Category Archives: Challenges

RIP XIII: The Keeper of Lost Causes

I read The Keeper of Lost Causes, by Jussi Adler-Olsen, a few weeks ago and it is one of those books that stays with you long after you finish it. The plot is complex, the characters very interesting, and the suspense keeps you turning pages long into the night.

When the story begins, Carl Mørck, a brilliant detective with an anti-social personality, is just coming back to work from medical leave after recovering from a tragic attack on his investigative team that resulted in the death of one of his partners, a crippling injury to his other partner, and a bullet wound that came very close to killing him. He recovered from the bullet wound, but he has not recovered from the emotional wounds.

Carl lay there a long time, as if he’d fainted, with his head full of desperate thoughts. They took his pulse and then drove off with him and his two partners. Only at the hospital did he open his eyes. They told him that his eyes had a dead look to them. They thought it was the shock, but it was from shame.

His return to the police department was not welcome. He was a difficult leader, a real loner, and nobody wanted to work with him. Fortunately, a new grant had just been given to the Chief to open up a new department that would investigate cold cases. It was to be called “Department Q” and Carl was given that job, with an office in the basement, and a huge backlog of unsolved cases, or “hopeless cases,” as the police chief called them.

The first case Carl chose to look at involved a popular politician who went missing five years earlier. Merete Lynggaard, had disappeared while on a ferry ride with her younger disabled brother. The case had been poorly investigated, no clues were found, the case had been shelved and everyone assumed she had fallen overboard and perished. She had not. She was still very much alive, but being held captive in very cruel conditions by an unknown assailant.

The course of solving this mystery was intricate and fascinating. Carl was given an assistant, Hafez el-Assad, a Syrian immigrant, to help him with the case. The two of them, both brilliant detectives, became quite an effective team. You got to know all the characters well enough to know why they each did what they did in the story. And it was one of those “unputdownable” books that kept you anxious and on alert until the very end.

Somewhere inside of him, where cause and effect were not weighed against each other, and where logic and explanations never challenged consciousness, in that place where thoughts could live freely and be played out against each other—right there in that spot, things fell into place, and he understood how it all fitted together.

This book is the first in a series by this author. I will definitely be reading more of them!


I read this book for the Readers Imbibing Peril XIII challenge.

RIP XIII: This Rough Magic

This Rough Magic, by Mary Stewart: set on the island of Corfu, quotes from Shakespeare’s The Tempest, smugglers, murder, actors, young love, a dolphin. Who could ask for anything more?

From the publisher:

British actress Lucy Waring believes there is no finer place to be “at liberty” than the sun-drenched isle of Corfu, the alleged locale for Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Even the suspicious actions of the handsome, arrogant son of a famous actor cannot dampen her enthusiasm for this wonderland in the Ionian Sea.

Then a human corpse is carried ashore on the incoming tide …

This was a wonderful, fun read. I must read (or reread) more of Mary Stewart’s novels!


This was my fourth book read for the Readers Imbibing Peril XIII  challenge.

RIP XIII: The Eyes of the Amaryllis

The Eyes of the Amaryllis, by Natalie Babbitt, is one of my favorite books. When I was teaching, I read it aloud to my sixth grade students, year after year, and never tired of Babbitt’s lyrical, descriptive, lovely writing. My Grandson started school last week, a 5/6 grader now, and it triggered memories for me of those special books I loved and read each year. It was definitely time to reread this one.

It is an unusual story. Eleven year old Geneva (Jenny) Reade, went to help her grandmother, also named Geneva, who lived beside the ocean. Gran had broken her foot and needed some extra help. Jenny was excited to see the ocean for the first time, but not very excited about having to cook or help her grandmother with those kinds of things. However, that’s not the kind of help Gran needed. With her broken foot, Gran could not walk the shoreline each day, searching. Jenny would have to search for her.

Jenny’s grandfather had been a sea captain on the ship, The Amaryllis, and while arriving home during a fierce storm, the ship sank and everyone aboard was lost. Sadly, it sank within sight of the shore, and both Geneva’s father and her grandmother watched helplessly from the bluff. The trauma of watching his father’s ship go down was too much for young George, and he soon left the oceanside and went to live with an aunt who lived inland. Gran stayed at their home at the ocean, waiting for anything to wash up from the wreck…waiting for “a sign from her darling.” Nothing ever washed up, but Gran kept vigil checking the shoreline after each turn of the tide…for over 30 years, but nothing ever washed ashore.

