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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Mapping of Love and Death by Jacqueline Winspear

 
The Mapping of Love and Death is the 7th novel about Maisie Dobbs. I have enjoyed this series since the first novel, and  Maisie grows with each installment.  Her growthseems a natural evolution, as she learns to live with the consequences of the first world war.

Each novel in the series provides an interesting look at life in post-war London, and each one features events that hark back in some way to war itself.  This one is no different.

It is 1932, and when the remains of a young soldier are unearthed in France, the family wants Maisie to discover the identity of the young nurse whose love letters were discovered with the body.  It also becomes evident that Michael Clifton didn't die as a result of the shelling that buried him in the trench.  It appears that he was murdered before the shell that buried Michael and his companions hit the trench.

Maisie's mentor is also very ill, and Maisie shifts between her concern for the case and her concern for her friend whom she deeply cares for.

As usual, Winspear has created a fine mystery with great characters.  All of England is still suffering from the aftermath of the war even in 1932. Unfortunately, WWII is looming on the horizon, and I fear Maisie must live under the threat of the coming conflict.  

Fiction.  Mystery/Historical Fiction.  2010.  338 pages.

Tuesday

I have several books to review, just have to make myself write them.  Hope you all had a great Thanksgiving and are merrily preparing for Christmas.
Our Thanksgiving was full of family, fun, and food.  Children and grandchildren gathered for a nice long weekend of activities.  The girls took the kids to see Tangled, which they all loved, there was roller skating, playing with blocks, making Christmas cards, etc.  More pictures over at Bayou Quilts.

Mila and Max loved making their cards; there was plenty of glitter and lots of sequins and some images from The Graphics Fairy...

Yesterday, I cleaned a little and relaxed a lot.  My morning practice had slipped during the long weekend, but I went to yoga last night to work out some of the kinks.  Today, I should feel like accomplishing something, but I'm still feeling pretty lazy.

I AM going to begin writing some reviews, though.  I really am.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Operation Mincemeat by Ben MacIntyre

Operation Mincemeat:  How a Dead Man and a Bizarre Plan Fooled the Nazis and Assured an Allied Victory is the account of a British Intelligence operation that, despite the odds, succeeded during WWII. 

MacIntyre reveals details that have been secret for years about how MI5 officers decide to use the plan, find a body, come up with a complete backstory, forge the documents, and eventually get the forged documents into the hands of the German High Command...all the way to Hitler's desk. 

What makes the work so fascinating is MacIntyre's cast of characters who are so varied and so interesting--not only the individuals working for MI5, but also those who played small roles in finding, delivering, and transporting the body and in transmitting the information.

Maybe the reason the entire plan reads something like a novel is that so many of the individuals involved in one way or another were already novelists or became novelists.  While truth is often stranger than fiction, it helps if those who conceive and construct such a complicated plan have the imagination of fiction writers.  I lost count of how many writers were involved from start to finish.  The most famous, although his role was small, was Ian Fleming.  No wonder the Bond stories were so popular, Fleming had all the experience one might need with espionage, double-thinking, and dreaming up ways to confuse or mislead the enemy.

Ewan Montague takes the lead in the book, partly because his partner Charles Chalmondeley was such a modest and retiring man.  When Montague was finally permitted to publish his limited account (The Man Who Never Was), he offered Chalmondeley one quarter rights to any profits (print or film), and Chalmondeley refused to even be named. 

The spies and double agents were intriguing.  At least one of the most famous Spanish agents has remained anonymous to this day, known only by his code name, Agent Andros.  Agent Garbo's story is unusual because although he hated the Germans and offered to spy for the British, they turned him down.  Until, that is, they discovered that he was feeding the Germans false, often ridiculous information on his own.  When the British realized what was happening, they swooped up Juan Pujol Garcia and installed him in a safe house where he delivered misinformation in high style.  His real life adventures are the basis for Graham Greene's Our Man in Havana.  (And although Greene was not involved in Operation Mincemeat, he, too, was in the British Secret Intelligence Service in MI6)

Major Karl-Erich Kuhlenthal, the gullible German agent who happily transmitted Agent Garbo's falsehoods, was much admired for his efforts by his superiors.  Oddly, Kuhlenthal had a Jewish grandmother and a half-Jewish mother.  No matter how his superiors felt about him, he was always a dark horse who depended on his uncle, Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, to intercede for him.

Near the final stages, Baron Alexis von Roenne, the man who pretty much guaranteed the information concerning Operation Mincemeat to be true, detested Hitler and almost certainly knew the information to be false.  Colonel von Roenne was a decorated war hero and Hitler's favorite intelligence analyst, but a secret opponent of Nazism.  While not directly involved in the plot to assassinate Hitler in 1944, his friendship with Claus von Stauffenberg and other members of the Black Orchestra led to his arrest and terrible death. 

