Monday, September 1, 2014

The 2014 Big Read: August Books

Here is a summary of the books I read in August.


In the Devil's Garden: A Sinful History of Forbidden Food (Stewart Allen).  Interesting tidbits but overall largely forgettable and a bit too focused on the gross-out factor.

An Introduction to Birds (John Kieran).  Oversized book from the 1950s with brief descriptions.

Island Year (Hazel Heckman).  Well-written natural history of Anderson Island (off Tacoma) where the author lived for many years, told month by month.

Land of Lost Monsters (Ted Oakes).  Prehistoric creatures by continent.  Nice illustrations.

Land of the Lakes (Melvyn Bragg).  History and natural history of England's Lake District, well illustrated.

The Life of the Seashore (William Amos).  I snagged a bunch of books in this set put out in the 1960s by the World Book Encyclopedia folks -- they are similar to the old Time-Life nature series and while not quite as well done as those, they are entertaining enough and at 200 pages each, they are pretty quick reads.

The Life of the Desert (Ann and Myron Sutton).
The Life of the Forest (Jack McCormick)
The Life of the Mountains (Maurice Brooks)
The Life of the Ocean (N.J. Berrill)
The Life of the Pond (William Amos)

Land Above the Trees: A Guide to American Alpine Tundra (Ann Zwinger).  Mostly about the geology and plant life of several alpine regions, well illustrated by the author.


A Question of Proof (Nicholas Blake).  A re-read of an old British mystery, part of a series, in an effort to revisit a few of my favorite authors from decades past.  Did not hold up well.  Sigh.

Maisie Dobbs (Jacqueline Winspear).  Contemporary author, mystery set in 1920s Britain featuring a lower-class woman who is offered a chance to improve her lot with a private education and mentoring by a private detective.  Experiences from the Great War figure prominently.  Relentlessly severe and gloomy.  Not a keeper.

Secret Water (Arthur Ransome).  Fifth re-read of a favorite from this British series (1930s-40s) where enterprising, imaginative children have simple yet rewarding adventures.

The Sands of Time (Michael Hoeye).  Children's fantasy; sequel to Time Stops for No Mouse, featuring watchmaker Hermux Tantamoq and his quest to prove the ancient kingdom of cats truly existed.  He's a mouse.  There's a whole city of mice.  It's quite delightful and tons of fun.

Killed at the Whim of a Hat (Colin Cotterill).  First in a mystery series featuring Thai crime reporter Jimm Juree, a young woman uprooted from the big city to a rural backwater by her eccentric family.  She manages to find a few bizarre crimes to unravel in this unusual, often witty tale.

Grandad, There's A Head on the Beach (Colin Cotterill).  Sequel to the above; not quite as good though it picked up midway through.

Murder on the Eiffel Tower (Claude Izner).  Contemporary author, first in a mystery series set in 1890s Paris.  Protagonist is a journalist trying to solve murders at the World Exposition.  Background history is interesting but I grew to detest the hero and the plot left much to be desired.

So, in July and August I tried three different historical mysteries (all by contemporary authors) and not one succeeded in making me want to read the next in the series.  Two had awful anachronisms, and 21st-century attitudes imposed upon the characters.  I give up.  I'll be visiting the local mystery bookshop tomorrow in yet another effort to find mysteries I actually enjoy.  It's been a struggle of late!

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