Friday, April 08, 2011

Book Report: March 2011

Murder at the Masque by Amy Meyers:  A classic whodunnit in the style of Agatha Christie, which plays homage to the mysteries of the past, while remaining wholly original.  Larger than life characters caught up in an array of sub-plots and sly humor make this one highly recommended.  This was a new one to me, but I'll be looking for more of this series.

All Gone by David Seidman:  Pop culture study of toys, foods, fads, buildings, and many other things that outlived their usefulness and faded away.  This was written in the late nineties, so it doesn't quite have the wistful nostalgia that similar books published since the turn of the century have.  It also lacks the flash of contemporary graphics, which is not a bad thing.  However, it could use a few more (and larger) photographs.

The Tarot Murders by Mignon Warner:  I was with this one all the way up to the end and then it lost me.  It's an older mystery (printed in 1978) and just a little bit dated in places.  The heroine is mostly referred to as "Mrs. Charles" for example, instead of any sort of first name.  Personally, I think this gives the book a kind of quaint charm, but that's just me.  Still, the reveal of the killer came totally out of left field and, in looking back into the book, I still can't figure out how Mrs. Charles figures it out.  I don't mind being fooled by my mysteries, but I should be able to look back and see the signs I missed because my attention was directed elsewhere.  It doesn't happen here.  I call foul.

Make Music Go Bang! by Don Snowden:  This is a look back at the LA punk rock scene in the early 80's by those who were there.  Snowden has assembled a collection of essays from prominent fans, performers, journalists and others who were involved.  The caliber of the essays ranges from quirky, but not very informative to insightful and nostalgic.  What I enjoyed about the book was its scope.  The early LA punk scene was a lot more eclectic than people realize.  The Go-Go's and X both came out of it, for example.  It was also home to classic roots-rockers The Blasters (alt-country before it had a name) and Los Lobos.   I really liked that the book didn't gloss over this diversity, but celebrated it.  I do wish that there had been more than passing mentions given to The Go-Go's though.

An Old School Tie by Andrew Taylor:  Mystery the way I like it.  Hidden backstories.  Nothing as it seems.  And clues hidden in plain sight.  Perfect way to waste an afternoon.

Clerkenwell Tales by Peter Ackroyd:  I started this one the last week of the month, but wasn't sure if I would be able to finish it before March was over.  I ended up devouring  it.  Could not put it down.  Hands down, this is the best book I've read in ages.  Good historical fiction is so hard to find, and this is some of the best.  Ackroyd has a great knowledge of his setting and timeframe, London in 1399, and uses it to great effect.  Every piece of info and bit of dialogue rings true, but he avoids endlessly lecturing the reader.  He uses the  character types from Chaucer's Canterbury Tales to tell a mesmerizing tale of church, state, and common people all caught up in a game of plot and counterplot with each other.  Highly recommended.

Didn't read as much in March.  It was a busy month.  No graphic novels at all this time around.  Only two non-fiction books too.  I seem to get stuck in a genre fiction groove a lot and can't get out of it.  I'll have to try harder at that.  Still, nothing beats a good whodunnit for bus reading.  I just have to remember to actually read when I'm on the bus.

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