It would be impossible to mention all of the individuals who played a part in a brief post, but MacIntyre brings them back to life.  Even the "dead man," who was in fact, a derelict becomes in history, a hero.  Glendwr Michael was transformed in death into Major William Martin, RM and was responsible for saving the lives of so many men who met little resistance on invading Sicily.

Nonfiction.  History/WWII.  2010.  235 pages + notes.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Black Friday and TBR Pile

Want to do a little shopping on Black Friday without leaving the house?  Visit The French Cupboard!

I've never experienced Black Friday except by watching the news or reading the paper.  Shopping in a crushing sea of people would be an unbearable experience for someone who dislikes crowds.

But shopping online?  Sounds like a good idea and many online shops are participating in BF sales from the comfort of your home.

I've finished Operation Mincemeat and will review soon.  It just happens to be one of those books that can send me scurrying to research names,events, and historical accounts. Fascinating if you are interested in WWII espionage; this work of nonfiction has so many real people who could inspire a dozen fictional novels. 

Because I haven't been reading as much lately, my TBR pile just keeps increasing.  I went ahead and started the latest Jacqueline Winspear last night because it is so hard to resist Maisie Dobbs. 

Also in progress, Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls, author of The Glass Castle, and I'm still moving through The Bard on the Brain:  Understanding the Mind Through the Art of Shakespeare and the Science of Brain Imaging , which has been disappointing.  Maybe I just haven't been in the mood for it, but it hasn't captured my attention as I'd hoped.


In the TBR pile (the ones that are really calling me):
 
A Conspiracy of Kings by Megan Turner that I can't wait to begin.  I love her YA series and have thoroughly enjoyed the previous three novels.  I actually buy these instead of checking them out at the library because I want to have them for Mila (precious brown-eyed granddaughter) to read.

Class Collision: Fall from Grace by Annette Mackey which is set in the  Depression Era.

An Impartial Witness by Charles Todd.  Although I wasn't as impressed with the first Bess Crawford mystery as I'd hoped, I've loved the Ian Rutledge series over the years, and hope that Bess can eventually satisfy me.  It often takes a series a while to settle into a niche with plot, characters, pacing, and time period nicely intertwined.  So while A Duty to the Dead, the first Bess Crawford, didn't measure up to Ian Rutledge for me, I expect this one will work better.


The Tourist by Olen Steinhauer (not the same as the new film).  "Milo Weaver used to be a 'tourist' for the CIA..."   I think that line on the book jacket got my attention.  I was wondering about its connection to the new Johnny Depp film-- but two different stories, although both involve intrigue.

What are you reading?  What books are edging to the top of your TBR pile?

Friday, November 19, 2010

Friday Finds

Friday Finds:  What great books did you hear about/discover this past week

Here is the book I found:  Wherever You Are my love will find you.  One of Amelia's (our daughter) dear friends bought this book for Bryce Eleanor (our granddaughter).  It is mostly a picture book, but the poem is as lovely, or more so, than the illustrations.

I love, love, love it!  It would make a great Christmas gift for any young children you might need to buy for.  Or for the parent of a young child.

Visit Friday Finds to see what others have discovered!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Teaser Tuesday

teasertuesdays31 Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!
 Operation Mincemeat:  How a Dead Man and a Bizarre Plan Fooled the Nazis and Assured an Allied Victory by Ben Macintyre:

"Hillgarth's own life reads like something out of the Boy's Own Paper or the pages of Rider Haggard."

     "The son of a Harley Street ear, nose, and throat surgeon, Hillgarth had entered the Royal Naval College at the age of thirteen, fought in the First World War as a fourteen-year-old midshipman (his first task was to assist the ship's doctor during the Battle of Heligoland Bight by throwing amputated limbs overboard), and skewered his first Turk, with a bayonet, before his sixteenth birthday."  p. 141

nonfiction

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Poems on Demand

"You can't order a poem like you can order a taco,"  says, Naomi Shye in one of my very favorite poems, 
"A  Valentine for Ernest Mann."

Ahhh, but now you can!  Jacqueline Suskin operates the Poem Store  and will create a poem for you.  Examples here.  How cool is that?  To be able to spin an idea into gold, just like that, in a minute, with a typewriter on your knees!

I love Naomi Shye, and I love "A Valentine for Ernest Mann," AND I love Jacqueline Suskin; although I've never met her and never will, I will spend lots of time thinking about the subject I will choose for my poem.

