Tag Archives: mystery

Nine (fiction) books on my to be read pile

True Confessions: I went to a bookshop today. Is anyone surprised? I was. I wasn’t really planning on it, but it turns out the new Book City Bloor West is open. I am so happy there are books in the ‘hood again, I went in and bought books. The three books I bought have been added to my growing To Be Read Pile. Here are 9 randomly grabbed books from my fiction to be read pile. The first three I bought today, the others I acquired as noted.

  1. Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl. Why have I not noticed this book before? Possibly people have pointed it out to me but I couldn’t see it for various reasons.
  2. Divergent by Veronica Roth. Now A Major Motion Picture! But I’ve also been intrigued by what I’ve heard about this YA dystopia. My friend the Library Page is a fan.
  3. Longbourn by Jo Baker. My Orthodox Colleague is muttering about the pollution of the shades of Pemberley again, but I can’t help it. It is Austen FanFic.
  4. MaddAddam by Margaret Atwood. I got this for Christmas but Whim has not taken me to this book quite yet. I’ll get there soon. Almost there. (I’ve just finished reading The Pleasures of Reading in An Age of Distraction by Alan Jacobs, who talks about reading Serendipty and Whim. These things, he argues, are vital to the well-rounded reading life.)
  5. Millenium by John Varley. A Time Travel Thriller! according to the cover. I recently re-read a Varley book (Red Thunder) and enjoyed it so much I went Varley-hunting in several used bookshops. I scored a bunch. This is one of them.
  6. The Last Crossing by Guy Vanderhaeghe. Lent to me by 1Mom a while ago, but Whim has not yet encouraged me to open the cover.
  7. Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon. The ambitious choice. I picked this mass market seventies edition up at one of my local used bookshops. The owner and I had a little chat about whether it was actually a readable book or not. We both agreed that the mass market format made it less formidable looking.
  8. Domino by Ross King. I’ve read King before and enjoyed his historical fiction. I found this used somewhere, so I picked it up.
  9. Winter in Madrid by C.J. Sansom. I really like Sansom’s murder mysteries set in the reign of Henry VIII. This is not so much set in the reign of Henry VIII, but I thought I’d give Sansom’s other work a try as well.

What is on your to be read pile?



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J is a Joker

J is an odd character – a joker, certainly, but is J just a funny guy? Don’t jokers have something sinister about them? See Batman if you don’t know what I’m talking about. Also see Alice in Wonderland. Thus, the letter

J oldletter

is for James. P.D. James that is, or Baroness James of Holland Park to be perfectly correct about the whole thing.

P.D. James writes mostly mysteries featuring the poetic policeman Adam Dalgliesh. (No, I don’t know how to properly say his name. This meant I didn’t read James for a while because I didn’t know what to call this character in my head. I’ve got some sounds in my head now when I look at the name, but am quite certain I’ve made them up and they are not correct.) The crime in the mysteries are a part of the sinister aspect of James. The other sinister aspect comes in what I consider her best work, The Children of Men, a novel set in a future in which humans have not been able to reproduce for 25 years. That is all I’m going to tell you about The Children of Men, except to say that you should go and read it immediately. If you saw the movie, purge that immediately from your mind. Read the book. I want to assign this book for courses on children’s ministry I may teach in the future. It would be one of the first books assigned. Read it and see if you can figure out why.

The fun part of P.D. James comes with Death Comes to Pemberley. Yes, that’s Pemberley as in Mr. Darcy’s lovely house in Pride and Prejudice. James is an Austen fan, and writes a fantastic fanfic follow up to Pride and Prejudice with a murder happening at Pemberley. It is brilliant and fun and you should just go and read it. I had a discussion with my Orthodox colleague who doesn’t think she can bring herself to read Death Comes to Pemberley because she feels it violates Miss Austen’s work. While I can see where she’s coming from a little, it is P.D. James, and she has done a marvelous job of helping us step into an extended version of Jane Austen’s world.

On a completely different note, today J also stands for Justine, as in Justine Dufour-Lapointe, gold medal women’s moguls for Canada! And she stands on the podium with her sister, Chloe Dufour-Lapointe, silver medallist! #WeAreWinter.


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C is Letter Three



C could be for Celtic given the decoration above, but C is for Cleeves. Ann Cleeves writes mystery books. She’s got a few series on the go, but I’ve only read books that feature Vera Stanhope. Let me tell you how I encountered our hero, Vera.

Last year I was in a used bookshop (oh the shock, I know you think it out of character, I never visit used bookshops), and the owner recommended Cleeves as an excellent mystery writer. She made me a like it or trade it guarantee on the book. I thought hey, can’t lose with that offer. So I bought Hidden Depths. I really liked the detective, Vera Stanhope. The woman who ran the bookshop thought that I might. She was right. If you like your detectives thoughtful, quirky, and moody, this one is for you. This series is a UK police procedural, my favoured sort of mystery book. Since reading Hidden Depths I’ve kept an eye out for more Vera Stanhope, and have found a couple of others. They are quite good reads.

