Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Plants and Animals at the Plant Nursery

Last week we made our second visit to the plant nursery this year. I have been trying not to overbuy, so as not to put too much pressure on myself to get things planted while I am still working on cleaning up the yard. But we always enjoy looking at what they have and my husband takes photos. This visit it was overcast, the lighting was perfect and he got some great shots.


This was the first time that we saw this cat and the chickens.


                                      Note:  Click on an image for best viewing quality.

Friday, May 27, 2022

Bangkok 8: John Burdett

This is the first book in a series of six books set in Thailand. The main character is a Thai policeman, Sonchai Jitpleecheep. In the opening scene, his partner (and life-long friend) is killed on the job, and Sonchai has vowed revenge. He narrates the story and I really like the voice it is told in. The story covers some challenging topics: transsexualism, prostitution, drugs and alcoholism. 

The book was told from the point of view of a Buddhist Thai policeman, and I wasn't sure how much the writer actually knew about that and how much was his own invention. He does comment on that in an Author's note at the beginning. I also enjoyed the look at a very different culture. This story was published in 2003, so I don't know how much things have changed in nearly 20 years. 

Sonchai's mother was a prostitute and Sonchai's father was an American soldier who was in Thailand during the Vietnam War. Occasionally Sonchai recounts his and his mother's experiences with some of her long-time lovers. They spent time with one of them in Germany and another in France. I enjoyed those segments especially. His relationship with his mother was also well done.

The book is written in present tense. I used to strongly dislike the use of present tense in a novel, but this one did not bother me at all. The book also has very short chapters, 52 chapters in a book with 315 pages. I love short chapters. Much easier to read a book with short chapters than one with 30 - 50 page chapters.

I was immersed in the book while reading it, and liked the style of writing. And that is what I look for in a book. For a book with such a downer beginning and the coverage of very serious topics, it had a surprisingly upbeat ending.

For other information I will point you to two articles at Crimereads

Far-flung Thrillers for World Travelers and 

Bangkok's Expat Crime Fiction Scene is Booming


Publisher:   Alfred A. Knopf, 2003 
Length:       315 pages
Format:       Hardcover
Series:        Sonchai Jitpleecheep
Setting:       Bangkok, Thailand
Genre:        Mystery
Source:       On my TBR for at least 15 years.

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Short Story Wednesday -- Catfantastic: Nine Lives and Fifteen Tales

Recently my son went through his paperback books for books to donate to the book sale. He offered me three short story anthologies in the Catfantastic series, and I just could not pass them up without reading some of the stories first. 

I read the first two stories from Catfantastic: Nine Lives and Fifteen Tales, edited by Andre Norton and Martin H. Greenberg. I liked both of them, so I guess I will be holding on to all the books for a while. The book is designated (on the cover) as fantasy, but I think some of the stories are science fiction. 

"The Gate of the Kittens" by Wilanne Schneider Belden

I found this first story to be confusing, much was not explained. The writing was excellent though. A young cat is a mouser for a property. The master of the property has located a Gate which allows things to pass from one world to the other. To test the gate the Master chooses to send the cat to the other side. On the other side, Judith, a librarian out in the bookmobile nearly runs into a cat in the road. She rescues the cat and further adventures ensue. 

It seemed to be a sort of time travel tale, but one reviewer noted a connection to Andre Norton's Witch World. I would have liked this better if it had been longer and the story expanded. The cat and the librarian were great characters.

"The Damcat" by Clare Bell

This story focuses on two men who are involved in building the Black Canyon Dam. One is a white man, an engineer, who takes measurements to assure the structure of the dam is safe. The other man, Mike, is of the Hopi tribe and is a high-scaler; high-scalers climb down the canyon walls and prepare the surface for the concrete pour. The cat in this story is a small bobcat that is Mike's partner in his work. Although there were definitely supernatural elements in the story, the story was fairly straightforward and very interesting. 

This original anthology of fantastic cat tales was published in 1989 and all of the stories were first published in this book. I look forward to reading more stories in this book and I will probably sample some from Catfantastic II and Catfantastic III also.

Sunday, May 22, 2022

Last Seen Wearing: Hillary Waugh

Last Seen Wearing by Hillary Waugh, published in 1952, is an early example of a true police procedural. I have wanted to read this book for years, because I am a fan of police procedural mysteries, whether vintage or current. 

I often label all mysteries involving police detectives and the police department as police procedurals, but true police procedurals follow the tedious day-to-day work that policemen do to identify the criminal, plus gathering enough evidence to convict. An example of this type of series is Ed McBain's 87th Precinct mysteries, which started in 1956 and continued up to 2005.


