Last of the Breed

Last of the Breed

by Louis L’Amour

Last of the Breed

After U.S. Air Force Major Joe Mack is forced down in Russia and later escapes from a Soviet prison camp, he calls upon the skills of his Sioux Indian forebears to evade Alekhin, the Yakut native and legendary tracker, on his trail.

My husband loves to learn about basic survival skills; I enjoy reading survival stories.  We both want to be prepared to live in ‘the wild’ if we must.  We aren’t doomsday preppers or anything, but we do fly small airplanes and live in an area frequented by hurricanes.  Things could happen, and these survival stories are for educational purposes!  Louis L’amour’s Last of the Breed is the one story that I just can not stop reading.  I have read it between 5 to 10 times in the last 13 years and each time I am riveted!

Joe Mack is a Sioux who is also a test pilot for the Air Force.  He is captured by the Russians and brought to Siberia for interrogation.  Joe Mack refuses to remain a prisoner and he quickly escapes.  But he now much survive a Siberian winter and it will require all his military and ancestral training to make it out alive.  (Now I want to start reading it again!)

Last of the Breed was originally published in 1986 and the writing style is somewhat different than current publications.  The language is often more telling than showing, which requires a vivid imagination to fill in all the glorious details.  Luckily, I have one of those, but many reviews complain that the novel drags on because of it.  L’Amour also has a tendency to repeat himself…a lot.  I blame the editing process because this should have been fixed before publication.  The only time it bugged me was when the next sentence would be a reworded copy of the previous sentence.  That is an editing issue.

Don’t let this deter you because the story is great!  I am enthralled by Joe Mack and his journey across Siberia.  Plus, L’Amour provides an interesting cast of supporting characters for you to both love and hate.  I hold my breath as Talya and her father rush to the Chinese border.  I whisper “yes!” each time Joe Mack escapes; and I curse Alekhin as he hunts Joe Mack down.  But, this is more than a story of sheer survival.  L’Amour also describes the mental strain of surviving and living on the run.  These passages left me with goose-bumps as the fear of being hunted courses through me while Alekhin closes in on Joe Mack.  I know how the story ends, but that doesn’t matter.  I feel like I am there in Siberia every time I open this book.

FullSizeRender

Last of the Breed will always be one of my favorites and I plan to keep rereading it.  I mean, just look at my personal copy!  Why hasn’t it been made in to a movie?!  Anyways, happy survival reading everyone😛

Lindsay

Murder on Santa Claus Lane

Murder on Santa Claus Lane

by William G Bogart

Murder on Santa Claus Lane

G-Men Detective, January 1943
MURDER ON SANTA CLAUS LANE
by William G. Bogart

With a Blackout in Hollywood, Rookie Patrol Car Cop Johnny Regan Does Some X-Ray Work to See Through Crime!

Murder on Santa Claus Lane combines two of my typical December reading trends: Christmas mystery and crime noir/pulp fiction.  My love for Nero Wolfe has me slowly branching out to similar noir pieces and I found this short story through Barnes and Noble.  Murder on Santa Claus Lane has been publish in e-book format by Peril Press, an independent publisher based in Portland, and was initially printed in the January 1943 issue of the G-Men Detective Magazine.  This publication featured ‘G-Men’ crime stories and was produced from 1935 to 1953.  William G Bogart was a prolific crime novelist who worked on the Doc Savage novels. (Note: Limited research was involved so please feel free to correct me if I am wrong!)

Johnny Regan is a rookie patrol cop in Hollywood.  He is stuck working the streets over the Christmas holidays and is disappointed that air raids have the city blacked out.  He isn’t even able to enjoy the Christmas lights on patrol.  But, all thoughts of holiday cheer are forgotten when he and his partner, Big Ben Slattery, get tangled up in a holiday robbery.