I like finding books through recommendations from slightly unexpected places. I’d not been in this particular bookshop for some time — it used to be a regular haunt of mine when I lived in North York. Now it is just a little bit too far out of the way for me to visit it very often. It is a small shop, tightly packed with good stuff. It has a good used bookshop vibe, not a junky used bookshop vibe. It isn’t too trendy or incense filled or hip or anything. It isn’t over messy or over neat. It is just right. I wish it were closer to my house, or on my way to somewhere else, but it isn’t. So sad.

Any mysteries you’d recommend to relative strangers?


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Favoured Genres

The other day I asked my fb friends these questions: What is your preferred genre of books? Why do you like that genre? What is your favourite example of the genre?

I was rather surprised that fantasy came back as the number one answer. I knew some of my fb friends were fantasy readers, but was interested at how many people came back with that as their number one. Some people blended sci fi with fantasy (I don’t, reasons previously posted) and some people had sci fi coming a close second to fantasy. One person said mysteries were a guilty pleasure. I’m not sure why my dog-loving friend finds mysteries a guilty pleasure unless she has murdered someone?

While Fantasy was the overwhelming winner of my completely unscientific online poll, there were other genres mentioned — survival stories (non-fiction), travel, biography/memoir, and historical fiction.

Me? I am having a hard time with the question. I am prone to purchase/borrow and read mysteries by the ton because these have a predictable shape that I enjoy, and they make good brain candy reads. I am much more inclined to try a new mystery author than a new sci-fi or fantasy author without recommendation. BUT I do like sci-fi a lot. And I do like fantasy a lot. Those kinds of books tend to stick in my mind longer than formulaic mysteries. I am more likely to be completely blown away by a sci-fi or fantasy work than by a mystery novel. So what is my favourite genre? It depends what I’m looking for.

Some favourite examples of the genres I like? All these are 21st Century books, and they are pretty sweet examples of things that I like in each genre.

Mystery, Val McDermid, Killing the Shadows

Fantasy, Lois McMaster Bujold, The Curse of Chalion

Sci-Fi, Walter Jon Williams, Implied Spaces


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Projects Updated

I’ve got a couple of Reading Projects happening in the background of my reading this year. I’ve fallen off the LOST reading list a little. I’ve been finding those titles a bit weird and depressing. One shouldn’t be surprised at this really, as the show is a bit weird and sometimes depressing. The LOST list is meant to expand my reading horizons, so I will keep at it.

On the other hand, my reading old books resolution has been sailing smoothly along. I’ve been re-reading the Lord Peter Wimsey set in order. That is something I haven’t done in years. I am enjoying it very much. I’ve just finished Strong Poison in which lots of couples get together from previous mysteries and Lord Peter Meets His Match. Plus there’s a mystery. I’d forgotten about the fake seance in this one, and quite enjoyed Miss Climpson’s antics in that episode. All the silly characters at the edge of the Wimsey mysteries are always rather fun.

How is your reading for the fall of 2013 going? Is it required? Or is it all for fun?

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One more discovered author and two other significant authors of 2012

The other day I wrote about three authors I discovered this year. Today I want to talk about three more authors, one of whom was a new discovery, one a re-discovery, and one whose backlist I finished reading.

1. Deborah Crombie. I discovered Crombie’s books this year when I started taking ebooks out of the library on my iPad. I like her mysteries a lot. I read five of them in very quick succession in June. I think I need to go back to more Deborah Crombie for December.

2. Ann Granger. Granger is a re-discovery. I’d read one of her books ages ago and thought it was ok, but didn’t really follow up on reading more of her work. In the spring, a friend of mind passed me a large shopping bag full of books. I reciprocated the favour. Our public library system was on strike for a few days, so we were helping each other through this crisis. My friend had quite a few Granger books in that shopping bag, and I found I quite liked Granger’s mysteries. There was one in the pile with Fran Varady. I am going to follow up on that series in December.

3. C.J. Sansom. I finished reading Sansom’s Matthew Shardlake mysteries. I quite enjoyed these books. They were part of my Henry VIII and Tudor England run in the spring. I hope Shardlake shows up in another book soon. I will read other books by Sansom, I just haven’t tracked any down as yet. Maybe I’ll put them on my Christmas list.

Whose backlist did you finish this year?


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Authors I’ve discovered This Year

Sometimes I discover an author, then proceed to read the author’s entire backlist. This year, there are a few authors I’ve discovered. I’ll talk about three today.

1. Haruki Murakami. I heard 1Q84 was really good, so I made a note to read it. Before I read 1Q84, though, I read Sputnik Sweetheart, mostly because of the title. Sputnik. I’m an aerospace engineer, what can I say? Anyhow, I quite enjoyed SS, so kept looking for 1Q84, and finally decided to borrow it from the library on ebook. This worked well. I was only on the waiting list for a couple of days. I really enjoyed 1Q84. Now I’m on the look-out for Murakami whenever I go to used bookstores.

