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text 2018-03-22 14:11
TBR Thursday
The Shoe on the Roof - Will Ferguson
Vlad: The Last Confession - C.C. Humphreys
The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Free Yourself and Your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter - Margareta Magnusson
Still Life - Louise Penny
Now I Rise (The Conqueror's Trilogy) - Kiersten White
The House at Baker Street (A Mrs Hudson and Mary Watson Investigation) - Michelle Birkby

In the docket for the next week and a bit....


For my 2018 PopSugar challenge, The Shoe on the Roof by Will Ferguson will be my book about mental health.


Still Life by Louise Penny will be the P entry for my Women Authors A-Z list.  Now I Rise by Kiersten White will likewise be my W entry.


And then, just for fun, Vlad : the Last Confession by C.C. Humphreys.  I met Humphreys as last year's When Words Collide conference here in Calgary.  As a result, I recommended that my public library buy his latest book, the above.  Now it is my duty to read it.  :)


The House at Baker Street just seemed like too much fun to pass up and I've been patiently waiting for it for some time.  The same with The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning, which I hope will kick-start my spring cleaning (if spring ever deigns to show its face here).


Have a lovely weekend, friends and happy reading!


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review 2018-03-22 12:37
El Cajon- Joel Shapiro

     One thing is for certain- this book gives El Cajon, California one heck of a reputation and one no city would want. Another thing, for certain- people don’t do well when addicted to Vicodin. Opiate addiction is very topical. One can only hope the medics and pharma people get a conscience before too many more people have their lives torn apart by addictive prescription drugs. But what the heck has that got to do with this book. Well, apart from the fact that Haim, the first-person narrator, is still somehow alive and even gets a few things right, there is a serious warning here. We see a few heroic deeds, but not from an actor one would ever wish to emulate. He is the very antithesis of John, Die Hard, McClane. A film about Haim Baker would not create quite the same sort of wannabe buzz.

     Before you take a first overdose on opiate-based medicines, read this book. However, don’t read this book if you are planning a trip to San Diego County, unless you are open to having your mind changed.

     This is a book which quickly becomes hard to put down, but not necessarily because you are enjoying it. Frustration with the first person, no hoper is going to drive you to distraction. Like the effect of the dumb principle in the high-tension film drama, one can’t believe the stupidity for walking into trouble, while not being quite irritated enough to switch channels. Actually, that is probably not so different to having a mild addiction to Vicodin.

     This book is extremely violent and at times exceedingly crude. Urine and blood seem to be constantly pouring in equal and often mixed volumes. And this book gets the near fatal stages of opioid addiction about right- except that PI Haim Baker somehow still manages to function, and even kill the right bad people. The book also highlights the terrible world of people trafficking, focussed here on girls bashed and drugged into the sex industry. Actually, that part of the book is particularly sickening. Sickening for the sane and those merely into substance rather than people abuse, that is! But, just as we know that nearly every neighbourhood has an addict at deaths door, we also know that not all our children are safe wheresoever we live. I choose to see a second serious message from Shapiro. That even in places with a veneer of respectability such abuses can be hidden.

     The writing is fast paced, and generally of a good quality. However, the grammar is far from conventional. For example, the disappearance of the period, the comma, is used to convey rapid and often chaotic and stressed, stream of consciousness, thought. Shapiro writes well enough to usually pull this off. However, one would want to load up with plenty of oxygen before reading some passages aloud. Even if there was pause for breath, one would have to check the audience first. Haim isn’t exactly shy about some excruciatingly detailed body malfunctions.

     Haim is like the most down-beaten, unprepossessing, suicidally inclined private eye one has ever read about, and then some. If it wasn’t for the kindness buried in his soul and for the reported damage in his personal life which has helped draw him low, many might jettison the read unfinished. That would be a pity. But to sustain any credibility, either Haim dies next time out, or breaks his addiction.

     Yes, the book deserves five somethings, though five pain killing white tablets may be more appropriate that five yellow stars. But for those that eagerly consume thrillers in which the least bad guy eventually wins this is a good fix. I would absolutely recommend this book for those that like no-holes plugged entertainment. The pictures Shapiro paints look disgustingly real to this reader.