The story starts with the disappearance of a young female college freshman, Lowell Mitchell. The college she attends is in Bristol, Massachusetts, a fictional small town near Boston, Massachusetts. She goes missing on a Friday in early March 1950 after attending a morning class. Once the college dean ascertains that she is missing, the police are called in to investigate. The small police department in Bristol has less resources and less men to assign to the case than a big city police force. The press and the public are soon pressuring them for a solution, and Lowell's distraught parents also come to town. 

The police chief starts working on the assumption that Lowell had found out she was pregnant and might have been looking for an abortionist. Her family strongly objects to this supposition. The police discover her diary, and read it for clues, but Lowell seemed to have no ongoing relationship or boyfriend. They develop a large list of men that she could have been in contact with and investigate them one by one for any possible connection to the crime.

My Thoughts:

When I was a child I watched Dragnet, probably the first police procedural on TV. It was one of my father's favorite TV shows (along with Gunsmoke). When I started reading this book, some of it reminded me of watching an episode of Dragnet. Later I read the introduction, and it mentioned that the earlier radio program version of Dragnet was an influence on Hillary Waugh when he wrote this novel.

I am very glad I read this book finally, and it was a good read, but some portions of the first half of the book are very slow going and fairly boring just as a real investigation would be boring to outsider observers. Regardless, there is plenty of tension in the story. At first the police don't know if the young woman is merely missing or is dead.  Once the body is discovered, the investigation is more focused. 

I guessed who did it very early on but it was far from a certainty in my mind. A good bit before the book ends, the police know who did it but cannot prove it, so they have to come up with something that will prove it. 

I liked the two main police officers, the police chief and his sergeant. They have a friendly rivalry because the sergeant is college trained and his boss came up through the ranks. The relationship felt realistic and interesting. Other than that there is not a lot of character development, and the personal lives of the policemen are not explored in any depth. 

The introduction by Leslie Klinger is very good, with an excellent overview of the first police procedurals. There is also an "About the Author" section that is very useful and a list of recommended further reading related to this book. If you are interested in reading this book I recommend buying the Library of Congress Crime Classics edition of the book.

One additional note about this edition: I did not like the footnotes added by Leslie S. Klinger. Some of them provided useless information not related to the text; some seemed really elementary (but then maybe that is because I am older); some were interesting information, but took me out the story. Some other reviewers liked the footnotes, though.

Also see reviews at:

Pretty Sinister Books

Past Offences

Dead Yesterday


Publisher:  Poisoned Pen Press, 2021. (orig. publ. 1952)
Length:  240 pages
Format:  Trade Paperback
Setting:  USA, Massachusetts
Genre:   Mystery, Police Procedural

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Short Story Wednesday: Don't Look Now by Daphne du Maurier

After I purchased this book of short stories, I noticed that the cover was a blurry photo of a face of a person in anguish, or so it looks to me. Later I learned that it is a video still from the horror film Repulsion. At that point I wasn't sure what to expect.  Are these horror stories? I had never associated that word with Daphne du Maurier before, but it appears that many reviewers do consider some of her works to be horror. So far, however, I have found none of the stories in this book horrifying. I did find some of them dark and tension-inducing. 

Each of the first three stories in this book are very different. They vary in length from 20 to 55 pages.

"Don't Look Now" has elements of the supernatural and is set in Venice, where an English couple is vacationing. They have recently lost their youngest child, and the trip is an attempt to move past that. Sometimes the supernatural in a story puts me off, but not in this case. The atmosphere is tense and I was dreading the outcome of the story. It wasn't what I expected at all. (about 55 pages)

The second story is "The Birds," which was the inspiration for the film by the same name. I say inspiration because the story is quite different from the film, but both are unsettling. The story focuses on a farm hand and his family who are trying to save themselves from birds of all types and sizes who are driven by some compulsion to invade their house. He recognizes the threat early on but most people laugh it off, and are not prepared.

This story comes the closest to horror (but then I don't read many horror stories).  I would say that the story is darker than the film but it has been years since I have seen the film. (about 40 pages) 

"Escort" confused me a bit, but I liked it. A tramp steamer is returning to England from a Scandinavian port in the early months of World War II. At some point they see the periscope of a German submarine. Another ship comes up beside them, offering to escort the ship to safety. At first I thought this one was just a simple, straightforward story, but it turns out to have a supernatural element too. (about 20 pages)

Patrick McGrath's introduction to this collection of stories notes that du Maurier often writes inconclusive endings; the stories are not tied up neatly, with a clear ending. She leaves the reader to embellish the ending or decide how they think the story ends. This is true of at least two of these stories: "The Birds" and "Escort." And "Don't Look Now" certainly left me tense and reviewing the events for quite a while after finishing it.

