. J.A. Jance did a good job of building up the tension and stress in Beaumont’s life. I felt like I was in the middle of it all. The author’s character, Grace Highsmith, provided a little comic relief at times. Name Withheld was a very enjoyable mystery. 

Breach of Duty (J.P. Beaumont, #14) by J.A. Jance
Avon Books, 1999
Crime Fiction; 358 pgs

In the 14th J.P. Beaumont mystery novel, Seattle Homicide Detective Beaumont and his partner, Sue Danielson, are hunting down an arsonist who murdered a not-so-liked elderly woman and also trying to uncover how a couple of men got a hold of a dead shaman’s bones. With a change in the regime at the station, a possible curse, and a partner whose abusive ex-husband has suddenly popped back into the picture, Beaumont has his work cut out for him. J.P. Beaumont had me cheering him on throughout the book, as well as crying with him when the situation got rough. More than once, his life was on the line, and yet he did what he had to in order to make things right. J.A. Jance is a great storyteller and her characters have found their way into my heart time and time again. 

Birds of Prey (J.P. Beaumont, #15) by J.A. Jance
Avon Books, 2001
Crime Fiction; 388 pgs

I decided it was time to spend a little time with J.P. Beaumont who joined his newlywed grandmother and her new husband on a cruise to Alaska. What should have been a relaxing and stress free vacation turned into another homicide investigation for Beau when one of the passengers falls overboard. Meanwhile, his services are also requested by the FBI to help protect a passenger on the ship from domestic terrorists. I enjoyed this novel despite it being unbelievable in some places.

Partner in Crime (J.P. Beaumont #16/Joanna Brady, #10) by J.A. Jance
Avon Books, 2002
Crime Fiction; 386 pgs

I have been looking forward to reading Partner in Crime for quite some time. In this particular novel by J.A. Jance, she brings two of her popular characters together, Sheriff Joanna Brady and Special Investigator J.P. Beaumont. They are investigating the murder of woman who was supposed to be under the protection of Washington State’s witness protection program. The two headstrong characters butt heads at first but soon find a way to work together to solve the crime. Also, Beau comes face to face with Anne Corley’s past, visiting the town where she grew up. Because the J.P. Beaumont series is narrated in first person and the Sheriff Joanna Brady series is in third, I wondered how the author would present the combined character novel. J.A. Jance used both voices, going back and fourth between third and first, depending on whose viewpoint she was writing the story from at the time. I enjoyed spending time with both Beau and Joanna although came away a little disappointed and unsatisfied. I particularly liked getting a “look” at Arizona through the eyes of J.P. Beaumont. The descriptions of the landscape brought the desert to life.

Long Time Gone (J.P. Beaumont, #17) by J.A. Jance
Avon Books, 2005
Crime Fiction; 339 pgs

I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough when I read Long Time Gone, the latest in the J.P. Beaumont mystery series. The novel was intense and suspenseful through the entire book. J.P. Beaumont is reunited with an old high school acquaintance who asks his help in solving a murder that occurred over 50 years before. As he’s putting the puzzle pieces together in that mystery, his best friend and ex-partner, Ron Peters, and family are drowning in their own problems when Ron is the lead suspect in the murder of his ex-wife. Long Time Gone was a fun and entertaining novel.

© 2015, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved. If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Bookish Thoughts: Windy City Blues by Marc Krulewitch

It was just before nine a.m. when the toddler's mother saw his little hands and cheeks covered in a sticky substance mixed with crumbly white particles. ~ Opening to Windy City Blues

Windy City Blues (A Jules Landau Mystery, #2) by Marc Krulewitch
Alibi, 2015
Crime Fiction; 254 pgs

Last summer I had the opportunity to read Marc Krulewitch's The Maxwell Street Blues, and described it as having a "little bit of grit and a lot of personality." Windy City Blues had quite a bit more grit and is just as entertaining.

In the second novel of the series, Jules Landau, a Chicago Private Investigator, takes on his second ever murder investigation when he is hired by a concerned neighbor of the victim. The victim appears to be an upstanding citizen, Georgian immigrant Jack Gelashvili who came to the United States to make a better life for himself.  He took a job enforcing parking laws. As Jules begins to look into his death, he doesn't like what he finds: cover-up, greed, a prostitution ring, a possible mob connection, and even more murder.

Jules is one persistent P.I. and isn't one to give up easily no matter the obstacles thrown in his way. He is not afraid to get his hands dirty. In many ways, he strikes me as your traditional private investigator, one who hits the pavement and knocks on doors to get his answers. He uses what connections he has to help him along the way.