Geneva soon learned that her grandmother’s life centered around the sea, the tides, her undying love for the sea captain, and for her hope that he would somehow send her a sign.

Your grandfather and I—what we felt for each other doesn’t just stop. Remember what we talked about the first night you were here? There’s another world around us, Geneva, around us all the time, and here I can be closer to it.

There is another important character in this book, called Seward, who calls himself the “guardian of the sea.”  His job is to walk the shoreline and make sure that nothing the sea values is taken, and if something of value is found, it must be returned to the sea.

Gran explained to Jenny that Seward was once a sensitive artist/sculptor who threw himself into the sea after being rejected by a woman he loved. His body was never found, but he returned mysteriously and walks the shoreline each day. No one but Gran has seen him. His story is fantastical, and Geneva can hardly believe it…except that she, too, has seen him.

“He really saw the ship on the bottom,” she said. “Yes,” said Gran. “Sailing. Keeping watch. The sea bottom was covered with treasure, he told me, and there were lots of wrecked ships, too, great ruined hulls, lying down there forsaken, full of holes and rotting away. But the Amaryllis, and all the ships with figureheads, are kept whole and clean, he said, to sail on the bottom and guard the treasure.”

It is the figurehead from The Amaryllis that finally washes ashore. And then the story gets really interesting.

I won’t tell you more. You’ll have to read it to find out what happens. But I will say that it was wonderful to share this story with my students! You wouldn’t think that sixth graders would necessarily want to sit through a story about undying love, but they listened with rapt attention to this one. It captured all our imaginations and our hearts!

This was my third book read for the Readers Imbibing Peril XIII.

RIP XIII: The Silkworm

The Silkworm, by Robert Gailbraith, (a pseudonym for J.K. Rowling) is the second in the Cormorant Strike series of mysteries. Gallbraith’s mysteries are riveting and powerful. Cormoran Strike is a private detective and a war veteran who was severely wounded during his service. He and his assistant, Robin Ellacott, take on difficult and brutal cases. The solving of these crimes is fascinating, as is the growing, changing, relationship between those two main characters.

Summary from Robert-galbraith.com:

The Silkworm – It takes a unique mind to solve a unique crime.

A compulsively readable crime novel with twists at every turn, The Silkworm is the second in the highly acclaimed series featuring Cormoran Strike and his determined young assistant Robin Ellacott.

When novelist Owen Quine goes missing, his wife calls in private detective Cormoran Strike. At first, she just thinks he has gone off by himself for a few days – as he has done before – and she wants Strike to find him and bring him home.

But as Strike investigates, it becomes clear that there is more to Quine’s disappearance than his wife realises. The novelist has just completed a manuscript featuring poisonous pen-portraits of almost everyone he knows. If the novel were published it would ruin lives – so there are a lot of people who might want to silence him.

And when Quine is found brutally murdered in bizarre circumstances, it becomes a race against time to understand the motivation of a ruthless killer, a killer unlike any he has encountered before…

My responses to the book: I didn’t listen to this audiobook straight through. When I first started it a few months ago, it seemed a little too gruesome and dark, and that wasn’t what I wanted to be reading at that time. So I set it aside for a while and then decided to go ahead and listen to it for RIP-XIII.  This time, I found it impossible to stop listening to it!  The plot was complicated and compelling, and the narration by Robert Glenister was excellent.

J.K. Rowling is an amazing and versatile writer, and I am now completely hooked on this series.


This was my second book read for Readers Imbibing Peril, XIII.

RIP XIII: The Whispering Statue

When I was young, I read all the Nancy Drew mysteries (at least the ones that were available at that time)! My brothers and I would go to the library every week and I would come out with a pile of books, mostly Nancy Drew mysteries. They said to me many times, “Rob, you’re in a reading rut!”  Yes, that’s what good mysteries do to you, and I still love getting caught in a mystery reading rut!

The Whispering Statue, by Carolyn Keene, is book #14 in the original series. All the Nancy Drew books were actually ghostwritten, and my favorite of the ghostwriters was Mildred A. Wirt Benson. She wrote the first twenty-three books in the series, and those are my favorites.

Another interesting tidbit about the early Nancy Drew books, which were originally published in the 1930s, is that they were rewritten and republished in the 1970s. The copy I read of The Whispering Statue was definitely a rewritten one from the 70s because the plot was significantly different and shorter than the earlier version, AND the word “groovy” was used two or three times in the story. That was a dead giveaway to someone very familiar with the late 60s and early 70s!!