Murder on Santa Claus Lane is a fun short story full of that classic noir flavor.  Regan is a young buck who is headstrong, cocky, and quite fond of shapely blondes.  Big Ben is his always-cheerful mentor.  Together, they scour the less wealthy streets of Hollywood for crime.  The passages just dripped with the raw imagery of the genre.  My imagination put me right there in the middle of the grainy black and white scene as the copper raced to help his cornered partner…  I love this genre!

Surprisingly, the story, and characters, are just a tad too flat for me.  Bogart was missing some essential descriptive language and I was left feeling that this was a short story he pinned for some extra dough and exposure.  I just couldn’t really connect with any of the characters and that is essential for short stories.  You want your readers invested by the end of the first paragraph.  There were a few continuity errors that forced me to re-read parts.  Just small things that left me thinking, “Where in the world did that flashlight come from?”  The story composition was just rough.

Murder on Santa Claus Lane is worth checking out if you are a fan of the genre.  I suggest something a tad bit more polished for those starting out in crime noir.  Hardboiled crime/crime noir is a rugged pulp fiction style that is definitely an acquired taste.  I love it!  The grittiness, clichés, and language push me to read more of the genre.  Any hardboiled crime/crime noir fans out there?  What is your favorite book?

Lindsay

Flying Too High

Flying Too High

by Kerry Greenwood

382843

Phryne Fisher has her hands full in this, her second adventure. And just when we think she’s merely a brilliant, daring, sexy woman, Phyrne demonstrates other skills, including flying an airplane and doing her own stunts!

Phryne takes on a fresh case at the pleading of a hysterical woman who fears her hot-headed son is about to murder his equally hot-headed father. Phryne, bold as we love her to be, first upstages the son in his own aeroplane at his Sky-High Flying School, then promptly confronts him about his mother’s alarm. To her dismay, however, the father is soon killed and the son taken off to jail. Then a young girl is kidnapped, and Phryne―who will never leave anyone in danger, let alone a child―goes off to the rescue.

Engaging the help of Bert and Cec, the always cooperative Detective-Inspector Robinson, and her old flying chum Bunji Ross, Phryne comes up with a scheme too clever to be anyone else’s, and in her typical fashion saves the day, with plenty of good food and hot tea all around. Meanwhile, Phryne moves into her new home at 221B, The Esplanade, firmly establishes Dot as her “Watson,” and adds two more of our favourite characters, Mr. and Mrs. Butler, to the cast.

Hi everyone! Sorry it’s been a few weeks but you know how crazy it can be around the holidays. So, let’s jump in to my review of Flying Too High to kick off this review week!

Flying Too High is the second book in the Phryne Fisher murder mystery series. Feel free to check out my review for the first story, Cocaine Blues. Phryne is settling in to her new life in Melbourne. She has a new house, a new car, and has established Dot as her official companion. She’s ready to make her name as a lady detective and is ecstatic when she’s brought on to prevent a potential family murder. What follows is a gruesome death, daredevil flying, life threatening stunts, and the resolution of two mysteries. 

As mentioned before, I was first introduced to Phryne and her adventures on the Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries tv show, which can be found on Netflix. As such, I had fully expected most of the stories to follow the same plot lines as the tv episodes (something I was totally fine with), but I was pleasantly surprised when Flying Too High offered something new! I won’t provide any details about the mysteries to prevent spoilers, but i can promise Flying Too High provides the same quirky cast of characters, and fast paced antics that can be expected of a Phryne Fisher story. 

I also enjoyed the aviation sequences, which were written quite accurately according to my limited knowledge of post-WWI aircraft designs. Aviation is a hobby of mine, so I appreciate when it is presented realistically. But I have two warn up, there are a few action sequences that are over the top. For those serious readers who would be insulted by such antics…these books are not for you. For everyone else…you’re gonna love it!
Flying Too High was a fun read and I’m ready to pick up the next installment of the series.  It’s perfect for any time you need a quick escape from reality and I highly recommend it if you have a case of the holiday blues.

Let me know what you think! Anyone else love all things Phryne Fisher?!

