An Excellent Mystery (The Chronicles of Brother Cadfael)

Ellis Peters

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In this, the eleventh of the chronicles, Brother Cadfael has two mysteries on his hands. Who are the two mysterious monks, one dying, one a mute, who have turned up at Shrewsbury Abbey. Second, what happened to a young woman who set out to try her vocation at a nearby convent, accompanied by several men at arms for protection, but never arrived? As usual, the resourceful monk is assisted in his inquiries by the steadfast sheriff, Hugh Beringer, as he untangles both the mysteries.

I buy the Brother Cadfael books when they are on sale for $1.99 because I don’t think they are worth much more than this. There is the usual lovesick couple he helps to put together, and the hours spent sipping from his private stock of wine in his workshop. The problem is that I have been spoiled by Margaret Frazer’s Dame Frevisse/Joliffe the Player novels. I compare all the other medieval murder mysteries to them, and none measure up. For them, I pay full price and begrudge not one cent.

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At Seventy: A Journal

May Sarton

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May Sarton is famous for her poetry, plays and novels, but it is her journals that speak to me the most. She writes about the tension she feels with the tug and pull between her love of solitude and the joy she experiences with groups of people, the pleasures of living alone and the worry about her independence as she ages.

I recommend this book to anyone living alone at this age and curious about how another person experiences the milestone.

Barrel Fever

David Sedaris

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Reading Sedaris is  like accepting a ride from a stranger because he is headed in your general direction. You may end up someplace else, but the ride was worthwhile.

This book is divided into stories and essays. The stories are as weird as Sedaris’ thought process. The essays top out with the Santaland Diaries, a true account of his experiences as a Christmas elf at Macy’s.

Sedaris is an acquired taste, one that I enjoy immensely.  I like Stilton cheese, too.

 

The Shadowy Horses

Susanna Kearsley

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I love me a good time-slip novel, and Susanna Kearsley writes some of the best. This one involves an archeological dig of a site that may have belonged to the lost IX legion. Since no one has any idea where the IX Legion served, southern Scotland is as likely as anywhere. This particular site is a private dig, paid for by a wealthy man. His grandson sees and hears things that may be Latin, and an individual he calls the Sentinel.

This is the framework for this romance between a female archeologist and a local man, and seeing how they work it all out is part of the fun of a Kearsley novel.

 

Me Talk Pretty One Day

David Sedaris

If you’ve ever tried to learn a foreign language, you will sympathize with Sedaris. Lost in the wilds of French grammar and vocabulary, he stumbles around trying to find his way.

Interspersed with his language struggles, are glimpses of his family. As a child growing up in the south, being ‘different’, trying to find his way, he spins it all into gold for the reader.

Anansi Boys

Neil Gaiman

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Neil Gaiman is an odd writer. Some of this work I like very much. Some of it (highly rated by other readers) is sort of meh. This is one of the good one. When Fat Charlie learns is father is dead, he is stunned to find out that he was a god. Further shocking news is that he has a brother he never knew. He invites this brother into his life, much to his chagrin, and spends the rest of his time trying to get rid of him.

Based on the West African/West Caribbean stories of the spider god, Anansi Boys is an amusing retelling of a character that has much in common with coyote and Br’er Rabbit.

Cool in Tucson

Elizabeth Gunn

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Tucson is fortunate to have Elizabeth Gunn as an active member of its writing community. She is very generous in sharing her experience as a writer and her fabulous personal history as well.

This is the first book of a series set in Tucson. Sarah is a newly minted homicide detective trying to prove herself in a tough environment. It doesn’t help that there’s something wrong with her boss. She just keeps her head down and does her job, but when her niece is kidnapped, it becomes personal.

A fast moving, murder mystery/police procedural, COOL IN TUCSON is entertaining and amusing. No matter how serious things get, Gunn is able to inject enough humor to keep the reader amused.

 

The World of Venice

Jan Morris

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My dream trip. My traveling days are done, but if I had just one more trip in me, it would be to Venice. My first glimpse of the city was through an old movie called Dangerous Beauty about the famous literary courtesan Veronica Franco. The story was interesting, but even more were the sights of the city.

I fell in love with La Serenissima and have read everything I could get my hands on, fiction and non-fiction. This is one of the best non-fiction titles I have read. From the history to the story of uninhabited islets, the book covers every aspect of this great city. Reading this book gives an idea of what it means to live in Venice.

Sigh.

Flight Behavior

Barbara Kingsolver

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Dellarobbia Turnbow has a good life. She and her husband have to scrimp a little to pay their bills and feed their two kids, but her husband is a good man. A little unimaginative and too subordinate to his mother to suit Dellarobbia, but a good man. Then her life is turned upside-down by an invasion of monarch butterflies. Her church thinks it’s a miracle. Her in-laws think it’s nuisance, interfering with their decision to sell the trees for the price of lumber. To Dellarobbia it’s an invitation to a new world.

The Handmaid’s Tale

Margaret Atwood

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The first two times I read this book, I found it interesting but far-fetched. This time, it is chilling and plausible. Atwood seems almost prophetic in her look at the future. Women are chattel, valued for their ability to bear children. Fertile women are allocated to powerful men, and bear their name: Offred, Ofglen, etc. Their own names and identities are properties of the state.
Atwood doesn’t need my praise, but I’m willing to add my voice to the chorus of praise the this prophetic book.