Summer Reads: Another Twofer! Friday, Aug 27 2010 

Auntie M just returned from ten days taking care of the four Grands in Minnesota. It was the perfect time of year to be there–no ice or snow–and she got in a bit of reading.

Two more for you to inhale are by Canadian Alan Bradley.

Bradley won the Debut Dagger Award  of the Crimewriter’s Association for The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, featuring the precocious and resourceful eleven-year-old Flavia de Luce.

Set in 1950 in rural England, Flavia is as unusual a protagonist as one could find. Brilliant at chemistry, her passion being poisons, Flavia develops a genius for solving crimes, especially murders. The youngest sister of three, older sisters Ophelia and Daphne thrive on pranks (and worse) to hurt Flavia’s feelings. Her widowed father spends his days involved with his precious stamp collection, leaving Flavia plenty of time to pursue her chemistry studies and to solve mysteries.

The family cook, Mrs. Mullet, and a butler/handyman/gardener named Dogger complete the family cast. There are the villagers of Bishop’s Lacey, too, the small town nearest to Buckshaw, the de Luce mansion.

In book one, Flavia is intrigued when a dead bird with a stamp through its beak is found on Buckshaw’s doorstep. Only hours later, Flavia stumbles across a man lying in the kitchen cucumber patch, and catches his dying words. The girl is appalled and delighted at once. “I wish I could say I was afraid, but I wasn’t. Quite the contrary. This was by far the most interesting thing that had ever happened to me in my entire life.”

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

Bradley  is spot on with the period notes and social strata he describes. Flavia’s voice remains youthful and intelligent but oddly endearing, as she rattles around the huge house amusing herself. When she meets Inspector Hewitt and his two sergeant’s, he is acutely aware he is in the company of someone unusual.

I gobbled this book up quickly because I knew the second installment was waiting for me in my suitcase (yes, I know, buy a Kindle or Nook for travel). Would Bradley capture me again? Would Flavia’s voice continue to hook me? The answer is a resounding yes to both questions.

The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag finds Flavia having to untangle a new and a years-old murder. Riding her trusty bicycle,Gladys, around the area, Flavia introduces us to a madwoman who lives in Gibbet Wood, a catatonic mother in a dovecote, and a German soldier obsessed with the Bronte sisters. Introduce a puppeteer, a brush with electricity, and a long-dead boy, and you’ve got the makings of another book I couldn’t put down.

Flavia has an added asset that Inspector Hewitt lacks: a quiet child is often overlooked as adults gossip and talk. In this vein Flavia is able to obtain needed information to help solve the murders.

Each of these books are reads that will have you wanting more of the irrepressible Flavia de Luce. Auntie M can’t wait for the next one!

Great Summer Reads: Angel with Two Faces Tuesday, Aug 10 2010 

Nicola Upson found a unique twist when she starred Golden Age writer Josephine Tey as the protagonist of her first novel, An Expert in Murder.

Her second follows Tey down to Cornwall in 1935 for a summer of writing, the guest of her friend’s, the Motley’s. Their cousin, DI Archie Penrose, has a complicated past with Josephine. He arrives just before her, to attend the funeral of a young estate worker who died in a tragic riding accident. Or was it an accident?

Upson hits the period details just right, as well as the restraint in the relationship between Josephine and Archie. And she uses the setting to show how estate owners and workers alike are tied to the land. Real places, including the outdoor Minack Theater, are used to great effect and add to the sense of place that Upson knows well.
Amidst tragedy, Josephine and Archie ferret out secrets that have been kept by families for years. This  one has satisfying plot twists and turns, a cast of memorable characters, and is guaranteed to be devoured quickly for your reading pleasure.

Summer reads: Another Twofer! Monday, Aug 2 2010 

Last week Auntie M gave you two Nora Roberts romances to consider for idling away off-time in the summer heat. This time I’m offering more brain candy in the hilarious category.

Lisa Lutz has created a most unusual set of characters in the San Franciso Spellmans, a high functioning, but severely dysfunctional family. All but older brother David, a lawyer, are in the private investigation business, including teen sister Rae.  Debuting in The Spellman Files, big sister Izzy is the narrator of the trouble she or some other member of her family usually manages to trip over and that book has been mentioned before.

The second offering for your summer reading pleasure is Curse of the Spellmans. Izzy, the Get Smart-obsessed narrator, returns to explain just how she has managed to be arrested for the fourth time in three months.

The story of her arrests is told via her explanation to her 80-something lawyer, Morty. There is a suspicious neighbor, whom Izzy is convinced is a murderer; an investigation into vandalism events at a neighbor’s precious holiday displays, which are eerily similar to those committed by Izzy and her best friend years ago; and sister Rae’s domination of Inspector Henry Stone, who is a solid force in the Spellman sisters lives.
Lutz’s style itself is worth the read. She gives us various “reports” on people, copies of their taped conversations, and varied footnotes to explain situations. She also numbers Izzy’s former boyfriends. There are some of the most original characters here, including the Spellman parental unit, as Rae calls them.  And Amusing and imaginative and highly creative.
And just to outdo herself, Lutz swings back with Revenge of the Spellmans.

This time Izzy is enduring court-ordered therapy and works her way through two therapists. By now, if you’ve read the other two books, this will come as no real surprise to you.
Izzy is being blackmailed, too, and has sworn off her PI work. As the book opens, she doing a stint as a bartender at her favorite watering hole, the Philosopher’s Club, which Rae frequents for her shots of ginger ale. Izzy is out of a place to live, out of solid work, and has to decide whether she wants to go back into the family business or not.  Henry Stone has acquired a girlfriend, which has led Izzy to see just where her fickle heart has been diverted. And Rae continues to be Rae, a most precocious teen who is learning to drive and helps herself to various vehicles by very imaginative means.
The same format, the same humor, but with increasing imagination, if that’s at all possible, make this one mandatory reading for laugh-out-loud summer fun.
Heads up: There’s a fourth installment, The Spellmans Strike Again, which will be read before August is gone.
I expect more of the same and am truly looking forward to it.

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dru's book musings

Reading is a wonderful adventure!

JoHanna Massey

"I tramp a perpetual journey." Walt Whitman

MiddleSisterReviews.com

(mid'-l sis'-tǝr) n. the reader's favorite sister

My train of thoughts on...

Smile! Don't look back in anger.

Make

make Your House a home

K.R. Morrison, Author

My author site--news and other stuff about books and things

Wicked Cozy Authors

Mysteries with a New England Accent

Some Days You Do ...

Writers & Writing, my own & other people's; movies, art, music & the search for a perfect flat white - the bits & pieces of a writing life.

Gaslight Crime

Author and reviewer of period crime fiction

Crimezine

#1 for Crime

Mellotone70Up

John Harvey on Books & Writing - his own & other people 's - Art, Music, Movies, & the elusive search for the perfect Flat White.

A thrilling Murder-Mystery...

...now being made into a radio drama

BOOK SHELF

"Tell me and I forget-Show me and I remember-Involve me and I learn"

Past Offences: Classic crime, thrillers and mystery book reviews

The best mystery and crime fiction (up to 1987): Book and movie reviews

forensics4fiction

Forensics demystified for the fiction writer

milliewonka

Just another WordPress.com site

Eco Women: Protectors of the Planet!

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