Blood and Circuses

Blood and Circuses

by Kerry Greenwood

BAC

Phryne Fisher’s life has grown boring. Perfectly… boring. Her household is ordered, her love life is pleasant, the weather is fine. And then a former lover, knocks on her door, begging assistance. He works for Farrell’s Circus and Wild Beast Show, where suddenly animals are being poisoned and ropes sabotaged. The injury of a trick rider provides Phryne the perfect cover to join the troupe, and to exercise her equestrian skills.

Abandoning her name, her title, her comfort, and even her clothes, Phryne must fall off a horse twice a day until she can stay on. She must sleep in a girls’ tent and dine on mutton stew. And she must find some allies. Mr. Christopher, the circus’ hermaphrodite, has been found with his throat cut, making it all-too-clear how high the stakes might be.

Blood and Circuses is the sixth installment of the Phryne Fisher Mystery Series, and I just want to start by saying that I really struggled with this one. I had finished the previous story, The Green Mill Murder, at the end of September (review posted last November) and I forced myself to take a break from the series. This wasn’t due to series burn out; instead, I had enjoyed The Green Mill Murder so much that I was worried the next book would run ruin that book high. Now, I know this is a negative outlook, but it was justifiable. Blood and Circuses is not my favorite episode of the TV adaptation. I was worried the book would leave me just as disappointed.

So I waited a month before picking it up. I thought it would be a perfect read since I enjoy reading about circuses in October. I read half it and put it down.

So, I am going to start with the negative points and then move on to the positive. (I promise I have positives!) My first negative, is the difference between Sampson in the TV version and the book version; the TV Sampson was infinitely better. So I was disappointed in that. The first half of the story is focused on a number of  Miss Fisher’s very unflattering traits. She only takes this case because she is bored, and makes this very clear to the friend coming to her for help. Phryne then gets a big dose of reality when she must take on the persona of an uneducated, meek woman in an intensely regulated community. She is used to walking into a room and having the undivided attention; however, at the circus no one knows who she is and no one cares. She is treated like an outsider, and her insecurity in the face of apathy is pathetic and petty. All she does is whine for 150 pages. I pushed myself to read through her physically and mentally draining days learning to stand upon a horse. The interesting mystery was drowned out by her crying herself to sleep in her dust covered bunk. Where was the fiery, intelligent woman who flew her Gypsy Moth into uncharted mountains? Why did this have to be such a hard read?

I put it down, and didn’t pick it back up until the following March. It was the best thing I could have done.

So, this is a little more personal than I tend to get into my reviews, but I think my personality can be too much for some people. I am honest, blunt, and uncompromising at times. I love every bit of myself, the good and the bad, and I like to believe that I am self-aware enough to make the changes needed to be a better person each day. But most people don’t appreciate my brand of honesty, so I spend most of my day ‘editing’ myself. This can get very, very lonely. I was especially struggling with this during March, and I finally understood Phyrne was feeling when I picked Blood and Circuses back up. I understood what it felt like to be surrounded by people who can’t see the real you. I knew what it was like to constantly question your self worth.

Did I still find Phryne’s lamentations annoying? Yep. Did I still think it unhealthy that a man’s romantic gestures are what brought her out of her self depreciating funk? Oh yeah. But I finally understood  Greenwood was trying to show readers that Phyrne isn’t perfect. That even she struggles with picking herself up out of the dirt. And I’m so grateful that I read this book at the right time in my life

So, I recommend Blood and Circuses, but only to readers who are already acquainted with the Honorable Miss Fisher. It provides a good mystery with outstanding supporting characters, and gives a great insight on how a strong woman can still struggle with positive self worth. Please read it, and let me know what you think!

Happy Reading.

Lindsay

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My Year of Running Dangerously

My Year of Running Dangerously: A Dad, a Daughter, and a Ridiculous Plan

by Tom Foreman

myrd

CNN correspondent Tom Foreman’s remarkable journey from half-hearted couch potato to ultra-marathon runner, with four half-marathons, three marathons, and 2,000 miles of training in between; a poignant and warm-hearted tale of parenting, overcoming the challenges of age, and quiet triumph.

As a journalist whose career spans three decades, CNN correspondent Tom Foreman has reported from the heart of war zones, riots, and natural disasters. He has interviewed serial killers and been in the line of fire. But the most terrifying moment of his life didn’t occur on the job–it occurred at home, when his 18-year old daughter asked, “How would you feel about running a marathon with me?” 

