Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Book Review: How To Behave Badly In Elizabethan England by Ruth Goodman


Like many people, I've been absolutely enthralled with the BBC historical videos featuring Ruth Goodman, Peter Ginn, and Alex Langlands living in historically recreated situations, generally for a full year at a time (Tales From The Green Valley, Victorian Farm, Edwardian Farm, Wartime Farm, etc.).  Once I realized that Goodman was the same "historian" from those videos, I couldn't wait to buy and read this book.

Note: I put "historian" in quotes for a reason.  Goodman presents herself as a historian and calls herself one, and she has a long list of ways in which she has been used as an "expert" on history, but, in a December 13, 2020, podcast on Everyday Life In Tudor England, she revealed that she is not actually a trained historian, but rather a person who has read a lot of history.  And the difference is quite apparent in this book.

First of all, there's the title. The book claims to be about Elizabethan England, but Goodman covers a period of time from Henry VIII to the Roundheads vs. the Cavaliers, in other words, not just the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, but a nearly 200-year period of time.   That's an odd mistake for a so-called historian to make.

I shrugged off the title at first, but then I began to notice little details in her assertions which did not agree with details about history I've read in numerous other books.  (Side note: Since I teach Shakespeare, I read A LOT about Tudor and Stewart history from a wide variety of authors.)  For example, when Goodman talks about customs regarding men's removing their hats when bowing, she  ignores/seems unaware of the importance of the TYPE of hat a man wore, which was a very important class distinction. (See, for example, Neil MacGregor's Shakespeare's Restless World.)  And when she talks about which different colors of dye in clothing were popular and how the wearers were viewed for choosing those colors, Goodman never even mentions Elizabethan sumptuary laws, which literally spell out who could wear what type of clothing.  How can a writer calling herself a historian omit such obvious and well-known information?

But what really irritated me was her errors on Shakespeare, possibly the easiest source to check.  When Goodman claims that all the sword fighting in Romeo and Juliet was done with rapiers because swashbuckling was out of style by the 1590s, she completely disregards research that's been around since the 1990s on the subject AND Shakespeare's own script.  Mercutio has lengthy speeches making fun of Tybalt's newfangled Italian rapier fighting; he clearly uses the older style, likely with a bastard sword and a buckler.  But Goodman seems unaware of this, as if she, a person who as been hired as a historical resource for the Globe Theatre in London, has not even bothered to read the play.  Then, later in the book, she refers to the duel between Cesario (really Viola) and Sir Andrew Aguecheeck in the play 12th Night, but claims that the fight is broken up by the arrival of Viola's brother.  Three minutes with a Wikipedia summary of the plot will tell a reader that the fight is broken up by the arrival of Antonio, Viola's brother's friend, who believes the cross-dressed Viola is actually her twin brother.  If Goodman cannot be bothered to check such an easy-to-find source and is that casual with details, I cannot really trust her on her other claims in the book.

Thus, while Goodman is a delightful presenter in the numerous videos and podcasts in which she appears and has a light, easy-to-read style in her writing, I question her claims now.  She has revealed her lack of training and her lack of attention to both others' research and details in the sources she does mention.  She gives a bibliography in this book, but she gives no endnotes, footnotes, or citations for the claims she makes.  I would suggest reading her work with caution, as she seems to write rather like a first-year university study who is confident s/he has ALL the information when, in reality, s/he has only scratched the surface.

Saturday, January 2, 2021

What I Read And What I Rejected In 2020

 I've been keeping these lists since 2007.  Usually, I read right around 120 books a year, an average of 10 books a month.  But this year, because of the pandemic, I read 200 books.  As usual, they are mostly mysteries: historical, crime, and cozy.  These are my "entertainment" books, and I do read a LOT of them, but there is plenty of non-fiction and a little steampunk mixed in.

Following my very thorough list of what I read is a list of books I rejected, but I'm not as thorough here, and there are probably at least another 2 dozen books I began and then tossed aside because they were awful.  Sometimes I forget to update that list.

Unfortunately, the numbers won't copy over.  Please trust me that there are 200 books on the list of what I read and 19 on the list of what I rejected.

What I Read:

