Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Another Batch o' Books

More of the books that have been flowing through our house and my consciousness ...

The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey *****
A classic mystery except that it is conducted by a Scotland Yard inspector who is in the hospital for several weeks bored out of his mind (this is before television). He is known for his ability to "read faces" and is intrigued by a portrait of Richard III. Could such a sensitive face actually belong to a king who murdered his nephews to secure his crown? With the help of an American scholar, he investigates using historical sources, and then must investigate their sources. This is a brilliant work that remains deservedly one of the best known mystery stories ever. (#43)

Blackout by Connie Willis *
I never thought I'd give Connie Willis a one-star review. Honestly? If they had no stars, that is what I'd give. What a waste of time. If it were any other author I'd have stopped long ago but I kept giving her more chances.

This is the first of a two-part series about traveling back to WWII London. Problems with the book: Soooo many different characters. Thrown in seemingly randomly in fairly similar settings so it takes me a bit to catch the switch. That is quite annoying. Worse yet, no forward motion ever takes place. The various characters move throughout their little stories, all wondering why no one from home base has come through to save them and take them back to their own time (they do this over and over and over ... aaargh .. what a bunch of wusses). You may or may not care about the characters and their stories, but eventually you tire even of those because they, too, go nowhere. What a lot of wasted ink and paper.

Editors, you should have reined Willis in and forced the story into one book. I no longer care what happens to any of them so the second book is completely wasted. What a shame and a waste of writing talent. (#44)

How's Your Drink? Cocktails, Culture, and the Art of Drinking Well by Eric Felten ****
I always enjoyed reading Eric Felten's weekly cocktail column in the Wall Street Journal and was very sorry when it recently ended. Luckily, this book conveys the interesting combination of history and drink that Felten is so good at writing. With delicious and carefully selected recipes, naturally! I have tried the Raspberry Shrub and found it delicious. (#45)

The Beer Trials by Fearless Media Critic ****
As with The Wine Trials, the authors give many different kinds of beer the paper-bag review treatment. This allows them to find the best tasting beer without prejudicing results by seeing labels or brands.

I can say this is probably the only book that Tom has ever hijacked from me. He spent quite some time perusing the results and reading aloud various selections that had been reviewed. Yes, we're more beer drinkers than wine drinkers in our household.

The book also has a very interesting front section that describes the difference between all the different kinds of beer. Who knew? Not me!

We have several sorts of beer on our list to try now and luckily we can probably find many of them at our nearby Central Market.

Highly recommended. (This was a review copy.) (#46)

The "R" Father by Mark Hart ***
Written in a straight forward fashion but providing surprising insights to the Our Father (The Lord's Prayer) from the perspective of reflecting on it in 14 phrases. I plan on reviewing this properly but don't wait for that. Get it. Recommended. (#47)

City of Dragons by Kelli Stanley *
I believe that many have read my comments from when I was about halfway through this book. Just when I thought I was reconciled to all the above, was jogging along, in a story that has been told in the detective's POV (including thoughts) ... the author suddenly throws in one sentence that tells us what someone else is thinking. Then back to usual. I figured it was an editorial miss from rewriting. But no, a couple of pages later, there is a whole paragraph that way again. No warning, just tossed in there and then gone again. So disruptive to the reader. Or at least this reader. It tosses me out of the story completely. And guess what? It tells us nothing new. Nothing. We already knew those things about the reporter. Was it that the editor missed this? Lost a fight? Or, worse, thought it was a good idea? Oy veh ...

In summary: this noir wannabe is actually chick lit. It should have been cut in half by the editors. This could have been easily achieved by not indulging the author in her desire to "take us back in time" by describing every single item, person, and place encountered. I know her afterward discusses the authenticity. I'd prefer an authentically well told tale to meandering about in old San Francisco.

These Just In
From St. Benedict Press I received this interesting grab bag of books:
  • Bleeding Hands, Weeping Stone by Elizabeth Ficocelli: when Ficocelli discovered that she wasn't the only one who'd never heard of many of the Church's approved miracles, she wrote this book.
  • The Essential Belloc edited by McCloskey, Bloch, and Robertson: quotes and fairly lengthy excerpts make up this compilation, sorted by subject. I was initially uninterested, however, as I have always meant to read Belloc, this actually looks like a good beginning point what with those lengthy excerpts and all. Tom picked this up, flipped through, and instantly began laughing and reading me a bit. Which is a good beginning I think we would all agree.
  • The Judas Syndrome: Seven Ancient Heresies Return to Betray Christ Anew by Thomas Colyandro: I believe that this is the book I wrote to request. I am fascinated by all the ways that old heresies pop up in new clothing to mislead us anew. This looks very interesting.
  • The Three Marks of Manhood: How to be Priest, Prophet and King of Your Family by G.C. Dilsaver: Tom saw this and instantly quipped, "As long as I'm king then I don't need to be priest or prophet." Joking and title aside, this actually looks like a pretty good book for those who want to regain a sense of proportion about their marriages and homes. Rather akin to the goals that I see and agree with in The Art of Manliness, which is a regular read for me.
I just wanna say one more time to small publishers ... giant type makes baby Jesus cry. Puhleez people!


  1. Tante Leonie5/19/10, 8:01 AM

    RE: the Beer Trials.
    How did my local favs, Westfleteren and Rodenbach Grand Cru, fare in the ratings?

  2. "How to be Priest, Prophet and King of Your Family" -- those aren't manly characteristics, they are Christly. Woman too are priest prophet and king by virtue of baptism. I wonder how the author distinguishes how women exercise those roles in the family.

    Daughter of Time is one of my all time favourite mysteries and should be required reading for all students of history and hagiography. Actually, all her books are good -- I think she only wrote 7 or 8.

    Re: Connie Willis -- NOOOOOOOO!!!! I loved her earlier stuff!

  3. I'm reading The Essential Belloc now. I'm a bit disappointed in how it's structured, as I much prefer reading compilations of essays rather than compilations of quotations on various topics. However, it has sparked my interest in his writing, which is a good thing.

  4. The good thing about Belloc is that a lot of his stuff is available for free on the Web. So it's very easy to take a taste, these days. (I remember the frustration of trying to find his stuff before the Web and the Chesterton revival. He was quoted in a lot of 70's collections of quotes, but none of his books seemed to be in print or in the libraries. I had to hit the back stacks of a major university library to find him, possibly because he'd been popular enough that his books had worn out, back in the day.)

  5. Tante ... I have jotted those down and will look. It all depends on whether they are bottled for American consumption as to whether they were considered for the book.

    Theocoid ... I agree with your comments about format.

    Meg ... you are right about those qualities. I didn't care enough about the subject overall to delve much into the book. Other than to generally glance through to see that he seemed to be taking care not to stomp on women. :-)