Lindsay

Cordially Invited to Meet Death

Cordially Invited to Meet Death

by Rex Stout

Cordially Invited to Meet Death: A Nero Wolfe Novella

My synopsis:  Bess Huddleston, an eccentric party planner for New York’s elite, approaches Wolfe with a request; to find the culprit behind letters damaging her image.  Wolfe takes on the case at the promise of a hefty fee, but Huddleston dies of tetanus just days later.  Archie Goodwin is sure it is foul play and pushes Wolfe to search for Huddleston’s murderer.

Cordially Invited to Meet Death is included in The Black Orchids collection.  Black Orchids are a small detail of the story and play an important role for Archie during his investigation.  His statement at the end of the novel is perfect.  It ties everything together but still leaves readers marveling at the mystery that is Nero Wolfe.

I enjoy Cordially Invited to Meet Death because of how the murder is committed.  The scientific nature is just fascinating and is different, as the novella was written long before the mass production of crime investigation shows.  It also perfectly showcases the tumultuous relationship shared by Wolfe and Inspector Cramer.  The two worked together in the last novella I reviewed but this time they are left butting heads.  Cramer insists on throwing his badge and authority at Wolfe who promptly investigates the murder out of spit!  We also get to see the Archie’s frustrations at working with a genius who rarely shares his full thought process.

This is not my favorite novella because of the cast of characters.  Bess Huddleston just irks me, especially with her menagerie of dangerous pets.  I shared Archie’s opinion of Ms. Huddleston’s home.  I personally feel that wild animals should not be pets and that most people who have them as pets don’t even have the ability to train a dog, much less a bear or chimp.  It may seem harsh but I am sure Wolfe would agree with me.  I also wanted to know specific details during the reveal of the murderer, but I can’t go in to that without ruining the story.

Has anyone else read Cordially Invited to Meet Death?  Have I convinced you to check out Nero Wolfe yet?😉

Lindsay

The Black Orchids

The Black Orchids

by Rex Stout

Black Orchids (Nero Wolfe, #9)

It is always a treat to read a Nero Wolfe mystery. The man has entered our folklore”.–The New York Times Book Review. Incomparable sleuth Nero Wolfe and his perennially hardy sidekick, Archie Goodwin, find themselves trying to weed out a garden-variety killer at the annual flower show.

This is my FAVORITE Nero Wolfe story!  I am sitting here grinning from ear to ear because I am so excited to share it with you!  I would be dancing but I’m waiting until I finally get home to do so.

Nero Wolfe is an amateur horticulturist who strictly specializes in orchids.  The entire top floor of his brownstone has been converted to a green house and he spends precisely four hours a day attending to his plants.  The Black Orchids starts with Archie stuck at a Flower Show examining the main exhibit, three rare black orchids, for his boss.  Wolfe eventually ventures out of the brownstone to see the blooms for himself; on the same afternoon a young gardener is found dead in a display.  Wolfe eagerly takes on the case in hopes of adding some new orchids to his ever growing collection.

I love The Black Orchids because it perfectly showcases the dynamic between Wolfe and Archie.  Readers experience Archie’s snarky attitude and his joy at badgering his boss through his narration.  Wolfe’s quirks, including his brash selfishness, are spread out in detail for the readers.  But one of the best parts is getting to experience one of Wolfe’s theatrical who-dunnit’ reveals.

Rex Stout is just gifted.  His prose pulls you through the narrative making you eagerly await the answers.  He delves in to the personalities of most of his characters and I enjoy what he shares of Inspector Cramer and Lewis Hewett.  But be warned; the female characters can read flat.  Wolfe resists interacting with women on the off chance they get hysterical and Archie is more focused on the physical attributes.  But don’t worry; they are not sexist pigs.  Both men enjoy conversing with highly intelligent and independent women so they show up on a regular basis through the series.  Wolfe even verbally spars with two female witnesses in The Black Orchids.

Read it!  I always recommend Rex Stout for those interested in crime noir.  The Nero Wolfe books are not as gritty as most hardboiled crime pieces but I personally enjoy the humorous aspects.  Have you read any Rex Stout?  Which story is your favorite?