Behind the Shattered Glass by Tasha Alexander ***** historical mystery 1/1/20
 A Crimson Warning by Tasha Alexander **** historical mystery 1/3/20
Only To Deceive by Tasha Alexander **** historical mystery 1/5/20
Amid The Winter’s Snow by Tasha Alexander * historical “mystery” 1/5/20
Maryellen, the One and Only by Valerie Tripp **** MG historical 1/6/20
Maryellen Taking Off by Valerie Tripp **** MG Historical **** 1/6/20
Shot Through the Hearth by Kate Carlisle **** cozy 1/11/20
An Edible History of Humanity by Tom Standage **** non-fiction, food 1/12/20
 Farm Fresh Murder by Paige Shelton (again) **** cozy 1/13/20
 Fruit of All Evil by Paige Shelton (again) ***** cozy 1/14/20
 A Poisoned Season by Tasha Alexander **** historical mystery 1/19/20
 A Fatal Waltz by Tasha Alexander ***** historical mystery 1/20/20
 Tears of Pearl by Tasha Alexander ***** historical mystery 1/21/20
 Dangerous To Know by Tasha Alexander **** historical mystery 1/23/20
 Etiquette and Espionage by Gail Carriger (2nd time) **** YA steampunk paranormal 1/26/20
12 Angry Men by Reginald Rose (again) (2A) **** drama 1/27/20
 12 Angry Men by Reginald Rose (again) (1B) **** drama 1/28/20
 Curtsies and Conspiracies by Gail Carriger (2nd time) ****YA steampunk/paranormal 1/28/20
 Waistcoats and Weaponry by Gail Carriger (2nd time) **** YA steampunk/paranormal 1/29/20
 Manners and Mutiny by Gail Carriger (2nd time) **** YA steampunk/paranormal 1/31/20
 Death In The Floating City by Tasha Alexander **** historical mystery 2/3/20
 Hand on the Wall by Maureen Johnson **** YA mystery 2/4/20
 The Counterfeit Heiress by Tasha Alexander **** historical mystery 2/9/20
 The Adventuress by Tasha Alexander **** historical mystery 2/10/20
 How To Be A Tudor by Ruth Goodman **** non-fiction, history 2/13/20
 That Silent Night by Tasha Alexander **** historical mystery 2/14/20
 Black Tie Murder by Sara Rosett **** historical mystery 2/16/20
 A Terrible Beauty by Tasha Alexander *** historical mystery 2/16/20
 Danger at the Drawbridge by Mildred A. Wirt **** MG mystery 2/17/20
 Star of the East by Tasha Alexander *** historical mystery 2/17/20
 Uneasy Lies the Crown by Tasha Alexander ***** historical mystery 2/19/20
 Mr. Churchill’s Secretary by Susan Elia MacNeal **** historical A/A 2/22/20
Artist Trading Card Workshop by Bernie Berlin **** non-fiction, crafts 2/23/20
 Mormon Hierarchy: Extensions of Power by D. Michael Quinn ***** non-fiction, religion, history 2/29/20
 The Green Door by Mildred Wirt **** MG mystery 3/3/20
 Tiny Treasures  by AG Library *** non-fiction, crafts 3/7/20
 Salt Dough by AG Library **** non-fiction, crafts 3/8/20
 Fairies by Rachel Haab **** non-fiction, crafts 3/8/20
 Making Mini Books by Sherri Haab non-fiction, crafts 3/8/20
 Homicide For The Holidays by Cheryl Honingfor ** historical mystery 3/18/20
 Same-Sex Dynamics Among 19th-Century Americans: A Mormon Example by D Michael Quinn  (2nd time) ***** non-fiction, history 3/20/20
 Broken Bone China by Laura Childs cozy mystery *** 3/22/20
 In The Shadow of Vesuvius by Tasha Alexander **** historical mystery 3/26/20
 Felicity Carrol and the Perilous Pursuit by Patricia Marcantonio ****historical mystery 3/29/20
 Prudence by Gail Carriger (2nd time) **** steampunk 3/31/20
 Imprudence by Gail Carriger (2nd time) **** steampunk 4/4/20
 Princess Elizabeth’s Spy by Susan Elia MacNeal **** historical mystery 4/8/20
 Competence by Gail Carriger **** steampunk 4/11/20
 Reticence by Gail Carriger **** stampunk 4/12/20
 The Decent Inn of Death by Rennie Airth *** historical mystery 4/15/20
 Murder in the Manor by Fiona Grace *** cozy mystery 4/16/20
 Tale of the Witch Doll by Mildred A Wirt *** YA/MG mystery 4/17/20
 Poppy Redfern and the Midnight Murders by Tessa Arlen **** 4/19/20
Digging Up History by Sheila Connolly ** cozy mystery 4/20/20
 Good Mail Day by Hinchcliff and Wheeler *** non-fiction, crafts 4/21/20
 The Mystery of Black Hollow Lane by Julia Nobel *** MG mystery 4/22/20
 A Beautiful Blue Death by Charles Finch **** historical mystery 4/23/20
 The September Society by Charles Finch **** historical mystery 4/24/20
 Forest Feast by Erin Gleeson non-fiction, cookbook **** 4/26/20
  The Fleet Street Murders by Charles Finch **** historical mystery 4/26/20
 The Woman in the Water by Charles Finch **** historical mystery 4/30/20
 A Stranger in Mayfair by Charles Finch **** historical mystery 5/3/20
 Burial at Sea by Charles Finch **** historical mystery 5/3/20
 American Sherlock by Kate Winkler Dawson  **** non-fiction biography 5/4/20
 A Death in the Small Hours by Charles Finch **** historical mystery 5/4/20
 An Old Betrayal by Charles Finch **** historical mystery 5/7/20
 The Laws of Murder by Charles Finch **** historical mystery 5/9/20
 Home By Nightfall by Charles Finch **** historical mystery 5/10/20
 A Murderous Relation by Deanna Raybourn ***** historical mystery 5/19/20
 Dead Man’s Bones by Susan Wittig Albert **** cozy mystery 5/21/20
 London: A Travel Guide Through Time by Dr. Matthew Green ***** non-fiction, history 5/24/20
 Revenge of the Barbary Ghost by Virginia Hamilton *** historical mystery 5/25/20
 The Vanishing Houseboat by Mildred A Wirt. *** MG mystery 5/27/20
 Foods That Will Win The War And How To Cook Them 1918 by Charles Houston **** vintage cookbook 5/20/20
 At Wit’s End by Kirsten Weiss **** cozy mystery 5/31/20
 Pressed To Death by Kirsten Weiss **** cozy mystery 5/31/20
 Deja Moo by Kirsten Weiss **** cozy mystery 6/1/20
 Chocolate a la murder by Kirsten Weiss **** cozy mystery 6/2/20
 The Quiche and the Dead by Kirsten Weiss **** cozy mystery 6/3/20
 Bleeding Tarts by Kirsten Weiss **** cozy mystery 6/4/20
 Writing the Cozy Mystery by Nancy J. Cohen *** non-fiction, writing 6/7/20
 Dread Nation by Justina Ireland **** YA paranormal alt-history dystopia 6/8/20
 A Murder For The Books by Victoria Gilbert **** cozy mystery 6/10/20
 The Inheritance by Charles Finch **** historical mystery 6/11/20
 The Vanishing Man by Charles Finch **** historical mystery 6/13/20
 Gone Before Christmas by Charles Finch **** historical mystery 6/14/20
 Murder At The Breakers by Alyssa Maxwell **** historical mystery 6/15/20
 An East End Murder by Charles Finch ** historical mystery 6/16/20
 The Winter Garden Mystery by Carola Dunn **** historical mystery 6/17/20
 A Lady In The Smoke by Karen Odden **** historical A/A 6/18/20
 Requiem For A Mezzo by Carola Dunn **** historical mystery 6/19/20
 Murder on the Flying Scotsman by Carola Dunn **** historical mystery 6/19/20
 Damsel In Distress by Carola Dunn *** historical mystery 6/20/20
 Dead in the Water by Carola Dunn *** historical mystery 6/21/20
 Styx and Stones by Carola Dunn **** historical mystery 6/21/20
 Rattle His Bones by Carola Dunn **** historical mystery 6/22/20
 Murder on Astor Place by Victoria Thompson *** historical mystery 6/23/20
