A is for Alibi by Sue Grafton

A is for Alibi, finished 10-27-12, rating 4/5, mystery, 214 pages, pub. 1982

After I finished the 1000+ IT, I knew I wanted to read something short and satisfying.  I’ve had this book on my shelf for a while but knowing that I was SO BEHIND in the series it was never much of a temptation.  Until I came across the book featured in Books to Die For.  This is a little of what Meg Gardiner says about it, “In Kinsey I discovered a young woman doing a job that had previously been restricted to male private investigators, and doing so in a thoroughly grown-up way, inhabiting her life and her story with confidence and uncertainty and charming, flawed honesty.”  With that recommendation I finally started the alphabet series.

For those who have yet to meet Kinsey she is a hard-edged private eye with an aversion to attachments.  Divorced twice and a one time cop it’s her policy never to sleep with anyone involved in a case, unless they prove irresistible, as in this case.  She’s hired to find the real killer of Laurence Fife, hired by the ex-wife who served eight years for his murder.  The cold case becomes hot again as Kinsey tracks down all the usual suspects.

I really liked this quick mystery.  There were many suspects for such a short novel, but it never seemed too much.  I was kept mostly guessing until close to the end.  It wasn’t perfect for sure, sometimes Kinsey being too oblivious to gloss over and a few extraneous storylines that went nowhere, but I thought it was a solid mystery for a series debut.

I know some of the appeal of Kinsey is that she was one of the first women in the central character detective role, but I think she proved herself worthy of more than just a cursory pat on the back.  Kinsey didn’t give much of herself away in this book and I’m looking forward to getting to know her better as I continue through the alpahbet.

Oh, Sandy Quiz

In Sandy’s aftermath, I thought we might take this week to think positively about Sandy and I’m going to have you put on your thinking caps (or you can use the internet, that’s okay too).  I want you to list your 3 favorite Sandy’s, real or fictional.  You get 10 points for each Sandy you list and 15 points every time someone else chooses the same Sandy.  My list is done after I happily did a quick internet search.

Yes, this isn’t bookish but I hope you’ll all join in anyway 🙂  Please list your Sandy’s in a comment by Sunday at noon.

Books to Die For edited by John Connolly and Declan Burke

Books to Die For: The World's Greatest Mystery Writers on the World's Greatest Mystery NovelsBooks to Die For: The World’s Greatest Mystery Writers on the World’s Greatest Mystery Novels

In this collection, 120 mystery writers were selected to write an essay on the book they consider ‘the best.’ It is not meant to be read at one time.  I like how Connolly and Burke say it in the Introduction, “obviously ideal for dipping into when you have a quiet moment.”  For that reason I’ll probably not try to review the book as a whole, but will add some commentary when I review a book that’s in here.

I’ve only read a dozen of the essays, but I can tell you that I recommend this book for mystery lovers.  Give it as the perfect gift, even if it’s to yourself 🙂  I picked this up at Bouchercon and had it signed by 30 of the authors.  I’ll have to see how many more I can get as the years go by.

Since I’ve read 7 of the 120 novels (a sad total, right?) I’m going to give you a taste of the essays on the books I’ve read and then my thoughts on the book.  The book lists them in chronological order but I think I’ll list them in order of how I like them best.

A Simple Plan by Scott Smith was chosen by Michael Koryta “The plotting of A Simple Plan is, and should be, widely praised, but I’d argue that the greater genius  of the novel is in the way in which Smith renders the voice of Hank, our narrator.  In those early pages, Hank is compelling and familiar and reasonable.  Oh so reasonable…  He’s not a typical suspense novel protagonist-no military skills, police background, or heroic traits.  No, he’s the accountant at a feedstore in a small midwestern town.  He has a pregnant wife and a troubled brother and the weight of two lost parents and one lost farm hanging over him, but these are problems we know or can relate to.  This man is one of us.  He’s speaking for us.”  To me this is a forgotten gem and I think everyone should give it a read.  Just reading his essay not only made me want to read it again, but to also finally read Koryta!

