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text 2017-08-01 09:20
July: Colophon
Please Mr. Einstein - Jean-Claude Carrière
The Book: A Cover-to-Cover Exploration of the Most Powerful Object of Our Time - Keith Houston
Dangerous To Know - Renee Patrick
Lincoln as I Knew Him: Gossip, Tributes, and Revelations from His Best Friends and Worst Enemies - Harold Holzer
The Secrets of Wishtide - Kate Saunders
The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt's New World - Andrea Wulf
Other-Wordly: Words Both Strange and Lovely from Around the World - Kelsey Garrity-Riley,Yee-Lum Mak
The Dead Witness: A Connoisseur's Collection of Victorian Detective Stories - Michael Sims
Unseen City: The Majesty of Pigeons, the Discreet Charm of Snails & Other Wonders of the Urban Wilderness - Nathanael Johnson

colophon: a statement at the end of a book, typically with a printer's emblem, giving information about its authorship and printing.

 

I don't have a printer's emblem, unless you count my gecko, but otherwise colophon seems to fit our monthly wrap ups pretty well.

 

I read 24 books this month, mostly in a the-game-is-almost-over rush to squeeze as much in as possible.  It's no longer practicable, sadly, to easily keep up with the number of pages read, because of at least two anthologies I only dipped into, rather than reading completely.

 

I had a great quality reading month with 2 Five-star reads and 7 four-and-a-half star reads. Far and away my favourite was Please Mr. Einstein by Jean-Claude Carrière.  

 

I had just one 1-star read, Assault and Beret by Jenn McKinlay  and it's already in the black box and a distant memory.

 

How was everyone else's reading month?

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review 2017-07-21 04:18
The Dead Witness: A Connoisseur's Collection of Victorian Detective Stories
The Dead Witness: A Connoisseur's Collection of Victorian Detective Stories - Michael Sims

Up front, I didn't read all the stories; there are 22 stories in this collection, and I didn't have time to read the whole thing, so this review only represents a small percentage of them. 

 

But, of the stories I read, none of them were bad.  In fact, they were all uniformly excellent and I'm looking forward to reading more of the collection at a later date.

 

Quick thoughts about each of the stories I read:

 

The Secret Cell by William E. Burton - The story itself is not only great, but so is its backstory:  Burton, the author, wrote it in 1837, before Poe wrote what is widely regarded to be the first detective story, Murders in the Rue Morgue. He wrote it for the magazine he himself founded, The Gentleman's Magazine, and the editor he hired was a certain Edgar Allan Poe (who published Rue in 1841.  While Dupin's standing as the first genius detective is safe, it's likely Poe read this story; whether or not it served as an inspiration can only be guessed at.  But it's a fun story with strong writing, lots of detective legwork, fisticuffs, disguises, abductions, nuns, asylums and hidden rooms.

 

On Duty with Inspector Field by Charles Dickens - Dickens and I are fair weather friends at best, but for downright vivid descriptions of poverty-stricken Victorian London, I'm not sure you could find better.  Not really much of a plot to this one at all - just a 'tour' through the dregs of London in the middle of the night as the police go about their rounds.  This story does not disprove my suspicions that Dickens was paid by the word.

 

The Diary of Anne Rodway by Wilkie Collins - As the title suggests, this story takes the form of diary entries, but the narrative is very smooth.  There's a real mystery here and it's engaging, but the solution felt somewhat abrupt and the coincidences verging on supernatural (a device, I'm guessing, Collins enjoyed using). 

 

You Are Not Human, Monsieur D'Artagnan by Alexandre Dumas, pere - This is an except from the final Three Musketeers book, The Vicomte de Bragelonne, but it feels fairly complete as it stands alone, even to a reader for whom the general story of the Three Musketeers comes strictly from the movies and popular culture.  In this short piece D'Artagnan plays the part of Sherlock Holmes as he uses sharp observations, empirical evidence and genius detecting to shed light on a shooting.

 

The Dead Witness; or, The Bush Waterhole by W.W. (Mary Fortune) - I didn't set out to read this one, but as I was flipping through, a mention of Australia caught my eye, so I stopped.  Turns out this is the first known detective story ever written by a woman.  Fortune was a prolific writer in Australia, although sexism being what it was, she was forced to write under a pseudonym kept so tight a secret that no one knew Mary Fortune was W.W. until decades after her death.  Her life was not a happy one, but it was not for want of talent if this story is any judge.  It's a short one, but it's vivid and well written and the end, while a bit fantastic, is also deliciously grotesque.