I enjoyed rereading this mystery. It was pleasant to spend an afternoon on the porch with a fun book. My goal is to slowly reread as many of the Nancy Drew books as possible!

Penguin Random House: the publisher’s summary of plot:

Once again, Nancy faces two puzzling mysteries at once! The first concerns a valuable collection of rare books that Mrs. Horace Merriam commissioned anart dealer to sell–has he swindled her instead? The second mystery revolves around the baffling theft of a beautiful marble statue. To solve both mysteries, the famous young detective disguises herself and assumes a false identity. Despite these precautions, danger stalks Nancy’s every move. An attempted kidnapping, a nearly disastrous sailboat collision, and an encounter with a dishonest sculptor are just a few of the exciting challenges that Nancy is faced with as she gathers evidence against a clever ring of art thieves.

I read this book for the RIP XIII challenge, Peril the First

RIP XIII

It’s been a number of years since I participated in the Readers Imbibing Peril Challenge that heralds the arrival of Autumn. I love reading mysteries, so it’s always a lot of fun to put together a want-to-read list and join this challenge. It was designed by Carl V. Anderson @ Stainless Steel Droppings and he hosted it for many years. This year, Andi (@Estella’s Revenge) and Heather (@Capricious Reader) are cohosting it, and it’s a very special year for this challenge: Number 13!  So I can’t resist…I’m signing up!

My list of possible reads for this challenge is enormous, but I already own all of these books, so that’s easy. Some of them are also on my TBR Challenge list or my Classics Club list, so that’s another good reason to participate! Plus, these are all books I want to read, so I foresee many hours of very pleasant Fall reading ahead!

The purpose of the R.I.P. Challenge is to enjoy books that could be classified as:

Mystery.
Suspense.
Thriller.
Dark Fantasy.
Gothic.
Horror.
Supernatural.
The emphasis is never on the word challenge, instead it is about coming together as a community and embracing the autumnal mood, whether the weather is cooperative where you live or not.

The goals are simple. 

1. Have fun reading.

2. Share that fun with others.

Click here to go to the Challenge Website to see how it works, read a description of the different “Perils” you can choose, and learn how to sign up.

I am choosing PERIL THE FIRST  [to read four books of any length during the challenge time period]. Here are some of the books in my pool of choices for this Peril. I am looking forward to starting this reading project on September 1st!

 

 

The  books I read for PERIL the FIRST:

  1. The Whispering Statue, by Carolyn Keene
  2. The Silkworm, by Robert Galbraith
  3. The Eyes of the Amaryllis, by Natalie Babbitt
  4. This Rough Magic, by Mary Stewart
  5. The Seer of Shadows, Avi
  6. Death in the Castle, Pearl S. Buck
  7. The Keeper of Lost Causes, Jussi Adler-Olsen
  8. The Witches, Ronald Dahl
  9. The Coroner’s Lunch, Colin Cotterill

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Classics Club Spin #18, August 2018

It’s time for another Classics Club Spin! Here’s how it works:

On Wednesday 1st August, we’ll post a number from 1 through 20. The challenge is to read whatever book falls under that number on your Spin List, by 31st August, 2018. We’ll check in here then to see who made it the whole way and finished their spin book!

What’s Next?

  • Go to your blog.
  • Pick twenty books that you’ve got left to read from your Classics Club List.
  • Post that list, numbered 1-20, on your blog before Wednesday 1st August.
  • We’ll announce a number from 1-20.
  • Read that book by 31st August.

This will be the third “Spin” I’ve done since I joined the Classics Club. The last spin was a fail for me. The book chosen just wasn’t the right one for me at the time, so I still haven’t finished it (I will, eventually). I’m hoping the book chosen for this Spin will be one in which I can get completely and delightfully lost. Here is my list of 20 books for Spin #18. The chosen book will be highlighted in red.