Per the Internet Speculative Fiction Database, "Escort" was first published in 1940, "The Birds" in 1952, and "Don't Look Now" in 1970.

Monday, May 16, 2022

20 Books of Summer for 2022


This is my seventh year of participating in the 20 Books of Summer reading challenge. That is hard to believe. 

The event is very flexible. You can go for 15 Books of Summer or 10 Books of Summer if 20 is more than you want to commit to. Books can be substituted along the way. And that is fine. The event is hosted by Cathy at 746 Books

This event starts June 1st, 2022 and ends September 1st, 2022. Sometimes I read all twenty books, other years I have been less successful, but I never review them all. I have given up on that part of the goal. 

To be honest, coming up with the list is the best part. Here is my list.


Steve Burrows: A Pitying of Doves

Catherine Aird: Some Die Eloquent

Stuart Kaminsky: Murder on the Trans-Siberian Express (Europe / Russia)

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (short stories)

L. R. Wright: Fall From Grace 

Raymond Chandler: The Long Goodbye

Louise Penny: The Long Way Home

Luke McCallin: The Man From Berlin (Europe / Sarajevo, Yugoslavia, 1943)

Robin Spano: Dead Politician Society

Ted Woods: Dead in the Water    

Stef Penney: The Tenderness of Wolves

Science Fiction

John Scalzi: Head On 

Connie Willis: Fire Watch (short stories)

Martha Wells: Rogue Protocol

General Fiction 

Penelope Fitzgerald: The Bookshop

Gail Honeyman: Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine

George Saunders: Lincoln in the Bardo 

Harry Mulisch: The Assault (Europe/ The Netherlands)

Adrienne Chinn: The English Wife 

Leo Tolstoy: Anna Karenina 

Friday, May 13, 2022

Rebecca: Daphne du Maurier #DDMreadingweek

I read Rebecca in April for my Classics Club list and for the Back to the Classics Challenge and it was a great read. I wasn't sure how to classify this book as to genre. It could be called a mystery, or romance, or romantic suspense, or gothic mystery. Although I think many people consider this a romance, especially if they haven't read the book, at Goodreads the top genres it is categorized in by members are: Classics, Fiction, Mystery, and Gothic, with Romance a distant fifth. It is all of those things at times, and maybe that is why some readers don't care for it.

The heroine is very young (21), inexperienced, and naïve. She is alone in the world. As the novel begins she is in Monte Carlo working as a paid companion to Mrs. Van Hopper, an overbearing American woman. When Mrs. Van Hopper becomes very ill and cannot leave the hotel room for more than a week, Maxim de Winter invites Rebecca to go with him driving around the countryside, and after several days of this she gradually falls in love with him. She knows that he is a widower and that his wife died a year ago, but only because Mrs. Van Hopper had told her that. 

Mrs. Van Hopper decides to return to the US, and Maxim proposes to our heroine. Quite quickly, she become Mrs. Maxim de Winter and after a protracted honeymoon in Italy, they go to Maxim's home, Manderley. From the moment she arrives, she feels like she is in competition with the memory of Maxim's first wife, Rebecca.

We never learn the narrator's name. If she is referred to in the book she is called Mrs. de Winter or the current Mrs. de Winter. The first Mrs. de Winter is usually referred to as Rebecca. 


There are some wonderful descriptive paragraphs, especially in the first chapter or two. The first line is very famous: 

I dreamt I went to Manderley again.

And later in the first chapter:

There was Manderley, our Manderley, secretive and silent as it had always been, the grey stone shining in the moonlight of my dream, the mullioned windows reflecting the green lawns and the terrace. Time could not wreck the perfect symmetry of those walls, nor the site itself, a jewel in the hollow of a hand. The terrace sloped to the lawns, and the lawns stretched to the sea, and turning I could see the sheet of silver placid under the moon, like a lake undisturbed by wind or storm. No waves would come to ruffle this dream water, and no bulk of cloud, wind-driven from the west, obscure the clarity of this pale sky. 

In Chapter 5, when the narrator is telling of the days in Monte Carlo:

I am glad it cannot happen twice, the fever of first love. For it is a fever, and a burden, too, whatever the poets may say. They are not brave, the days when we are twenty-one. They are full of little cowardices, little fears without foundation, and one is so easily bruised, so swiftly wounded, one falls to the first barbed word.