Tell No One by Harlan Coben was chosen by German writer Sebastian  Fitzek.  To sum up, for its inconsistencies alone Tell No One is a “book to die for” for me.  It starts with a question that sounds almost supernatural, but leads to a real story, which leads to a logical ending.  It’s about extraordinary people we have never met in real life, but take at face value…With this book Coben has not invented a new genre, but he has pushed the boundaries toward new frontiers.  It makes him one of the few popular authors whose style can be recognized without looking at the name on the cover.”  This was my first Coben book and the one I always recommend to thriller lovers.  I’ve read all of his books and even though there’s no Myron it’s probably still my favorite.

Clockers by Richard Price was chosen by Gar Anthony Haywood. “Part of the great pull of Clockers is the anxiety a reader is made to feel throughout, waiting for Strike or Rocco to prove himself more compassionate, more alive than Price would lead us to believe he is.  In the hands of a lesser writer, characters this detached and manipulative, wading through daily existences this harsh and seemingly pointless, would tax a reader’s patience…But Price lends each man just enough humanity, just enough hope for his sorry future, to make writing him off impossible.”  It’s been many years since I read this one but I remember being blown away by the dialogue.  I think it may be time for a reread.

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote was chosen by Joseph Wambaugh.  “This book is less interested in the bogeyman terror of the event or the whodunit aspect of the investigation that in the psychological exploration of the criminal mind and motive, which had not been done in such depth since Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment.”  My thoughts are here.

The Postman Always Rings Twice by James M. Cain was chosen by Joseph Finder.  “If you haven’t yet read it, or haven’t read it in a while, you’ll be surprised at how well it holds up.  The prose is lean and spare, completely stripped of ornamentation or affection.  It reads like the confession that it reveals itself to be.”  You can find my thoughts here.

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier was chosen by Minette Walters.  “For those who see Daphne du Maurier as a romantic author, the book ticks every box in the developing Jane Eyre-love between the older Maxim and his younger second wife.  For crime buffs, it is one of the few murder stories where the voice of the victim resonates loudly on every page, playing not only with the minds of the other characters but also with the reader’s.”  I listened to the audio of this a few years before I started blogging and liked it, but didn’t fall in love with it.

The Secret History by Donna Tartt was chosen by Tana French.  “For me, this book redefined the territory that mysteries can claim.  When I started writing, more than ten years after I first read it, I was writing within a landscape that The Secret History had redrawn for me.  I aim to write mysteries that take genre conventions as springboards, not as laws, and never as limitations on quality or scope: books where the real murder mystery  isn’t whodunit, but whydunit and what it means.”  Listened to this on a road trip way, way back when and remember liking it but not a whole lot else.

Added 2/15

A is for Alibi by Sue Grafton was chosen by Meg Gardiner. “Deftly plotted, vivid, and convincing, the story has twists, multiplemurders, and some we-intended B&E by the heroine. It has sex. It has regret, and gunplay.  It has a cast of motley neighborhood characters that, over the course of the series, become beloved.  And in the center of the action it has Kinsey…  My thoughts here.

The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle was chosed by Carol O’Connell. “There are 56 short stories, but I recommend Doyle’s finest of four novels, The HOund of the Baskervilles, to understand why Holmes’s story can never end, but extends from the horse-drawn-carriage era of 1887 into the twenty-first century-with fresh horses.”  My thoughts are here.

Sundays with Gage – Mommy & Me

At the beginning of October Gage and I started attending a Mommy & Me class at the chabad down the street.  We aren’t Jewish but I heard nothing but great things about the kids classes so we signed up.  The class is and hour and a half weekly for 10 weeks.  By the end, the moms will be completely transitioned out of the class and in January he can start going by himself twice a week for two hours.

