Monday, July 22, 2013

The Beekeeper's Apprentice

I am a Sherlock Holmes groupie. I'm hankering for the return of CBS's Elementary and BBC's Sherlock, and I've read everything that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle had to offer, but lucky for me the world of books is filled with stories of Sherlock and his crime solving capers.  So, to paraphrase the great detective, "Come, reader, come!  The game is afoot!"

The Beekeeper's Apprentice by Laurie R. King takes up the story of a retired Sherlock Holmes living quietly with his bees in the country.  When a teen-aged neighbor girl literally stumbles upon him as he's studying his pollen-laden friends, he is intrigued by her obvious intelligence and eccentricity.  (She was dressed as a boy, after all.)  Against all the social norms of 1915 England, he takes young Mary Russell under his wing and proceeds to teach her everything he can about his unique methods of detection. She is a quick study, and is soon off to Oxford University.  But Sherlock has many enemies with long memories, and both he and Mary find themselves in mortal peril.  Can they solve the puzzle and uncover their devious adversary, or will said foe succeed in putting Sherlock Holmes in permanent retirement?

The Beekeeper's Apprentice was published in 1994.  Laurie R. King is my new best friend, because 11 more Mary Russell books follow the first!!!  I love it when I find a great series.

And now for a little bit of "Holmes Humor":

“Holmes and Watson are on a camping trip. In the middle of the night Holmes wakes up and gives Dr. Watson a nudge. "Watson" he says, "look up in the sky and tell me what you see."

"I see millions of stars, Holmes," says Watson.

"And what do you conclude from that, Watson?"

Watson thinks for a moment. "Well," he says, "astronomically, it tells me that there are millions of galaxies and potentially billions of planets. Astrologically, I observe that Saturn is in Leo. Horologically, I deduce that the time is approximately a quarter past three. Meterologically, I suspect that we will have a beautiful day tomorrow. Theologically, I see that God is all-powerful, and we are small and insignficant. Uh, what does it tell you, Holmes?"

"Watson, you idiot! Someone has stolen our tent!” 
― Thomas Cathcart, Daniel Klein

Friday, July 19, 2013

The Distant Hours

A deteriorating castle protecting one family's secrets.  Elderly spinster twins and their demented little sister.  A letter lost for 50 years finally delivered.  These are just a few of the threads that make up the gothic tapestry of The Distant Hours by Kate Morton.

Edie Burchill and her mother Meredith did not have what could be considered a warm and fuzzy relationship.  Meredith didn't encourage shared confidences, and Edie was reluctant to disrupt the fragile orderliness of her parent's household. When a letter to Meredith is finally delivered half a century after it was posted, cracks in the wall of her self-protection begin to appear, and Edie begins to understand her mother's past. But it is the unexpected discovery of Milderhurst Castle that sets Edie on a shadowy and twisted path back to the events of 1941, a path which leads to mystery, mayhem and redemption.

Deliciously descriptive and delightfully ghoulish,  The Distant Hours pulses with an undercurrent of physical and mental decay. I loved the combination of mystery, romance and history all wrapped up in a gothic package.  So, read The Distant Hours.  It's a creepy treat!


Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Call the Midwife

Depressed over the finale of Downton Abbey?  Seaching for something uniquely British to fill the gap until next January?  Look no further than your local PBS station for Call the Midwife.

Yes, Call the Midwife is a show on PBS, but it started out as a series of books by Jennifer Worth.  Call the Midwife,  Shadows of the Workhouse, and Farewell to the East End chronicle Jennifer's own experiences as a midwife in 1950's London.  But she didn't work in any old part of London, she worked in the poor and war-torn East End.  I don't think any of us could imagine the conditions in which most families lived at this time and in this place.  Populated with dock workers, laborers and their extended families, many of the worst tenements had no running water, and everyone in the building shared an outhouse.  The newer terraced homes had their own bathrooms, but every home was jam-packed with adults and children. Just twenty-two when she started, Jennifer Worth and her fellow midwives rode their bikes all over the East End sharing the joys and heartbreaks of their grateful patients.  Oh, I forgot to mention that she lived in a convent of Episcopalian nuns who were also midwives.  They tend to steal the show and the stories in the book. Oh, Sister Monica Joan, how I love thee!