 To Davy Jones Below by Carola Dunn **** historical mystery 6/24/20
 The Case of the Murdered Muckraker by Carola Dunn ***** historical mystery 6/24/20
 Mistletoe and Murder by Carola Dunn ***** historical mystery 6/25/20
 Die Laughing by Carola Dunn **** historical mystery 6/26/20
 Mourning Wedding by Carola Dunn **** historical mystery 6/27/20
 Fall of a Philanderer by Carola Dunn **** historical mystery 6/27/20
 Gunpowder Plot by Carola Dunn **** historical mystery 6/28/20
 The Bloody Tower by Carola Dunn *** historical mystery 6/30/20
 Black Ship by Carola Dunn **** historical mystery 7/1/20
 Sheer Folly by Carola Dunn **** historical mystery 7/4/20
 Anthem For A Doomed Youth *** historical mystery 7/6/20
 The Last Passenger by Charles Finch *** historical mystery 7/8/20
 Gone West by Carola Dunn **** historical mystery 7/10/20
 Heirs of the Body by Carola Dunn **** historical mystery 7/11/20
 Superfluous Women by Carola Dunn **** historical mystery 7/13/20
 The Longest Yard Sale by Sherry Harris *** cozy 7/16/20
 The Secret Library by Oliver Teale *** non-fiction 7/18/20
 All Murders Final by Sherry Harris *** cozy 7/19/20
 A Great Deliverance by Elizabeth George **** crime 7/20/20
 Payment in Blood by Elizabeth George **** crime 7/22/20
 The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion *** historical fiction 7/23/20
 Butch Cassidy by Robert Patterson *** non-fiction, biography 7/24/20
 A View To A Kilt by Kaitlyn Dunnett *** cozy mystery 7/31/20
 Tart of Darkness by Denise Swanson *** cozy 8/1/20
Well-Schooled in Murder by Elizabeth George **** mystery 8/2/20
  Leave No Scone Unturned by Denise Swanson ** cozy 8/5/20
 Silent in the Sanctuary by DeAnna Raybourn **** historical mystery 8/15/20
 The Encyclopedia of Herbs, Spices, and Flavorings by Elizabeth Lambert Ortiz ***** non-fiction (again) 8/15/20
 A Suitable Vengeance by Elizabeth George *** mystery 8/16/20
 The Bishop’s Wife by Mette Ivie Harrison **** (3rd time) mystery  8/18/20
 The Cabinets of Barnaby Mayne historical mystery by Elsa Hart *** 8/19/20
 The Mystery of the Blue Train by Agatha Christie mystery **** 8/21/20
 Peril at End House by Agatha Christie **** (again) mystery 8/21/20
 The Last Seance by Agatha Christie **** 8/24/20
 Silent in the Grave by DeAnna Raybourn historical mystery **** 8/25/20
 Silent on the Moor by DeAnna Raybourn historical mystery **** 8/25/20
 Midsummer Night by DeAnna Raybourn historical mystery **** 8/27/20
 Dark Road to Darjeeling by DeAnna Raybourn historical mystery **** 8/28/20
 The Dark Enquiry by DeAnna Raybourn historical mystery ** 8/28/20
 Silent Night by DeAnna Raybourn *** historical mystery 8/30/20
 Feral Attraction by Eileen Watkins **** cozy 8/30/20
 12th Night by Deanna Raybourn **** historical mystery 8/31/20
 The Persian Always Meows Twice by Eileen Watkins cozy 9/1/20
 Bonfire Night by Deanna Raybourn **** historical mystery 9/1/20
 The Bengal Identity by Eileen Watkins **** cozy 9/3/20
 Gone, Kitty, Gone by Eileen Watkins **** cozy 9/4/20
 Lady Rogue by Jenn Bennet **** YA A/A 9/8/20
 The (Dis)Appearance of Nerissa MacKay by Lisa Shafer (again) ***** YA paranormal 9/8/20
 Nerissa MacKay and the Secrets of the Seventeen Scrolls (again) by Lisa Shafer ***** YA paranormal 9/9/20
 For The Sake Of Elena by Elizabeth George **** mystery 9/10/20
 Missing Joseph by Elizabeth George **** mystery 9/11/20
 Deadly Curious by Cindy Anstey ** YA historical mystery 9/13/20
 Playing For The Ashes by Elizabeth George ** mystery 9/17/20
 In The Presence of the Enemy by Elizabeth George ***** mystery 9/19/20
 Deception On His Mind by Elizabeth George **** mystery 9/20/20
 In Pursuit of the Proper Sinner by Elizabeth George *** mystery 9/22/20
 A Traitor To Memory by Elizabeth George **** mystery 9/24/20
 With No One As Witness by Elizabeth George **** mystery 9/26/20
 Murder on Amsterdam Avenue by Victoria Thompson **** historical mystery 9/30/20
 Killer Kung Pao by Vivien Chen *** cozy 10/3/20
 The Janus Stone by Elly Griffiths *** mystery 10/4/20
  The House At Sea’s End by Elly Griffiths *** mystery 10/5/20
 Careless in Red by Elizabeth George *** mystery 10/7/20
 This Body of Death by Elizabeth George **** 10/9/20
 Believing the Lie by Elizabeth George **** mystery 10/13/20
 Wicked Autumn by GM Malliet **** cozy mystery 10/19/20
 Fatal Winter by GM Malliet **** cozy 10/23/20
 800 Award-Winning Scrapbook Pages ed by Lisa Bearnson *** non-fiction, crafts 10/24/20
 Pagan Spring by GM Malliet **** cozy 10/25/20
 The Decorated Page by Gwen Diehn (again) **** non-fiction, crafts 10/26/20
 A Roomful of Bones by Elly Griffiths **** crime 10/27/20
 A Dying Fall by Elly Griffiths **** crime 11/3/20
 The Outcast Dead by Elly Griffiths **** crime 11/4/20
 The Ghost Fields by Elly Griffiths **** crime 11/7/20
 Case Histories by Kate Atkinson *** crime/mystery 11/8/20
 The Woman in Blue by Elly Griffiths **** crime 11/9/20
 The Chalk Pit by Elly Griffiths **** crime 11/10/20
 The Dark Angel by Elly Griffiths **** crime 11/11/20
 Kahlo by Andrea Kettenmann *** non-fiction, biography 11/13/20
 Getting the Most From Your Rice Cooker by Colleen & Bob Simmons **** non-fiction, cookbook 11/14/20
 Captain Dave’s Boathouse by Andrew Culver ** mystery 11/14/20
 Ruth’s First Christmas Tree by Elly Griffiths * mystery  11/16/20
 No Ordinary Sound by Denise Lewis Patrick **** MG historical 11/22/20
 Never Stop Singing by Denisse Lewis Patrick **** MG historical 11/22/20
 The Stone Circle by Elly Griffiths **** crime 11/27/20
 A Demon Summer by GM Malliet **** mystery 11/30/20
 The Lantern Men by Elly Griffiths **** crime 12/2/20
 The Haunted Season by GM Malliet *** mystery 12/3/20
 Devil’s Breath by GM Malliet *** mystery 12/5/20
 In Priory Wood by GM Malliet *** mystery 12/6/20
 Monarch: The Life And Reign Of Elizabeth II by Robert Lacey **** non-fiction, biography 12/8/20
 How To Make Christmas Wreaths And Garlands by Maddy Shaw *** non-fiction, crafts 12/9/20
 Thin Ice by Paige Shelton (2nd time) **** mystery 12/10/20
 Cold Wind by Paige Shelton **** mystery 12/12/20
 Real Food, Fake Food by  Larry Olmstead ** non-fiction 12/15/20
 Arsenic in the Azaleas by Dale Mayer *** cozy 12/17/20
 Victorian Farm by Peter Giin, Ruth Goodman, Alex Langlands ***** non-fiction, history 12/20/20
 The Wickenham Murders by Amy Mayers *** cozy 12/21/20
 The Hound of the Baskervilles (again) by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle ***** mystery 12/22/20
 Pepper: A History of the World’s Most Influential Spice by Marjorie Shaffer *** non-fiction, food history 12/28/20
 Salsas and Moles by Deborah Schneider **** cookbook 12/28/20
 The Valley of Fear by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (3rd time) *** mystery 12/30/20
 Edwardian Farm by Peter Ginn, Ruth Goodman, and Alex Langlands ***** non-fiction, history 12/30/20