Gage is not one to stand or sit around, constant motion being more his preference, and he really doesn’t listen very well to direction.  So, it’s no surprise that I was skeptical about him being able to handle anything class-like.  I am nothing short of amazed at what his teacher has been able to accomplish in four weeks.  It’s true that there have been no miracles, but I love watching him grow every week.

There is lots of playtime, some art time, snacks, and circle time.  Gage hasn’t really warmed to the art time yet, but he is johnny-on-the-spot at snack time.  There are only 6 kids with moms so it’s nice to be able to talk with them every week.  Now that we know each other we seem to run into each other often and we just had a great playdate with one of his new friends, Lily.  I am loving watching my little guy grow into a bigger boy every week.

Fave Film #62 – State of the Union (1948)

State of the Union Cast-Spencer Tracy, Katherine Hepburn, Van Johnson, Angela Lansbury.  Directed by Frank Capra

I said I was going to review seven more political movies before election day and I’m not sure I’ll make it, so  I want to be sure I showcase my favorites at the very least.

Grant Matthews is a self-made man with no interest in politics.  At least until an attractive woman with visions of glory in her sights convinces him and the bigwigs of the Republican party that he could be the next President of the United States.  Now, he just needs to convince his estranged wife to go along with the campaign.

Why You Should See It– This movie was released in 1948 and it’s starkly honest look at the world of Washington politics is just as relevant today as when it was released.  When I saw this the first time a few years ago I was struck by how modern it was and what that says about politics.  The names (and genders and races) may change but the ugliness of it all stays the same.  In this political season I think it’s a good idea to remember how these candidates get made.  This is not a movie without hope and I highly recommend it for anyone remotely interested in politics.

Why I Love It

I really like Katherine Hepburn.  In my teens and 20’s it was the other Hepburn I loved, but with age I’ve grown to appreciate Katherine.  She is smart and funny and quick as a whip.  I loved that she played the victimized wife in this one, it suited her.  She was Spencer Tracy’s conscience and he needed it.  He was a flawed man, but he had two women in love with him, both trying to get him to the White House.  If not for Hepburn, his ambition would have ruined the character completely.

Van Johnson, as the campaign sidekick was perfect comedic relief.  He was right up there with Hepburn on the likeability scale.

For a political junkie like me (as an Ohio voter I am having a total blast actually answering the phone for some of the pollsters and then having fun with them.  Today alone we received 8 political calls, completely ridiculous) this movie is great.  I warn you that there is a lot of talking.  I was worried that this would turn of my apolitical husband, but it didn’t and he claims he really liked it.  The money and influence that it takes a person to even become a candidate is crazy.  I don’t know if I believe that any candidate can get elected with his integrity intact and that’s a sad state of affairs.  A few fun quotes

Mary: Oh, that’s silly. No woman could ever run for President. She’d have to admit she’s over 35. (LOL!)

Kay: But there is one question on his mind you better have the answer to.
Jim: What’s that?
Kay: He’s beginning to wonder if there is any difference between the Democratic Party and the Republican Party.
Jim: Now that’s a fine question for a presidential candidate to ask. There’s all the difference in the world. They’re in and we’re out!

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how ironic I found the Hepburn-Spencer roles.  In their private life they had a 26 year affair (he was married) and in this movie Hepburn played his somewhat abandoned wife.  She stepped into the part days before shooting because Claudette Cobert pulled out and Hepburn knew the script because she had been running lines with Tracy already.

The Accident by Linwood Barclay

The AccidentFinished audio 10-23-12, rating 3/5, thriller, pub. 2011

Unabridged audio 12 hours 20 minutes.  Read by Peter Berkrot

Glen’s wife dies in a horrific traffic accident that kills a father and son in another car, leaving him with their 10 year-old daughter and anger that she was drunk and caused the accident. As he tries to normalize life for his daughter, there’s another death in their small Connecticut town.  And then another.  When Glen starts putting the pieces together he discovers layers of secrets and murderers to spare.