Lindsay

Cocaine Blues

Cocaine Blues

by Kerry Greenwood

83927

Honorable Miss Phryne Fisher solves theft in 1920s London High Season society, and sets her clever courage to poisoning in Melbourne Australia. She – of green eyes, diamant garters and outstanding outfits – is embroiled in abortion, death, drugs, communist cabbies – plus erotic Russian dancer Sasha de Lisse. The steamy end finds them trapped in Turkish baths.

A while back I started watching Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries on Netflix and it didn’t take more than a few episodes for me to be hooked on the show. The music, the costumes, the cars, and of course the amazing Phryne Fisher kept me coming back episode after episode. And then I realized the series was based on the books by Kerry Greenwood, and I had to read a few over my vacation. 

Cocaine Blues is the first book in the series, and the first episode of the show. We are introduced to Miss Fisher, who has a huge personality and an insatiable taste for danger and adventure. We also meet her loyal cast of supporting characters: Dottie, Bert, Cec, Dr. MacMillan, Mr. Butler, and Inspector Jack Robinson. Phryne, who grew up in poverty, has returned to Melbourne as a rich heiress. She has been asked to check on the grown daughter of a family friend, and it’s not long before Phryne is hunting down a butcher abortionist, as well as, the King of Cocaine. 

I love that the show and story as so similar. Sure, I knew who did it, but I was totally fine with that because I felt as if I was rewatching the episode as I read. Already knowing the characters made the story even more enjoyable for me. And there were enough difference between the two mediums to keep me engaged throughout the story. 

Sadly, I did not find the book to be very well written. It lacked the vibrant details that I expected to read after seeing the show. I had hoped to see more setting development; scenes that included the sights, smells, and sounds of the physical background. Thankfully, Greenwood did take time describing the attire of our characters. Normally I could care less about clothing but there is just something about the extravagance of 1920s era clothing that keeps me hooked

Read Cocaine Blues! It is the perfect snarky, fast pace mystery that one needs to get through the stress and bustle of the holiday season. I couldn’t put it down, despite already knowing the outcome, and immediately picked up the second book! 

Are you a fan of Phryne Fisher? What do you love most about the quirky female detective?

Lindsay

Ghosts of Key West

Ghosts of Key West

by David L. Sloan

567422

Key West’s past comes alive with thirteen incredible stories of the southernmost ghosts. From Victorian era spirits returning to claim what is rightfully theirs, to haunted dolls that continue to send chills down their visitors’ spines, Ghosts of Key West beautifully captures the true spirit of Florida’s second oldest city. Ghosts of cigar makers, pirates, wreckers and voodoo practitioners all await you. While their ghostly journeys continue through time, yours is just about to begin. Ghosts of Key West author David L. Sloan founded Key West’s original ghost tour and is the leading authority on the island’s hauntings.

 I needed a spooky read to help get me extra excited about a tropically vacation, and luckily Ghosts of Key West was just sitting there on our shelves. It was just what I needed! 

Ghosts of Key West is a super short read, taking only an hour or so to get through, and is told in a ‘stories around the campfire’ format. There are tons of black and white pictures of historic key west homes and portraits of the people still haunting the island. The ghost stories are educational as they provide a decent amount of island history alongside the ghostly tales. Its broken up in to short chapters, each with their own ghost story, that i feel makes it a better read.

Sadly, it is very poorly written. The plot of each story is very jumpy and full of random first person encounters. These first person stories were annoying for someone who picked up the book for history. The writing issues could have probably been fixed with a good editing or two. 

Ghosts of Key West a good starter book if you’re planning on hitting the keys for a vacation. It’s a nice introduction to the ghostly history of the island, but I definitely recommend taking a tour if you visit. 

Anyone else love a good ghost story? Who else loves the Florida Keys?