What I Rejected:

The Shadow of Death by James Runcie. THE most invertebrate “detective” ever!  No personality, does everything everyone asks of him.  Also, the writing style is almost entirely all short, simple declarative sentences, subject/verb/complement.  It’s like reading one of those Hi-Lo books for adults who never learned to read higher than a 3rd grade level.  Absolutely exasperating.  198 pages historical mystery 2/13/20
The Masterpiece by Fiona Davis. I read about half of it and kept thinking it would start moving faster.  It never did. 3/5/20
The Adventure of the Peculiar Protocols by Nicholas Meyer. So much running around with nothing happening. No tension. Lots of racism.  Not at all in the style of Conan-Doyle, although the author seems to think he’s doing a pastiche, he’s not even close. About 40% of the book read 3/21/20
 The Chess Queen Enigma by Colleen Gleason. I know steampunk isn’t supposed to be historically accurate, but when the author has England growing cotton and importing wool in the 1880s without any explanation (like a huge climate change), I’m left to assume that the author is just plain stupid. Four chapters. 3/23/20
His Majesty’s Hope by Susan Elia MacNeal. I liked the first two books in the series, but in this episode, the protagonist is sent into Berlin in the middle of WWII, and it was just far too stupid.  I cannot abide stupidity in a protagonist.  Five chapters.  4/5/20
Lady Anne and the Howl in the Dark by Victoria Hamilton.  About two chapters was all I could take.  It was so hilariously bad!  The author has tried to write a Gothic thriller, but it just does not work in the 21st century!  It’s simply too stupid.  I’ve seen 9th graders write better plot beginnings than this. 4/20/20.
Murder in Millionaires Row... stupid protagonist.  April, 202
How To Be  A Heroine.  I grew bored after chapter one. May, 2020
The Art of Theft by Sherry Thomas  I’ve liked others in this series, but she’s made the characters into caricatures of themselves now, and I’m irritated 33%. May 15, 2020
 The Year 1000 by Valerie Hansen.  OK, but it drags a bit, and I ran out of time on ebook loan.  May 15, 2020
 The Anatomist’s Wife by Anna Lee Huber.  I waited SIX WEEKS for this ebook to become available, and then I found out it’s Outlander fanfic.  Sooooooooo bad!  Huber clearly knows NOTHING about Scots or Gaelic or Scottish English.  Then the protagonist is weak and  timid and the love interest is a pretty boy jerk.  Spare me.  I made it through two chapters before I gave up. 5/2020
 The Plot Is Murder by VM Burns. Trying to find more diverse authors for my classroom library and needing mystery genre books, I decided to read this cozy.  But the protagonist is a wannabe cozy author, so the reader is given pages and pages of the cozy the protag is writing before the plot even starts!  Ugh. 38 pages 6/6/20
 Shelved for Murder by Victoria Gilbert. 4 chapters.  The author knows nothing about either artists or dancers, yet she blissfully writes about artists and dancers.  She confuses linseed oil with turpentine and has the victim stabbed with a palette knife.  A palette knife might work for slicing an artery, but they’re too flimsy to use to stab someone in the chest. 6/14/20
Ranger Confidential by Andrea Lankford  about five chapters.  It was actually pretty decent, but it was a bit gruesome, and I just wasn’t in the mood for it.  Maybe later. 6/20/20
 A Snapshot of Murder by Frances Brody.  The author is in love with telling instead of showing; the whole murder scene (with the murder happening right next to the protagonist) is TOLD.  Everything is passive.  Also, the author switches between first person POV and 3rd person omniscient POV, a combination which really does not work.  The writing style is choppy.  I made it through 48% and gave up when a murder was described in a passive manner.  8/1/20
 woven In Moonlight by Isabel Ibanez  dull
 The Downstairs Girl by Stacey Lee 16%. I waited weeks for this to be available and it’s dull.  8/14/20
 Mexican Gothic. I really liked this at first, as it seemed to be that the heroine was going to be the rescuer instead of the victim (like in traditional gothic fiction), but then she began doing stupid things that made no sense with her personality and the circumstances.  As I cannot abide a stupid, weak protagonist, I stopped reading at 57%. 9/7/20
 Last Chance For Murder by Estelle Richards.  Cozy mysteries can be really good or really awful.  This one seemed promising....until the protagonist began making dumber and dumber decisions.  I cannot abide a stupid protagonist, particularly a female one. I stopped reading at 52% and deleted the whole (thankfully FREE) series from my kindle app. 12/26/20

