Second Quarter Update/Midyear Check-in

I have decided to do numbered quarterly updates instead of using the seasons. It’s just hard to call this a Spring Update when the heat index has been over 100 degrees (Fahrenheit) the last week. So here is my update for the second quarter of the year; these are the books I finished in April, May, and June.

TOTAL: 7

I struggled with my reading this quarter. I have stack of books about 15 deep that I started and just couldn’t get into to finish. I am going to blame this funk of trying to recover from surgery and the stress of changes at work. I’m hoping to double my number in the next quarter.

Mystery: 4

 

Nonfiction: 3

Reread: 1

boe

The best part of this quarter is that I really enjoyed everything I read. I am happy at the number of nonfiction books I sailed through and I hope to keep that nonfiction momentum going through the rest of the year. I am also hoping to at least double the number of books I read next quarter.

Mid-Year Goals Check-in

Total Books Read

Goal: 50       Current: 16

Nonfiction Books Read

Goal: 12      Current: 5

I’m already working on my TBR for the next quarter. Let me know what books you plan to read this summer!

Lindsay

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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

The Green Mill Murder

The Green Mill Murder

by Kerry Greenwood

15982112

Phryne Fisher is doing one of her favorite things—cutting the rug at the Green Mill, Melbourne’s premier dance hall. In a sparkling lobelia-colored georgette dress, dancing to the stylings of Tintagel Stone’s Jazzmakers, nothing can flap the unflappable flapper. Nothing except death, that is.

The dance competition is trailing into its final hours when suddenly, in the middle of “Bye Bye Blackbird,” one of her fellow contestants slumps to the ground. No shot was heard, and Phryne, conscious of how narrowly the missile must have missed her own bared shoulder, undertakes to investigate. This leads her into the dark and smokey jazz clubs of Fitzroy, the arms of eloquent strangers, and finally into the the sky, on the trail of a complicated family tragedy of the Great War and the damaged men who served at Gallipoli. In the Australian Alps, she meets a hermit with a dog called Lucky and a wombat living under his bunk… and risks her life on the love between brothers.

November always finds me reading (and watching) historic mysteries. I don’t know what it is about this time of year that has me longing for quirky mysteries and spunky detectives, but you can bet my mystery TBR pile has grown in the last two weeks! One of my go-to gumshoes is Phryne Fisher. The tv show (available on Netflix) is fantastic, and the books are equally enjoyable. I have previously reviewed the first four books in the series, and it’s time to add the fifth story, The Green Mill Murder. Phryne hits the town determined to listen to jazz and dance the night away when a crooked man falls dead at her feet. Phryne finds herself on the hunt for a murderer, dealing with a number of unsavory folk, and flying over mountains in search of a lost soldier. I have an announcement for fans of the show. There is a Green Mill Murder episode, but it is a tad different than the novel. The murder is the same for both, as are the exquisite settings of both the jazz scene and the mountains of the Australian wilderness. But, the relationships between characters are drastically different, which is both good and bad. Let’s start with why I loved The Green Mill Murder, the flying. Greenwood expertly describes the sensation of flying in an open cockpit plane. The feel of ice on the wind, the overwhelming sense of utter freedom, and the smells of the engine fuel and oil had me wanting to put the book down and take off in my little plane. I could feel the tug of mud on wheels upon landing, and the encompassing fear of a sudden fog. Phryne’s flight, and subsequent time in the mountains, is what saved this book AND instilled it as my current favorite in the series.

Honestly, I wasn’t enjoying the story until Phryne took off in her little Gypsy Moth bi-plane. I felt the tv episode had done everything better. I preferred Charlie as a likable character instead of the cruel brat in the book. I felt the tv show actually handled the then illegal same sex relationship shared by Charlie and his lover instead of rushing through it, as in the book. And Phryne’s indifference and impatience through the first half of the novel matched my own feelings. I was worried about continuing the story, but then Phryne went flying!

But flying wasn’t the story’s only saving grace. The Green Mill Murder allows readers a deeper look into the thought processes of our strong willed detective. We see Phryne struggle to tolerate tedious people. We see her trying to mingle with the jazz musicians, only to remain an outsider. And we watch her learn to embrace her need for the lights and sounds of the city while hiding out in the quiet wilderness. It’s a stark look at an intelligent woman who struggles to fit in the world around her, and it was nice to see this side of Phryne.

The Green Mill Murder also provides a blunt examination of shell shock and PTSD. We hear stories shared by Bert and Cec, and watch as Phryne slowly uncovers the events that changed Vic’s world. It is an enlightening aspect of the story which left me feeling hopeful even after the last page was turned.

I recommend reading The Green Mill Murder and then watching the episode. I feel both were good in their own ways. Let me know which Mis Fisher story is your favorite. And i enjoy these cold winter nights with a good cup of coffee and a fun murder mystery!

Lindsay

Death at Victoria Dock

Death at Victoria Dock

By Kerry Greenwood

1997733

Driving home late one night, Phryne Fisher is surprised when someone shoots out her windscreen. When she alights she finds a pretty young man with an anarchist tattoo dying on the tarmac just outside the dock gates. He bleeds to death in her arms, and all over her silk shirt.

Enraged by the loss of the clothing, the damage to her car, and this senseless waste of human life, Phryne promises to find out who is responsible. But she doesn’t yet know how deeply into the mire she’ll have to go: bank robbery, tattoo parlours, pubs, spiritualist halls, and anarchists.

Along this path, Phryne meets Peter, a scarred but delectable wharfie who begins to unfold the mystery of who would need a machine gun in Melbourne. But when someone kidnaps her cherished companion, Dot, Phryne will stop at nothing to retrieve her.