My thoughts

  • In addition to the main characters already noted, there are many interesting secondary characters. Some of them are: Mrs. Danvers, who adored Rebecca and intimidates the new Mrs. de Winter; Frank Crawley, the estate manager at Manderley, a kind and honorable man; and Beatrice Lacy, Maxim's sister, and her husband Giles. Also some of the servants at Manderley: Frith, the butler; Robert, a younger servant; and Clarice, the new Mrs. de Winter's maid.
  • I liked the structure of the book. At the beginning, the narrator is looking back on events earlier in her life, when she met Maxim de Winter, and their life at Manderley. At that point she is approaching middle age, and she and Maxim are traveling and staying in inexpensive hotels. We know that they have a life together and the story is about how they arrived at that point. 
  • I did not like it that we never learn the narrator's name, but it wasn't really a problem.
  • I wavered as to how much I liked the novel as I was reading it. I felt like I was reading the book for a second time, but it may just be that I remembered the story from watching the film adaptation (with Laurence Olivier and Joan Fontaine). Regardless, having some familiarity with parts of the story did affect my reading. I liked the writing throughout. I was tense while reading the middle section, filled with dread because I knew what was in store for Rebecca. Luckily, I had forgotten some aspects of the ending so that part was a surprise and I ended up loving the book. 

This edition includes excerpts from Daphne du Maurier's The Rebecca Notebook and Other Memories: an author's note, an essay on the real house which the fictional Manderley was based on, and du Maurier's original epilogue to the book.

This review was written for the Daphne du Maurier Reading Week hosted at Heavenali's blog. Check out other posts related to du Maurier's books there.


Publisher:  Harper, 2006 (orig. pub. 1938)
Length:      386 pages
Format:      Trade paperback
Setting:      UK, Monaco
Genre:       Fiction, Classic
Source:      On my TBR pile, purchased in 2020.

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Short Story Wednesday: More Pirates in Space

This week I returned to stories from Cosmic Corsairs, edited by Hank Davis and Christopher Ruocchio. I have previous covered other stories in this anthology HERE and HERE. The stories in the book focus on space pirates, and were written between 1941 and 2020.

"They Never Come Back" by Fritz Lieber 

This story was first published in 1941 in the August issue of Future Fiction. It is described as a novella at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database; it is about 45 pages long in this anthology. This anthology, published in 2020, was the first to reprint this story.

I think that this is the first thing I have read by Fritz Lieber. I enjoyed the story very much. A bit old-fashioned I guess, but that is as it should be. Bart Harlan has recently heard that his former girlfriend was killed in the loss of a ship that was traveling the warp from Mars to Earth. Space warps are the method of travel in space in this story, and it sounded a perfectly good explanation to me. Regardless, a ship and its crew has never been recovered after losing contact with the warp, so there is no hope he will see her again. Except that he believes that there is a way to rescue the ship and he does his best to pursue that goal. The problem is that he is not an official navigator and no one will listen to him. So he gets a job on a beat up old spaceship that is going in the right direction, and later finds out he has gotten mixed up with ruthless pirates. The story was exciting and held my attention.

"Breaking News Regarding Space Pirates" by Brian Trent

Jolene Fort is a former space pirate, now retired. She was renowned for stealing valuable art objects. So when Bradley Winterfig's collection is vandalized and some very valuable pieces stolen, he has the Police Department of the space colony bring Jolene to his private vault for questioning. This is a clever locked room mystery, and Jolene Fort is a great character.

First published in 2016 in Galaxy's Edge, no. 23. It is ten pages long in the Cosmic Corsairs anthology.

"Teen Angel" by Robert Garcia y Robertson

Under normal circumstances, I would not seek out a story about a young girl turned into a sex slave, but this one turned to be well worth reading. The story was originally published in Asimov's Science Fiction, February 2006, and is identified as a novelette by the Internet Speculative Fiction Database. In this anthology the story is about 34 pages long. 

A young girl is taken by a slaver, who turns her into a remote controlled sex toy for his master. However, she retains her compassion and good nature through the years, and is intelligent enough to take advantage of the situation when she has the opportunity to escape. I did get immersed in the story of how she finds her way back home, and how life has changed when she returned. 

Rick Robinson at Tip the Wink introduced me to this book, and sent me his copy to read. Also see George Kelley's review of Cosmic Corsairs for comments on more of the stories and a list of the stories.

I have five stories and about 80 pages left to read in Cosmic Corsairs.

Sunday, May 8, 2022

Reading Summary for April 2022

I felt like my reading in April went very slowly, and that has continued into May. Towards the end of April, there were nine days that I did not finish a book at all which never happens to me. But I did read eight books in April. Two general fiction books, one fantasy, and five books in the crime fiction genre. All of them were good reads, and three of them I gave five stars, which for me just means that they were especially good reads. So, not a bad month at all.