Saturday, December 12, 2020

Book Review: Cold Wind by Paige Shelton


Cold Wind is the sequel to Paige Shelton's first Alaska mystery, Thin Ice.
In spite of the fact that the first volume in the series ends with the cliff hanger of finding a body unrelated to the mystery in that book, this one opens five months later....and the identity of that body has not yet been found.   This is... a bit of a stretch.  I can only guess that Shelton really wanted to use wintery weather in this book to make the plot work and thus had to leave that body in the morgue for months.  Other than that, there is really only one other bit which bothered me: in the climax of the story, as the sequence of killings --- and there are MANY killings and bodies in this tale -- is being revealed, the reader is never told why on earth the first murder happens, only that it tips off the chain of events which follows.  This is irksome.
However, this is still an excellent book.
Shelton continues the drama of protagonist Beth Rivers' unsolved attacker from the first book and weaves it nicely into the background of the intricate plot (multiple murders and surly loners who just don't want to talk) of this one.  To the cast of tough gal Viola of the halfway house, Gril the sheriff and his assistant Donner, Orin the pot-smoking librarian who looks like Willie Nelson, and Benny from the diner, Shelton now fleshes out the characters of Randy who runs the mercantile, Lane the loner who's not telling his past, and Tex the surly guy from the next village who's clearly keeping secrets.  These characters have lots of layers, so no one seems fake.
The basic plot line is that a recent mudslide opens up an old logging road about which most of the locals had forgotten, and this road allows for the finding of a body in a shed, a body which seems to have been frozen for a while.  Then a couple of mysterious and silent children wander into town, strange screams are heard, and someone is doing a very good Big Foot impersonation in the woods.
Who is Lane, really?  Why won't he talk about his past?  What is he hiding?  Why can't the little girls talk?  Who is their mother, and if they're really sisters, why are they of different races?  Why does Randy have an apartment in NYC that hasn't been lived in in years?  Where is his wife?  And how does the body found in the water connect to all this?
This is not a simple plot.

Shelton is best known for her cozy mystery series, but the Alaska series is a bit harsher, a bit closer to crime.  It's still not bloody or horrific, but this series isn't as light as her cozies; there are no punny titles and no recipes at the end.
Thus, if you like crime novels but feel like something not quite so harsh, this is a good series.  Or, if you like cozies but want to edge a little closer to more realistic crime, this is a good series.

Give Cold Wind a try; you'll like it.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Research This Week

 1) Make and drink herbal tea from raspberry leaves.

2) Watch videos of coyotes howling.

3) Compare maps of abandoned mines in Utah.

4) Study differences between piñon pine and Douglas firs.

5) Hunt for purslane in the garden. (Why is it always there but not now when I need it?)

6) Sketch out building layouts.

7) Email friend for cabin photos.

8) Message former police officer with questions.

9)  Watch kitten videos.     Oh wait.....

Sunday, August 16, 2020

My Favorite Mystery Genre Series

I read mysteries (historical, true crime, cozies) for fun. I like smart heroines, good research, plots that surprise me, realistic characters, and detailed settings. Here are some of my favorite authors and/or mystery series. I recommend ALL of these. :) 

Historical or set in the past because they're older books: 

 1. Pretty much anything Sherlock Holmes. OK, well, you can skip A Study in Scarlet because the plot structure stinks and Conan Doyle really screwed up geography and history. But The Sign of Four is fabulous, and nothing matches Hound of the Baskervilles. And, of course, the short stories are wonderful. If you only know Sherlock Holmes from movies or TV, it's time you picked up the originals.

 2. Anything by Agatha Christie. I particularly like Sleeping Murder, The Seven Dials Mystery, Murder on the Orient Express, and Mrs. McGuinty's Dead. 

 3. The Maisie Dobbs series by Jacqueline Winspear. These are set beginning in post-WWI England, and they are fabulous. Maisie is my favorite kind of female protagonist: smart and able to rescue herself. The research behind these books is meticulous as well. My favorite of the series is An Incomplete Revenge -- but don't start there; you need to read them in order.

 4. Not quite as good as the Maisie Dobbs series but still very good is Tasha Alexander's Lady Emily series. These have fine plots in various European locations and are well-researched, but Alexander is often forgetful about minor details from past books and has real trouble creating believable children or teen characters. Also, Lady Emily's husband is rather a male Mary Sue; he's just too perfect to be credible, and he almost comes off as a joke. 

5. An excellent self-published series of historical mysteries comes from M. Louisa Locke, who is a historican and sets her books in turn-of-the-century San Francisco. Each one focuses on a real scandal/social problem/political issue of the time and shows careful research. I know that many self-published books are sub-par, but these are not. In fact, they are far better than many books published by the big names of publishing. 