  1. Kokoro, Natsume Soseki
  2. Kinfolk, Pearl S. Buck
  3. Ask Me, William Stafford
  4. A Raisin in the Sun, Lorraine Hansberry
  5. Americanah, Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche
  6. One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez
  7. Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte
  8. Travels With My Aunt, Graham Greene
  9. Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, Kate Douglas Wiggin

  10. The Measure of My Days, Florida Scott-Maxwell
  11. The Sussex Downs Murder, John Bude
  12. Death Be Not Proud, John Gunther
  13. Neuromancer, William Gibson
  14. Dust Tracks on a Road, Zora Neale Hurston
  15. Excellent Women, Barbara Pym
  16. The Gaucho Martin Fierro, José Hernández
  17. Green Thoughts: A Writer in the Garden, Eleanor Perenyi
  18. The Lost Prince, Frances Hodgson Burnett
  19. Green Hills of Africa, Ernest Hemingway
  20. The Sea Runners, Ivan Doig

Read-a-thon Morning

Dewey’s 24-Hour Read-a-thon started for me (in my time zone) at 5:00 a.m. That’s not early for me as I’m almost always up by that time anyway…I’m a morning bird! I started out with my usual tall cup of tea and an ebook downloaded from the library. The ebook is from a series of books that I share with my grandson. I wanted to start our the read-a-thon by reading about people whom I admire.  Who Was Ernest Shackleton is a nicely written account of Ernest Shackleton’s ill-fated voyage to the South Pole on his ship, Endurance, and his brilliant leadership that made survival possible for all his men.

My second book of the morning was Chasing Light: Michelle Obama Through the Lens of a White House Photographer, by Amanda Lucidon. The photographs were beautiful! And reading about a beautiful person with great integrity and courage was a lovely way to start my day!

Read-a-thon Eve

Tomorrow morning, at 5:00 a.m. (in my time zone), Dewey’s 24 Hour Read-a-thon begins.  This will be my second time doing this fun read-a-thon, and I’m really excited to start! I’ve gathered up books from my shelves and from the library, and I downloaded way too many ebooks from the library web site. But I’m all set, ready to go!

My book choices are varied. I included a number of children’s books, and will revisit some of the books I used to read each year while teaching (I miss them!). I’m been listening to the audiobooks of the Harry Potter series, and I’m on the last book, so I will definitely spend some of the day listening, although I may not finish it tomorrow. I’ve included some books that are on my TBR list, and others that just called out to me from the library shelves.

I also decided that I will take a break every hour and walk on the treadmill for 5-10 minutes. When I’m immersed in a good book sometimes I sit for hours on end, so the walking breaks feel really good. As far as food and treats go, I’m keeping it simple and basically just eating what I normally do during the day. I usually snack on fruit or veggies, or have some crackers with hummus, so that’s what I’m planning.

I’ll check in on Twitter and on Instagram, as well as post an occasional update here during the day. I also want to take some time and check in on other readers! I look forward to reading alongside you all!

Happy reading, everyone!

Classics Club Spin #17

It’s time for another “Spin” with The Classics Club! I am enjoying my reading of the classics I chose for my 5-year reading plan even though I’m running behind on writing my reviews. It’s a very enjoyable, non-pressured challenge, so if you are wanting to read more classics, you should join up!

Here’s how the “Spin” works:

Choose 20 books from your list of classics TBR and post that list on your blog before March 9th. On Friday, March 9th, we’ll post a number from 1 through 20. The challenge is to read whatever book falls under that number on your Spin List, by April 30, 2018. 

So here is my Spin List.  It will be fun to see which number (and which book) is chosen in the “spin” on Friday, and I’ll return to this post then to highlight the book chosen.

Classic Spin #17:

  1. Rose in Bloom, Louisa May Alcott
  2. A River Runs Through It, Norman McClean
  3. Arabian Nights and Days, Naguib Mahfouz (did not finish)

  4. The Chosen, Chaim Potok
  5. The Haunted Bookshop, Christopher Morley
  6. A Room With a View, E.M. Forster
  7. Death Be Not Proud, John Gunther
  8. Tender is the Night, F. Scott Fitzgerald
  9. Travels With My Aunt, Graham Greene
  10. The Ramayana, Bulbul Sharma
  11. The Gaucho Martin Fierro, José Hernández
  12. The Measure of My Days, Florida Scott-Maxwell
  13. Excellent Women, Barbara Pym
  14. The Lost Prince,  Frances Hodgson Burnett
  15. The Story of an African Farm, Olive Schreiner
  16. A Room of One’s Own, Virginia Woolf
  17. The Solitary Summer, Elizabeth von Arnim
  18. Silent Spring, Rachel Carson
  19. The Book of Tea, Kazuko Okakura
  20. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Betty Smith