I liked Glen.  He had a great relationship with his daughter, was a stand-up boss and neighbor, and a good friend.  The problem was the number of coincidences in the book.  Ever heard of these underground purse parties where you can buy knock-off designer bags?  What about prescription drugs that come from China sold under the (prescription) table?  And electrical parts that aren’t up to code also from China?  Well, not one, not two, but all three make significant appearances in the many storylines of this book.

It was too much, all the murders, the counterfeit sales, the characters that come and go with no purpose.  It was a fast and easy read and I wanted to stick it out to the end to find out how it all came together.  It was an enjoyable, if unbelievable thriller.

A word about the narrator, I didn’t like Berkot’s voices for women.  Every one sounded just plain annoying.  Other than that he was fine 🙂

I checked this audio out of the library.

What book is this? Quiz – guessing closed

I started making a great 2nd quiz (for Gage), it got complicated so I’m turning to my prepared rainy day quiz.  Just tell me the titles for 8 points and the authors for 2.  Tell me what they all have in common for an extra 10 🙂

You have until noon Sunday to submit your answers as a comment.  Comment will be hidden until I post the answers.  No Googling! The person with the most points this round will win a B&N gift card (total $ based on # of total participants, so please play) and a randomly selected participant will win a fun prize from me.

Answers to last week’s Clownish Quiz here.  Leaderboard here.

1.The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman  2.The Newlyweds by Nell Freudenberger  3.The Prophet by Michael Koryta  4.The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell  5.This is How it Ends by Kathleen MacMahon  6.As the Crow Flies by Craig Johnson  7.The Absent Ones by Jussi Adler-Olsen  8.The Bird Saviors by William J. Cobb  9.Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakthrough by Ruth Pennebaker  10.A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole

Sundays with Gage – Turning 2

Oh the difference a year makes…

There were moments that first year I wasn’t sure we’d see a 2nd birthday.  They were fleeting and mostly connected to his health scare at four months, but once the fear is there it never quite goes away.  There’s this thin layer of worry covering each bump of the head, every fever, the bouts of vomiting.  So, they sneak up on me, these quiet moments of reflection when I can truly appreciate the giant leaps Gage has made in his development.

He runs, talks some but still babbles a lot, can follow directions when he wants to, can take off his sandals and socks, can use utensils, knows his alphabet and numbers.  He loves to be outside with his sticks and rocks.  He gives welcome hugs and kisses.  He loves swings and slides and books, especially Chicka Chicka Boom Boom.  He loves watching Sesame Street and Super Why.  Elmo used to be a favorite but right now he’s got a pretty big crush on Abby.    He’s outgrown library story time or at least his hyper activity has but he does love to go to the Kid Zone at the gym.  He loves to swim and dance and watch car racing (I blame this entirely on Grandpa).  We even started a class with other kids his age and so far he’s managed to behave well enough not to get us kicked out 🙂

He still has allergies which is an ever-present danger but he also has the cutest smile and laugh so that helps offset the panic that sets in when he starts picking stuff off the ground and eating it.  So far this has not caused any problems and I hope our luck continues.  He hits his head a lot, sometimes on purpose, sometimes not, which has led us to the ER twice and caused much worry the other times.  He does know how to throw a tantrum, hitting his head on the floor in anger or frustration so if any of you have any great insight or experience it would be much appreciated. He does try my patience and I have failed many a day to be the best mom I can be, but for some reason he still loves me and keeps giving me more chances to get it right 🙂  Isn’t he generous?

I look forward to seeing the changes this next year will bring, as my baby/toddler grows into a full-fledged boy.  I bet it’s going to be fun.