At the time, Foreman was approaching 51 years old, and his last marathon was almost 30 years behind him. The race was just sixteen weeks away, but Foreman reluctantly agreed. Training with his daughter, who had just started college, would be a great bonding experience, albeit a long and painful one. 

My Year of Running Dangerously is Foreman’s journey through four half-marathons, three marathons, and one 55-mile race. What started as an innocent request from his daughter quickly turned into a rekindled passion for long-distance running–for the training, the camaraderie, the defeats, and the victories. Told with honesty and humor, Foreman’s account captures the universal fears of aging and failure alongside the hard-won moments of triumph, tenacity, and going further than you ever thought possible.

I officially signed up for my first marathon today! 2018 has brought about a love of running, and not surprisingly, a love for books about running. I’m good at combining my hobbies ☺️.

I decided to keep reading running books after finishing How to Lose a Marathon. I picked up the audio version of My Year of Running Dangerously, which is about Tom Foreman’s return to long distance running. Tom Foreman is a correspondent for CNN, but I wasn’t interested in news or politics. I was interested in hearing how he went from a couch potato to running four half-marathons, 3 marathons, and one ultra marathon in one year! My Year of Running Dangerously provided just that!

Tom’s running journey starts when his eldest daughter requests they train for a marathon together. Foreman tells the story of his training, including excerpts of running as a child, his first marathons run in his 20s, and his unintentional loss of the sport after the arrival of kids. Readers follow Foreman as he runs a marathon with his daughter, and then jumps head first into the sport of long distance running.

I absolutely loved My Year of Running Dangerously! Forman doesn’t hold back, providing both the good and the bad of his journey. We hear how running brings him closer to family while simultaneously causing strain in his work/training/life balance. We experience scary training runs, moments of defeat, and painful injuries. We run alongside on fantastic runs, see gorgeous trails, and embrace the feeling of accomplishment. Foreman talks about the people he’s met, details the places he’s seen, and shares the life revelations experienced while running. Plus, the audio book is read by the author, which makes makes you feel as if your sharing running stories with Foreman on a lazy afternoon.

My Year of Running Dangerously was just what I needed as I start my next stage of training. It reassured me that I was not alone in my struggles or joys, and made me look forward to my next race. It’s the perfect read for runners and those wishing to learn more about why people choose to run.

So, expect many more running nonfiction books this year :). And please let me know if you have any recommendations! Happy reading (and running)!

Lindsay

The Pharaoh’s Secret

The Pharaoh’s Secret

by Clive Cussler and Graham Brown

tps

The dazzling new novel in the #1 New York Times–bestselling NUMA Files series from the grand master of adventure.

Kurt and Joe tangle with the most determined enemy they’ve ever encountered when a ruthless powerbroker schemes to build a new Egyptian empire as glorious as those of the Pharaohs.

Part of his plan rests on the manipulation of a newly discovered aquifer beneath the Sahara, but an even more devastating weapon at his disposal may threaten the entire world: a plant extract known as the Black Mist, discovered in the City of the Dead and rumored to have the power to take life from the living and restore it to the dead.

With the balance of power in Africa and Europe on the verge of tipping, Kurt, Joe, and the rest of the NUMA team will have to fight to discover the truth behind the legends—but to do that, they have to confront in person the greatest legend of them all: Osiris, the ruler of the Egyptian underworld.

I’m just gonna say this is less a review of The Pharaoh’s Secret, and more a look at my affection for Clive Cussler books.

I only occasionally read Clive Cussler, but there was a time when he was all I read. Dirk Pitt: of course! NUMA Files: yep! Oregon Files: absolutely! Cussler provided an escape from the petty drama of high school. He was my go-to when I needed adventure during my first round of college. I knew who to turn to when I found myself desperately needing an over the top action read in the weeks leading up to my vacation. Clive Cussler delivered!

I honestly chose The Pharaoh’s Secret because of the cover. I mean look at it! Thankfully the plot was fantastically action packed. Readers were provided multiple plots that melded together seamlessly, and included both historical and scientific points. There was SCUBA diving, underwater battles, car chases, and plenty of snarky one-liners. I loved how readers were exposed to both ancient Egyptian and Roman history. My favorite part was, surprisingly, the side story of the Italian WWII soldiers. I even enjoyed Kurt and Joe, though Dirk and Al will always be my favorite Cussler duo.