2. Julia Spencer-Fleming. This is a pretty recent discovery. I’d heard of Spencer-Fleming before in lists of clergy mysteries, that is mystery series that have a clergy person as a main character. When I was moving, I decided to get a couple of audio books from the library so that I had some listening material while I packed and unpacked and organized. Spencer-Fleming’s first book In the Bleak Mid-Winter was available as an audio book. I picked it up as I’d heard of the author, plus, as a bonus, it was the first book in the series. I like starting things at the beginning. I quite enjoyed listening do In the Bleak Mid-Winter, told the manager at the bookshop where I work about the series, and now we stock them! And I read book two! And I’m going to read more!!

3. Robertson Davies. Some of you may think that as a Canadian who reads voraciously I should have discovered Robertson Davies long ago. I think it was the beard that put me off. Anyhow, I got over that. I wrote about my discovery of Davies in this a blog post earlier this year. I’ve now read two sets of three books by Davies, the Deptford trilogy and the Salterton trilogy. Coming up: the Cornish trilogy.

What about you? What authors have you discovered this year?


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Audio Books While Packing

I’ve talked about audio books in this space before. I don’t think that listening to an audio book is the same thing as reading, but I will concede that listening allows one to access the content of books in a different way. As I’m cleaning and packing and culling and doing all the things associated with moving, I’ve been listening to an audio mystery, In the Bleak Mid-Winter by Julia Spencer-Fleming. This is the first book featuring Rev. Claire Fergusson, an Episcopal priest in a parish in a small town in up-state New York. The book involves parish politics as well as bodies and mysteries. I am quite enjoying it. I shall have to investigate the rest of the series once the move is over.

In conversations around decorating my new place my friends think I am overly concerned with bookshelves. I think they don’t quite get it. The living room is the library. In a library, the shelves are very important. The shelves need to be placed first, and other furniture around the shelves. Why? Because once a bookcase is anchored to the wall and filled, it isn’t going anywhere very quickly. Also, the most exciting thing about moving is having more shelves, and the chance to arrange and reorganize my books. This is Very Exciting.

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Listening to a Writer

I seldom go to author’s events. I don’t really pay attention to when literary persons might be appearing in a venue near me, nor am I very fond of crowds or the slightly stalkerish feel I perceive these events to have. This blog is, however, being written as I sit in a public library event space waiting for an Author Event to begin.
At thirty minutes before the event starts, the room is filling and there is a crowd buzz. The conversations around me are quite interesting. Authors behind me are talking of the price of sending in mss and the unreadability of self-published material and the uselessness of Twitter.
Now in the post-event mental buzz. The Author featured this evening was Val McDermid. I got her to sign my copy of Killing The Shadows, my favourite (so far) of her books. McDermid is an excellent public speaker, and a fantastic story-teller, and very funny as well. Not all authors are either of these. McDermid’s stories and wit made for a very pleasant hour and a bit. Though I have done a book launch and a panel discussion in support of a publication (Let Her Speak for Herself), I think doing endless events in different cities would get pretty tiresome after a while.
How about you? Do you like going and meeting authors or would you rather let their books speak for them and not be disappointed by how they look or sound?

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Talking about books

I had dinner with the Playwright last night. We sat on a patio, drank dark beer, and discussed many things. One of the things we usually talk about is books. We went to a bookshop when we finished dinner, and that was when we started talking about books. This is slightly unusual — usually books come up sooner in our discussions. Oh wait, a Henri Nouwen book came up at dinner as a side bar to the conversation. Usually our book talks begin with “What are you reading?” and it doesn’t matter who asks the question. The other person answers and some discussion of that book follows. This leads to other books previously read, or a discussion of books both of us have read. It is all very pleasant. The Playwright has an MA in English Lit, and I do not, so she has a different reading view than I do. I *think* I tend to be more forgiving in initial assessments of books and writing styles, but it could also be that we look for different things in our reading. Tonight our longer discussion was about The Hunger Games trilogy, where I’ve only read book 1 and the Playwright has read them all.

What am I reading? Currently I’m reading Sputnik Sweetheart by Haruki Murakami. There’s a huge waiting list for IQ84 at the library, so I decided to try Murakami’s backlist first. I like the book so far. There are some stylistic things that bug me. The translator uses sentence fragments a little too frequently for me. I am not a fan. These are the kind of sentence fragments that I find when marking papers, the kind that students don’t realize are incomplete sentences. I think the translator knew what he/she was doing, but I’m still a tiny bit irritated. Of course, the fragmentation could faithfully reflect something that is there in the original. I don’t read Japanese, thus cannot tell.

I’ve just finished a couple of mystery books by Deborah Crombie in the Gemma James/Duncan Kincaid series. The two I read are from much earlier in the series. I quite like the books. The first one I read had no body in evidence for a really long time. I began to think no one would be murdered in this murder mystery! I rather liked that. I’m now in search of all the books that came before the two I read, which were A Finer End and Kissed A Sad Goodbye.

What are you reading?


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