And here is what I have read...

General Fiction

Rebecca (1938) by Daphne du Maurier

This is the most widely known novel written by Daphne de Maurier. It may not be the best; I haven't read any others. I read Rebecca for my Classics Club list and for the Back to the Classics Challenge and it was a great read. I can't decide if I had read it before, years ago. Maybe I had just watched the Hitchcock film. Either way, we will be watching the Hitchcock film again soon.

Because of Sam
(1954) by Molly Clavering

This book is part of the Furrowed Middlebrow collection from Dean Street Press, books by women writers of the early to mid-twentieth century. I had heard of the author, and purchased some her books for the Kindle, including Because of Sam, but I was motivated to read this book after I read Cath's review at Read-Warbler. I loved it, although it took me half the book to figure out where it was going, and even then I was only partly right. It is a lovely postwar story set in a village in Scotland. 


The Midnight Library (2020) by Matt Haig

After dying, Nora Seed wakes up in a library and the books on the shelves are all possible lives she could live. She is given the opportunity to try some of those lives and return to one of them if she chooses. The story is about regrets and opportunities. This was my first book by Matt Haig.  It did not live up to my expectations but I still enjoyed it a lot. I do look forward to reading Haig's other books on my shelves.

Crime Fiction

Go, Lovely Rose (1954) by Jean Potts

Rachel Buckmaster returns to her small midwestern hometown when her brother calls to tell her that the housekeeper who had lived with them for decades has died. When her death is declared murder rather than accidental, Rachel's brother is the main suspect. My review here.

Dog On It (2009) by Spencer Quinn

This was a book which went beyond my expectations. It is a mystery narrated by a dog, and I was a bit leery of that, although I knew that this is a series loved by many. Chet, the dog who narrates, flunked out of K-9 training, but still has the heart of a detective. His owner, private investigator Bernie Little, is not perfect but never gives up on the case. Together they are a great pair and I hope to read more of the books in the series. The setting seems to be Arizona, although I don't think that is really specified in this book.

Beast in View (1955) by Margaret Millar

Beast in View by Margaret Millar was my pick from the latest Classic Club Spin. Helen Clarvoe is a rich young woman who lives in a low quality hotel. She gets a threatening call from a woman from her past that she does not remember, and calls in her father's old investment counselor to help. This is a very brief book that could easily be read in one sitting or in one day. The book was published in 1955, and won the Edgar for Best Novel in 1956. My review here.

Bangkok 8 (2003) by John Burdett

This story is set in Thailand and the main character is a Thai policeman, Sonchai Jitpleecheep. His partner (and life-long friend) is killed on the job and Sonchai has vowed revenge. The story is told from Sonchai's point of view and I really like the voice it is told in. The story covers some challenging topics: transsexualism, prostitution, drugs and alcoholism. This book is #1 in a series I would like to continue reading.

Why Didn't They Ask Evans?
(1934) by Agatha Christie

This is lighter and breezier than most novels by Agatha Christie. The two main characters are Bobby Jones, the vicar's son, and Lady Frances Derwent (Frankie). They were friends in childhood but have drifted apart as they grew older. Bobby discovers a dead body which had fallen off of the cliffs of the Welsh seacoast, and Frankie is convinced it was murder. It was a very entertaining story, once I settled into the tone of the book, and I never had a clue who the murderer was. I read it at this time because we wanted to watch Hugh Laurie's adaptation, and we have now done that. I enjoyed it as much or more than the book.

Status of my challenges and other events:

  • I have read and reviewed four novels for the European Reading Challenge. That leaves only one more to complete my goal of five books, but I hope to read more novels set in European countries.
  • I have read at least six books that fit categories for the Book Bingo Challenge
  • Back to the Classics Challenge: I have read Rebecca by du Maurier, for the "20th century classic." I have read and reviewed Beast in View by Millar, which can be used either for a "classic by a woman author" or for the "Mystery/Detective/Crime classic."
  • The TBR Pile Challenge: Two books that I read this month were for this challenge, Dog On It by Spencer Quinn and Bangkok 8 by John Burdette. 
  • In March and April I read two books for the 1954 Club: Go, Lovely Rose by Jean Potts and Death Likes It Hot by Edgar Box (aka Gore Vidal).

The photo at the top of the post and the one immediately above are from a recent visit to our local plant nursery, the first one this year. My husband took photos of plants, pots, and garden decorations. Click on the images for best viewing quality.