 6. Alan Bradley's Flavia DeLuce series. This is set beginning in 1950 in a fictional village in England. They are funny and tightly-plotted. Plus, they appeal to many ages, as Flavia is a pre-teen genius who has no trouble concocting a poison or looking at a corpse, yet who still believes in Father Christmas. 

7. The Veronica Speedwell mysteries by DeAnna Raybourn. These are very much action-aventure stories as well and aren't quite meant to be realistic, but the plots are great and the characterization is superb -- no Mary Sues or cardboard characters here! 

8. The Art Oveson series by Andrew Hunt. There are, sadly, only three of these. Oveson is a cop in Salt Lake City during the depression, and these feel very real. Occasionally, Hunt makes a historical blunder (he has Oveson's pregnant wife teaching school in one book, and I know that female teachers were fired if they were married -- so that a man could have their job -- in SLC at the time, and he also can't remember what subject the wife teaches from book to book), but overall, they're gritty and gripping. I do wish there were more of them.

 9. The Three Investigators series. These are MG novels, but they are far superior to Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew. Set in the early 1960s in a fictional suburb of Los Angeles, these tales are great for young readers and still good for adults who don't mind MG. Jupiter Jones is a realistic character: fat, very smart, from a non-traditional family (raised by his aunt and uncle), and determined. The main problem with these is that they are out-of-print and can be hard to find. It took me several months to track down copies of all the volumees when I decided to buy the whole series. 

 10. The Charles Lennox series by Charles Finch. The plots of these are good, but Finch is a bit sexist and into benevolent patriarchy, sooooo.... they're not my favorites. They are set in the mid-Victorian era, mostly in London. 

11. Also good but not fabulous for the same patriarchal reasons are the Tony Hillerman books about various cops on the Navajo Reservation in Utah/Arizona. Set in the 1990s, these are a wonderful introduction to Navajo culture and life. 


 1. Paige Shelton's cozies. They're light, they're fluffy, but they're good. Some cozies --- and I read a LOT of cozies -- are just so very....nothing. But Shelton's feature excellent characterization and good plotting. I like her Dangerous Type series the best, but her Farmers' Market and Southern Cooking Class mysteries are good, too. And she's just started a new series, set in Alaska, that is less cozy and more true crime. 

 2. Also straddling the border of cozy and crime is The Bishop's Wife series by Mette Ivie Harrison. Harrison tackles BIG issues of Mormonism from an insider's POV: polygamy, homosexuality, women's equality, transpeople, etc. while penning tight mysteries. These are good. Really good. 


1. Ian Rankin is hands-down my favorite crime writer. Technically, his genre is Tartan Noir, but the reader need not have been to Scotland to understand the books. I own an entire shelf of his books: all but the last two of the Rebus series and several of the others as well. There's a reason why Rankin is so well-liked in the City of Literature; he's just that good. 

There you go. These are my favorites. If you're in the market for a good mystery, you might give one of these series or authors a try.

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Beginning Again

I am writing again. It's been a long time, I know. I changed from teaching junior high to teaching high school, we've had a very disruptive change in government, my family situation has changed dramatically, COVID 19 hit, and Utah had a sizeable earthquake. All this made me give up writing fiction. But now I'm on a gap year. The risks of teaching school right now outweigh for me the benefits. Besides trying to improve my health (read: exercise), taking care of family members, and cleaning house (ugh), I have time to .....write. Thus, I have begun again. Right now I have three WsIP: a memoir, a re-write/reworking of The Chocolate Smuggler's Notebook, and a mystery genre novel. Just to remind you all how much work goes into writing something: I worked for two weeks outlining, sketching out places, and researching (foraging for foods, virus timelines, plant life in various elevations of the desert) before I actually began typing the first words of the tale. It's a lot. I'd almost forgotten. So, what are my plans? Well, once I get drafts finished, I think I'll try again with getting an agent. It's been years since I tried, and I know a lot of it isn't how well one writes but how lucky one is in contacting the correct agant at the correct time and catching her/him and her/his assistants in the right mood for the particular work. It's a bit of a crap shoot, really, but I think it's time I tried again.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

What I Read And What I Rejected in 2019

And, once again, here are my lists!  (I've been doing this on various blogs since 2007.)
In 2019, I read 136 books. Cozy mystery: 27  Other mystery/crime: 44 Historical A/A: 4 Alternate History: 1 Realistic: 6  Shakespeare plays: 8 Other drama: 1  Fantasy: 7  NF travel: 4  NF History: 3  NF cookbooks: 11  NF Food/Cooking: 7  NF Crafts: 3  Other Non-Fiction: 7
Totally unsurprising: I read more mysteries than anything else. Again.
Totally surprising: I read no biographies, no sci-fi, and no steampunk.  Wow.  I hadn't realized that.

My list of books I began and then rejected follows the list of what I read.