Do I have any negative thoughts about The Pharaoh’s Secret? Eh, sure..just take all the points I previously mentioned. These are the reasons I don’t read much Cussler anymore. The stories are too over the top, the action scenes a tad too unbelievable, and the stories too similar. Cussler has a formula that works and he has stuck to it through the decades. But I go into his books knowing, and even craving, these traits when I pick one up.

Dirk Pitt holds a special place in my heart. He’s pulled me through reality when I needed an escape into the unknown. The Pharaoh’s Secret made me smile 😊. It did EXACTLY what I wanted.

Are you a Cussler fan? Which series is your favorite? Let me know and happy reading!

Lindsay

Winter Update

This is my Winter Reading Update. I have decided to provide a quarterly update to help keep track of my reading goals, progress, and trending themes. It is no surprise the majority of my reads were historical mysteries. These are the books finished January, February, and March 2018.

TOTAL: 9

This number includes my one DNF and I have them listed under the different genres. It was an ok reading quarter and I’m looking forward to what I will read this spring!

Mystery: 5

 

Historical Fiction: 1

This genre tab has books that are strictly historical fiction without an additional mystery plot.

TBCNM

 

Nonfiction: 1

Reread: 1

mg

 

Do Not Finish: 1

fk

What books did you finish this winter? Do you have any suggestions for my spring TBR? Let me know and happy reading!

Lindsay

A Caribbean Mystery

A Caribbean Mystery

by Agatha Christie

acm

As Jane Marple sat basking in the tropical sunshine she felt mildly discontented with life. True, the warmth eased her rheumatism, but here in paradise nothing ever happened. Then a question was put to her by a stranger: ‘Would you like to see a picture of a murderer?’ Before she has a chance to answer, the man vanishes, only to be found dead the next day. The mysteries abound: Where is the picture? Why is the hotelier prone to nightmares? Why doesn’t the most talked-about guest, a reclusive millionaire, ever leave his room? And why is Miss Marple herself fearful for her life?

Of note: A Caribbean Mystery introduces the wealthy (and difficult) Mr Jason Rafiel, who will call upon Miss Marple for help in Nemesis (1971) — after his death.

I was first introduced to Agatha Christie as a preteen. I spent many a night curled up on the couch with my mom binge watching David Suchet’s Piorot (and BBC’s Sherlock Holmes and A&E’s Nero Wolfe). My mom is definitely responsible for my love of historical mysteries.

Now, I know I read a number of Agatha Christie novels as a preteen, but I cannot remember which ones, and I decided it was time to revisit her work after watching Murder on the Orient Express over the holidays. I found myself rewatching the old tv shows, and found A Caribbean Mystery to be the perfect read for the Caribbean cruise vacation I took last week.

I have always been a fan of Hercule Piorot, but GUYS, I forgot how much I loved the snarky Miss Marple! Miss Marple is on vacation in order to relax and maintain good health…which of course means that she is bored out of her mind. Then a man suddenly dies, the day after telling Miss Marple that he has a picture in his wallet of a murderer. Marple knows that something fishy has happened, and must discover the truth without her normal confidants.

I loved how our detective assumed a self-depreciation persona to gain information from her fellow guests. It’s refreshing how she does not lament her age, instead embraces it. She frequently rolls her eyes at the ignorance of youth and manipulates people’s preconceptions of ‘little old ladies’ to her advantage.

The mystery was interesting, twisted, and surprising. It kept me hooked and guessing until the very last page. Marple is relatable as she frequently brainstorms the facts in order to discover the culprit; she does just suddenly have the answers. My favorite part of A Caribbean Mystery was Marple’s conversation with the fantastically curt Mr. Rafiel. And it was kinda refreshing that Christie didn’t attempt to provide an explanation behind the murder’s behavior.

A Caribbean Mystery was fantastic and a mystery that I would recommend to anyone, especially those needing a light read for a beachy vacation! I have a feeling that I will be spending more time enjoying the adventures of Miss Marple this year.

Have you read A Caribbean Mystery? What is your favorite Agatha Christie story? Let me know and happy reading!