 

The Assassin's Natal Autograph by Mark Twain - Another except, this one from Puddin' Head Wilson.  This one is slightly harder to follow, as there are characters named that are obviously important, but missing any backstory at all, but in most aspects it works really well.  It's Twain, so the setting (a courtroom) is full of detail and suspense; the focus of the scene is the power of fingerprints and the denouement, even without the backstory is climatic.

 

The Stolen Cigar-Case by Bret Harte - Another one that caught my eye, this time because I saw "Sherlock Holmes" in the introduction.  This is a parody of the Greatest Detective of all time, as well as a parody of his long suffering Watson.  It started off hilarious - laugh out loud funny - but by midway, it felt a bit hateful.    Parodies are supposed to mock, but reading this one gets the impression that Harte really hated Watson and Holmes both.

 

An Intangible Clue by Anna Katherine Green - The author of the first known detective novel by a woman (Mary Fortune, above, wrote only short stories) and the author of The Leavenworth Case, this was my first introduction to her work and Miss Violet Strange.  I hope it won't be my last; Miss Strange has claims to Sherlockian abilities in her own right, and I found the story both intricate and slyly funny.  The mystery itself was complete enough, but I was left wanting more when it came to Miss Strange and her mysterious employer.

 

If you're a fan of the old-style detective stories, I don't think you can go wrong with this collection. They just don't write them like they used to.

 

I read this for BookLikes-opoly and completed a total of 202 pages.

 

 

 

 

 

Total pages read:  202

$$: $6.00

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text 2017-07-19 05:13
My BookLikes-opoly read for July 18 - Paradise Pier
The Dead Witness: A Connoisseur's Collection of Victorian Detective Stories - Michael Sims

I rolled last night last thing before heading to bed, so my post didn't include my choice.  After scouring the TBRs, I came across this anthology of Victorian mysteries.

 

I'm going to play a bit fast and loose with the DNF rule and Moonlight Reader or Obsidian Blue can smack me down if it's not an acceptable adaptation.  I don't intend to read the entire anthology - it's about 600 pages thick and there are quite a few stories, or excepts from stories, that I've already read.  So I'm going to read what I can between today and tomorrow night, when I can roll again.  I'll keep track of the number of pages I read to determine my dollars earned, and review the stories I read.

 

Having said all that, I read the editor's introduction last night and I'm looking forward to quite a few stories that are included.  There's one that's written before Poe's creation of Dupin; a bit of a lost treasure that is a serious contender for earliest example of a murder mystery - it's never been reprinted until it's inclusion in this anthology.  There's also a mystery by Mark Twain - no question that must be read.

 

 

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text 2017-07-01 15:14
On sale
The Terror - Dan Simmons
Dead Mountain: The Untold True Story of the Dyatlov Pass Incident - Donnie Eichar
The Blue Sword - Robin McKinley
Night Train to Lisbon: A Novel - Pascal Mercier,Barbara Harshav
Mornings in Jenin Publisher: Bloomsbury USA; 1 Reprint edition - Susan Abulhawa
Fledgling - Octavia E. Butler
Arthur and Sherlock: Conan Doyle and the Creation of Holmes - Michael Sims
Medicus - Ruth Downie

On sale this month for kindle US.  

 

Also several Marvel masterworks

 

The Terror is slow, but good.

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2017-03-27 22:55
Arthur and Sherlock
Arthur and Sherlock: Conan Doyle and the Creation of Holmes - Michael Sims

Interestingly informative book about Arthur Conan Doyle's creation of the Sherlock Holmes character, drawing from childhood inspirations (perhaps Dr. Watson was named after someone that had attended a school here or for the name of this other person there) and his adult life - specifically, the practice of doctors at the University of Edinburgh, notably, Dr. Joseph Bell, using physical clues to 'deduce' facts about their patients. A lot of comparisons are rightfully drawn between Dr. Bell and Sherlock Holmes, including the emphasis that while the 'science of deduction' seemed magical, "such assessments required educated scrutiny but not second sight."

 

The book also goes into the history and increasing popularity of the 'science of deduction' and pokes at the fact that deduction is the wrong word entirely for the line of logic that Sherlock Holmes uses. The history and influence of the crime genre in literature, going from sensationalism to thriller and eventually leading to series featured around singular detective characters, is also examined. A lot of name-dropping happens for books and authors that I had barely or never heard of, or the books that I knew them to be famous for were not the ones that the 19th century reader knew well.

 

Overall, it was well-researched, but the chronology was a bit skewed and the writing tended to end on a tangent and pick up on a completely different topic's tangent from a chapter ago. I did not read it all in one shot so it did not bother me.

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