X Marks The Scot by Kaitlyn Dunnett *** cozy mystery 1/1/19
Mary Poppins by PL Travers **** MG fantasy 1/3/19
Mary Poppins Comes Back by PL Travers **** MG fantasy 1/5/19
Mary Poppins Opens The Door by PL Travers **** MG fantasy 1/6/19
Latino Cuisine & Its Influence On American Foods by Jean Ford non-fiction *** 1/10/19
Scrapbook of Secrets by Mollie Cox Bryan cozy mystery **** 1/13/19
Hungry Planet: What The World Eats by Menzel & D’Aluisio ***** non-fiction 1/19/19
Button Holed by Kylie Logan **** cozy 1/20/19
In A House of Lies by Ian Rankin ***** crime 1/22/19
 Images of America: Salt Lake City Cemetery by Mark E. Smith non-fiction **** 1/26/19
 Hot Button by Kylie Logan *** cozy 1/26/19
 The Golden Tresses of the Dead by Alan Bradley ***** historical mystery 2/1/19
 The Woman in the Camphor Trunk by Jennifer Kincheloe *** historical mystery 2/7/19
 The Essential Vegetarian Cookbook by  **** cookbook, non-fiction 2/8/19
 Easy Chinese Cooking by Betty Crocker **** cookbook, non-fiction 2/9/19
 Cloche and Dagger by Jenn McKinlay *** cozy 2/14/19
  52 Weeks of Trivia by Sharon Lindsay *** non-fiction 2/15/19
 12 Months of Trivia by Sharon Lindsay *** non-fiction 2/16/19
 Smash & Stash by Cindy Shepherd ** non-fiction, crafts 2/18/19
 I Can Make It With Chex **** cookbook 2/20/19
 Saints 1815-1846: The Standard of Truth. by various authors of the LDS Church *** non-fiction, history 3/3/2019
 Tess of the Road by Rachel Hartman YA fantasy ***** 3/5/19
 Food That Harm; Foods That Heal by Readers’ Digest *** non-fiction 3/10/19
 Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson YA mystery ***** 3/12/19
 The Vanishing Stair by Maureen Johnson YA mystery ***** 3/13/19
 The Mystery of Three Quarters by Sophie Hanna mystery **** 3/18/10
 Underground by Will Hunt *** non-fiction, urban exploring/spelunking 3/22/19
 Eggs on Ice by Laura Childs *** cozy mystery 3/24/19
 A Dangerous Collaboration by Deanna Raybourn YA/NA historical mystery ***** 3/27/19
 Cultured by Katherine Harmon Courage non-fiction, food **** 3/20/19
 The Wizard’s Cookbook by Aurelia Beaupommier non-fiction, cookbook *** 3/31/19
 Iced Under by Barbara Ross cozy *** 4/4/19
 Hunting Prince Dracula by Karri Maniscalco *** YA historical A/A 4/14/19
 Escaping Houdini by Karri Maniscalco *** YA historical A/A 4/19/19
 100 Things to Do in SLC Before You Die by Jeremy Pugh ** non-fiction, travel 4/20/19
 The American Agent by Jaqueline Winspear ***** historical mystery 4/23/19
 Language Visible by David Sacks **** non-fiction, linguistics 4/23/19
 MacBeth by Shakespeare (4A) ***** tragedy 4/25/19
 12th Night by Shakespeare (4B) ***** comedy 4/26/19
 MacBeth by Shakespeare (2A) ***** tragedy 4/29/19
 MacBeth by Shakespeare (4A) ***** tragedy 4/29/19
 12th Night by Shakespeare (1B) ***** comedy 4/30/19
 12th Night by Shakespeare (3A) ***** comedy 5/1/19
 Becoming Brigid by Lisa Shafer ***** YA paranormal 5/3/19
 Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman (again) YA historical fantasy 5/8/19
 Assault and Beret by Jenn McKinley *** cozy 5/19/19
 The Sherlock Holmes Handbook by Ransom Riggs *** non-fiction about fiction 5/27/19
 The Melted Coins by Franklin W. Dixon (original) **** MG mystery A/A 6/1/19
 Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men by Caroline Criado Perez ***** non-fiction, women’s issues 6/3/19
 The Short Wave Mystery by Franklin W. Dixon (Original) MG mystery A/A **** 6/4/19
 The Twisted Claw by Franklin W. Dixon (original) MG mystery A/A *** 6/6/19
 The Nowhere Emporium by Ross MacKenzie MG fantasy *** 6/7/19
 The House on the Cliff by Franklin W. Dixon (original) MG mystery A/A***** 6/7/19
 Just One Damned Thing After Another by Jodi Taylor A/A time travel *** 6/9/19
 The Short Wave Mystery by Franklin W. Dixon MG A/A **** 6/11/10
 The Squad: Perfect Cover by Jennifer Lynn Barnes  *** YA spy/thriller 6/12/19
 The Yard by Alex Grecian historical crime **** 6/13/19
 Greenhaven Press Literary Companion to British Literature: Readings on Twelfth Night  **** essays 6/14/19
 The Black Country by Alex Grecian historical crime **** 6/14/19
 A Conspiracy in Belgravia by Sherry Thomas ***** historical mystery 6/19/19
 The Spook in the Stacks by Eva Gates *** cozy 6/20/19
 Murder Once Removed by SC Perkins **** cozy 6/24/19
 Thin Ice by Paige Shelton mystery **** 6/27/19
 By Book Or By Crook by Eva Gates **** cozy 6/28/19
 Reading Up A Storm by Eva Gates **** cozy 6/30/19
 The Hollow of Fear by Sherry Thomas ***** historical mystery 7/1/19
 Worldwide Ward Cookbook by Diana Buxton non-fiction **** 7/3/19
 Past Perfect Life by Elizabeth Eulberg YA realistic  **** 7/8/19
  Call It What You Want by Brigid Kemmerer YA realistic **** 7/9/19
 Panic Button by Kylie Logan **** cozy 7/13/19
 Wicked Stitch by Amanda Lee **** cozy 7/14/19
 Marriage, Monsters-in-Law, and Murder by Sara Rosett **** cozy 7/14/19
 Murder Knocks Twice by Susana Calkins **** historical mystery 7/18/19
 The Stitching Hour by Amanda Lee *** cozy 7/19/19
 Better Off Thread by Amanda Lee *** 7/20/19
 Buttoned Up by Kylie Logan **** cozy 7/22/19
 Murder At Rosamund Gate by Susana Calkins  historical mystery *** 7/23/19
 From The Charred Remains by Susana Calkins historical mystery *** 7/24/19
 The Masque of Murder by Susana Calkins historical mystery **** 7/24/19
 The Rosemary Spell  by Virginia Zimmerman *** YA fantasy **** 7/26/19
 The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (3rd or 4th time) mystery ***** 7/28/19
 The Valley of Fear by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (2nd time) mystery **** 7/30/19
 Death by the River Fleet by Susan Calkins historical mystery **** 7/31/19
 Lethal White by Robert Galbraith (JK Rowling) crime ***** 8/2/19
 The Beholder by Anna Bright YA A/A alternate history *** 8/5/19
 Murder At Archly Manor by Sara Rosett historical mystery **** 8/11/19
 And Then There Were Crumbs by Eve Calder cozy **** 8/17/19
 Murder At Blackburn Hall by Sara Rosett historical mystery **** 8/18/19
 The Egyptian Antiquities Murder by Sara Rosett **** historical mystery 8/19/19
 Milk: A 10,000-year Food Fracas by Mark Kurlansky non-fiction ***** 8/21/19
 Haunted Salt Lake City by  Laurie Allen et al  urban legends * 8/21/19
  The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxcman realistic fiction ***** 8/25/19
 How The Beatles Changed The World by Martin W. Standler *** non-fiction 8/27/19
 The Readaholics and The Gothic Gala by Laura DiSilverio *** cozy 9/6/19
Twelve Angry Men (again) drama ***** 9/6/19
 Sense and Sensibility (rewrite)( 2nd time) by Joanna Trollope ***** updated classic 9/7/19
 Eligible by Curtis Littenfeld (2nd time) ***** updated classic (P&P by Austen) 9/8/19
 Northanger Abbey by Val McDermid (2nd time) ***** updated classic 9/12/19
 Capturing The Devil by Kerri Maniscalco YA historical A/A **** 9/20/19
 The Hummingbird Dagger by Cindy Anstey YA historical mystery ***** 9/30/19
 Handmade Halloween by Country Living non-fiction, crafts * 10/2/19
  The Shadow of Death by Jane Willan cozy mystery **** 10/6/19
 The Hour of Death by Jane Willan cozy mystery **** 10/8/19
 A Different Kind of Evil by Andrew Wilson historical mystery ** 10/13/19
 A Midsummer Night’s Dream by W. Shakespeare (again) ***** drama (2A) 10/15/19
 Better Off Read by Nora Page cozy mystery **** 10/16/19
 The Gifted School by Bruce Holsinger *** realistic fiction 10/17/19
 Molten Mud Murder by Sara Johnson *** mystery/crime  10/26/19
 Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power by D. Michael Quinn ***** non-fiction 10/31/19
 Holmes on the Range by Steve Hockensmith (2nd time) ***** western historical mystery 11/2/19
 On The Wrong Track by Steve Hockensmith (2nd time) ***** western historical mystery 11/4/19
 The Conspiring Woman by Kate Parker *** historical mystery 11//8/19
 The Detecting Duchess by Kate Parker *** historical mystery 11/10/19
 Monument Park 4th Ward Cookbook (c. 1960) *** non-fiction 11/14/19
 Cooking Class Global Feast by DeAnna F. Cook *** MG non-fiction 11/16/10
 Oakhills Neighborhood Cookbook (c.1980) **** non-fiction 11/17/19
 Much Ado About Nothing by Shakespeare (again) ***** drama (2A) 11/20/19
 The Black Dove by Steve Hockensmith ***** (2nd time) western mystery 11/23/19
 Dear Mr. Holmes by Steve Hockensmith ***** (2nd time) western mystery 11/24/19
 A Crack in the Lens by Steve Hockensmith ***** (2nd time) western mystery 11/24/19
 World’s Greatest Sleuth by Steve Hockensmith *****(2nd time) western mystery 11/26/19
 Power Hungry: The Ultimate Energy Bar Cookbook by Camilla Saulsbury **** 11/27/19
 The Double-A Western Detective Agency by Steve Hockensmith ***** western mystery 11/29/19
 Food Of A Younger Land by David Kurlensky ***** non-fiction 12/4/19
  Oak Hills Neighborhood Cookbook II **** non-fiction 12/7/19
 The Food Explorer by David Stone **** non-fiction, biography 12/12/19
 In The Hall With The Knife by Diana Peterfreund YA mystery ** 12/16/19
 Farm Chicks Christmas by Serena Thompson (again) **** non-fiction, crafts 12/19/19
 Merry Market Murder by Paige Shelton (again) ***** cozy 12/21/19
 Julie Stories by Megan McDonald  MG realistic **** 12/22/19
  A Killer Maize  (again) by Paige Shelton cozy **** 12/22/19
 A Bushel Full of Murder by Paige Shelton (again) **** cozy 12/23/19
 Crops and Robbers by Paige Shelton (again) **** cozy 12/25/19
 Maisie Dobbs by Jaqueline Winspear **** historical mystery 12/28/19
 Death in St. Petersburg by Tasha Alexander **** historical mystery 12/30/19
 American Girl Character Encyclopedia *** MG non-fiction 12/31/19