While the main focus on Windy City Blues is the murder investigation Jules takes on, the reader also gets a little more of a look into Jules' personal life--his relationship with his mentor, Frownie, and both Frownie's and his father's declining health. Jules still struggles with the legacy his father and grandfather left behind, their reputations steeped in crime. It is part of what makes Jules the character he is.  Still, I found this novel just as entertaining as its predecessor, but admit I liked the first better, feeling it delved a little deeper into Jules character than this second novel in the series did.

Like with the first book in the series, Windy City Blues has its share of dirty politics, dubious ethics, and even a little flame of romance. Although it was pretty clear the direction Jules' investigation was going the further into the book I got, it was interesting to see the many twists it took to get there along the way.

Rating: * (Good)

To learn more about Marc Krulewitch, and his books, you can find the author on Facebook, GoodReads, Twitter.

I hope you will check out what others had to say about Windy City Blues on the TLC Book Tours route!

Many thanks to the TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to be a part of this book tour. The publisher provided me with an e-copy of the book via NetGalley for review.

 © 2014, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved. If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Where Is Your Bookmark? (01/13/2015)

I had hoped everyone in the house would be well enough so that we could drive up the mountain and play in the snow this past weekend. It was not meant to be. Saturday afternoon, after we got home from soccer class, the park and library, Mouse laid down for a nap--something she rarely does anymore. She woke up with a 104F temperature.

She is much better now, thank goodness.

Stacy from Stacy's Books rekindled my interest in PostCrossing, a website that facilitates sending  and receiving postcards to and from random people around the world. I used to be active in the pen palling world and often miss receiving letters in the mail. Stacy convinced me to reactivate my PostCrossing account, and I have already sent six postcards out in the mail, one to Russia, Turkey, Germany, China, France, and one to here in the U.S. Now to just sit back and wait for something to come in the mail for me!

One thing I have discovered, however, is how difficult it is to find postcards around town.  It isn't as easy as it once was. I thought for sure the local Hallmark store would have some. No such luck. The drugstores have a few touristy-type cards, but I was hoping for something a little different. On my way home from my postcard search this weekend, I stopped in the local indie bookstore, The Cellar Door, to console myself and bought a couple books: Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan and Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant? by Roz Chast.

With my little one not feeling well, I was able to slip in a couple of books this weekend. finishing up the second book in Marc Krulewitch's Jules Landau Mystery Series, Windy City Blues, which I will be reviewing later this week. I also read Laura Foley's short collection of poetry called Joy Street. It's been ages since I last read a book of poetry. I enjoy poetry now and then, but consider it outside my comfort zone just the same. I think it is the intimidation factor. I have this fear that when I read a poem I will miss some deep meaning. Poetry isn't meant to be read that way though--it's about words and feelings. There is no right or wrong way to interpret a poem. I am trying to keep that in mind as a prepare my review of the collection.

This year I am participating in a postal bookclub exchange in which the members (all book bloggers) of the group each read a book, jot down thoughts in a journal, and then mail the book and journal to the next person on the list. This month I received a copy of  A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman, which just happens to be first book on my Top Ten 2014 Releases I Meant To Read But Didn't Get To list (see below). I was quite excited when I found the book in my mailbox this past week. Of course, I dove right in.

What are you reading right now?  Would you recommend it?

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by the lovely ladies at Broke and Bookish.

This weeks' Top Ten Tuesday theme is Top Ten 2014 Releases I Meant To Read But Didn't Get To.  This list could go on for mile. There were a number of books I had hoped to get to last year I just didn't for whatever reason. Here are a few 2014 releases I missed then, but will be reading at some point in the (hopefully near) future:

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman ~ This is getting wonderful reviews and was my mother-in-law's favorite book of 2014.  From the publisher:
. . . when one November morning a chatty young couple with two chatty young daughters move in next door and accidentally flatten Ove's mailbox, it is the lead-in to a comical and heartwarming tale of unkempt cats, unexpected friendship, and the ancient art of backing up a U-Haul. All of which will change one cranky old man and a local residents' association to their very foundations.

Skin Game by Jim Butcher ~ One of my favorite authors. I am not quite caught up to this one in the series (it's number 15), but I would like to be by the end of the year.  The series features Chicago's Harry Dresden, private investigator and wizard.  These books are always action-packed and intense.