I have seen all of the episodes of Call the Midwife on either or Netflix.  I have only read the first book in the trilogy, but look forward to the next two.  The series follows the stories and characters in the books very well, with some interesting embellishments. I love it all, and can't wait for the next season.  Hope you agree...TBC

I Suck at Girls

Justin Halpern is at it again!  I Suck at Girls is the sequel to the brilliant Sh*t My Dad Says, and if you haven't read THAT you are missing out on mucho hilarity.  Now, you must be prepared for a certain amount of colorful language and junior high humor, so, if that is not your thing I completely understand.  However, if you are willing to temporarily suspend your high-falutin' standards read them both TODAY!!

Justin Halpern grew up in San Diego.  His dad is a brilliant scientist with little patience for moronic behavior, especially in his son.  Being prone to said behavior, Justin grew up with regular words of wisdom from his no-nonsense dad.  After he graduated from San Diego State, worked as a struggling screenwriter/waiter in LA, got dumped by his girlfriend and moved back home, he started sharing his dad's sage words on a twitter account.  Before he knew it he had 500,000 followers, a book and a TV deal. That he was lucky is an understatement, and he owes it all to the crazy things his dad says.  For example:

     "I was nine years old and crouching in the corner of the bathroom with my pants around my
      ankles, trying to pee into a water balloon. The idea was to throw the pee-filled balloon at my
      brothers in revenge for their merciless bouts of picking on me.  Then, suddenly, the door
      opened revealing my father.  I froze in fear, the water balloon attached to my privates.  My
      dad stared in silence for a moment, then said, 'First of all, you can't fill up a water balloon
      like that, dumb*!#!.  Secondly, life is f@#$%*# long, especially if you're stupid.'"

No truer words were ever said. Don't be stupid. Read I Suck at Girls. TBC

Monday, July 8, 2013

A Spear of Summer Grass

One of the many great things about reading is the ability to time-travel and place-travel without moving from your couch/bed/beach chair.  (I've probably pointed that out before!)  A Spear of Summer Grass by Deanna Raybourn took me to 1920's Africa.  It was quite the trip.

Delilah Drummond wasn't born notorious, but after several marriages, multiple affairs and a looming international dispute over her recently dead husband's jewels, (the sparkly kind), her mother and ex-husband/lawyer convince her to retire to Africa until it all blows over.  Luckily, her step-father has an estate in Kenya that no one is using, so Delilah packs up her divine Paris frocks and her drab cousin Dodo and they steam away from France to up-country Kenya, via Mombasa and Nairobi. Despite the fact that Delilah has lived a flapper's life of luxury and decadence, she is almost immediately drawn to the completely alien and dangerous life on the savanna, falling under the spell of Africa and her people.  But the white people are in charge, and she soon finds out that she can't run away from scandal and intrigue. And she certainly can't keep running away from the demons of her past.

Deanna Raybourn paints a fascinating canvas of British Colonial Africa in the 1920's. Much was good, but much was terrible, requiring the truly courageous to fight for the rights of both man and beast.  Sounds like today, only without antibiotics.  Kwaheri!  TBC

Sunday, July 7, 2013

The Heist

Ten Reasons to Read The Heist by Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg:

1.  It's written by Janet Evanovich.  Also by Lee Goldberg who I did not know but now like.

2.  Everything Janet Evanovich writes is funny.  Funny is good.

3.  It is the perfect beach read, because it's fun and smart without requiring the reader to be.  Smart, that    is.  Fun is always a requirement.

4.  The plot is a combination of action, suspense and comedy.  Think Mission Impossible but with comedians.

5.  The character of Nicolas Fox is hot, as a fox.

6.  FBI Agent Kate O'Hare is his perfect foil.

7.  The story takes place in exotic and not so exotic locales, but the research done for the LA, San Francisco and Southern California desert areas was right on.  I like it when a writer gets it right.

8.  Pirates are involved.  Arrrrr.

9.  The good guys win.

10.  Ergo, the bad guys get what's coming to them.

Read The Heist, and have a great summer!  TBC