Lindsay

The Diviners

The Diviners

by Libba Bray

17899351

Do you believe there are ghosts and demons and Diviners among us?
Evie O’Neill has been exiled from her boring old hometown and shipped off to the bustling streets of New York City–and she is pos-i-tute-ly ecstatic. It’s 1926, and New York is filled with speakeasies, Ziegfeld girls, and rakish pickpockets. The only catch is that she has to live with her uncle Will and his unhealthy obsession with the occult.
Evie worries he’ll discover her darkest secret: a supernatural power that has only brought her trouble so far. But when the police find a murdered girl branded with a cryptic symbol and Will is called to the scene, Evie realizes her gift could help catch a serial killer.
As Evie jumps headlong into a dance with a murderer, other stories unfurl in the city that never sleeps. And unknown to all, something dark and evil has awakened….

Better late than never this week! It’s been a tad crazy lately, so I’m sorry this post didn’t make it up on Tuesday. But The Diviners it the perfect book to start off this creepy Halloween weekend!

Evie is destined to be a star, but is unfortunately stuck in small town Ohio. Until a small stunt leaves her in trouble and on the first train to her uncle’s in New York City. It’s not long before she is next deep investigating a series of murders that shock the city. But there is more to this murder, and Evie, and the young heroine must embrace her paranormal side to save the day. 

I enjoyed The Diviners! Evie is a relatable character with just enough moxy to make up for her flaws. The diverse cast of characters keep the plot moving at a fast pace and Bray expertly weaves these storylines together. I love how Bray makes you feel like you are standing in New York in the 1920s watching these events. The language, the clothing, the atmosphere; you get it all and it flows together seamlessly. The mystery was twisted and interesting and I was excited to see how the sacrificial stages would play out. The book is an enjoyable paranormal historical mystery and perfect for a lazy Halloween weekend. 

Surprisingly, the language is very telling and there are parts where the prose is essentially ‘and this happened.’ It didn’t make me dislike The Diviners, but I felt more showing language would have intensified the 1920s feel. It is also why the mystery just wasn’t scary for me on the same level that many others have mentioned. Otherwise, it was pretty good!

The end left me curious and needing to know more. So, I will definitely be picking up Lair of Dreams, the next book in the series. What spooky reads are you enjoying this weekend?

Happy Halloween!

Lindsay

Ghostwalk

Ghostwalk

by Rebecca Stott

668608

A Cambridge historian, Elizabeth Vogelsang, is found drowned, clutching a glass prism in her hand. The book she was writing about Isaac Newton’s involvement with alchemy — the culmination of her lifelong obsession with the seventeenth century — remains unfinished. When her son, Cameron, asks his former lover, Lydia Brooke, to ghostwrite the missing final chapters of his mother’s book, Lydia agrees and moves into Elizabeth’s house — a studio in an orchard where the light moves restlessly across the walls.

Soon Lydia discovers that the shadow of violence that has fallen across present-day Cambridge, which escalates to a series of murders, may have its origins in the troubling evidence that Elizabeth’s research has unearthed. As Lydia becomes ensnared in a dangerous conspiracy that reawakens ghosts of the past, the seventeenth century slowly seeps into the twenty-first, with the city of Cambridge the bridge between them.

Filled with evocative descriptions of Cambridge, past and present, Ghostwalk centers around a real historical mystery that Rebecca Stott has uncovered involving Newton’s alchemy. In it, time and relationships are entangled — the present with the seventeenth century, and figures from the past with the love-torn twenty-first-century woman who is trying to discover their secrets.

A stunningly original display of scholarship and imagination, and a gripping story of desire and obsession, Ghostwalk is a rare debut that will change the way most of us think about scientific innovation, the force of history, and time itself.

I picked up the audio version of Ghostwalk from my local library. My initial though was “hmmmm Newton…why not?” The good thing is that I learned a ton of interesting information about Newton’s studies at Cambridge, but unfortunately, I was not impressed by the modern fiction plot line.

I’m going to start with all the things I enjoyed about Ghostwalk. I love the information about Newton. I found his experiments with light fascinating and wish there had been more details on the early production of glass. I like how Stott wove together the intricate murder mysteries of the past, and these events alone have me wanting to do my own research. And I enjoy the focus on alchemy; Stott’s research was impressive. I enjoyed how Elizabeth teaches Lydia how to visualize the past through smells and stories. And I even like the journal style format.