Here is a visual poem of Bryce Eleanor's visit.  Last night, she put all of her hair bands in her Granddaddy's boots, then emptied all of the hair bands out, and stepped her tiny feet in. 

Monday, November 08, 2010

This and That

Because I'm still in the creative mode, I'm not doing much reading, and I've actually got a couple in the stacks that I'm eager to get to...when I quit playing in the studio.

Received an ARC today:  Class Collision:  Fall From Grace by Annette Mackey.   Another one added to the stack just when I'm not reading much, but it is something to look forward to.

Sometimes I read a book a day, sometimes just a few pages.  I'm still managing a few pages a day in The Court of the Air and since I'm already nearly 500 pages in, I do want to finish it, but...it may end up abandoned.  Forcing myself to read a few pages at a time hardly seems worth the effort.

I'm afraid I may have to give up on Steampunk novels.  I do want to try Philip Reeve (suggested by Katharine Langrish), but right now, I'm ready for more mysteries.

I've begun Operation Mincemeat:  How a Dead Man and a Bizarre Plan Fooled the Nazis and Assured an Allied Victory.  With a title like that, you might think it was fiction; but no, it is an account of a British intelligence operation in 1943 to deceive the Germans and make surprise landings in Sicily.  It is quite interesting so far.

How about these end tables on Etsy?  Bet some of you could make them yourselves.  I could have before I donated so many books to the library, an assisted living home, and Goodwill.

One would make a nice conversation piece.  It is always interesting to see what people can do with books...even people who don't read them.

I don't think I ever showed you the tee shirts I ordered for my lawyer/roller derby daughter.  From Caustic Threads on Etsy--aren't they cute? If you are into Roller Derby...or have a daughter or friend who is.  Erica even included free hand warmers with the package!    I love Etsy. 

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Studio Overload

The last few days have been busy ones in the studio.  A rush of ideas and possibilities, and I will stop whatever I'm working on and begin something new.

  Sometimes that only means hunting and gathering items that come to mind to use on the project.  I'll rummage through fabric scraps and abandoned fabric pieces, through old jewelry parts and beads, through the various junk vintage items I've collected, through ephemera and embellishments-- and sometimes find items that might work.

At other times, it means beginning a new Eccentricity right then, in fabric or clay, using a new shape or with a new idea in mind for a particular item.  A phrase, a quote, a lyric from a song, seeing a camel made of spoons, whatever....  Sometimes, I'll just jot down notes that get lost or buried and then find them again.

And then I have to begin something with that idea in mind.  Occasionally, this means that in spite of having so many other works in various stages of completion, I'm compelled to put them aside and start several new projects at once.  The enthusiasm for a new project is often transient, so I have to make an immediate effort.

This is what happens:
Chaos.  At which point, I have to stop and clean up, place things in little boxes or baskets for assorted ideas, and clear some space to work again. 

This is where I am now.  Preparing to create a clean workspace here and at the sewing machine.  If I don't get distracted....

Saturday, November 06, 2010

How To... :)

Received an ARC from Hudson Street Press:  How To Raise Your Adult Children by Gail Parent and Susan Ende, M.F.T.  Erin and Amelia need to be prepared.  Mothering never dies, even if it does fade away.

From the book jacket:  "..in this irreverent yet practical guide, two professional women with adult children provide a much-needed dose of perspective for the millions of us who (wrongly) assumed that we'd be finished raising our children once or kids legally became adults."

Other praise:

"How to Raise Your Adult Children would be a great book for every parent in the world except me.  I don't need it.  My Melissa is a perfect child.  And if she continues to be really nice to me, I'm going to tell her which of my jewelry is real."  --Joan Rivers

"I love this book.  It begins where Dr. Spock left off.  If only Mama had it, Eunice wouldn't have been so  aggravated."   --Carol Burnett

Sounds like I might really like this one!

Boneshaker by Cherie Priest

Boneshaker is the second book I've read by Priest.  The first was Four and Twenty Blackbirds, which I  read and reviewed not long ago.  Although I saw a lot of potential in Four and Twenty, it wasn't really a series I was intent on pursuing.

Boneshaker has some of the same qualities, and is, in my opinion, a far better book.  Of course, Four and Twenty was Priest's debut novel, and she has put several books under her belt since it was published.

The characters are interesting, the writing (especially at the beginning) is quite good,  the setting is exceptionally and appropriately dark and gritty, and there is plenty of action.