Death at Victoria Dock is the fourth book in the Phryne Fisher Murder series, which I decided to pick up on a whim after a particularly exhausting week. I have found that these short, yet intricate, mysteries and the corresponding TV episodes always put a smile on my face when I need a brief escape from adulthood.

Phyrne is out for a late night drive near the waterfront when a bullet shatters her windscreen. In typical Phryne fashion, she leaps from the vehicle to chase down the shooter only to discover another victim, a young man bleeding to death on the dock. He dies in her arms. Phryne takes it upon herself to avenge his death and finds herself thrust into the middle of a Latvian anarchist war. Once again, Phryne just cant seem to stay out of trouble!

This story follows the same formula as the previous in the series; Phryne investigates two separate mysteries simultaneously. The first deals with the Latvian anarchist and the second concerns a domestic matter of a well-to-do Melbourne family. One reason I enjoyed Death at Victoria Dock is that it brings to focus two drastically different cultural elements. On one hand we have Latvian revolutionists who have fled to Melbourne, struggling to find a life and dragging their war with them. Phryne works with Peter, who tells her all about the revolution and the struggles of being forced to constantly relocate. And on the other side we are trust into a petty, sad, selfish mystery of a family so full of self-importance and self-destruction. This contrast drags to the surface an intellectual depth we have yet to see in Phryne, which makes me love her character even more.

Plus, readers get to spend more time with Phryne’s adopted daughters Ruth and Jane, who are always up for their own investigation. Bert and Cec lend their expertise on communism and we hear about their time in The Great War. And we finally get to see the awkward budding relationship between Dot and Constable Hugh Collins!

My only complaint is the differences between the TV show and the story. (I know…I can feel many of you rolling your eyes. It’s ludicrous that I would prefer the show over the book) The show does such a wonderful job showing Phyrne’s very different struggles with her two cases. In the episode we see how the death of the young man traumatizes Phryne; flashbacks elude to to her roll as a nurse during the Great War. The story lacks these tantalizing details of Phyrne’s past. Plus, there has yet to be a mention of her snarky working relationship with Inspector Jack Robinson. (I need this to happen!) Honestly, that’s the only thing I didn’t like. I thought the story was fabulously written!

Of course I recommend Death at Victoria Dock, and I am ready to pick up the next installment. This is definitely the perfect series for a lite afternoon read. (Parents and students: pick up this series! I know you’re dealing with stress with the first day of school right around the corner) I will make Phryne fans out of all of you! Happy reading!

Lindsay

Summer Reading!

Last Wednesday was the first official day of summer! I don’t know about you, but for me summer means afternoons with a good book on the beach. And summer always finds me reading stori s about pirates, exotic locals, and dead bodies of beaches. 

(I know what you’re thinking…mystery lovers are pretty morbid. Yes. Yes we are!)
I decided to share my 2017 Summer Reading List for those of you with similar interests looking for a new read! They are separated by subject below; some i have already reviewed and others are still TBR. 

Avast ye book lovers! Let me know what you’re reading this summer! You know i’m always open to recommendations and would to hear from you. 

Beach Mystery

Tan and Sandy Silence

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Fun Mystery Series

Phryne Fisher Mysteries

83927  382843  382847  382840

Iris Cooper Mysteries

1716475  5777339  2157504

Pirate Stories

Pirate Latitudes

6428887

Daughter of the Pirate King

33643994

Treasure Island

17375315

Travel

The Wonder Trail

27069094

History

Moloka’i

3273

Murder on the Ballarat Train

Murder on the Ballarat Train

by Kerry Greenwood

382847

When the 1920s’ most glamorous lady detective, the Honourable Miss Phryne Fisher, arranges to go to Ballarat for the week, she eschews the excitement of her red Hispano-Suiza racing car for the sedate safety of the train. The last thing she expects is to have to use her trusty Beretta .32 to save lives. As the passengers sleep, they are poisoned with chloroform.

Phryne is left to piece together the clues after this restful country sojourn turns into the stuff of nightmares: a young girl who can’t remember anything, rumors of white slavery and black magic, and the body of an old woman missing her emerald rings. Then there is the rowing team and the choristers, all deliciously engaging young men. At first they seem like a pleasant diversion….

I think it is safe to say that I am officially hooked on the Phryne Fisher Mystery Series! Murder on the Ballarat Train is the third novel in this mystery series (check out the reviews for Cocaine Blues and Flying too High) and the scene opens with Phryne and Dot on a train bound for the town of Ballarat. Phryne awakens to the overwhelming stench of chloroform filling the first class car and barely manages to flush the fumes before being overcome with by its effects. The spunky young detective is too insulted at the attack to let the culprit go unpunished and soon she is up to her neck investing the murder of a cruel woman, the identity of a lost little girl, and the truth behind a certain sex trade operation.

Honestly folks, Greenwood’s writing improves with each novel. I will admit that Murder on the Ballarat Train does start slow, but the pace picks up after the first few chapters. The plot flows together seamlessly, and we get a better glimpse of Phyrne’s ‘devil may care’ side. Her character development is progresses with each novel and it almost feels as if you are slowly getting to know a new friend. We get to see Dot excel in her quiet strength, and learn even more about Phyne’s go to street men, Burt and Cec. Plus, we are provided a couple of interesting mysteries that twist and flow together perfectly.

Like Cocaine Blues, Murder on the Ballarat Tran was turned in to an episode for the Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries tv show (which can be found on Netflix). So fans of the tv show will know who-dunnit well before the reveal of the killer, but this didn’t hamper my enjoyment of the story. Murder on the Ballarat Train was just a fun read, and the Phyrne Fisher Mystery Series has quickly become my go-to when I am in need a fun, historical murder mystery. Is anyone else a fan yet!?

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

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