Lindsay

How to Lose a Marathon

How to Lose a Marathon: A Starter’s Guide to Finishing in 26.2 Chapters

by Joel H Cohen

HTLM

In How to Lose a Marathon, Joel Cohen takes readers on a step-by-step journey from being a couch potato to being a couch potato who can finish a marathon. Through a hilarious combination of running tips, narrative, illustrations and infographics, Cohen breaks down the misery that is forcing yourself to run. From chafing to the best times to run, explaining the phenomenon known as the “Oprah Line,” and exposing the torture that is a pre-marathon expo, Cohen acts as your snarky guide to every aspect of the runner’s experience. Offering both real advice and genuine commiseration with runners of all skill levels, How to Lose a Marathon lets you know that even if you believe that the “runner’s high” is a complete myth, you can still survive all 26.2 miles of a marathon.

My one New Years resolution was to run a marathon in 2017. I was not a runner but I’ve actually been sticking with my training! AND ENJOYING IT! So of course I need to read about running because that’s who I am.

I heard about How to Lose a Marathon while listening to a running podcast. It’s humorous look at the unique ‘aspects’ of becoming a runner appealed to me. Each chapter covers a mile in his journey and Cohen includes drawings to help illustrate the joys and frustrations of running.

I loved it! I don’t want to provide too many details because you just need to read it. This book is a delight and I recommend it to runners, aspiring runners, and couch potatoes. How to Lose a Marathon will be one of my favorite nonfiction reads this year!

Any runners out there needing a funny read? Any couch potatoes wanting to understand why people run? Bored while waiting for an airplane? READ IT!

Lindsay

Vacation Reads!

We are going on a cruise this spring and I get way too excited about picking my Vacation TBR. I always tend to stick to a specific theme. Since I’m cruising…I’m reading all the tropical books!

My list is:

  • Murder at the Brightwell by Ashley Weaver
  • A Caribbean Mystery by Agatha Christie
  • Dress Her in Indigo by John D MacDonald

What reads would you take on a cruise? Have you read any of these?

Lindsay

Darker Than Amber

Darker Than Amber

by John D. MacDonald

DTA

A great bestseller starring Travis McGee, a real American hero–and maybe the star of a new movie franchise! Reissue.

Helping damsels in distress is nothing new for Travis McGee–it’s basically how he spends his life. But this one was different right from the start. Tossed off a bridge with cement wired to her feet, dragged to safety by Travis and Meyer, she was a hot Eurasian beauty with a cold heart…ready to snare them in a murder racket to end all murders….

I started February desperately needing an escape into the tropical Florida weather I love. Sadly, this Florida February was dismally cold, wet, and windy. So I turned to one of my recent favorites for an escape, John D MacDonald.

Travis and Meyer are enjoying a quiet evening fishing under a bridge in South Florida when a body comes pummeling down from the road above. Travis acts instinctively, diving in after the body and miraculously pulling the young woman out alive. Evangeline, Vangie for short, opens up to her rescuers. She tells of the dark life she has lead and the murder ring that led to her attempted disposal. McGee only wishes to help the young woman find a new life but instead finds himself vengefully working to discover the truth and destroy the criminal operation.

I want to start out with the negative. This series was written in the 70s in a James Bond/Miami Vice/Magnum PI style. Feminists who easily get their feelings bent about negative cliche representations of women need to steer clear. The book starts with McGee dealing with an old female friend who had become desperately needy and twitchy thanks to an abusive marriage. The woman uses McGee’s boat as a form of escape that naturally results in consensual adult escapades. Additionally, Vangie and her friends are high paid hookers who lure rich single men onto cruises where the girls’ pimps steal fortunes before tossing the marks overboard. The majority of the women in Darker Than Amber are not presented in a positive light. And this is the biggest complaint I have seen. I will add that Travis does complement a handful of secondary female characters who are wholesome and intelligent.

The negativity is more of a commentary on the lack of honest, good people in the world. McGee laments on how he feels used by his old friend; frustrated that knowing she will return to the abusive husband after all. He grieves at how Vangie’s upbringing has given little other options.

I enjoyed Darker Than Amber because it gives us a different look at Travis than I experienced with Tan and Sandy Silence. Travis’ snarky, happy-go-lucky attitude is missing as he barrels forward in stubborn determination to force the ‘bad guys’ to pay. This is a Travis that will do anything to survive; a more vindictive Travis. I prefer the lighthearted Travis, but I enjoyed the complexity presented here.