Books I Rejected in 2019

The Gilded Wolves by   Chokshi When reading a fantasy book, I like the author to ease the reader into the new world, not drop them in suddenly, with completely different systems left incomprehensible.  In other words, when an author introduces 3 plots in 10 pages, uses French in every paragraph, and does not explain or even hint as to the meaning of key ideas (“Forging”) used repeatedly, I cannot engage with the book.  And when I cannot engage, I toss it aside.  Life is too short to read poorly-written material.  I wonder how many people buy this merely because the cover is pretty. 2/3/19
 Ecological Imperialism by Alfred W. Crosby 17 pages ZZZZZZZ   mid-Feb, 2019
Dark, Witch, and Creamy by HY Hanna. About three chapters.  I was writing better stuff at age 11. 2/16/19
From Bad To Wurst by Maddy Hunter. 7 chapters in and still no mystery.  Not much of a cozy. 3/2/19
A Christmas Peril by JA Hennrikus 5 chapter, so much telling, so little showing.  All backstory, not mystery. bleah. 7/22/19
 Those Who Go By Night by Andrew Gaddes historical crime.  90 pages.  Poor research on food of the time period, likely poor research on everything else.  Also, the author clearly enjoys writing about men controlling, gaslighting, and punishing women.  He’s misogynistic and rather sadistic.  8/10/19
Have Yourself a Beary Little Murder by Meg Macy. Cozies aren’t supposed to be great literature, but this was soooo bad.. In 30 pages, I found numerous punctuation errors and just plain bad writing: the introduction of at least 20 characters! Ugh.  One chapter. 12/26/19