Film Friday- a look at The Outsiders (1983)

When I listened to Rob Lowe’s memoir, Stories I Only Tell My Friends, last month I was particularly entertained by his memories of making his first big movie, a movie that would launch the careers of many.  I am an 80’s movie lover, but I never read the book by S.E. Hinton or watched the movie directed by Francis Ford Coppola and I thought while the book was still fresh in my mind that I should watch it.

The most obvious place to start is the all-star cast.  They were mostly unknown – Rob Lowe, Emilio Estevez, Tom Cruise, Ralph Macchio, Patrick Swayze, Matt Dillon, Diane Lane, C Thomas Howell and this movie made them stars.  I was particularly impressed with Patrick Swayze, even if he didn’t have a large role.  If you want to see these guys and gal as babes you should check it out.  Diane Lane looked and sounded so different to me.

The movie was okay bordering on cheesy (mainly the cheese came from the music).  A few scenes made no sense to me.  There was an abandoned church where two of them had hidden for a week, they leave for a few hours and return to find that it’s on fire and there are children in there.  Made no sense and the movie sort of lost me from there.  The movie itself, set in 1950’s Oklahoma, pits the greasers and the socs against one another, and even though there was a lot of blood there wasn’t much depth.

I do think this is more of a guy movie and probably one teens would enjoy more.  For me, the best part was knowing the behind the scenes stories from Rob Lowe.

So, have you seen it?  Am I being to hard on it?

The IT-along is finally over

ItFinished 10-16-12, rating 4.5/5, horror, 1090 pages, pub. 1986

 IT along: The End

I am so glad that I joined in the IT-along hosted by the wonderful Jill and Christina.  I received a great clownish book and bookmark from Jill and I’ve loved reading what the other IT-alongers had to say.  Sadly, I think much of this conversation happened on Twitter and I just don’t have time for it right now so I think I missed out on some of the fun.

Okay, so these were my thoughts halfway through.  I was so glad to throw the book across the room in celebration of being finished.  Not because I hated it but because this has really been a (too) long journey for me.  I get very little time to read and this book sucked all of that time down the storm drain.  A drain where IT was waiting with ITs web of horror.  A few nights I heard things in the house that in hindsight were not murderers coming to taunt me and my family, but at the time were a very real concern.  This may have been caused by Pennywise or it may have been the Diet Coke I thought was a good idea to drink at 10 pm.  Who can know for sure?  Okay, instead of a synopsis (you can find that here) I’ll give you a few of my SPOILERISH thoughts on IT.

*I love that Stephen King doesn’t shy away from the ugly side of human nature.  This book was not PC and I thought it was refreshing and it elevated the storytelling.

*I love fortune cookies, but King may have ruined them for me.

*The Loser’s Club was awesome and the bond of friendship they shared (if not their fate) made me want to be a part of their posse.  Not that I could have performed in either of the finales.  One, I am not a fan of orgies and two, I am ridiculously grossed out by spiders.

*After all of the grotesque deaths in this book, Tom really needed his due.  Why couldn’t IT start eating his appendages?  Why didn’t Beverly get to take an axe to him?  Either of these things would have helped the ending.

*Bill and Beverly.  Did we need to go there?  No.  We did not.

*I think I’m in the minority in liking the Interludes.  I think that they added a much needed layer to the city of Derry.  Some of it was dry, but for me at least, the end was richer for it.

*I did love the alternating past/present storylines at the end.  I knew I wanted to finish this book as close to the read-along date as I could and the last several hundred pages made it easy for me to pick up the book in spare moments.

“How old were they?  11, 12?  Entirely too young to excuse the group sex in the tunnels.  If that had happened earlier in the book I may not have finished it.

*I do think that King could use some editing, but I was so drawn into his world that I was okay with his excessive description.  It’s this lack of editing (and the gratuitous sex) that led me to not give this a perfect rating.

*After spending almost two months with the Loser’s Club from Derry, Maine, I am surprised that I will miss them.

I had a well-worn used copy of the paperback on my shelf which led me to join in the IT-along and it was worth it.