The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey ~ The synopsis for this one intrigues me.  From the Publisher:
Melanie is a very special girl. Dr. Caldwell calls her "our little genius." Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class. When they come for her, Sergeant keeps his gun pointing at her while two of his people strap her into the wheelchair. She thinks they don't like her. She jokes that she won't bite, but they don't laugh. The Girl With All the Gifts is a groundbreaking thriller, emotionally charged and gripping from beginning to end.

Deep Shelter by Oliver Harris ~ I really enjoyed the first book in Harris's DC Belsey's mystery series, and am looking forward to reading the next in the series. From the publisher:
In this gritty, white-knuckle crime thriller, Detective Nick Belsey—introduced in the acclaimed The Hollow Man as a shrewd, street-smart cynic who is one of London’s sharpest, but most unprincipled, investigators—is plunged into a perplexing mystery of secrets, danger, and suspense beneath the city’s streets.

The Secret of Magic by Deborah Johnson ~ A New York lawyer working for Thurgood Marshall is asked to investigate the murder of black war hero in the Deep South of 1946. From the publisher:
She must navigate the muddy waters of racism, relationships, and her own tragic past. The Secret of Magic brilliantly explores the power of stories and those who tell them.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel ~ I have enjoyed the author's other books and am looking forward to this one.  From the publisher:
An audacious, darkly glittering novel set in the eerie days of civilization's collapse, Station Eleven tells the spellbinding story of a Hollywood star, his would-be savior, and a nomadic group of actors roaming the scattered outposts of the Great Lakes region, risking everything for art and humanity.

The Weight of Blood by Laura McHugh ~ I love a good crime fiction novel and have heard many great things about this one.  From the publisher:
For fans of Gillian Flynn and Daniel Woodrell, a dark, gripping debut novel of literary suspense about two mysterious disappearances, a generation apart, and the meaning of family-the sacrifices we make, the secrets we keep, and the lengths we will go to protect the ones we love.

Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill ~ This one has come highly recommended by fellow book bloggers who have read it.  From the publisher:
Dept. of Speculation is a portrait of a marriage. It is also a beguiling rumination on the mysteries of intimacy, trust, faith, knowledge, and the condition of universal shipwreck that unites us all.

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng ~ This is another book blogger recommended book I have seen mentioned in several places.  From the publisher:
Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet . . . So begins this debut novel about a mixed-race family living in 1970's Ohio and the tragedy that will either be their undoing or their salvation. Lydia is the favorite child of Marilyn and James Lee; their middle daughter, a girl who inherited her mother’s bright blue eyes and her father’s jet-black hair. Her parents are determined that Lydia will fulfill the dreams they were unable to pursue—in Marilyn’s case that her daughter become a doctor rather than a homemaker, in James’s case that Lydia be popular at school, a girl with a busy social life and the center of every party.  
When Lydia’s body is found in the local lake, the delicate balancing act that has been keeping the Lee family together tumbles into chaos, forcing them to confront the long-kept secrets that have been slowly pulling them apart.

The Dress Shop of Dreams by Menna van Praag ~ I read the author's The House at the End of Hope Street and just loved it. I am anxious to read her latest book.  The publisher describes it:
For fans of Alice Hoffman, Sarah Addison Allen, and Adriana Trigiani, The Dress Shop of Dreams is a captivating novel of enduring hopes, second chances, and the life-changing magic of true love.

Have you read any of these?  What did you think?  What books came out last year you missed and hope to catch in the future?

Every Tuesday Diane from Bibliophile By the Sea hosts 
First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros, where  
participants share the first paragraph (or a few) of a 
book they are reading or thinking about reading soon.

Here is a taste of the opening of Fredrik Backman's A Man Called Ove (see below for a description of the book): 
Ove is fifty-one. 
He drives a Saab. He's the kind of man who points at people he doesn't like the look of, as if they were burglars and his forefinger a policeman's flashlight. He stands at the counter of a shop where the owners of Japanese cars come to purchase while cables. Ove eyes the sales assistant for a long time before shaking a medium sized white box at him. 
"So this is one of those O-Pads, is it?" he demands. 
The assistant, a young man with a single-digit body mass index, looks ill at ease. He visibly struggles to control his urge to snatch the box out of Ove's hands. 
"Yes, exactly. An iPad. Do you think you could stop shaking it like that . . . ?"
Ove gives the box a skeptical glance, as if it's a highly dubious sort of box, a box that rides a scooter and wears tracksuit pants and just called Ove "my friend" before offering to sell him a watch.
Would you continue reading?

© 2015, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved. If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.