And now for the bad…I had a hard time connecting with Lydia, which isn’t good as she is the main character. Basically, she chooses to be in a relationship with a married man and her constant focus on this relationship bogged down the story. We all know it’s going to end…badly! And I had a difficult time even caring for Cameron as everything he said and did felt overly manipulative and arrogant. Not my type of guy and his very few redeeming qualities only diminished as the novel progressed. But it wasn’t just the crap relationship that left me feeling ‘eh’ about Ghostwalk. The plot was bogged down by the rough melding of Lydia’s timeline, the animal research activists, and the ghostly resurgence of Newton’s past. It was hard to enjoy over my annoyance at Lydia and the jumpy plot.

Ghostwalk wasn’t a bad story but not one that I would ever read again. I was impressed by Stott’s research and presentation of historic information, but not by the plot development. It was interesting to learn about Newton and his experiments, and I wouldn’t mind learning more. Next time I may pick up a nonfiction instead of a historical fiction novel.

Do you enjoy learning about Newton and alchemy? Have you read Ghostwalk? Tell me what you think.

Lindsay

 

Twenties Girl

Twenties Girl

by Sophie Kinsella

Twenties Girl

Lara Lington has always had an overactive imagination, but suddenly that imagination seems to be in overdrive.  Normal professional twenty-something young women don’t get visited by ghosts.  Or do they?

When the spirit of Lara’s great-aunt Sadie – a feisty, demanding girl with firm ideas about fashion, love, and the right way to dance – mysteriously appears, she has one request: Lara must find a missing necklace that had been in Sadie’s possession for more than seventy-five years, because Sadie cannot rest without it.

Lara and Sadie make a hilarious sparring duo, and at first it seems as though they have nothing in common.  But as the mission to find Sadie’s necklace leads to intrigue and a new romance for Lara, these very different “twenties” girls learn some surprising truths from and about each other.  Written with all the irrepressible charm and humor that have made Sophie Kinsella’s books beloved by millions, Twenties Girl is also a deeply moving testament to the transcendent bonds of friendship and family.

I tend to read novels that follow particular themes during certain months of the year.  October is usually reserved for supernatural and Halloween mysteries and I picked up Twenties Girl last October solely due to the ghostly mystery it promised.  October was not the right month for this book and it would have been a much more enjoyable read in the middle of summer on the beach.  So I thought now would be the perfect time to share my review!

I did not enjoy Twenties Girl for the first two-thirds of the novel.  This is the first Sophie Kinsella novel and I enjoy her writing style but both main characters, Lara and Sadie, were self-centered, obnoxious, whiny individuals that left me yelling at my cd player on multiple occasions.  Lara and Sadie are two selfish and stubborn women who must to respect each other which leaves readers struggling alongside them through pages of petty bickering.  I usually enjoy a flawed character but it was tough embracing Lara and Sadie.  I almost returned the book because I was so sick of Sadie’s demands and Lara constantly adding drama to her own life.

And then the last third of the book happened.  I was so glad I stuck it out because I completely forgot about the whining and bickering as Kinsella drew me along on the frantic search for the missing necklace.  The girls come together to right the wrongs of Sadie’s past and they finally start connecting with one another.  Sadie shows Lara the glamour of the 1920s and Lara gives Sadie a loving friendship.  Readers finally start learning the mystery behind Sadie’s demanding nature and the two women embrace and overcome their flaws to achieve success.  I even enjoyed Lara’s awkwardness in her budding relationship with Ed.

There is one scene that has stuck with me through the months and of course I cannot talk about it because of spoilers!  I find myself envisioning the details of the shock and joy experienced by both women and I delight in mentally reliving that moment over and over again.  That scene is why I truly enjoyed the book and I wish I could thank Kinsella for that one moment!

So who else has read Twenties Girl?

Lindsay