I enjoyed Darker Than Amber, and am looking forward to reading more by John D MacDonald this year. Are you a fan? What are you reading to get your summer vibes?

Lindsay

Too Many Women

Too Many Women

by Rex Stout

TMW

Celebrated sleuth Nero Wolfe is renowned for cracking tough cases — and never leaving his New York apartment, where he quaffs beer and cultivates orchids. For legwork, Wolfe employs a fast-talking, wisecracking assistant named Archie, who also serves as our narrator.In Too Many Women, Wolfe and Archie are charged with investigating the mysterious goings-on at a big engineering supply company.

Work has been crazy the last few weeks. I always find myself needing a good cozy mystery when I’m stressed. I was struggling to find what I wanted, so I decided to stick with a solid favorite, Nero Wolfe.

Too Many Women did the trick! Archie finds himself working in an office setting surrounded by beautiful women and conniving men. A man was run down by a car and Archie is asked to prove it was murder. What follows is humorous account of Archie’s attempt to survive in the office world, full of lies and manipulation.

Of course I adore Archie and Wolfe, but I was even more pleased at how the women are presented. Sure some of them are flighty and manipulative (which is accurate based on my personal experience) but there were a number that were smart and self reliant. I didn’t figure out ‘who dunnit’ until right before Wolfe made his big reveal. And the banter between Inspector Cramer and Wolfe always makes me smile!

Nero Wolfe always makes my day and Too Many Women didn’t disappoint. What is your go to comfort read? What historic cozy mystery do you recommend?

Lindsay

Hatchet

Hatchet

by Gary Paulsen

H

Brian is on his way to Canada to visit his estranged father when the pilot of his small prop plane suffers a heart attack. Brian is forced to crash-land the plane in a lake–and finds himself stranded in the remote Canadian wilderness with only his clothing and the hatchet his mother gave him as a present before his departure.

Brian had been distraught over his parents’ impending divorce and the secret he carries about his mother, but now he is truly desolate and alone. Exhausted, terrified, and hungry, Brian struggles to find food and make a shelter for himself. He has no special knowledge of the woods, and he must find a new kind of awareness and patience as he meets each day’s challenges. Is the water safe to drink? Are the berries he finds poisonous?

Slowly, Brian learns to turn adversity to his advantage–an invading porcupine unexpectedly shows him how to make fire, a devastating tornado shows him how to retrieve supplies from the submerged airplane. Most of all, Brian leaves behind the self-pity he has felt about his predicament as he summons the courage to stay alive.

A story of survival and of transformation, this riveting book has sparked many a reader’s interest in venturing into the wild.

I’m not going to provide a summary because the above synopsis does a pretty good job. Plus, I feel like Hatchet is an American classic; if you haven’t read it you’ve probably still heard of it.

Surprisingly, I had not read Hatchet before last year. This is odd as I adore Julie of the Wolves and read My Side of the Mountain as a pre-teen. And I’ve read pretty much every book written by Bill Wallace. I have no idea why I never read Hatchet, but my husband and I decided to remedy that and listened to the audiobook during our annual holiday road trip.

Hatchet was fantastic. For those who don’t know, my husband and I are both pilots and minimalist campers. I have been flying for most of my life and M is really good at survival style camping. Paulsen’s descriptions of the flight (and subsequent crash) are spot on, obviously written by someone with aviation experience. Brian’s successes, and failures, at survival are also quite realistic. Paulsen provides exquisitely detailed descriptions that pull the reader through the story, and Hatchet is a fantastic example of solid character development. It’s a ‘coming of age’ story that was actually enjoyable, without the pages upon pages of teenage angst that now represents the genre standard.

The only ‘negative’ point is there are some pretty gruesome moments as Brian survives the plane crash, multiple injuries, a moose attack, and a tornado. The book is not for the faint of heart and there are a number of people I wouldn’t recommend it to because the well written passages would leave them terrified of small aircraft and the great outdoors. This is not necessarily a fault against the book, just a point audiences need to be aware of.

Hatchet holds up as a classic survival story and I personally think it needs to remain as standard reading for preteens…especially as society forgets the skills of basic survival. I feel like its a book for any season, and look forward to picking it up again.

Does anyone else love Hatchet? What are your favorite survival stories? (I have so many on my list!)

Happy Reading!

Lindsay