 Briar Wilkes, widow of Leviticus Blue and daughter of Maynard Wilkes, takes her maiden name after her inventor husband builds a drilling machine, the Boneshaker, that apparently runs amuck and destroys a portion of Seattle, killing a great many people outright.  Those who don't die in the initial catastrophe are threatened by a deadly, malevolent gas called the Blight, and the majority of the citizens are forced to rehabitate on the outskirts of the city after building a huge wall to protect themselves from the carnage, the effects of the Blight, and the "rotters" who have succumbed to the deadly gas.

Briar and Zeke, her son, born after the chaos, are outcasts living a hand-to-mouth existence fifteen years later.  Zeke, however, has become determined to prove his father's innocence and disappears into the "city" to find evidence.  The filters on his mask (the Blight gas, remember?) have a limited time span.  When Briar realizes what he has done, she goes in after him.

An interesting novel, with flaws, but one that I did  enjoy.  Set during the Civil War and full of alternate history, the novel allows you to visit a strange, but familiar world of the past.  Some concepts didn't hold together and the conclusion felt incomplete somehow.  Not the part at the very end where Priest leaves the possibility of a return to world she's created, but the denouement, the final battle portion, which seemed rushed and not quite satisfactory.  Can't explain without spoilers.


Other reviews: 
Thumbs upStainless Steel Droppings (Carl),   Shades of Grey, Fantasy Book Critic
Neither up nor down Spiral Galaxy, Song of Ice and Fire
Thumbs down: Dminoz, Bright Dreamer

Fiction.  Steampunk/Urban Fantasy/Alternate History.  2009.  416 pages.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Burn by Nevada Barr

Burn is Barr's 16th Anna Pigeon installment.  It is also the darkest one I've read.  The subject matter concerns pedophiles and child sexual abuse.  She doesn't go into graphic detail, but enough detail to give the imagination full range.

Soooo....I liked the mystery portion and the characters Clare and Jordan, but absolutely hated the subject and the image of New Orleans.  We all know, those of us who have been there and those who have not, that there is an unbelievable amount of corruption in New Orleans, and I don't think Barr's intention was to leave that as the only image, but the truth is that many will never look on New Orleans the same way.  While I might believe that many of New Orleans' police and political representatives are corrupt, sanctioning this kind of corruption takes it too far for me.  Bribes, yes; drugs, yes; child sexual abuse, no.  Not in the wholesale way depicted here.

Fiction.  Mystery.  2010.  378 pages.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Ghost in Trouble by Carolyn Hart

Ghost in Trouble in the third in a new series featuring Bailey Ruth Raeburn by Carolyn Hart (author of the Death on Demand series).  Not a ghost, but an emissary from the Department of Good Intentions to assist those on earth who need help, Bailey Ruth is assigned to protect Kay Clark who finds herself in danger as she investigates the death of her former lover.

Less than completely dependable emissary in many ways, Bailey Ruth is good-hearted, if head-strong (and self-involved), and her failures to follow all the Precepts of the Dept. of Good Intentions might keep her supervisor a bit on edge, but often turn out for the best.

Initially, I wasn't sure I'd care for this cozy, but it grew on me. I did get tired of the emphasis on wardrobe changes and references to her red hair, but I ended up enjoying the novel.  Enough to go back and pick up the first two in the series?  Probably not, but if I ran across them on the library shelf, I wouldn't turn them down.  Fast and light.

Fiction.  Mystery/Cozy.  2010.  276 pages.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Changeless and Blameless by Gail Carriger (a twofer)

 Changeless takes up the story of Alexia, now Lady Woolsey.  Unfortunately, several things weren't as much fun in this novel.

1)  Ivy Hisselpenny turns into a real dope.  Not a little flighty, as in the first novel, just...dumb and annoying.  I really liked her in Soulless, but not at all in this one.
2)   Other characters were slightly off-kilter, including werewolf husband.  No, he was more than just off-kilter at the end.  It will be difficult to see him in any other light.
3)  Some of the wit that was fresh in Soulless, was repetitious and stale in this second go round.
                                                      4)  Wrapped up current sequence of events, then a bad cliffhanger.

Can't say I didn't enjoy it to a degree, but certainly disappointing.

Blameless didn't much improve my attitude.  If at all.  Ivy Hisselpenny improves some, but not enough.  The reconciliation made me doubt Alexia's sanity.  The plot races from England to France to Italy and new characters are added (and some are subtracted), but I didn't really feel any suspense.  I still like Professor Lyall, Lord Akeldama, Floote, and Madame Lefoux.

I had so looked forward to these books, but won't be waiting breathlessly for the next two in the series.


Other Reviews:
Kalaidoglide (neat name, eh?)
What I'm Reading
Steamed