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review 2018-03-04 09:53
The Case of the Baker Street Irregulars
The Case of the Baker Street Irregulars - Anthony Boucher

If I try to remove my bias, this is probably more a 4.5 star read, but my unapologetic adoration of Sherlock Holmes makes it impossible; this story was just too much fun for a fan like me.


In brief (ok, not really):  a movie is being made of The Adventure of the Speckled Band and a Holmesian society called The Baker Street Irregulars is vociferously opposed to the studio's choice of writer.  The society roster has enough Big Names that the studio must take them seriously, but the writer - an unapologetic and acidic critic of everything Holmes - has an iron-clad contract making it impossible to fire him.  In an effort to appease the Baker Street Irregulars, 5 of them are invited to Hollywood to act as script advisors, but during their welcome party, the scriptwriter crashes the party, makes a drunken spectacle of himself, is rendered unconscious, and taken upstairs to sleep it off. He is subsequently murdered during the night, long after the party is over, leaving the Baker Street Irregulars both prime suspects and eager amateur investigators determined to do The Master proud.


The best part of the story is the way Boucher works both actual Holmes titles/plot points into the story and the ones that Watson only teased readers with; those stories mentioned in passing during the published narratives.  Boucher was, without a doubt, a true Holmes aficionado.  


The story takes place in 1939, right on the eve of WWII and there's a strong political atmosphere woven throughout.  Hollywood in 1939 had a lot of Nazi spy and anti-Nazi activity, and this story takes place on the fringes of that atmosphere.  As a result, there are a few anti-Semitic comments throughout the text, but at no point did I ever feel this was editorial opinion on behalf of the author.  Any confronting comments are a natural result of the story and the overwhelming attitude of the book is not anti-Semitic.  


Most of all, the story is just fun; it's got that great Golden Age vibe to the writing that a reader either likes or not; done well, I love it, and here it's done well.  The story doesn't take itself seriously at all, but the plotting does: this is a fair play mystery; the clues are all there for everyone to use and in the end neither I, nor the Baker Street Irregulars, nor the LAPD could see what was right in front of us (although I did guess a plot twist, fat lot of good it did me).  But the person who solved it all ... that was almost the very, very best part of the book.  Boucher could not have ended it any better in my opinion and once all is revealed, it was clever. as. hell.


In short:  I loved it!



I read this as part of the Kill Your Darlings game, in fulfilment of the cause of death: dark alley beat down card.  It actually fulfils all three tasks on the card:

Read a book that was written or set between 1925-1975;

Read a book written by an American author;

Read a book that is set in a large city (LA).

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text 2018-03-03 05:29
Reading progress update: I've read 59 out of 336 pages.
The Case of the Baker Street Irregulars - Anthony Boucher

Disclaimer and dedication before the beginning of the book:


All characters portrayed or referred to in this novel are fictitious, with the exception of Sherlock Holmes, to whom this book is dedicated.


I'm predisposed to 5 star this book and I haven't even started it yet.


I laughed myself silly through the prologue, which included The Baker Street Irregular's Constitution and manifesto:


From the constitution:

Article IV:

The officers [of the Baker Street Irregulars] shall be: a Gasogene, a Tantalus, and a Commissionaire.


But then there's this, on page 59:


But ignorant though I am, I cannot help thinking and feeling and worrying.  And it seems to me, Miss O'Breen, that to forswear mercy is to forswear humanity.  If to destroy evil we take up its very weapons, we shall learn in time that all we have destroyed is the best in ourselves."


Early pages yet, but it's clear it won't be all silliness and parody.

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text 2018-03-02 10:53
Kill Your Darlings Green Round 2 Read
The Case of the Baker Street Irregulars - Anthony Boucher


I misunderstood the deadlines for the game, and raced through my first read thinking my guess was due today rather than Saturday.  This wasn't a hardship as I really enjoyed the book but I've also ended up with a little breathing space.  Still jumping into this one though, simply because after having 're-discovered' it in my TBR, I'm itching to read it.  It ticks all three boxes too:  Written in 1940, by an American author and set in Hollywood.  Trifecta!  :)

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